To discover Bali we rented a car and a driver for two days. To begin with we did a day trip to West Bali after which we toured Central Bali.
This blog post brings you to West Bali. First we watch Barong dance. Then we visit a monkey forest and a temple with Maru towers. After that we walk on rice terraces and at the end it’s time to watch the sunset at the temple of Tanah Lot.
How did we make this? We picked a bunch of travel brochures at the airport while waiting for the luggage. There were lots of companies offering tour services from which we selected one that looked good and reliable. The name of the company was Bali Tour Advisor.
All companies had about the same rates, USD 40 for the whole car for 5 hours, USD 50 for 8 hours and for 10 hours it was USD 55. The price is very reasonable for two people and gets very cheap if you’re more people sharing it.
We made the reservation by sending an email to them and each time they replied within 30 min. As we didn’t know how many hours we should take we made a 10 hour reservation with the option of more hours if needed. That was good since the trips finally took 11 to 12 hours as we stopped a lot to see the sights on the way.
The next morning the driver was waiting for us at 8:30 in front of our hotel, exactly as we had agreed, and our day trip to West Bali could start!
Day Trip to West Bali on the Map
Sanur to Batubulan
We stayed at Sanur which is an older destination and it’s said to be more peaceful than the big resorts.
In Sanur local life begins right behind your hotel gates. There’s lots of local people in every corner and most of the time lots of traffic. And the statues in Bali! There were so many statues all the way along the roads, everywhere! I’ve never seen anything like that before.
We were heading west but our driver said we should first go and see a local Barong dance show at Batubulan.
We had roughly planned the route but as the driver was a professional he could add to it sights that we otherwise would have missed. In fact we planned the route together with him in the morning according to our best knowledge.
Barong Dance Show
Barong dance is very typical to Bali and every visitor to Bali should see it one way or another. There are shows in hotels and restaurants. The village of Batubulan is famous for its five different dance groups that all present at the same time in the morning.
Of course it gets very touristic as bus loads of tourists come to see the shows. But never mind, we wanted to see Barong dance once we were here.
There was an entrance fee which I don’t remember how much it was. In fact you should be prepared to pay small fees all the way so reserve cash. Credit cards don’t help when cash is needed.
Before the show there was a chance to take a selfie with one of the dancers. Two tourists and a dancer!
The play presented the eternal fight between the good and evil spirit which is an important issue in Bali.
There were masked dancers in colorful costumes presenting people, spirits, monkeys, tigers and birds. A traditional orchestra kept playing all the time in the background.
We liked the show a lot, it’s so different from our shows back home – and so did the dancers! It looked like they had great fun dancing in the early morning.
The show starts at 9:30 and it’s hard to tell the exact place where it was as our driver brought us there. But this was the Jambe Budaya Barong & Kris Danceshow. The address might be something like Gang Batu Mutiara.
On the Road again
From Batubulan we took small roads to Mengwi. There are no big roads in this region of Bali so driving through all the villages that follow each other is very very slow.
The villages are pretty and most of the houses have a private temple and lots of beautiful Bali statues outside the gates.
I will tell about Bali villages in another blog post.
Rice Fields in Bali
After driving through dozens of villages we could finally see some open countryside when we entered an area with rice fields. We stopped for a while and watched farmers planting rice.
Farming job in Bali really is a hard work. You have to stand out the tropical heat and walk barefoot in the mud to plant rice. There is no other way, you have to do manually most of the things that are needed.
Our guide told us that young people don’t appreciate this kind of job anymore. They move to cities and it’s hard to find labor force to rice fields that are mainly in the water.
Pura Taman Ayun
Our next destination was Mengwi. In Mengwi we went to see the famous Hindu temple Pura Taman Ayun. Pura Taman Ayun is well-known for its Maru towers.
The first thing we met was a woman offering to God. There was a cat laying on the offering table and the woman got angry and chased the cat away.
The temple has fine decorated brick walls around it and many stone statues, like guardian figures by the gate.
Here are some pictures of the temple area. One of the photos above show the main gate and below you can see some of the many wooden pavilions.
There were artists at work and their art was sold. Balinese art sometimes has very strong colors, like everything else here. People here like bright colors.
The Pura Taman Ayun temple has dozens of old wooden Maru towers that symbolize the mountains.
The whole temple symbolizes the flow of water from the mountains in the middle of the island down to the rice fields that so badly need the water and from the rice fields on to the sea.
The temple is really pretty and this kind of Maru towers can not be seen in many temples in Bali. After Mengwi we took winding side roads again, and came to the Sangeh Monkey Forest.
Sangeh Monkey Forest
Wild monkeys live in many forests throughout Bali and of course we wanted to meet some monkeys.
There are at least three forests in the area near the big tourist resorts in the south where you can see monkeys. The Sangeh Monkey Forest is the biggest of these. Our guide told us that as many as 700 monkeys live in the area.
In the forest there is an old mossy Hindu temple Pura Bukit Sari. It is from the 17th century and years ago monkeys have occupied the abandoned temple. The Pura Bukit Sari temple of monkeys is in the middle of a forest with very high palahlar trees.
The monkey forest has an entrance fee and you will get a guide that walks with you. That’s good since you get some help if the monkeys get aggressive.
The monkeys were not at all afraid of us… They really came close and wanted to climb up on our shoulders which was not pleasant at all.
Our guide had reserved some peanuts for them and it was fun watching the monkeys eat. The monkeys are nice to look at but don’t let them too close. They can bite and steal your phone, money and sunglasses.
There were some monkey statues in and outside the park. This is one of the monkey statues.
Monkey Forest Marriage
We were visiting the forest on a Monday and there was a newly married couple taking wedding pictures at the park gate.
The monkey forest and the temple make a pretty setting for wedding pictures. Maybe the young couples also want a monkey in their wedding photo since monkeys are sacred animals in Bali.
We also saw another but much smaller temple that had Maru towers. Pura Gangga is on a small side road to Apuan.
The Pura Gangga temple is named after the holy river Ganges. The temple is not open to public but you can see it from the gate.
Our driver took very small roads after Pura Gangga. He wanted to make a shortcut to our next destination, the Jatiluwih rice terraces.
We passed through several small villages. Here deep in the countryside the road was in a very bad condition and it was narrow in some places. We were wondering if the road really was meant for cars.
But it was great fun to have the chance to see all these simple rural Bali villages. We saw farmers working on their fields. This one looks to me most like a potato field.
This young woman was enjoying a cooling dip in rice field waters.
It was mostly cloudy after we came to the mountains like it tends to be here every afternoon. But despite that the weather was pretty hot.
Then finally we came to one of the main destinations on our day trip to west Bali. At the end of the winding road we had followed were the famous Jatiluwih Rice Terraces.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
Jatiluwih is a small farming village on the mountain slopes. The village is famous for its beautiful rice terraces that sretch down to the valley.
The road to Jatiluwih is very slow so it takes much time to get there. But when you see the rice terraces you know it was worth the trouble.
The terraces can best be seen from the village so we went all the way there and parked the car. There was a parking fee and an entrance fee, to the village!
Knowing that you can only get here with a small vehicle surprisingly many tourists had made the effort of reaching this remote place. The road is too small for tourist buses.
In Jatiluwih you can walk on the rice terraces which we did. There is a marked circular walking path or two. But don’t wear white shoes on this trip like I did…. It’s wet.
Jatiluwif Farmers at Work
We saw a Balinese house being built, and farm workers in all generations and children helping them.
There were more plants than rice grown in the area, like bananas, beans, tomatoes and pumpkins.
To the Coast
When you continue from Jatiluwif, there is a temple that you can visit still higher up in the mountains, Pura Luhur Batukau.
We didn’t have time for that. Our guide told us that the road to the temple is winding and as we had been slow today and spent a long time on the rice fields and it was time to turn towards the coast to reach it before the sunset.
On the way down we saw many rice storage buildings like this in the villages. This kind of antic Balinese rice storage is called “Lubum”.
And more rice fields followed.
Driving in Bali
Driving in Bali takes much more time than you would imaging when looking at the map. The roads are surfaced but narrow and they wind through villages.
The southern part of Bali is almost like one big village with no open space between the villages. Our driving speed was approximately 30-40 km an hour. But what is positive the drivers seem to respect the rules and other drivers and the traffic runs very smoothly.
Motor bikes all around you… There are ten times more motor bikes than cars, often with very young drivers, but they too seem to have very good driving skills.
I have to say that our driver was very good and that’s why we wanted to have the same driver the next day.
All day long he kept driving very carefully and there was no reason to panic which normally is my problem on trips in countries like this.
We came down from Jatiluwih along a small country road. But to get to the west coast we had to drive through Tabanan during the evening rush hour.
Tabanan is a big city and we didn’t see a reason to stop there. From Tabanan there we took the road to Tanah Lot.
Pura Tanah Lot
The temple of Pura Tanah Lot is maybe the best known landmark of the whole Bali. The temple is dramatically set on a cliff that in fact is a small island.
Tanah Lot is a huge tourist attraction where busloads of people come in the evenings to watch the sunset. There is almost a city of restaurants, souvenir shops and other side businesses, and crowds of people before the sunset.
You can walk to the island if it’s low tide (you have to walk in the water and on slippery stones). The place is pretty and what I didn’t know there are five different temples. There are many spots where you get great views of the different temples and the rocky coastline.
Walking on from Tanah Lot comes a restaurant area on the cliffs where you can have a dinner or a coffee.
If you like you can taste the famous Balinese Luwak coffee in one of the cafes.
Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world and it’s produced in an exceptional way. The coffee beans have been digested by a fox- or cat-like animal called luwak.
Tanah Lot was the last sight on our day trip to west Bali. After looking at this other temple (below) we returned to our car where the driver was waiting for us and started driving back to Sanur.
Later at night we had a delicious Balinese dinner in Sanur and talked about the great and memorable day in west Bali we had today.