We had plans to rent a motorbike and do some more exploring of Ubud, but after more consideration, we chickened out. Louise didn't feel comfortable driving because she doesn't have a license, and I was wasn't keen to try driving on the left side of the road! Koman, the owner of our hotel, was a little nervous about us riding around by ourselves. Luckily, a friend of his was free to give us a ride to some of the interesting places and tell us a little of the history behind each one. He name was Dewa, which means god in Balinese. He drove a big truck with the phrase "May I borrow the way?" written on the front window in Balinese.
Dewa was very chatty, and we asked him questions about what life is like in Bali. He told us that many Balinese can't afford to buy land or real estate anymore. The tourists buy it up and develop it to build hotels and the like, and they can pay much more money for the land. This drives the prices up.
The first place we went was the Tegenungan Waterfall. I'm lucky I took a photo of the sign because otherwise I had so much trouble pronouncing/remembering its name. (I just called it the Ted Nugent Waterfall).
It's a pretty easy hike down to the falls, even in flip flops (which is what I was wearing). You can swim at the bottom, too, though I'm not sure how deep the water is.
Next, we went to Goa Gajah, the elephant temple and the Temple of the Holy Water. Since these spaces were sacred to the Balinese people, I didn't take a lot of photos. I just observed and admired the architecture! We even saw some tourists go into the Holy Water temple to be purified.
Next, we went to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. I'm going to make a bold statement here -- I wasn't crazy about this place. It was so noisy and crowded and little kids followed us around everywhere, trying to sell us postcards. Plus, there some outdoor shops set up right near the overlooks, so people were always in my pictures. I just wanted to enjoy the beautiful view, but there were too many distractions in the way. Compare that to the complete serenity of Jatiluwih Rice Terrace -- we were up close, right in the field itself with almost no one around. Anyways, here's my photos from Tegallalang (still pretty cool!):
I also found this cool mural:
After this, Dewa dropped us off back in Ubud. We wolfed down lunch and then set off for Kintamani, a highland area in Northeast Bali. We booked a sunrise hike of the active volcano, Mt. Batur, along with an overnight stay at Bali Sunrise Villas in Toya Bungkah. We booked through Govoyagin using the following this link. We were able to book everything ahead of time through the website and customer service responded quickly to any questions we had. The total price for the guided hike, overnight stay at Bali Sunrise Villas, access to the local hot springs and transportation to and from Ubud came to just under $85 per person. Not bad!
The ride form Ubud to Toya Bungkah was long. We hit some heavy traffic on the was out of the city and then drove for miles and miles through tiny villages. I fell asleep for a bit, and when I woke up, I noticed the road was winding up and up. Our final destination was about 1000 meters above sea level. Our driver paused at an overlook so we could stretch our legs and take a photo. Check out the majestic mountains peeking out above the fog!
We reached Bali Sunrise Villas shortly after this. Louise and I were expecting a hostel, or a small room like the one we shared back in Ubud. But this place exceeded expectations! It was actually fancy. We had a nice double bed and giant sliding door that led out to a patio with a charming and spacious sitting area. The bathroom was swanky too -- it had a big rain shower head and skylights in the ceiling. They let in lots of natural light, making it feel like we were showering outside.
The Wifi was a little weak in the room, but the hotel restaurant had a stronger signal was only a short walk away. Lou ate dinner at the restaurant and said it was superb -- I didn't get anything but now I wish I had!
In short, we loved Bali Sunrise Villas! Such a great atmosphere and very friendly staff. It felt like our own little slice of paradise. And while wandering the grounds we got some nice views of the lake and mountains! You can check out more about them here.
If you look closely at the photo of our double bed, you'll see they folded one of our towels in the shape of a elephant :)
Hiking Mt. Batur
Side note: One of my favorite songs, Tracks by The Amazing, captures in sound the way it feels to watch the sky as darkness turns to dawn and dawn turns to brilliant sunrise. I listened to it as the sun rose and got goosebumps! I've put the link to the song here so you can listen to it as you read about our journey up Mt. Batur. This entire album is underrated, and one of my all time favorites :)
Our briefing for the hike started at 3:30 AM in the hotel restaurant. Several guides were waiting for us, many of them wearing jeans and sweatshirts as if we were going for a leisurely stroll. They gave each person a flashlight and split us into small groups of 4 or 5 people. Lou and I were with a French couple and a lone traveler from Perth, Australia.
Now, obviously, you start a sunrise hike when it's still dark outside. As you walk, the path grows steeper, the sky grows lighter and the temperature grows colder. You will definitely want to bring layers: be sure to have a warm jacket to wear while you're waiting for the sunrise at the mountaintop! Some good hiking boots wouldn't hurt either. Lou and I managed in tennis shoes, but the very end of the hike is basically gravel and ash, which is a little tricky to climb up in the dark ("Mt." Batur is actually am active volcano).
The first leg of the hike was mostly flat, and felt like walking through any ordinary forest. The second leg was a little bit steeper, and I definitely took some breaks to catch my breath. The guys who lead these hikes do them every day and they can hike really fast! I struggled a little to keep up. But the third leg was the toughest. Being a klutz, I had to really watch where I put my feet lest I trip and fall a dozen feet down the steep mountainside. There were a few moments where I wondered if I would actually make it to the top. Don't let this scare you, however! I think anyone in reasonable shape can do this hike. Just be patient with yourself and bring a good amount of water with you to stay hydrated. I'm in better shape now than I was then, and I sometimes wonder if I could make better time up the mountain? I guess I'll have to go back and see!
I think we got to the top in about 2 hours (maybe a little longer). And then we soaked in this unforgettable view:
This is my favorite picture to show people from our trip, because it looks unreal. I painted it with my watercolors, but the painting doesn't quite do it justice. Even the photo doesn't give the actual view justice. It's an experience I will never forget and still remember vividly! The mountain in the photo is Mt. Agung, the biggest volcano in Bali.
At the top of the mountain, we ate a breakfast of boiled eggs, fruit and bread while watching the colors of the sunrise bleed into the sky. Quite a few Balinese men were already up there playing guitar and singing songs in words we didn't understand. Stray dogs were up there too, eating people's leftover food. My warning: beware of the monkeys. They will grab your breakfast if given the chance, and they do not like to share! I saw one snatch a banana out of an unsuspecting hiker's back pocket! They're cute to watch, though, and won't bother you if you keep your food out of sight.
After finishing breakfast and watching the sky for a while, we began our descent! This was tricky at the beginning, but as we continued on, the path leveled out and became less steep.
Overall, this was a fantastic end to our tip to Bali! I'm not sure what I loved more: this hike, or our day trip to Nusa Penida. We hope this blog post made you want to pack your bags and explore this beautiful island!
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