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Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Day Of Being A Tourist In Bali

t's tempting to just never leave the villa. It's cool and breezy inside and like living in the Garden of Eden. But now that my friends have joined me, everybody wants to go and see Bali. It's all beautiful and Anwar, the driver I met in 2005 knows all the best places to go and has enough sensitivity about individuals' peculiarities to know where to take us and what to skip-- although it's a diverse group and he must be getting confused by now.

Our first day out with him was to the mountains in north central Bali and Danau Bratan (Lake Bratan, site of a famous temple). We headed southwest from Ubud to Mengwi, site of another famous temple, Pura Taman Ayun, a huge and beautifully kept up complex built in 1634. It's got a huge moat and a couple of landscaped courtyards and a big climbable bell tower. Climbing it is the only way to get a look at the inner sanctuary.

From there we drove through lush green rice fields for a couple hours, along mostly uncrowded narrow roads straight north into the mountains towards Bedugul. On the western shore of Lake Bratan is Candikunning where you can get your picture taken holding a giant bat, a huge python or some kind of a monitor before moving on to the Buddhist-Hindu temple, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. It appears to be sitting in the water and it's very picturesque. If it wasn't so far from where all the tourists are it would be far more overrun. It's overrun enough as is. From there we headed to Munduk up in the misty mountains. We parked a trekked up and down the mountains to a gorgeous, isolated waterfall in a forest of spice trees. After that it was some amazing mountain top restaurant with a view of the whole world and then a trip to the vast Bali Botanical Gardens (Kebun Raya Eka Karya Bali) with whole areas dedicated to ceratin species like bamboo and orchids.

I was more than ready to call it quits after that but Anwar knew everyone (else) would want to see the temple in the Indian Ocean at Tanah Lot, so we headed south again for the sunset ceremony, the most touristy thing imaginable. When Roland started growling at me (as if it was my fault we were surrounded by hundreds of Australians and Ma and Pa Kettle) I pointed at that this would be the most beautiful spot on earth if there were no people around. After we left it was just about an hour and a half back to Ubud and straight to Kafe, one of our two favorite organic restaurants for dinner.

If you're coming to Bali, you can e-mail Anwar ( and tell him you heard about him from Howie and he'll help you with whatever you need-- from a villa or a diving expedition to a guided tour around the island.

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