Ubud is a town on the Indonesian island of Bali, located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency. One of Bali's major arts and culture centres, it has developed a large tourism industry. Ubud has a population of about 8,000 people, but it is becoming difficult to distinguish the town itself from the villages that once surrounded it.
8th century legend tells of a Javanese priest, Rsi Markendya, who meditated at the confluence of two rivers (an auspicious site for Hindus) at the Ubud locality of Campuan. Here he founded the Gunung Lebah Temple on the valley floor, the site of which remains a pilgrim destination.
The town was originally important as a source of medicinal herbs and plants; Ubud gets its name from the Balinese word ubad (medicine).
In the late nineteenth century, Ubud became the seat of feudal lords who owed their allegiance to the king of Gianyar, at one time the most powerful of Bali's southern states. The lords were members of the satriya family of Sukawati, and were significant supporters of the village's increasingly renowned arts scene.
Tourism on the island developed after the arrival of Walter Spies, an ethnic German born in Russia who taught painting and music, and dabbled in dance. Spies and foreign painters Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet entertained celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Barbara Hutton, H.G. Wells and Vicki Baum. They brought in some of the greatest artists from all over Bali to teach and train the Balinese in arts, helping Ubud become the cultural centre of Bali.
A new burst of creative energy came in the 1960's in the wake of Dutch painter Arie Smit (1916-), and development of the Young Artists Movement. There are many museums in Ubud, including the Museum Puri Lukisan and the Agung Rai Museum of Art.
The Bali tourist boom since the late 1960s has seen much development in the town; however, it remains a centre of artistic pursuit.
Town orientation and tourism
The main street is Jalan Raya Ubud, which runs east-west through the center of town. Two long roads, Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman, extend south from Jl. Raya Ubud. Puri Saren Agung is a large palace located at the intersection of Monkey Forest and Raya Ubud roads. The home of Tjokorda Gede Agung Sukawati (1910-1978), the last "king" of Ubud, it is now occupied by his descendants and dance performances are held in its courtyard. It was also one of Ubud's first hotels, dating back to the 1930s.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a small nature reserve located near the southern intersection of Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman. It houses a temple and over 200 long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) monkeys. About 5km to the west Ubud is the Ayung River and the village of Sayan, home to upmarket hotels like the Four Seasons.
Tourism to Ubud has a focus on culture and nature. In contrast to the main tourist area in southern Bali, Ubud has forests, a river, cooler temperatures and less congestion although traffic has increased dramatically in the 21st century. A number of smaller "boutique"-style hotels are located in and around Ubud, which commonly offer spa treatments by the foothills or treks up Ubud's mountains.