Courtesy of the nice folk at MBA Travel (what seems to be the largest tour company based in Kuta), we booked a 3/4-day trip around the island. The trip we opted for was their Bedugul “Green” Tour at $30 per person.
They offer two timeslots – pickup at 8am or 11:00 with the latter offering a weather-permitting sunset at the Tanah Lot temple on the west coast. This was the one we opted for. Pickup was fairly prompt and we joined two guys (an Italian and a South African) for our little jaunt.
To do this trip by yourself by bike is definitely an option, for those preferring to do it on a budget. Most of the places we went only charge 1000 to 3000 entry/donation which is next to nothing. However, having the aircon and a fun driver helped, as did the fact that it required very little effort, no road map and slightly less risk of death in a traffic accident. Slightly less.
Ulun Danu Bratan
The first stop was at the 16th century Taman Ayun temple, surrounded by an artificial moat. This was the royal family’s temple back in the day and as far as Balinese temples go is pretty impressive. The style’s different from a lot I’ve seen but I’d say the “spires” (if you can call them that) have more of a Chinese feel, while the stonework is pretty unique.
I made friends with a cat by one of the monuments, tickling its chin until it actually seemed to pass out in my arms! The sun came out while we walked around which made for some good photographs and we mad euse of the included soft drinks when we got back to the minibus.
I'll have those...
We passed through areas of rice fields on our way upwards to Pacung and Bedugul where we took lunch. Expensive lunch. The buffet was good, but it was 75,000IDR per person (plus taxes, service etc). So of course, we all crammed as much down our throats as we possibly could. The view up there is fantastic, very much reminiscent of Sapa in north Vietnam. Cascading rice paddies cut into the mountain sides, and quite a bit of low cloud.
Partway up one of the mountain roads, a man was offering photos with a huge iguana, a snake and some rather large and cold-looking fruit bats. All of us snapped the animals, but didn’t pay for any pictures with them – unless they’re in a zoo I tend to think they’re not being looked after too well.
Leah spotted a dilapidated hotel clinging to the hillside near the top. Everything was overgrown around it and it was quite a shame. A lovely big building with a fantastic view, but I guess this area just doesn’t attract tourists the way the coast does.
It's a finger, not a peanut!
Next up was the “temple on the lake” at Ulun Danu Bratan which was lovely. Certainly a pretty place to build a temple with a wonderful view across the lake the the mountains behind. We dodged children selling postcards and took a few photos in the hot sun and then I played with a little puppy for a while. I think its mother was glad for the break.
Back downhill our next stopoff was the “monkey park” at Alas Kedaton. A very small temple that you can’t really see, but a gazillion monkeys that you simply can’t ignore. They’re all running wild, similarly to Kao Takiap near Hua Hin in Thailand, and they’re not shy. Hold out a clenched hand and they’ll gently pull your fingers back to get at the food they hope is inside. Expect at least one to jump up and sit on your shoulders – perhaps even groom your hair for little morsels! And ideal stop-off if your kids have head lice. Certainly more entertaining than the evil nit nurse.
Do watch out, though, as they can get aggressive especially if you approach the particularly one ones too closely, or act aggressively towards them yourself. One decided to have a munch on my fingertip, so it’s a good job they’re vegetarian as the teeth aren’t too sharp in the smaller ones. He gnawed at me for a minute before I got a little worried he’d eventually break the skin and “encouraged” him to get down.
There was one poor old soul with a horrible looking open wound in his backside, likely as the result of a territorial fight with another monkey. Proof that they can indeed cause damage when they want. They’re small, cute and wild – they are animals after all. This eldster seemed to be taking it in his simian stride, though, just picking bits of dead flesh out and eating them. Nice. I managed to rescue Leah’s sunglasses from another four-handed thief. If you don’t need it and it’s not firmly attached to your person, leave it in the car!
As the sky began to darken we escaped from our guide/shop-owner (“I give you special price!”) and took the trip down to Tanah Lot. The temple there is built on a rocky promontory and visitors can be blessed with a sprinkling of holy water underneath. The coastal views are spectacular and there are some very deep rock pools in the volcanic surface – so watch your step especially as the sun goes down.
Unfortunately due to the prevailing weather conditions and cloud, we didn’t get much of a sunset. None of the spectacular reds I’d have expected when I was in Bali during September last year, only a gradual darkening until the lights around were switched on. A shame, but that’s how it goes – although I guarantee at least one loud-mouthed tourist will have asked for a refund in the past.
And finally back to Kuta where we changed some ferry bookings, swapped some books, organised accommodation (elsewhere in Bali due to Kuta being crammed) and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in TJ’s Mexican restaurant on Poppies I. Definitely recommended, and not in the least pricey if you compare it to something similar back home.