Sleepy Munduk, the alternative to Ubud you didn’t know you were looking for

It’s 3.30pm on a stifling Indonesian afternoon and I’m sitting in the tiny but tidy garden of my guesthouse. To my left sits the owner, playing a bamboo xylophone, the high tinkle of notes overlaying the wail of prayers coming from a nearby temple. In front is the main street of Munduk, a quiet village in central Bali. Surrounded by hills, a smattering of rice paddies and topped with a whorl of fog, it’s the kind of sight that makes you feel well to your core. Whatever you’re going through, be it travel fatigue, loneliness or issues from home, Munduk will have you feeling better effortlessly.

I wrote this just after returning from a small hike around the local rice fields. While Ubud is where many picture bright rice grasses the colour of fresh peas, it is Munduk that offers the kind of tranquillity that those Instagram photographs inspire. Munduk’s rice paddy walkways are better maintained, the workers handing out ‘hellos’ like free candy, and best of all: few other tourists about.

I trudged along in converse sneakers and my loose pants with psychedelic blue swirls - the uniform of choice for backpackers in Southeast Asia. I hadn’t planned on hiking during my hiatus from everyday life and thus woefully unprepared for any activity in Bali except swimming. But backpacking is a bit like that – you often won’t follow the plans you make, so making fewer plans seems the answer. The day prior I hadn’t even heard of Munduk, not until a fellow backpacker expressed interest in the tiny village and I thought: why not? I’ll come with you.

We had gotten horrendously lost, not just on the rice field hike but during the hike to the powerful Melanting waterfalls the following day, adding on an extra hour each time and finding ourselves lost in the gardens of people’s homes, as locals people pointed us yet the wrong way again. We quickly realised that our map had mislabelled some important landmarks and we were reading the map upside down, so not entirely our fault we felt.

Later, we laughed about our off-course adventure to the point of hysterics when sitting in the cramped dining room of a local restaurant. One of us would accidentally spit rice with laughter and set the other off in a fit of giggles, neither of us quite sure why it was so funny.

While Ubud has world class restaurants and impressive yoga studios, it lacks a simple peace and quiet to allow the feeling of wellness to settle. In Ubud, I would attend yoga classes in the most exquisite rooms facing wild gardens of local fauna and finish feeling relaxed, only to set foot on the street outside and be assaulted with gas fumes, noise and dinner menus. The wellness of the last hour quickly dissolved.

Generally, Ubud is well liked by many. For bloggers and fellow travellers alike, it’s is a favourite destination in Bali, so this post feels a little against the grain. Did I not ‘do’ Ubud properly? Were there things I missed? Did I leave too early?

If you loved Ubud then I’d like to hear from you. When did you go and what was it about the region that made it special for you? Or is the Ubud of 2016 too far gone to the tourist machine that Bali has become?

Meet you in the comments!

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Hey, I'm Emma

Fuelled by wanderlust, curiosity and a little restlessness, a natural at budget travel, so naturally, a travel blogger. An experienced chef, a proud kiwi, and a burgeoning photographer. And my old friends reading and writing? We go way back.

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