After arriving in Bali we booked a car and a driver to see the best places on the island. The next morning our driver was waiting for us and so we went on our first Bali day trip by car.
He took us to Central and West Bali. We began the day watching Barong dance and then went to see monkeys living in a ruined temple. Another temple we went to had Maru towers with thatched roofs in many layers.
Further north we walked on rice terraces after which it was time to end our day trip watching the spectacular Tanah Lot sunset.
Maru towers, touring Bali by car
Bali Day Trip by Car, the Itinerary
Here is our Bali day trip marked on the map. We started from Sanur where we were staying. From Sanur we headed north to Batubulan and on to the inner parts of the island and Jatiluwih rice terraces, where we turned back to Tanah Lot in the west.
Bali day trip by car: our driving initerary on the map
So where did we get the car?
How to Find a Car and a Driver in Bali?
Waiting for the luggage at the airport we picked all travel brochures were local companies were offering Bali tours. From them we selected the one that sounded good. It had clear rates and looked somewhat reliable. The company we chose from the brochures was Bali Tour Advisor.
All advertisers had pretty similar rates, USD 40 for 5 hours, 50 for 8 hours and 55 for 10 hours. That was for the whole car and sounded ok as it was for two. Of course it’s better still if there are more travelers to share.
We made the reservation simply by email and each time they replied within 30 min.
As we didn’t know how many hours we will need we made a 10 hour reservation with two more optional hours. That was good as our trips finally took 11 to 12 hours both days.
So the next morning the driver was there at 8:30, waiting for us in front of our hotel, exactly as we had agreed. Our West Bali day trip could start!
Sanur to Batubulan
Amazing statues of Bali
In Bali we chose to stay in Sanur. It’s an older Bali travel destination, said to be more original and less touristic than the new resorts.
In Sanur you will step into local Bali life right outside your hotel gates, at least if you choose to stay elsewhere than next to the beach. You can see Bali locals doing their tasks in the city and most of the time there’s a mess of traffic.
And the statues in Bali! Sanur has so many statues and more statues exist along Bali roads, statues everywhere! I’ve never seen anything like that before.
Bali locals on the roadside
We were heading west, but our driver said we should first go and see a local Barong dance show that was held at Batubulan.
Another Bali statue
We had drafted the itinerary and roughly knew what we wanted to see, but as the driver knew his island better than us he added sights we didn’t know about. So we drew the final tour itinerary together with him in the morning, before setting off.
So the first thing was the dance show:
Barong Dance Show
Bali barong dance players in Batubulan
Barong is the most typical form of dance in Bali. It reflects the country’s culture so much that every Bali visitor should try to see some barong dance. That’s why there are many shows in the tourist areas, in hotels and restaurants.
Yet the village of Batubulan is where you can see the best shows. Batubulan has five active dance groups and they all have their dance shows in the morning.
Of course they are doing it for tourists and it gets very touristic when the bus loads arrive. But never mind, we are tourists as well, and want to see barong dance while we are here.
They took an entrance fee to the show that I don’t remember how much it was.
Anyway, you should have coins and be prepared to pay small fees here and there when traveling around Bali, so reserve some local cash. Credit cards in your pocket are useless when cash is needed.
Before the show we took a selfie with the dancers. Two tourists in their sunglasses with a barong dancer.
Good and Evil Spirits Fighting
The show was about the eternal fight between the good and evil spirits, an essential issue in the Balinese culture.
Bali day trip by car: dancers of Batubulan
There were masked dancers in their colorful costumes, presenting people, spirits, monkeys, tigers and birds. A traditional Bali orchestra was playing non stop in the background.
We liked the show a lot, knowing we will never see this kind of shows back home – and so did the dancers. It looked like they had great fun dancing and shouting, for the first thing in the morning.
Jambe Budaya Barong & Kris Danceshow
The show started at 9:30 and I can’t tell you the exact place where it was, but our driver could. But I know the show’s name, it was the Jambe Budaya Barong & Kris Danceshow. The address might be something like Gang Batu Mutiara.
Bali Day Trip by Car: On the Road again
Bali’s beautiful countryside: a village street
From Batubulan we took small country roads north towards Mengwi. Because there are no big roads in this part of Bali to choose from. This means we had to drive through an endless ribbon of small villages. You can’t imagine how slow driving in Bali is.
The villages are nice to look at, not least since most homes have their private temples and loads of carved Bali statues at house gates.
A house temple, Bali day trip by car
I will tell you more about Bali village life in my other Bali post.
Bali Rice Fields
Bali farming: planting rice in the wet fields
After dozens of villages we finally reached open countryside and rice fields. A nice place to stop and watch how they plant rice.
Farming in Bali is a hard job. Only to plant their rice they have to walk for hours in the mud, barefoot, and stand out the equator heat. Still today there is no other way to do it, and most other things that rice needs are manual as well.
Farm workers on rice fields
Our driver told us that the young generation doesn’t appreciate this kind of hard job. They move to the cities and it’s hard to find labor force to rice fields.
Bali rice paddies and a village
Pura Taman Ayun
Bali day trip by car: Taman Ayun temple visitors
Our next destination was Mengwi.
Mengwi is famous for its Hindu temple Pura Taman Ayun. The beautiful Pura Taman Ayun is known for its high Maru towers.
The first thing we saw entering the temple area was a woman offering at the temple gate and chasing away a cat at the same time. The cat was sleeping on the offering table and then went to stretch behind it:
Cat in a Bali temple
The temple has decorated stone walls around it and many stone statues, like guardian figures by the gate.
Decorated temple walls of Bali, Indonesia
Some more pictures of the temple area will follow. First some open pavilions:
Taman Ayun pavillions with thatched roofs
There were some local artists whose art was for sale as well. Like everything else on the island, Balinese art has some very strong colors. Bali people love colors.
Bali artist at work and art for sale
Pura Taman Ayun Maru Towers
Maru towers of Pura Taman Ayun, Bali
The temple of Pura Taman Ayun has loads of old Maru towers. They are there to symbolize the Bali mountains.
The whole temple itself symbolizes the flow of water from the mountains to the rice fields and on to the sea.
Touring Bali by car: exploring temples and towers
This kind of pretty towers are not often seen in Bali temples. Most temples have other kind of towers symbolizing something else.
After Mengwi it was winding back roads again, until we came to Sangeh Monkey Forest.
Bali Day Trip by Car: Sangeh Monkey Forest
A top sight of Bali: Sangeh Monkey Forest
Knowing that Bali has a lot of wild monkeys around the island, we of course wanted to see some.
There are at least three monkey forests close to the big tourist resorts, of which Sangeh Monkey Forest is the biggest. Our guide said that there are 700 monkeys living in this foreset.
Sangeh Monkey Forest statues and temple
The forest hides a ruined Hindu temple. Pura Bukit Sari. It was an important worship place in the 17th century but was for some reason abandoned. Then, very soon, a big monkey colony made the place their home.
So today Pura Bukit Sari is the temple of monkeys hidden in the forest. A forest with very high palahlar trees.
Bali day trip by car: visiting a monkey forest
To enter the forest you pay an entrance fee that includes a private guide which is really good as you might need help to defend yourself against the monkeys.
Yes, the monkeys were not afraid of us, not the least They came very close and jumped to our heads and shoulders which was not nice at all.
But our guide saved us from the monkeys. He had peanuts and it helped. Monkeys are nice to look at but don’t let them too close. They bite and can even steal your phone, money and sunglasses.
A Bali monkey statue
The monkey place of course contains monkey statues, one of the above.
Monkey Forest Marriage
Taking monkey forest wedding photos
Monkey forests are a typical setting for wedding photos and we, too, met a young married couple. As monkeys are sacred animals for the Bali people, they bring luck to the couples.
Wedding photo taken in Sangeh Monkey Forest
The Next Temple: Pura Gangga
Bali day trip by car: Pura Gangga temple and statues
Later on there was another smaller temple with more Maru towers. Pura Gangga is a small, hidden temple along a side road to Apuan.
The temple is named after the holy river Ganges and not open to public, you can only look at it from the gate.
After Pura Gangga made a shortcut to our next destination, the world-famous Jatiluwih rice terraces. That meant he took very small country roads.
The roads went through a long row of tiny villages in the deep countryside of Bali. Here the roads are in a very bad shape being like narrow paths in some places. We were wondering if the roads were meant for cars at all.
Despite all it was great fun to see those simple rural villages and farmers on their fields. This one looks to me most like a potato field:
Bali village life: working on a potato field
When we got higher up it got cloudy, which normally happens here in the afternoon. Despite all it was still really hot.
This young lady was having a cooling dip in rice field waters.
The cooling waters of Jatiluwih, Bali
Then, at the end of the long winding road it opened in front of us: the famous Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, one of Bali’s top sights.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
Beautiful places in Bali: Jatiluwif rice terraces
Jatiluwih is a small farming community on Bali mountain slopes, known for its stunning rice terraces stretching down to the valley.
As Jatiluwih is far away from everything and all roads very slow you sometimes wonder if the place is worth the long journey. But seeing the terraces you will know it is.
Jatiluwif village and rice terraces
Jatiluwih rice terraces are best seen from the village so we parked there, wondering how a small village like this can have entrance and parking fees. But we were not alone here.
Considering that you can only get here with a small vehicle, surprisingly many tourists had made their way to this remote place. The Jatiluwih road is too narrow for tourist buses.
Views of the rice terraces of Jatiluwif, Bali
Once you are here, try to walk along rice terraces. There is a marked loop that you are advised to follow, or maybe two different loops. Just follow them, but don’t put on your white shoes, take something else. My white shoes got dark brown. It’s wet on rice terraces.
Walking on Bali rice terraces
Jatiluwif Farmers at Work
Workers in the rice fields, Bali day trip by car
What else was there to see? We saw a Balinese house being built, and farm workers working on the fields in all generations.
What surprised us, many more plants than rice grow in the area. Like bananas, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins.
Local life in Jatiluwif, Bali day trip by car
Driving Down to the Coast
Driving on from Jatiluwif, there is a temple worth a side trip. It’s Pura Luhur Batukau, still higher up in the mountains.
We, however, didn’t have any time left for side trips. Our guide said we had been so slow today and spent too much time on the rice fields. It was now time to turn back towards the coast to get there before the sunset.
Rice storage houses of Bali
On the way down there were again many villages, and all those villages had many rice storage buildings like the one in the photo. This kind of Bali rice storage is called “Lubum” and they exist throughout the rice growing area.
Lower down more rice fields followed, but no terraces because it was all flat.
Rice fields of Central Bali
Bali Day Trip by Car: Driving in Bali
What about driving in Bali? It takes much more time than you ever imagine on the basis of the map. All roads are surfaced but they are narrow and go through villages.
The southern part of Bali is like one big village with no open space between different communities.
This made that our driving speed was no more than 30 or 40 km an hour. But what is positive it looked like most drivers respect traffic rules. They also respect other drivers which makes traffic run well.
Street life in Bali
Hundreds of motor bikes around you… Bali has ten times more motor bikes than cars and the drivers are mostly very young, but, the young drivers, too, have good driving skills and we didn’t see any accidents happen.
Our driver was a very good driver as well. He was not speeding, no sharp turns or anything, instead he kept driving very slowly and carefully. There was no reason to panic which normally is a problem for me in different driving cultures.
Then we had to leave the small country roads behind. To get to the west coast we had to drive through a bigger city, Tabanan, during the evening traffic peak.
Tabanan didn’t look like a city where to stop and from there we took the road to Tanah Lot.
Photos of Tabanan, Bali
Pura Tanah Lot
Bali day trip by car: Pura Tanah Lot
The clifftop temple Pura Tanah Lot is maybe the most famous landmark in all Bali. The temple is dramatically set on a cliff that, to be exact, is a small island.
Tanah Lot is one of the island’s biggest tourist attractions where busloads of people arrive every evening for the sunset. For them cater almost hundreds of restaurants, souvenir shops and other businesses so be prepared for finding a tourist trap in Tanah Lot.
At low tide you can walk to the island (you need to walk in the water, on slippery stones). Tanah Lot sunset is a majestic sight but there are four more temples you can visit on the rocky coastline that all offer great sunset views and photo opportunities.
Views of Pura Tanah Lot, Bali
Check out the restaurant row on the cliffs south of Tanah Lot. In this place you have the views, and in addition you can get a dinner or coffee.
If you like, taste the famous Bali coffee Luwak coffee in these cafes. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world and it’s produced in an exceptional way. Luwak coffee beans have been eaten by a fox- or cat-like animal, luwak. Read more about luwak coffee in my other Bali post.
Luwak Coffee from Bali
Tanah Lot was the last sight on this Bali day trip by car. After looking at all the other temples (one of them in the photo below) we returned to our car where the driver was already waiting, and started our drive back to Sanur.
Later that night we had a tasty local dinner in Sanur, thinking back to the great and memorable day we had today.
Visiting one of the temples at Pura Tanah Lot, Bali
More on Bali Travel
You might also be interested in my other Bali articles:
- Read about Batuan, Goa Gajah and Mount Batur.
- Read about coffee plantations, Pura Tirta Empul, Tegallalang rice terraces and Bali weekend celebrations.