Things To Do In Ubud On Your Next Trip

Capella Ubud’s General Manager Shares His Favorite Spots On The Island Paradise He Calls Home
Mark Swinton, general manager at Capella Ubud.
Mark Swinton
General Manager, Capella Ubud

Mark Swinton hails from Vancouver, but he first came to Bali in 1998 and has lived on the island on and off since then. Having worked in hotels for over thirty years, his career has taken him to such far-off places as Malaysia and Bhutan. Now, back in Indonesia once again, he lives with his Balinese wife, who’s originally from a small village on the west coast. He joined Capella Ubud’s team after having opened a series of luxury lodges in Bhutan.

“My real passion is to be out in front. That’s where I can make recommendations. Local knowledge goes a long way,” Mark says, explaining that he likes to interact with guests. His days are spent roaming the vast property to make sure everything is in ship shape, collaborating with the resort’s leadership team, and catching up with guests. In the afternoon, he likes to go for a run to clear his head, while in the evening he often joins the staff in the Officer's Tent for the nightly canapé ritual, when guests gather for a glass of wine or beer and snack on cheese, charcuterie and other treats. “I love running through the villages and the rice terraces; it’s my form of meditation in the afternoon and then I come back and enjoy the evening,” he says.

A temple at Capella Ubud.
Capella Ubud

Built from the ground up, this luxurious tented camp just twenty minutes outside of the center of Ubud comprises 23 tents designed by Bill Bensley, each of which has its own saltwater pool. Known for his whimsical style, Bensley drew inspiration from the early settlers and used materials like teak and custom batik fabric and filled the tents with antiques from the owner’s private collection. Two restaurants serve contemporary European and Asian cuisine made with ingredients sourced from the on-property organic gardens. Three spa tents offer a range of wellness treatments and fitness classes, while a Balinese temple with sacred springs gives guests a chance to get in touch with Bali’s spiritual side.

Local Recommendations

Explore this island paradise with Capella Ubud’s General Manager Mark Swinton, who has lived on-and-off in Bali since 1996.

The Best Restaurants In Ubud

Coffee is taken quite seriously in Bali. After all, Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest producer of coffee and the neighboring islands of Java and Sumatra are known for their high-quality beans. For a great cup of joe, Mark recommends Seniman Coffee (5 St. Sriwedari, Ubud; +62-361-972-085) in Ubud. "Here, it’s not just about the cup of coffee, it’s about learning what goes into that cup of coffee," he says.

Capella Ubud’s own Api Jiwa is his restaurant of choice for an amazing dinner. If you go, put your trust in the talented chef, who will prepare an omakase-style barbecue meal influenced by Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese flavors. “It’s about pairings and flavors and concepts,” Mark says, explaining, “It’s inviting guests to taste and then question different foods and recipes.”

Capella Ubud's Api Jiwa restaurant.

Where To Go For Sundowners

Bali’s beaches may be known for all-day beach clubs and raucous parties, but the scene is calmer in Ubud, the island’s spiritual heart. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t find fantastic cocktails and laid-back bars where you can relax in the jungle atmosphere.

Come sunset, Mark’s favorite place to get a drink is the Sayan House (70 Jl. Raya Sayan; +62-361-479-2592), which serves Japanese-Latin fusion tapas and ice-cold local craft beer. He calls this place overlooking the Agung River “a very romantic location.”

Sayan House in Ubud.

Cultural Experiences

When in Bali, you’d be remiss not to visit the island’s beautiful temples. Though Indonesia is a Muslim country, Bali is predominantly Hindu. Mark recommends visiting Puncak Penulisan Temple (Jl. Raya Kintamani, Sukawana). “It’s actually one of the first temples built in Bali and there are certain sculptures there that you can’t see anywhere else in Bali,” he says. “It’s normally covered in mist and fog and if you go there early enough in the morning, you can see the rays coming through the mist and it creates almost godlike rays of sun.” Mark can help guests arrange visits to temples like this one that aren’t on the tourist circuit. Beyond a temple visit, Mark recommends attending a full moon ceremony, which occurs once a month. “You go to the temple on the full moon because there’s nothing more beautiful than a Bali full moon,” he explains. “Everybody in the villages goes to the temple for purnama (the full moon) and it’s for everybody to have a small ceremony and pray together in the early evening, usually at around 6 or 7 in the evening.”

Capella Ubud's own Wos River Temple.

Shopping In Ubud

Bali has a rich tradition of exquisite craftsmanship, from beautifully printed textiles to intricately carved wooden furniture. Though most tourists visit the massive market in Ubud and some of the surrounding stores, Mark recommends different places depending on what you’re after. For wood carving, he sends guests to the village of Mas, where the streets are lined with shop after shop of wood carvings. For painting, he suggests checking out the shops in Ubud. In the village of Celuk, you’ll find gold and silversmiths making gorgeous jewelry. Mark’s favorite place to buy antiques is Kuluk Gallery (Jl. Raya Sanggingan, Kedewatan; +62-361-975-833). “The owner is wonderful and she specializes in Indonesian textiles, but her collection in this antique shop is everything: antique furniture, antique wood carvings, textiles, statues,” he says. “You name it; it’s there. And if they don’t have it, she’ll know where to get it.”

Stone sculpture at Kuluk Gallery, one of of Mark's favorite places to shop for antiques.

Adventurous Things To Do In Bali

Located only ten minutes from Capella Ubud is a place where you can get your heart-rate pumping and your adrenaline rushing. Mason Adventures located in Taro (Jl. Raya Taro Tegallalang;+62-361-721-480 ) offers guided jungle treks, mountain biking, helicopter tours, and the chance to drive “jungle buggies,” around Bali’s first and only purpose-built ATV track.

“You can learn about chocolate and see how it’s made and then also if you want something a little bit more exciting, do a helicopter tour of Bali where you go over to the volcanoes, the rice terraces, the coast and you see the temples along the coastline and then you make your way back to Ubud,” Mark says.

Explore Bali by helicopter with Mason Adventures.