For our drive to Ubud, the hotel had arranged our transport. We had told them that if Willy had time, we would love to take the trip with him, and we were happy to see that he was the one taking us there.
It wasn’t a long drive, and we knew already that we would like him to take us past the Hindu temple of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. He suggested we should also pay a visit to the largest area of rice terraces in Bali, Jatiluwih, which he thought was one of the most beautiful places, he’d ever seen. With that description, the detour was added to the plan of the day, and we were on our way.
Our first stop was made at the viewpoint by the so-called twin lakes, not far from where we started our drive. There are a few hikes around the twin lakes, that would probably have been nice as well, but we’ll save that for next time we come to Bali.
Willy described the road through the mountains as the hardest place to drive a car in Bali – if you can drive here, you can drive anywhere. We would have to agree – narrow, winding, and with plenty of traffic, you shouldn’t make many mistakes here. However, he took us safely through the mountains, and after a while we arrived by the lake at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
I have to say, I was looking forward to the temple by the lake, and the temple itself was actually really nice – the area around the temple was just less impressive than I thought it would be. It was crammed with tourists, posing in the most ridiculous ways in front of the various buildings that belonged to the temple. We had a good laugh, but it was not the serene, quiet experience we previously had at other temples we visited.
Also, the park around it had been decorated (I guess) with all kinds of props to please the tourists (Sponge Bob was there, 1.5 m high!), but it didn’t really please us – though we do realize that we are part of the crowd. (Earlier, when visiting the water temple in Yogyakarta with Dendy, our driver from Java, we mentioned that there were so many people there. He looked at us, and replied without blinking; ‘We are people’. And yes, we are.)
The best part of the visit to the park, was once again Willy’s take on it all. Being a local, he was able to share with us how the temple was used, what kind of relationship there was between the Hindus and the Muslims, and what kind of purpose the temple served to the locals.
We didn’t stay long – just for a walk through the park, and a good talk with Willy – then we moved on.
Our next stop was at the rice terraces of Jatiluwih. We were getting hungry, so before going for a short hike around the terraces, we invited Willy to have lunch with us in a nearby restaurant. A gesture he seemed to appreciate – it is not custom for the staff of the various hotels to have meals with the guests, but it only seemed natural, as we really enjoyed each others company.
After a plentiful lunch and another good talk, we went for a hike around the rice terraces. The rice had just been harvested, and even though Willy said they were more beautiful just before harvest, with a multitude of different green colours, we thought they were stunning.
The huge area of rice terraces – 600 hectares – were mirroring the clouded sky and the tall palms between the fields. It’s hard to imagine it could be more beautiful than this.
We had taken the shortest walk, so that it wouldn’t be too late before we reached the hotel near Ubud, and Willy could return back to Munduk. Thus, after a few hours there, we took the road back to the main roads, and moved on.
We were staying just South of Ubud at the Alena Resort. It turned out that for some reason, there were several Danish families in the hotel (probably a favourite of some travel agency), so we had a good chat with some of the others about our different itineraries and impressions so far.
Ubud was more of a city than anything we had seen since Yogyakarta in Java. The streets were lined with coffee shops, restaurants, artist galleries, souvenir shops, and dealers with all kinds of clothes and fabric – with yoga, spirituality, colour and creativity written all over it. We enjoyed a little shopping (with we, I mean myself and the girls, of course), a few good cups of coffee, and really just did a lot of walking in the streets and the extremely colourful and bustling market.
We had one specific goal there. When driving from Munduk to Ubud, The girls’ travel ukulele had been crushed under the backpacks, and it was beyond fixing. Therefore, finding a shop with musical instruments was a priority. Mads had come up with two shops from Google – the first one we couldn’t find, and the second was closed. Next door, they explained to us that the owners ran out of funds, which I guess is a good reason. Another Googling led us to a shop a bit from the centre, called Drum Factory, which had a large selection of different kinds of instruments, including ukuleles. After a bit of tuning and trying, we left the shop with two happy girls and a new ukulele, which they were told to guard with their lives.
Back in the market, Ronja found another ukulele with beautiful wood carvings, which she couldn’t resist. It wasn’t expensive, and that’s the story of how we came to travel Indonesia with two ukuleles.
We had read about whitewater river rafting near Ubud, and we made our way to the official tourist information (there are many unofficial ones, that you may want to avoid) in order to buy tickets. When we got there, the man behind the counter looked like it was almost too much work to help us. However, he did tell us, that he could help us get tickets for the river rafting, and that they came at three price levels with more or less the same package. With him not helping too much, we decided to take the middle price level, thinking that there had to be some difference, and we paid 2 mio RP for going river rafting the next day.
That evening, after having Mexican dinner in a restaurant called Møzzarella, we went to see the Balinese dance performance at the Royal Palace in Ubud.
It was a fascinating experience, as well as a strange one; the orchestra consisted of 22 men, seated around the dance floor, playing traditional Balinese instruments while a number of dancers dressed in beautiful costumes with vivid colours expressed themselves through gestures of hands and fingers, not to mention eye movements. The movements and the mimick of the dancers was mesmerizing and extremely different from anything we’ve seen before.
Ayung River Rafting
The next morning we were picked up to go river rafting. When you book just about any kind of activity in Bali, it is standard that they will come and pick you up from your hotel. After a half hour drive or so, we arrived at the place where we would be geared up. We were each given the key to a locker, a safety vest, and a helmet, and then we were loaded on to the car with a bunch of other people and took off.
After a short drive, a hike through some rice terraces, and a walk down many steps to the river, we got in the raft and had a short introduction from our guide. We were in a raft with an older English couple, who looked slightly out of place in their rafting gear. Ronja and Frida were in the front, Mads and I were in the middle, and the English couple were behind. None of us really understood what our guide tried to tell us, but he was nice and seemed to know what he was doing, so it was not a huge problem. This is also the reason why I didn’t catch his name.
The rafting was so much fun. Unexpectedly, it was also an amazing nature experience – I don’t know why I didn’t guess that, but I hadn’t thought of it that way. The beautiful river with nearly perpendicular walls from the river to somewhere high above us – with luxuriant vegetation and even water falls here and there. Our guide let us jump into the river several times and float next to the raft which was fun – the English couple didn’t want to, but the rest of us did. We stopped at a waterfall and had a rather hard shower while our guide took pictures of us. The trip took about an hour and a half including a short break on the way to have a drink. When we arrived at the final stop, we walked up to the pickup point, drenched as expected.
We had lunch where we returned our gear, before we were taken back to our hotel to get into some dry clothes.
Campuan Ridge Walk
We wanted to go back to Ubud in the afternoon and do a hike that Mads and I had read about in one of our guide books. We were running short on time, since the rafting had taken more time than expected, so we decided to skip the monkey sanctuary to avoid having to rush through the hike. The hike is rather well marked some of the way – it is a hike that begins where two rivers meet, just west of Ubud, then you go North until you cross one of the rivers, and walk back to the starting point in the opposite direction.
Going one way we were fine – the path was good, the views beautiful, and there are several coffee shops on the way that want you to stop and take a break – which we did.
We must have missed a turn somewhere, because suddenly we found ourselves walking in the side of a very busy and very steep road, crossing the river. If there is one thing you do not want to do in Indonesia in general, it is to walk in the side of the road, where people don’t expect you to. The roads are already narrow, and the traffic already rather chaotic, so add pedestrians and you have a dangerous cocktail. We walked for a while that way, but we weren’t sure we really found the right path again, and when a guy yelled ‘TAXI?’ at us (which happens a lot), we decided to get a ride back to town to have dinner and chill for a bit.