Explore Bali — Day trip around Ubud

Exploring outside Ubud
Exploring outside Ubud

After a day of wandering around Ubud, admiring beautiful handicrafts, and taking a head-clearing class at Yoga Barn, my friend and I decided to relax and do a day tour of some sites around the town.

It’s fairly easy to find advertisements for these tours all over Ubud. The owner of our guest house arranged for us to be picked up at 10:00AM. We filled up with toast, coffee and fruit and brought along the necessaries: a camera, some cash, sunglasses and a sarong.

Beautiful and delicious breakfast at Bayu Guest House
Beautiful and delicious breakfast at Bayu Guest House

At around 10:10 a small white van occupied by a local guide and a French traveller stopped at our corner. We were joined by three more women from Brazil and Argentina before we set off to Goa Gajah, of the Elephant temple.

Goa Gajah – the Elephant Temple

These stone piles arranged in a grid lined the path leading to the elephant temple forest
These stone piles arranged in a grid lined the path leading to the elephant temple forest

We were instructed to put on Sarongs before we entered. The entrance to the Elephant Cave was a sinister stone carving of the Hindu Earth God, with his mouth gaping. Although the dark and cool cave was a nice respite from the bearing sun, we didn’t stay inside very long-the low ceiling of packed earth and hollowed out shrines in the wall had very creepy atmosphere.

These were hidden everywhere.
These were hidden everywhere.

The surrounding environment was a real adventure to explore. After walking past an area filled with piles of stacked stones, we stumbled into a dense forest with winding stone paths and a pleasant waterfall.

Visitors must wear sarongs before entering the temple area.
Visitors must wear sarongs before entering the temple area.

I ended up wandering a little too far from the group up a path in the forest and bought a coconut for refreshment. By the time I had wandered back, my travel companions were calling my name, worried that I had gotten lost (which admittedly, I did).

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Beautiful forest

Pura Gunung Kawi – Carved Cliff Shrines

Rice terrace at the entrance to the temple
Rice terrace at the entrance to the temple

We headed to Pura Gunung Kawi, what I saw as the Balinese version of Mount Rushmore. Hidden in a valley below several rice paddies, are a row of massive shrines carved into the sides of stone cliffs. These shrines are dedicated to 11th century Balinese Royalty. Again, I found myself more amazed by surrounding scenery than the monuments themselves.

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Tirta Empul – Holy Water Temple

Beautiful and intricate Balinese architecture
Beautiful and intricate Balinese architecture

We met the driver and left for Tirta Empul, or Holy Water Temple, where visitors from all over come to bathe and meditate. Men women and children stood in the waist-high pools and splashed the holy water over their face and hair. Knowing I didn’t have a change of clothes, I resisted the urge the submerse my entire body in the water. It was extremely sweltering that day, so I did end up running my head under one of the stone spouts just to cool off.

The sacred water is said to have healing properties
The sacred water is said to have healing properties

Balinese Coffee Tour

The next leg was a tour of a Balinese coffee plantation, which ended up being my favorite part of the trip. The guide took us around a garden of delicate coffee plants and pointed out some of their fruit and signs of good health. She led us under an awning where wide baskets displayed beans in various stages of processing.

A surprise coffee-making process
A surprise coffee-making process

One contained Kopi Luwak, Bali’s most expensive coffee, which looked like compacted peanut clusters. To my surprise, the guide told us that these clusters were actually beans which had passed through the digestive system of a Civet, a cat like marmot. She took us around and showed us the small mammal sitting in a raised wooden cage.

A very sleepy and probably irritated civet cat
A very sleepy and probably irritated civet cat

The coffee tour ended at a small outdoor picnic area which sat at the edge of a cliff overlooking rice paddies. There we were served 6 different types of coffee flavors: mocha, honey, ginger lemon, caramel and hazelnut. Sipping sweet coffees while overlooking the misty valley made the perfect refuel after a long morning of touring temples.

Samples of different coffees
Samples of different coffees
A nice coffee break with a view
A nice coffee break with a view

Kitamani – Mount Batur

After thanking the guide for the tour, we climbed aboard the van and began climbing the steep roads up to view Mt. Batur. Unfortunately, storm clouds were already beginning to roll in and by the time we reached the viewing point, the elusive volcano was shrouded by dense white fog and heavy rain. We stayed for an overpriced lunch on a balcony and left shortly after.

Rainy season in Bali
Rainy season in Bali
A rainy view of Mt. Batur
A rainy view of Mt. Batur

The final stop of the tour was a viewing of the rice terraces just outside of Ubud.

While beautiful, these rice terraces see grueling hard work and toil from Bali's tireless rice farmers throughout the year.
While beautiful, these rice terraces see grueling hard work and toil from Bali’s tireless rice farmers throughout the year.

 Night Out in Ubud

The path back to our guest house
The path back to our guest house
Some colorful poofs--perfect location for resting our tired feet and writing in our travel journals
Some colorful poofs–perfect location for resting our tired feet and writing in our travel journals

At the end of the tour, our new friends invited us out for dinner at a warung near their hostel. We parted ways to take power naps before meeting for some of the best tofu peanut satay and frozen lemon and watermelon smoothies (I wish I still remembered the name of the warung!). My friend and I took a long route back home and one a whim, popped into a cuban restaurant for drinks and impromptu salsa dancing.

Salsa night at a Cuban restaurant in downtown Ubud
Salsa night at a Cuban restaurant in downtown Ubud
The wall decorations had the effect of removing us from Bali and transporting us to Cuba for the night
The wall decorations had the effect of removing us from Bali and transporting us to Cuba for the night

I had been completely floored by the beautiful beaches around Padang Padang and Uluwatu during our stay at Rapture Surf Camp, but it wasn’t until I experienced the energy and healing spirit of Ubud that I fell in love with Bali.

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A quick recap of the day’s activities:

  1. Ate breakfast at Bayu Guest House.
  2. Explored the rainforest surrounding Goa Gajah, the Elephant Temple.
  3. Payed tribute to stoned carvings of Balinese royalty at Pura Gunung Kawi.
  4. Experienced holy cleansing at Tirta Empul water temple
  5. Learned the process of Balinese coffee preparation and had a tasting overlooking some rice paddies.
  6. Viewed Mount Batur and rice terraces in the rain.
  7. Danced the night away at a Cuban Salsa club in Ubud.

I don’t always go for the packaged tours because the itinerary and services provided by your guide are usually easy and cheap to do on your own (with a bit of research). However, after a week of surfing in southern Bali, and think both I and my travel companion I were happy to rest and let someone else do the planning for us. And the result was very enjoyable!

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