In amongst the craggy valleys halfway up the central mountains is Bali's "cultural capital" of Ubud. Although heavily developed as a tourist destination, Ubud retains a more laid-back atmosphere that gives it a less frenetic pace than the beach resorts to the south.
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Ubud is a sprawling collection of what were once separate villages. Its center is the intersection of two main roads: Monkey Forest Road and Jalan Raya. At this intersection, you'll find the former palace of the rulers of Ubud, the pavilion where Barong dances are performed, and the art market.
Monkey Forest Road runs south to, what else, the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. As its name implies, the forest is home to a troop of monkeys just waiting for your handouts. The forest is also home to a temple of the dead.
Jalan Raya runs east to west. West of Ubud's center, the road is lined with artist's galleries. Some of these, such as Symon's "Art Zoo," can be quite outrageous and worth a visit even if you have only a passing interest in art.
Ubud makes an excellent base with accommodations of every description for exploring the Balinese countryside and all it has to offer. Many important sights such as Goa Gajah and Pura Samuan Tiga are just a short drive from Ubud. The city is also the best place to catch one of the many excellent rafting trips available on the area's mountain streams.
If you're spending quite a bit of time in Ubud and would like to pick up some skills, drop by Pondok Pekek, a library and community learning center off the walkway on the west side of the football field. Pondok Pekak has a book store (donations of used books appreciated), library, children's library, even board and also offers classes in traditional arts such as music, food preparation, flower arranging, and much more.