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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.
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.
Our hotel was close to a famous temple on Lake Bedugal – Pura Ulun Danu – which we visited in the early morning.
Clouds filled the sky, but flowers offered their colour…
…alongside charming boats on the lake.
From Lake Bedugal, the road climbs to a ridge alongside Lake Buyan, taking you level with the clouds.
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.
It’s surrounded by temples,
…with towers that stretch to the sky,
..guarded by guys that look like this,
…and intricately woven doors.
Later we went to Jatiluwih…
…a seemingly endless expanse of terraced rice fields,
…and shades of every green.
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…
…and lie in blissful contemplation.
Who says Bali has been ruined?
See this post by Passport Symphony for 18 more hidden gems in Bali.