The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a Balinese Hindu site at the bottom of Monkey Forest Road and populated by cheeky long-tailed macaques. It's a popular site with visitors to Ubud who come to see the monkeys and the temples within the sanctuary.
There are hundreds of monkeys living in and around the monkey forest. You can purchase food for them at the entrance gate but be warned that the monkeys are aggresive opportunists - particularly in their pursuit of food. They will think nothing of climbing on you or raking through your bag in search of something edible.
There are 3 temples within the forest, Pura Dalem (death temple), the Holy Bathing Temple and Pura Prajapati (funerary or cremation temple). All 3 of these temples are sacred, as is the forest and the monkeys, who are believed to protect the area from evil spirits.
One of Bali’s holiest Hindu sites (and one of its most popular attractions) is a grotto with a history dating back more than 1,000 years. Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) has uncertain origins, but it's believed that it once served as a sanctuary for Hindu priests to meditate or even sleep.
Goa Gajah's entrance makes a menacing first impression, carved in the likeness of a gaping mouth of a demonic creature. The façade of the cave entrance features several relief carvings of various mythological creatures, and while no one is sure what they represent, local lore says that an elephant was the protagonist of the drama depicted in the carvings; hence, the nickname Elephant Cave.
The courtyard just outside the cave has more recently excavated decorative bathing pools, adorned with carvings of partially clad females pouring water from urns. The cave itself is rather small, a T-shaped space with several small ledges and a statue of Ganesh, added after the cave was excavated.
Hikers love the challenging mountain trails of Mount Agung, the tallest active volcano in Bali. Its most popular routes—one starting from Besakih, and the other from Pura Pasa Agung—take trekkers through mountain temples and truly rugged terrain. Loose pebble paths and steep cliffs end with epic views of Bali countryside, and a view that visitors argue may be the best place to watch the sunrise in the country.
Guides are recommended—as well as sturdy hiking boots and a warm coat—since navigating the daylong hikes on these uneven vertical trails can be difficult. And with no water along the routes, following an expert beats getting lost.
The National Monument sits in the center of Jakarta’s Merdeka Square and was built to commemorate Indonesia's struggle for independence. The tower’s construction began in 1961 under President Soekarno, and the monument – also known as Monas – was finally opened to the public in July 1971. The tower stands at more than 130 meters tall and is topped with a burning flame, symbolizing that the spirit of the Indonesian people will never be extinguished. The flame is made from bronze metal and coated with gold foil, while the main structure symbolizes a rice pestle and mortar, thereby representing Indonesia’s agricultural history. These objects are also said to symbolize fertility by representing the male and the female. A lift on the southern side of the monument takes visitors up to the viewing platform at 115 meters above ground level. The National Monument is surrounded by a well-kept park, often used for sports and recreational activities.
The National Museum in Jakarta sits on the western side of Merdeka Square. After various incarnations under a number of different names, the National Museum was opened in 1868. Often referred to as the ‘Elephant Building’ due to the bronze elephant statue at its entrance, this impressive museum houses a huge collection, providing an in-depth insight into Indonesia’s fascinating cultural heritage. The National Museum essentially takes visitors on a journey through Indonesia’s history, from prehistoric times right up to the present day. There are almost 150,000 artifacts on display here, with prehistoric, archaeological, ceramic, ethnographic, numismatic/heraldic, geographic, and colonial collections to explore. A new wing was added to the museum in 2007, with four levels dedicated to the neo-classical colonial era and the origins of mankind in Indonesia, including a model of the Flores ‘hobbit’.
Located in the Taman Sari neighborhood of the city, Jakarta’s Chinatown is in an area known as Glodok. It lays claim to being the largest Chinatown in Indonesia, and one of the largest in the world. Dating back to the Dutch colonial era, Glodok is best known for its markets, architecture, and temples, as well as being one of the biggest centers for electronics in Jakarta.
Amid the traditional houses and such impressive temples as Da Shi Miao and Vihara Dharma Bhakti, shopping and food are at the heart of Glodok. Visitors can take a stroll through the streets, passing historic buildings and ancient temples, while visiting shops selling modern-day electronics next to those touting traditional Chinese medicines.
Ubud’s Agung Rai Museum of Art, or ARMA as it’s more popularly known, is a museum, gallery space and cultural center founded by Agung Rai, a Balinese entrepreneur who got exposed to the world of Balinese art while selling souvenirs in Kuta. Inspired by visits to the Puri Lukisan and Neka museums, Agung Rai began collecting paintings to which he felt a spiritual connection, including works by Balinese and international artists.
Today, that collection makes its home in ARMA, a series of traditional buildings in a vibrant garden setting. It is divided thematically into four sections: Kamasan, Pre-war, European Living in Bali and Modern Traditional. Of particular note is the collection by Russian-born German painter Walter Spies, who came to Bali in 1927 and greatly influenced the 1930s Balinese art movement with his primitivism-style paintings. Also on display are works by Raden Saleh, a pioneer of modern Balinese painting.