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Balinese Architecture in Ubud: A Journey Through History, Culture, and Spirituality

As I wander through the streets of Ubud, Bali, I am marvelling at the stunning architecture that surrounds me. The ornate carvings, vibrant colours, and intricate details of the buildings are unlike any seen in Canada and is a clear indication of the rich cultural heritage of this island paradise. Ubud is known as the cultural heart of Bali, and boasts of these beautiful examples of Balinese architecture, a style that has evolved over centuries and is steeped in tradition and spirituality. In today's blog, I will share what I've seen and learned about the unique characteristics, fascinating history, and cultural significance of Balinese architecture.

The terrace in front of my bungalow at Manauba Inn, Ubud

Traditional Balinese are built to be in harmony with the environment and are built almost entirely from natural materials. They use thatch roofing, bamboo poles, woven bamboo, coconut wood, teak wood, brick and stone.

Balinese architecture blends elements of traditional Indonesian architecture with influences from Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Over time, this style has evolved and adapted to incorporate elements from other cultures, notably the Chinese and the Dutch. Balinese architecture is richly decorated with ornate carvings and intricate details. Everywhere you look in Ubud, you'll find stunning carvings depicting mythological creatures, floral motifs, and scenes from Hindu epics. Taking time to look carefully results in a strong appreciation of the details and workmanship.

Royal Palace, Ubud

One of the key cultural influences on Balinese architecture is the Hindu religion. Many of the temples and shrines in Ubud are dedicated to the Hindu deities Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, and are designed to reflect the spiritual beliefs and practices of the Balinese people. From the intricate carvings to the placement of statues and offerings, every element of Balinese architecture has a symbolic meaning and significance.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

Ubud Palace

Offerings are placed on the main streets and at strategic points around homes. The Ibu (mother) at my homestay places an offering on each side of my porch and at each intersection of pathways daily. There are often many offerings laid in front of temples.

Offerings outside a temple

Most buildings in Ubud are adorned with brightly coloured tiles and doors or painted in bold shades of red, yellow, blue, and green. These are the colours that represent the different aspects of Balinese culture and spirituality, such as the four elements or the Hindu deities.

Door detail on my bungalow

There is also an emphasis on symmetry and balance. Many of the buildings are designed with a central courtyard or garden, surrounded by smaller structures arranged in a symmetrical pattern. This is believed to create a sense of harmony and tranquility, and are very important in Balinese society.

Not only is it beautiful but Balinese architecture is also practical and functional. The buildings are cool and airy, with high ceilings, open windows, and natural ventilation (but A/C is available in most tourist accommodations) This is particularly important in a tropical climate like Bali's, where the heat and humidity is quite oppressive to those of us who live in colder areas of the world.

The traditional Balinese house is a compound that includes several buildings including a household temple. This compound is surrounded by walls, with each structure used for a specific daily function, built according to the guidelines of Asta kosala kosali, which is very similar to the Chinese feng shui. There are eight principles of design which have been developed by the architects and artisans of Bali over centuries and are still used for modern construction. These principles cover everything from when, where, and the shape of the structures; the symbolic decoration used; the position of the pathways; and the practical functions of the buildings.

Home Temple

Today, Balinese architecture continues to evolve and adapt, with modern buildings incorporating traditional elements in innovative and creative ways. However, the core principles of harmony, spirituality, and cultural identity remain at the heart of this architectural style.

Home Massage/Yoga area

I invite you to follow my adventures in the weeks ahead. From the chaotic traffic of Ubud, to the stunning waterfalls and the tranquil rice terraces, there is so much to see and experience on this enchanting island. Stay tuned for more insights, tips, and stories from my Bali adventures. Until then, selamat tinggal! (Goodbye!)


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4 comentários

Peggy and Patti Zipperer
Peggy and Patti Zipperer
19 de abr. de 2023

Balinese architecture is stunning. I loved Ubud so much and could spend hours either wandering the streets and admiring the detail or driving through the countryside and the rice terraces.

Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
22 de abr. de 2023
Respondendo a

Meandering along streets is my favourite thing to do!


Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
19 de abr. de 2023

From what I can tell, so far, the Dutch influence was mainly administrative and little remains since Indonesia became independent in the 1940s. There is very little discussion of their impact.


17 de abr. de 2023

A short and sweet discourse into Balinese architecture. Nice one Lynn! I'm intrigued you mentioned that there was also a Dutch influence, so I would like to hear more on the European influence. I guess the European influence was mainly more basic and functional in comparison to the intricate details from the Asian/Hindu culture.

Carolin | <a href="">Solo Travel Story</a>

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