Ubud is a town on the Indonesian island of Bali in Ubud District, located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency. Promoted as an arts and culture centre, it has developed a large tourism industry.
Ubud’s population of about 74,320 people is dwarfed by the more than 3 million foreign tourists who visit every year. The area surrounding the town is made up of small farms, rice paddies, agroforestry plantations, and tourist accommodations. As of 2018, more tourists visited Ubud than Denpasar in southern Bali.
Ancient history and settlement.
Eighth-century legend tells of a Javanese priest, Rsi Markendya, who meditated at the confluence of two rivers (an auspicious site for Hindus) at the Ubud locality of Campuan. Here he founded the Gunung Lebah Temple on the valley floor, the site of which remains a pilgrim destination.
The town was originally important as a source of medicinal herbs and plants; Ubud gets its name from the Balinese word ubad (medicine).
In the late nineteenth century, Ubud became the seat of feudal lords who owed their allegiance to the king of Gianyar, at one time the most powerful of Bali’s southern states. The lords were members of the Balinese Kshatriya caste of Sukawati, and were significant supporters of the village’s increasingly renowned arts scene.
Tourism on the island developed after the arrival of Walter Spies, an ethnic German born in Russia who taught painting and music, and dabbled in dance. Spies and foreign painters Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet entertained celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward, Barbara Hutton, H.G. Wells and Vicki Baum. They brought in some of the greatest artists from all over Bali to teach and train the Balinese in arts, helping Ubud become the cultural centre of Bali.
Another foreign artist Han Snel was a dutch soldier who discovered Ubud after his military service building a studio with his new wife Siti, his painting captured the imagination of both foreigners and Balinese alike with his invigorating synthesis of both cultures.
Antonio Blanco a Spanish/American artist lived in Ubud from 1952 till his death in 1999.
A new burst of creative energy came in the 1960s after the arrival of Dutch painter Arie Smit (b. 1916) and the development of the Young Artists Movement.
The Bali tourist boom since the late 1960s has seen much development in the town; however, it remains a centre of artistic pursuit.
In 2002, terrorist bombings caused a decline in tourism throughout Bali including Ubud. In response to this a writer’s festival was created, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival to help revive tourism, the island’s main economic lifeline.