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Avoiding Julia Roberts in Ubud, Bali

I’ve never been a Julia Roberts fan. I think I’m a pretty good judge of character and for some reason she just doesn’t seem like someone I’d like to spend any time with, and I can’t stand watching her on screen. Two things really sealed it: An awful interview on The Late Show with David Letterman, where she came across really self-important and smug. The other was when she played someone impersonating Julia Roberts in Ocean’s Twelve, which was just too much (sorry if I spoiled that movie — it sucks though so I don’t feel too bad).

Ubud’s main claim to fame is that Julia Roberts’ film Eat Pray Love (adapted from a popular book of the same name) was partially set there, and it has since become a bit of a pilgrimage for middle aged women looking to find themselves, or love, or god, or maybe food (I haven’t seen the movie). I’d also heard it has nice scenery and is the centre of culture and spirituality in Bali.

A restaurant in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Ubud, around an hour from the airport in Denpasar, really is a nice place. The thing that struck me first was the architecture. The guesthouses, and normal civilian houses, are in big compounds, with entrance gates that look like the openings to temples. Inside are serene gardens and shrines to Hindu gods. I’ve never walked past so many guesthouses and wished I was staying there before (even though the one I was staying at was nice). They all look really inviting and are designed as sanctuaries within a small but still quite busy and congested town. It’s easy to see why this place has become such a popular destination for yoga, wellness programmes and general spirituality.

READ MORE: I’ve since been to Ubud a few more times and wrote a guide about the best things to do in Ubud — check it out!

Climbing Mt Batur

It’d be hard to run out of  things to do in Ubud, as it is close to some interesting areas of central Bali. Climbing a volcano is a common thing to do, so I thought I’d join the crowd. I climbed Mt Batur, around an hours drive from Ubud. It took a few hours (not helped by the fact I was wearing jandles) but we just made it for the sunrise, and it was well worth it. After the climb our driver took us to a nearby lake. We took a boat trip to see a really strange burial ground. The people there don’t really bury people they just kind of leave them out, but we didn’t see any of the bodies, just bones scattered around and lined up like some kind of exhibit. Was this a shrine to Julia Roberts?

Climbing Mt Batur, Ubud, BaliAn open graveyard near Ubud, in Bali, Indonesia

Apparently the shopping is pretty good in Ubud, but I didn’t buy anything. If I was rich and owned a house I’d love to go back and buy a whole lot of furniture and sculptures and send them home. There was some amazing stuff available and you could decorate your whole house pretty cheaply.

READ MORE: Bali Itinerary: Two Weeks on the Island of the Gods

Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud

The one place I was really excited to see was the Sacred Monkey Forest. It’s a huge sanctuary where monkeys roam wild, pose for photographs and entertain tourists. It’s a pleasant place to just stroll around and escape the traffic of downtown Ubud. I was surprised there was so much traffic, as I’d heard Ubud was a quiet and peaceful place. It’s peaceful inside the guesthouses and restaurants (some of which open out into rice field backyards) but the streets are a bit of a nightmare to walk around.

Cute monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali, IndonesiaLots of monkeys at the sacred monkey forest in Ubud, Bali

Taking a walk just out of town brings you to the countryside which is full of rice fields, nice houses and small areas specialising in various crafts and furniture. It gives you an idea of what Ubud probably used to be like, just a peaceful village in Central Bali. While tourism is in overdrive in Ubud, it still holds enough to make it a worthwhile place to check out, even for someone so far out of the target market as me. If you are into yoga, Julia Roberts movies and past life regressions, you’ll have a field day in Ubud. For everyone else, you’ll still love the scenery, food and laid back guesthouses as well as the attractions that the nearby areas hold.

READ MORE: 32 Fun Things to Do in Bali: Bali Travel Inspiration!

Rice fields in Ubud, BaliJalan Monkey Forest in Ubud , Bali, Indonesia

I didn’t see Julia Roberts in Ubud, but for some reason her presence haunted me. Maybe in a past life she wronged me in some way — perhaps I should have looked into the spiritual side of Ubud a bit more!

Have you been to Ubud? Does Julia Roberts annoy you too? Leave a comment!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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  1. jessi
    April 8, 2014 at 3:21 am — Reply

    for me, julia roberts is a mixed bag. i loved the book eat,pray,love and i enjoyed the scenery in the movie, but, didn’t enjoy the movie half as much. and the success and popularity of the book has its downsides, too. i’ll admit that a lot of my interest in indonesia came from reading the book, but i think people shouldn’t travel somewhere just because of some book they read, but because they have a genuine interest.

    also – what kind of camera do you use? that first shot is GORGEOUS!

    • April 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm — Reply

      I actually watched Eat Pray Love the other day, wasn’t too impressed haha, but you’re right, the scenery etc was pretty good. I think for some people it’s easier just to follow someone else’s adventure rather than making their own.

      I just have a cheap Cannon DSLR, that first one was taken with a fish eye lens that I borrowed, I really wanna buy one now!

  2. April 9, 2014 at 10:44 am — Reply

    Lol, I don’t mind her. But I hate that some places in Bali are now overcrowded because of that movie. There’s this beach that used to be nice and quiet, but it’s now a tourist trap.

    • April 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm — Reply

      Yeah, Ubud was really crowded! It was nice, but there was so much traffic around – not exactly a peaceful little town.

  3. April 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm — Reply

    All this post is missing is a publicity photo of Julia with a big old red strike line through her face…lol. Nicholas Cage bugs me like this. I get it. Ubud looks amazing, nonetheless. Surprising to hear about the traffic. From the photos, you get the impression that it’s so serene.

    • April 17, 2014 at 12:03 am — Reply

      I was actually going to photo shop Julia Roberts into all my photos, but it was taking way too long!

  4. April 16, 2014 at 9:58 pm — Reply

    Amazing pictures, Jon. I have to admit I read the book and saw the movie with Julia Roberts but the book is far more interesting than the movie. Thomas doesn´t like Julia Roberts too by the way.. 🙂

    • April 17, 2014 at 12:04 am — Reply

      I don’t think I’ve ever met a male Julia Roberts fan haha, not sure if I ever will..

  5. April 17, 2014 at 12:56 am — Reply

    I normally don’t mind JR but found her character on ROLL smug and self absorbed. The scenery on the other hand was stunning

    • April 17, 2014 at 1:04 am — Reply

      I can’t recall a character of hers that wasn’t smug and self absorbed!

  6. April 17, 2014 at 5:07 am — Reply

    Julia Roberts or not, the place looks stunning. The Monkey Forest definitely appeals to me. I would love to visit!

    • April 18, 2014 at 9:28 pm — Reply

      The Monkey Forest is awesome, assuming you like monkeys!

  7. April 18, 2014 at 1:13 am — Reply

    The book Eat Pray Love is actually worth a read, but the movie (which I refuse to see as I too hate Julia Roberts) looks god awful! Ubud on the other hand, looks awesome – I love that shot of the monkey 🙂

    • April 18, 2014 at 9:29 pm — Reply

      Thanks Emily, Ubud is a great place!

  8. April 20, 2014 at 6:31 am — Reply

    I’m with you on Julia Roberts. She always comes across as not my type if person. Ubud was great. I recall eating lunch overlooking Mt. nature the biking down to the coast. It’s a beautiful place with friendly people.

    • May 19, 2014 at 10:37 pm — Reply

      It is! Bali has a bad reputation but some parts of it really are nice.

  9. April 20, 2014 at 10:29 pm — Reply

    I still haven’t seen the movie or read the book! Not my cup of tea ;)! However, on our guide in Ubud proudly told us he did see Julia when she was there for the film. I loved Ubud :)! Beautiful place!

    • May 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm — Reply

      Yeah, I bet anyone who saw her or dealt with her is making a big deal of that now.

  10. It is so true – the book Eat, pray love was in every single guest house or hostel, not only in Ubud but whole Indonesia…I´ve seen the film and it´s quite cheesy but the book is a little bit better. Other than that, I loved Ubud, so much to do there and so beautiful..

    • May 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm — Reply

      I’ll take your word for it Elena! Ubud is great, I’d love to explore that whole area for a lot longer.

  11. Duke Stewart
    June 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm — Reply

    Great post and points, Jon! I don’t hate Julia Roberts (but then recalled Oceans 12 and rethought that previous sentence) but am not a fan of visiting places based on movies that barely touch upon said site’s significance.

    I remember watching that movie thinking that the guy probably would’ve killed her with his jeep instead of Julia lucking out and just hurting her leg. Furthermore, he would’ve just kept on going I think and might not have noticed.

    However, I don’t have experience with Bali’s roads yet and am really getting anxious at the thought of driving there. It might be something I have to avoid. What do you think? Can I avoid driving there and consider myself not so touristy?

    I love your photos of Ubud and feel like your post did it way more justice than the tail end of that movie, where they had 45 minutes or so to show it off! I especially like that shot of the mountain (or volcano?) rising above the clouds. That really makes me want to hike that in the morning when we arrive in the fall.

    Thanks again for another wonderful read. Take care Jon.

    • June 12, 2015 at 11:54 am — Reply

      Cheers! I think the trauma of watching that movie made me erase it from my memory, can’t actually remember a think about it except for Julia Roberts’ face. I guess you run the risk of people thinking you’re on a Julia Roberts appreciation tour if you go to Bali – might be best to avoid it! It is cool though, especially the volcano hike.

  12. Asali
    June 24, 2015 at 10:18 am — Reply

    To me, Ubud equals tranquility and relaxation. You are definitely right about all of the guesthouses in Ubud being very inviting and beautiful. It was so hard to choose one, but I ended up staying in the rice fields at Kupu Kupu Bungalows (150,000 IDR in 2013). It was about a 25 minute walk to the central Monkey Forest Road area, but it was like you were not in Ubud at all.

    There were great bookstores in town so I could catch up on my Indonesian history during the day and hike in the rice fields in the afternoon ending up at different spots each day.

    Also, how can you mention Ubud with out the delicious, though touristy, babi guling (suckling pig) food?! After traveling in Indonesia for months, I was craving pork and it the restaurants definitely delivered.

  13. Kai
    April 24, 2017 at 4:40 pm — Reply

    You pretentious fuck. I am sad you missed out on the glorious bag of painted dicks on Monkey Forest Rd you might have seen frequently if you opened your mind. I’d shove one of them down your righteous throat if I had the disfortune of meeting you. How are you enjoying the Starbucks in Bali?

    • April 26, 2017 at 3:51 pm — Reply

      Finally an angry comment after three years of blogging! All the big blogs get them and I was starting to think it was never going to happen for me. Thanks for letting me know that I’m on the right track.

  14. July 15, 2019 at 12:41 am — Reply

    Funny post! I am planning my trip to Bali and I am trying to avoid the mega touristic spots 😛 So I am not sure if Ubud is for me! Nice article!!

    • July 17, 2019 at 9:47 am — Reply

      Thanks! Yeah Bali is pretty touristy but you can definitely find quieter spots — good luck!

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