Being an Australian, I had always been against travelling to Bali as it is synonymous with a certain type of Australian traveller. However, due to a sudden forced vacation, Bali was the cheapest and easiest destination for a few days. While Kuta and Seminyak definitely aren't places I aim to travel to again, Ubud really resonated with me and provided me with the relaxing holiday I needed.
As I'm originally from the desert, being in an ultra green environment is always something I enjoy. On arrival in Ubud, I was immediately enthralled by the countless moss covered structures and little gullies. The hotel I was staying at was away from the centre of Ubud and was not accessible by car. I walked along a path with a great view of rice paddies and was met by a big flock of ducks. Apparently, the farmers use ducks and fish to stop pests from eating all the rice. Needless to say, the area was quite rural and an awesome escape from the city.
At night there are various cultural performances on offer around Ubud, and I was keen to see a kecak fire dance. Although the modern performance was developed by a German artist in the 1930s as something for tourists to watch, it's still quite a spectacle which is unique to Bali. Sadly, while waiting for the performance I was joined by a bunch of my countrymen who loudly walked into the temple with beers in their hands, but as the performance started they quietened down. The kecak dance is based on the Ramayana, and it helps if you're familiar with the story so you can focus on the intricate dance moves. It usually ends with performers walking through and kicking hot coals around the performance area, which is really climactic.
Around Ubud there's plenty to see. I would recommend hiring a driver to easily go around to see everything. Within Ubud you can go to the Monkey Forest and Goa Gajah, but a little further out (a 30 minute drive) is Gunung Kawi. It's a nice walk down the hundreds of steps as you pass by rice terraces and jungle streams to get to the 11th century shrines carved out of the rock face. Although the complex is quite small, it's nice to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the place before you hike back up the steps to the stalls selling souvenirs.
I was extremely surprised to discover all of the good food on offer in Bali. One of the famous dished in Ubud can be found at Ibu Oka - Babi Guling (roast suckling pig), but make sure you get in early as they sell out fast. Also, to the south of Ubud you can find Bebek Bengil - Dirty Duck Diner. The restaurant surrounds a rice paddy and sells everything duck related, but must try dishes are the duck satay and the original crispy duck.
Although Ubud isn't off the beaten track, it still offers spaces where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of city crowds. As the whole island of Bali is geared towards tourism, the service at most places is far better than you'll find in most destinations around SE Asia, and all at a really affordable price. So for a stress free, easy escape, Ubud is a place I intend to return to again.