Ubud is one of Bali's most popular tourist attractions, and there's enough to see and do in the center of town to keep you busy for at least a couple of days. Most people spend their time strolling from museums to markets, stopping in at one of the many cafes and restaurants to refuel before hitting the sidewalks again.
When you feel like you've done all there is to do in town itself, consider taking a drive (or a bicycle ride) to the village of Petulu, just 2.5km north of Ubud. This otherwise ordinary village becomes something rather special at sunset, when thousands of herons come to roost in the trees lining the road.
Known locally in Balinese as kokokan, the white-plumed herons and Java pond herons feed all over the island and return to Petulu in the late afternoon to spend the night in the village's giant fig trees.
Even if you visit during the day time, you will see a couple of stragglers up in the trees or walking in the road, but definitely the best time to visit is just before sunset (around 5pm) when you will be treated to seeing thousands of birds coming "home" for the night.
There are many stories as to why the herons come back to Petulu every evening. One common belief is that the birds are the lost souls of thousands who died during the anti-communist massacre in 1965.
Around 5% of the entire population of the country were killed and many of the bodies were never given proper funeral rites. The village of Petulu held a ceremony to cleanse the village of the evil energy after the massacre and shortly after, the kokokan birds arrived for the first time and have stayed there ever since.
The locals believe the birds have brought the village prosperity and protect it from bad spirits, and so the herons are respected and seen as a blessing.
Seeing the birds arriving in their thousands at sunset is a very unique experience, especially given the background to the history of Petulu.
There are some small warungs in the rice fields at Petulu where you can sit and have a drink while waiting for the birds to fly in. There's not much else in the village, other than a few local artists' shops, but it's worth the 15-minute drive from Ubud just to see something a little different.
If you're cycling to Petulu, bear in mind that if you stay until after sunset you'll be riding back in the dark!
|Address||Petulu Village, Ubud, Bali|
|Entrance fee||Village Donation (Rp. 20,000)|
○ Continue for about 2km and then turn left on to Jl. Raya Petulu which leads into the village
○ Another, more scenic, route is from Jl. Tirta Tawar; head north until you see a handwritten sign for Petulu village and you will soon come to the area where the herons come to roost