Set amid the rice fields, temples and river gorges of rural Bali, art comes naturally in Ubud. And it’s one of the easiest destinations in the world to get in touch with your artistic side, thanks to a myriad day, half-day or longer arts courses just waiting for the taking.
So it’s worth planning some time to be creative. Here’s just some of the arts you can learn in Ubud:
The area around Ubud has been a centre for silvercraft since time immemorial. Sketch out your own design. Then cut, beat, shape, solder and polish silver into the style of your choice. Book classes at Pondok Pekak learning centre (+62 (0)361 976 194), Studio Perak, or with Ayu (+62 (0)3619245833) at WS Art Studio.
2: Wood Carving
In traditional Balinese culture, wood carvings decorate not only temples and palaces but private homes. ARMA Museum and Puri Lukisan Museum offer day classes; Pondok Pekak learning centre (+62 (0)361 976 194) has half-day introductory courses.
Learn classical Balinese court painting, traditional Balinese art or contemporary Balinese art styles at ARMA Museum and Puri Lukisan Museum. Or try Pranoto’s Gallery to develop your own style in oils.
4: Fruit Carving
If you’ve ever wondered how to create those elaborate fruit sculptures you see in Asian restaurants, or just want a bit of practice before turning your attentions to wood or stone, spend half a day at Pondok Pekak learning centre (+62 (0)361 976 194), creating a masterwork out of a watermelon.
5: Paper Making
Work with mulberry pulp, leaves, dyes and silk to create your own handmade papers at Lingsir Paperie (+62 (0)361 977 984).
6: Basket Weaving
Elaborate baskets, both for offerings and for mundane life, are a big part of life in Bali. Learn how to make them from palm leaf, bamboo and more at ARMA Museum and Puri Lukisan Museum.
7: Offering Making
Offerings crafted from bamboo, palm leaves, fruit, flowers, rice, incense and coloured dough are an essential part of Balinese Hinduism, decorating private homes and shops alike, and reaching their fulfilment in the gigantic offerings prepared for major ceremonies. Learn how to shape these beautiful, ephemeral items at ARMA Museum and Puri Lukisan Museum.
Batik textiles originate in Java, but there are plenty of artists working with batik in and around Ubud. Use hot wax to print designs and paint them in natural dyes, creating your very own piece with artist Nyoman Suradnya at Nirvana Batik or at textile specialists Threads of Life.
For the un-selfconscious, a host of venues offer training in classical Balinese dance, among them ARMA and Puri Lukisan. Or learn to tango with the Bali Tango Club — beginners classes are free on Mondays.
If wandering through the rice-fields won’t get you grubby enough, try working with clay at Sari Api Studio, 3km north of Ubud. Workshops cover everything from the basics of working with clay to advanced techniques, using wheel or hand.
11: Balinese Music
From bamboo flute to gamelans and gongs, Balinese instruments are complicated to master but simple enough to be rewarding for the beginner. ARMA, Pondok Pekak (+62 (0)361 976194) and Puri Lukisan offer short introductory courses in a range of instruments, or try Nyoman Warsa at Pondok Bamboo music shop (+62 (0)361 974 807).
If you’ve ever admired elaborate belts, bracelets and courtly decorations, or there’s a ten-year-old girl inside you itching to get out, beadwork is a rewarding way to spend the day. Puri Lukisan offers courses for 3 hours or 6 hours.
13: Kites, Puppets and Masks
Puri Lukisan offers courses in traditional Balinese crafts. Create a kite butterfly to take home, craft a traditional shadow puppet out of leather, or paint your own mask based on those used in traditional Balinese dance.
14: Life Drawing
Pranoto Gallery holds regular life-drawing classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am: bring your own materials.
A myriad venues across Ubud offer cooking classes, in styles from Balinese to Vietnamese. Yoga specialists such as Yoga Barn offer the full spectrum of yoga classes, up to teacher training level. Ketut Arsana’s Bodyworks offers training in Balinese massage, while Thai massage and reflexology are also available.
Ubud, with the dazzling ricefield landscapes around it, the colourful rituals and the dazzling dancers, is also an outstanding location to practise your photography. David Metcalf, who’s been taking photographs in Indonesia for almost 30 years, leads well-priced full-day and half-day photo tours out of his gallery in Monkey Forest Road, and will take you further afield too.
Not found a place to stay yet? Agoda has great deals on Ubud hotels and guesthouses, from the indulgent COMO Shambhala Estate to great value central ricefield spots like Sri Bungalows and homestays like Tu Eka.