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Published: July 20th 2019
Bedugul Botanical Gardens
Carnivorous pitcher plants.
I first visited Ubud 26 years ago. Back then, there weren’t any Starbucks stores, there were rice fields in the middle of town, and the market sold produce, not penis shaped souvenirs. Despite it becoming overcrowded and overbuilt, Ubud has never lost its grip on me. One of the hazards of visiting Ubud is that you get sucked in and you never explore other parts of Bali. In my four prior visits, I’d only made a handful of day trips out of Ubud. This time round, I decided to venture further afield. I’d heard positive reports about the mountain town of Munduk, northwest of Ubud, so we decided to head there for a couple of days.
Our driver Ketut picked us up and headed north. Our first stop was the Bedugul Botanic Gardens for Trixie to do some bird watching. The gardens were really pretty. Highlights for me were the begonia house and a flower-lined passageway leading to the convention center.
Our next stop was Lake Bratan. Ketut dropped us off at a spot with some warungs
selling local food, but they all looked closed or were just opening. We walked a little way down the road and found
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
The Instagram-famous temple pagodas. The rest of the grounds, though, were an odd mishmash of tacky tourist sights.
a buffet restaurant that was open. Bad mistake. The food was forgettable and while we were eating several buses disgorged their tourists onto the restaurant. It got loud in there very quickly.
After lunch, we went to the famous temple on the shores of Bratan. This is probably one of the most instagrammed places in Bali, showing the pagodas set against the lake. Sadly, reality didn’t live up to Instagram. The complex was schizophrenic... it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The instagram-famous pagodas were there, but the grounds were like a wannabe theme park without the rides. There were animal statues all over, the trash bins were in the shape of giant fruit, there was a place to take pictures with animals. There was a functioning temple that was off limits, and we witnessed a procession from that temple. It was as if this place couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. Worst of all, there were lots of tourists and the typical temple dress code was not enforced, so there were lots of knees, thighs, and shoulders on display. The whole place just had an odd vibe. Regardless, the lake scenery was amazing, and the procession
Spectacular falls and pool for swimming.
was fantastic random encounter.
Here is a short take of it (note the kitschy corn cob trash bin in the background):
Our last stop before heading to Munduk was Banyuwala waterfall. Ketut drove us down a narrow, bumpy road. From the parking area, we first walked on a path through a hydrangea plantation, and then climbed down some steep steps to get to the waterfall. It was quite spectacular.
After the waterfall, we headed to Munduk, which turned out to be a sleepy one street town set among stunning mountain scenery. I wasn’t too impressed on first look. I could see that it would hold some charm for people who were less Type A than I am, though. After checking in, we walked around, and ate an early dinner at a restaurant with a great view of the sunset. We chilled after dinner. While writing my Ubud blog, a gamelan orchestra started playing directly down the slope. They were probably rehearsing for Galunggan which will take place a few days from now.
I would have been content to hike to a nearby waterfall on our last day in Bali, but Trixie wanted
to check out a natural spring east of Singaraja, so we hired a car and driver. Putu, our driver, took us down the mountain and east along the coast, passing Lovina and Singaraja, before depositing us at the natural springs in Yeh Sanih. It took almost two hours to get there. The springs were pretty and all, but I wouldn’t have driven two hours for that.
On our way back, we asked Putu to recommend an ikan bakar
(grilled fish) restaurant as we had both been craving that dish. West of Lovina, Putu drove us to a seaside restaurant. We selected two small fish and some prawns, and then sat at a little hut awaiting our food. The seafood was fresh and this meal really hit the spot.
We got back to Munduk in the mid-afternoon. While sitting on the verandah writing this blog, another man named Putu came by on his motorcycle. We struck up a conversation and he invited us to his house, which was just down the hill from our accommodation, for dinner (for a price). While the price was a little steep, I couldn’t say no as this would be an interesting way to
Our Dinner at Putu’s
The two vegetable dishes (urap on the left and jagung bergedel in the center) were amazing.
Putu’s wife conducts cooking classes. Putu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
observe a Balinese household. Besides, you can’t help but admire his entrepreneurial spirit.
Putu’s 12-year old daughter Sophie came to get us later that evening. We first sat on a carpet on the floor of his verandah drinking tea. We chatted and learned a little bit about Putu, his family, and their lives in the village. We were then invited to a little pavilion, where dinner was served. Dinner was a chicken curry, urap
(vegetables with a coconut dressing), jagung begedel
(corn fritters), and rice. The two vegetable dishes were amazing. Dessert was dodol
(sweetened grated coconut wrapped in a pandan skin; Sophie made this dish) and freshly harvested papaya. All the ingredients of this meal were so fresh. I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up this trip.
This was my ninth trip to Indonesia. Outside of Bali, getting about can be a little challenging. But, I absolutely love this country. It never fails to surprise. Tomorrow, I head to Singapore for a whirlwind 30 hour visit where I plan to surprise my parents when I show up for their 60th anniversary dinner celebration.
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