Long before ever being invited on a group trip to Bali, I had mixed feelings about visiting the Indonesian island. On the one hand, I’d heard many accounts of how touristy it is, being described as the “Cancún for Australians,” an Asian destination that would be overly-westernized and a far cry from an authentic, southeast Asian experience.
On the other hand, I’d seen countless photos of lush rice fields, surrounded by thick forests of green palm trees, beaches, and food that was so beautifully presented, it would be a crime to not take a picture of before eating. Ultimately, who can say no to visiting a new place, whether it’s a tourist trap or not? Certainly not me. I booked a flight, and after a month spent in rainy Perth, I couldn’t have been more excited to jet to a tropical paradise.
While we stayed at a villa in Seminyak, we made sure to get out and explore other parts of Bali on day trips. One was to Ubud, the renowned spot for yogis, stunning forest views, and some of the best Bali photo opportunities. The two main attractions we saw during the day were the Bali Swing and the Ubud Monkey Forest.
In a beautiful setting, the Bali Swing is a place to take the coveted, classic Bali photos that make you appear to be swinging off into a wild forest. It’s an organized park, where you pay an entrance fee and can line up to try all the different swings and vantage points.
In my honest review, the Bali Swing is not something I would do again. However, I think it’s definitely a fun thing to do once, to “cross it off the list.” The Bali Swing park is a contrived Instagram playground, set up for the perfect shots to give you all the validation you could possibly want from your holiday in Bali.
While this may cause purists and travel snobs to turn up their nose in favor of going to an unknown beach or meandering through an old town that “no one goes to” in Bali, I think it was still a fun way to spend a day. If nothing else, it was an exhilarating (albeit short) swing above the lush foliage, with occasional banter from petite Balinese men, typically them calling me chubby as they hooked the “safety” ropes around my waist. Entertaining, to say the least.
It’s also a beautiful setting, and you can enjoy the food here before exploring other bits of Ubud. The other part of it that I liked was the “all-in-one” payment process, which suits my westernized values about money and tipping. Other sites in Bali that offer swings and similar “Instagram-opportunities” could potentially be cheaper, but you must haggle for prices for each individual swing or “photo op,” and it’s all by compulsory “donations.” I liked how here it was one payment (although big for Bali), and then we could take all the photos and swing on all the swings we want. Climb into that nest twice, it doesn’t matter. This all-inclusive aspect made it a bit more expensive, but easier to deal with when we were on a tight schedule concerning everything we wanted to accomplish in one day.
Top tips for visiting the swings:
1. Charge your camera battery. You don’t want to miss out on the perfect shot.
2. Wear a cute outfit.
3. Arrive EARLY. Opening time is best – avoid the never-ending lines that happen once the tour buses roll up.
4. Be respectful of others in the queue, but don’t be afraid to take a few moments to get the photos you want.
Depending on your personal preferences towards wild animals, this visit can either be the best or the worst thing ever. For about $5 you get entry to walk around this forest that is chock full of semi-wild monkeys. I say “semi-wild” because while they are not tame, they are accustomed to people and have learned that humans walking around probably have various tasty treats hiding in their backpacks, handbags, pockets, etc. They have no problem coming up to you and grabbing food right out of your hand, and if you fight them for it, they may bite.
If you are freaked out by wild animals, don’t carry food with you. It’s entirely possible to walk through the monkey forest and enjoy the animals without actually touching or interacting with them. Don’t show an interest in them or entice them with food (or anything else) and most likely, they will leave you alone. Be wary of moms with their babies, as with any animal species. If you want to have them jump on you for the perfect photo, bring a little snack to entice them to come over, and once they want it, don’t try to resist or pull away. They will most likely just climb over you for a few moments, get the food, and jump away.
It’s an unforgettable experience, I loved being able to get so close to animals in a more realistic, wild environment, as opposed to sectioned off zoos or controlled encounters with a zookeeper or handler. This was simple – pay your $5 and walk around at your leisure. While I was wary of these little guys at first, one eventually did walk over and check me out, climbing all over and even posing for a picture.
Ubud is a part of Bali you must visit during a vacation here, whether you stay here for the week or venture into the town for a day trip. It’s beautiful in the mountains, with lots of shopping and dining opportunities as well as a look at life on a different part of the island, away from the busy beaches.
Have you ever been to Ubud? What was your favorite part of this beautiful spot in Bali?