Road trippin’ to peace in untouched Bali

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Victoria and Scoopy

A lot of people complain about the tourism in Bali, and it’s fair enough. The proliferation of guesthouses and villas that are quickly filling the rice fields and shorelines of the island is alarming and painful to watch – and the traffic is abominable. Ubud is one of the places that has been hit particularly hard, and what we hear was a quiet town is now teeming with tour buses and endless vendors vying to make a buck from the tourist dollar. We’ve gotten used to it, and managed to carve a life behind the tourism screen in what is still a richly cultural and beautiful town.

However, many visitors to Bali never get past the initial shock of tourism, traffic and touts, and leave believing the island has been ruined. It’s likely these people never got beyond Ubud, Kuta and some of the other “must sees” of the island. We wish they’d ventured to Central Bali…

Discover central Bali

That’s what we did when Steve had three days off in a row for the first time since our trip to the Gilis. We were almost tempted to go to the beaches down south for an antidote to Ubud’s spiritual tourism and my self-imposed austerity experiment, but in the end the centre won. We’d met the owner of an interesting-sounding hotel in a tiny village and liked his stories of a land suspended in time. It sounded like the perfect place for a break, and ended up exceeding all expectations. We’ll share the stories from the unique Village Above the Clouds next week, but for now here’s what we did while there…

We set off on our trusty Scoopy scooter. Have I mentioned how much we love this thing? It’s the key to freedom in Bali. That is, until it breaks down, which it decided to on the morning of our trip. I told a friend of our predicament. His response: “That’s so typical. You know Ubud is a vortex?”. Two hours later and we were lucky to make it out.

Gate on Bali road trip

Within moments of heading north, the landscape opens up with rice fields stretching for miles. The smell of cloves intermittently fills the air, cockerels line the roadside, and you pass compound upon compound of local families. One of our favourite sites were gates like the one above, marking each new village.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Our hotel was close to a famous temple on Lake Bedugal – Pura Ulun Danu – which we visited in the early morning.

Flower on lake bedugal Bali

Clouds filled the sky, but flowers offered their colour…

Boat on Lake Bedugal

…alongside charming boats on the lake.

IMG_4965

From Lake Bedugal, the road climbs to a ridge alongside Lake Buyan, taking you level with the clouds.

Victoria near Lake Tamblingan

At the end you descend to Lake Tambligan, the smallest and we think the most special. There are no motorised boats on this lake, only the canoes you see above.

Temple at Lake Tamblingan

It’s surrounded by temples,

Temple tower at Lake Tamblingan…with towers that stretch to the sky,

Statue at Lake Tamblingan Bali

..guarded by guys that look like this,

Door carving at Lake Tamblingan

…and intricately woven doors.

Ride paddies at Jatiluwih

Later we went to Jatiluwih…

Rice terraces at Jatiluwih, Bali

…a seemingly endless expanse of terraced rice fields,

Jatiluwih

…and shades of every green.

Steve at Angseri hot springs

Our days of riding were perfectly ended with a trip to Angseri hot springs. You can walk there from Village Above the Clouds but we went by motorbike (not recommended as the road is terrible). Despite the bumpy ride, the destination was worth it – some of the most idyllic hot spring we’ve ever come across. There were only a few other people there, affording us relative seclusion to marvel at the springs…

Victoria at Angseri

…and lie in blissful contemplation.

Who says Bali has been ruined?

See this post by Passport Symphony for 18 more hidden gems in Bali.

15 thoughts on “Road trippin’ to peace in untouched Bali”

  1. That looks and sounds incredible! I think it’s really important (when a person has the time & means) to try to explore the more out-of-the-way, less touristy aspects and places of a destination. Of course, the tourist stuff can also be quite fun and informative, but you gain such a different perspective, I feel, by venturing to the more hidden places.
    It reminds me a little of Murakami’s short story “Thailand” – a character leaves her normal hotel and routine and ventures into the countryside, into the lesser known places in a bid for exploration. Bit of a random connection, but it’s been in my head lately. 🙂

  2. Oh my, that looks lovely! Some of the rice field landscapes remind me a bit of what we’ve seen here in the Ecuadorian countryside (except I don’t think they’re growing rice!) Adding this area to the (never-ending) list…

    • Ha! I’m also pretty sure they’e not growing rice out there. I loved Ecuador. Have a great time there! Have you been to Vilcabamba? We were living there for a month.

  3. Such beauty from Bali – a place I definitely want to get back to and looking at your photos, maybe explore a bit more of the ‘off the beaten track’ places; beautiful! 🙂

  4. I always love your photo stories – you take such beautiful pictures! Your road trip looks wonderful, and definitely makes me want to do more exploring next time we are in Bali 🙂

  5. Thank you Hannah. We wish we’d had more time to explore Bali. This little taster really showed us what was on offer – it’s an incredible place.

  6. We loooved Bali and Ubud is definitely a place we could spend a lot more time in (even if it was better 10 years ago :-p) We spent about 2 hours in Kuta and couldn’t stand it. While Bali has it’s tourist traps there are always authentic experiences if you look hard enough. We also stayed in the small town of Padangbai for a couple of days and had a crazy run in with an exercism ceremony!

    • That sounds like a true Bali experience! Amazing 🙂

      We went to Padangbai en route to the Gilis but didn’t get to see much of it. Next time…

  7. As an enormous fan of road trips, I salute your escape away from the madding crowds. As for places ruined by tourism and such – yes, they exist, but they are most often a tiny speck of a whole country or region. There’s a lot of us lucky travelers around, so “untouched” places are becoming more and more remote. Hell, even Antarctica is getting packed with visitors. Nonetheless, pristine beauty is still very much available everywhere in our extraordinary world – we just need to dig deeper and roam a bit further to the left. Beautiful photos, kudos! Good luck!

    • Thank you! It’s so true that a little digging will reap great rewards. I do find it uneasy to complain about tourism when I am one of the culprits!

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