Ubud Highlights: Yoga, Volcanoes, & Cremation

Before getting started, I wanted to clarify that there’s no overlap between yoga, volcanoes, or cremation in this post. While theoretically they could be sequential, the yoga instructor I had was thankfully pretty good.

For the second week here, I spent most of my time in the central/northern area of the island in Ubud and Bedugul. And unlike my experience in Kuta, it was awesome.


Reading up on things to do in Ubud, you’ll see it’s a popular spot for yoga retreats. Now I’ve never done yoga before, and to be honest I’ve always kind of dismissed it. I’m not flexible, my balance is iffy, and I’m not mature enough for downward-facing-dog. But hey, when in Rome right? While the next part wasn’t my final takeaway, one thing became clear quickly as my class got started.

yoga sucksHoly fuck this is hard. The 90% humidity didn’t help, but three minutes in and I was sweating bullets. The instructor kept reminding everyone to breathe. I was just thankful she didn’t ask me to stop panting. By the end, while I gained newfound respect for all you yogis, personally my exercise and meditation will remain church and state. But the main realization I came to after the whole thing?

Yoga studios are money-printing factories. For the one-hour session, it cost me the equivalent of dinner for two at a nice restaurant. And the class was packed with at least 25 people. The overhead is low, get a few spiritual folks to instruct, hang some bamboo matting on the walls, and bam, you got yourself a studio.

If you build it, they will come.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces: Jatiluwih and Tegalalung are the two most famous rice patties in Bali. The latter is easier to get to (only ~20 minute drive from Ubud) but Jatiluwih is significantly bigger and far less touristy. You can walk around the terraces, see the irrigation system, and see local farmers at work.

Tegenungan Waterfall: A pretty cool waterfall that’s only about a 20-minute drive from downtown Ubud. Shallow pool, simple hike, picturesque pics.

Mt. Batur Sunrise Hike

One of the things I was most excited to do in Bali was to hike one of the volcanoes on the island to watch the sunrise. The two options for this are: Mt. Batur, which we’ll call big volcano, and Mt. Agung, which we’ll call bigger volcano. As I first got here, I of course wanted to do the harder one. But after talking with a friend who’s done both and (mainly) seeing the priceMonkey atop Mt Batur difference between the two, I decided to go for big volcano.

I got picked up from my accommodation at 2:30am. After about an hour drive, a quick breakfast, and a distribution of torches (flashlights), we started our journey a bit before 4.

We had a local guide who met our group at the base. While this guy seemed friendly enough when you talked to him, he took us up this mountain like it insulted his mother. Think normal hiking but more angry. After 30 minutes of trekking through a moon-less dark, pouring sweat, dodging volcanic rocks and sprinting up steep black-sand trails, I realized how happy I was to not be on bigger volcano.

Side note: in the pamphlet advertising these hikes, it says in italics at the bottom, “Wear pants and bring a jacket.” Well I don’t own a jacket here and jeans are the only pants I had.sweat

…For anybody considering doing this hike, please don’t wear jeans. You’ll thank me later. Also, if you want a good picture of yourself at the top, don’t wear colors that show sweat too much.

We got to the summit a little before 6am. For as much as I like the pictures I took, they really don’t do the views up there justice. Overall, it was a pretty amazing trip.

Git Git Waterfall: This waterfall was actually north of Ubud in Bedugul. Not much swimming to do here, but the scooter ride through the mountains back to town was awesome and a motorcyclist’s dream.

Campuhan Ridge Walk: A free nature walk near downtown Ubud. Quiet and relaxing with some nice views. However, any hike where I pass mothers with babies in tow means that it’s probably not the exercise I was looking for. Still cool though. 

Cremation Ceremony

bali cremation ceremonyFun fact: did you know that in David Bowie’s final will and testament he requested that his body be cremated according to traditional Balinese custom? What he was referring to was the Balinese Ngaben ceremony, and I was lucky enough to see one  on my last day in Ubud.

It was, hands down, one of the most epic things I’ve ever been a part of. Picture a one-lane street filled with an entire community, a hoard of men in skirts, a cacophony of drums, water from cups and hoses spewing about, sprinting and shouting, all culminating with a papier-mâché beast being set ablaze. It was incredible (Click here if you to see my full post about it).

The video below shows what some of the festivities are like. This one was taken right after they spun the giant ox around to confuse the spirits, allowing the deceased to freely move into the afterlife.

All in all, it was a pretty great spot. Plus, after my lame time in Kuta, I sprung for a sexy room with air-con and a terrace with views of a small rice field. For the last week, I’m hanging out Lombok, the next island over east of Bali. Relaxing and snorkeling before heading back to Thailand is not a bad way to finish my vacation from my vacation.


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