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Off the tourist trail

London
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2,539 posts
99 reviews
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Off the tourist trail

Having spent three full days exploring hidden trails and temples, mainly devoid of other tourists, I'm starting to realise that my driver is a total gem. His English is great and his car is new with top notch air conditioning but best of all, he knows what time the tourist buses hit the various sites, and he's very good at avoiding them. He's also great with tips on making quick exits from temples etc that mean avoiding the hawkers and souvenir stalls and telling me how much I should pay for things or whether or not I need a guide. On the way to places like Gunung Kawi or Tampaksiring, he filled me in on the stories and history behind them, it certainly makes for a much richer experience. In the space of three days we've driven through the scenic, traffic-free back roads to Bedugal, GitGit, Munduk, Jatuliweh, shopped in Candikuning (I got Kadek to bargain for my fruit), done some urban exploring in a deserted hotel in the mountains, viewed Kintamani, Batur and Agung from a seriously high temple where it was just me, an old priest and some sacred stones, eaten in mountain view restaurants where the food was incredible and we had an entire floor to ourselves.... it goes on. It's been really useful having all of his inside knowledge and he's also been great company. The other useful thing is that he carries his Blackberry so you can email questions as you're planning your trips and he'll tell you what works or not (sometimes what looks possible on the map, isn't necessarily feasible in reality). He always responds very quickly.

The guy is a total gem. If anyone wants his details, just message me. Or you can try and find him near the Champuan Bridge, his name is Kadek Suastika.

London
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21. Re: Off the tourist trail

Andrea, a great place to take the kids is Bali Bird Park (near Ubud). It's huge with loads of places where you can hold big toucans, owls, macaws, you name it. There is also a huge walk through aviary with birds of paradise. And the landscaping is to die for. The restaurant looks out over a lake with one of those traditional wooden houses from Sumatra (I think). There is also a reptile park directly next door where, again, you can hold lots of big lizards and touch turtles etc. I went to the Bali Zoo this time round and it was nice enough, but not a patch on the Bird Park. On previous trips I've also been to the Safari Park in the east, and although there were a lot of animals, I didn't like it as much. It felt a bit too 'Disney' if you know what I mean.

Or, if you do a day trip to Bedugal, Kadek can take you to the waterfalls at GitGit (I think the kids can swim in places there if they want to) and maybe the Banjar Hot Springs (closer to Lovina, so it would be a long day if you include this). But on the way back, if you stop at the mountain view points over Lake Tamblingan and Lake Buyan there is a guy there who has huge boa constrictors, massive fruit bats and lizards. You can pay him 30,000rp and have your photo taken with a python draped around your shoulders in front of this incredibly scenic lake and jungle backdrop. They might also like to do the forest trekking and canoeing across the lake. Best to email Kadek first though and ask the costs. I'm not sure if the priests who guide you through the forest charge per person or by group. I have a vague memory that it wasn't super cheap and if you're a big family it might mount up.

Melbourne
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22. Re: Off the tourist trail

My daughter has a python so I am sure she would love to visit the reptile park altho this house feels a bit like a zoo at times....dog, cats,chickens, rabbits, fish, salamander and a python (rats in the freezer!) They are hell bent on surfing which might just leave me some time to myself! At this time of year in the Melbourne school holidays there seems to be a rush to head to Bali so they also have friends that will be there at the same time. Trips to Waterbomb Park in the pipeline. I hate shopping so being in that area (Kuta, Seminyak) does nothing for me....apart form the restaurants!! We also sponsor a few children at an orphanage is Sidhi Astu so take clothing and pencils and paper there and do a big grocery shop at the supermarket before going as well! All good BUT I am loving your stories and am even more excited to get off the beaten track. Thank you again!

London
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23. Re: Off the tourist trail

Another suggestion for your surfing children is to go to the Bukit Peninsula - to Bingan (I think that's the name of the beach where I stayed on previous trips). They can easily get there by bike or car from your villa. The beach is tiny and accessed by a lot of very steep steps, but the surf is good. At the bottom there are just a smattering of small cafes and homestays. The other surfing beach nearby is Padang Padang. There's not much else out there though - just white sand and surf. It's south of Nusa Dua and you'll notice the drier ladnscape, much less lush than the rest of Bali.

You'll see these beaches as your plane lands at Denpasar.

I'm being totally lazy on my last day. Have walked as far as the Campuan bridge and am now sitting in Murni's Warung sipping an ice cold tamarind juice (it was a tough choice between tamarind, sirsop and fresh strawberry!) and looking down to the ravine and across to a eleven meru temple poking out of the trees and ferns at what I think is the Blanco museum (I could be wrong). The first time I came to Bali was in the late seventies when I was a schoolkid. Ubud was very different then and Murni's was just a one level, basic warung selling village food. Now it has many levels and shops attached but still worth a visit, just for the views... and of course the food is superb. As I type, I'm tucking into a late breakfast of exquisite banana crepes filled with a delicate palm sugar sauce. Yum!

I'll probably be lazy and get someone on a motor bike to give a ride back to the central markets for some last minute shopping. I've already cleared space in my suitcase by giving away spare clothes and unused toiletries and makeup to my favourite stall holder (she has two teenage girls).

This afternoon I might pop back down to the Monkey Forest. I'm not fond of the monkeys but the forest itself feels very mystical and special.

Had to say a sad goodbye to my driver Kadek yesterday. He emailed this morning before he left on a full day tour to say I had been good karma for him. I think that's probably one of the nicest compliments I've ever had.

Australia
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24. Re: Off the tourist trail

Your reports have been a real delight Karen. I hope you do put together some more reflections along with your photos when you get home. Thanks again, it's refreshing to read about Bali, not just shopping and breakfasts . :)

London
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25. Re: Off the tourist trail

Thanks Linda. I was a little worried that I might be boring people with too much information but it seems such a waste not to share. We holiday makers come here with so little time and such high expectations that it's great if you are forewarned and can get straight into the swing of things.

London
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26. Re: Off the tourist trail

If you're in the centre of Ubud and need a quick escape from the heat and intenisity of the markets and the traffic of Jalan Raya I would suggest walking down Jl Goutama. It's a small street that runs off Jl Raya (it's parallel to Jl Hanoman and Monkey Forest Road) and there is very little traffic, just the odd motorbike, but there a lots of lovely old style warungs with nice menus and wooden bench seating that face on to the road. Many of them have free wifi. It comes out on to Jl Dewi Sita (which runs along the top of the soccer field between Hanoman and M Forest). There are a couple of reflexology places to the right as you emerge and they're a good place to chill for an hour or so. The air conditioning is great and you can get 1 hour of reflexology, plus head, hands, neck and shoulders for 110,000 rupiah...no oil and you don't need to strip off.

Jl Dewi Sita is full of lovely little boutiques that offer slightly more unique designs than what you find on the main drag.

Wow I love Ubud. Can you tell? :-)

Hobart, Australia
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27. Re: Off the tourist trail

Wow Karen, your info is amazing.

I have just emailed Kadek as we are heading to Bali in September and need someone to take us from Kuta to Lovina and then on to Amed. After Amed we have 8 nights where we don't have anything planned as yet which is a wonderful feeling.

We were in Bali last year and did the usual Kuta, Ubud, Nusa Dua with Nusa Lembongan thrown in. All was amazing but this time would like to see more of the 'real' Bali.

Have you been across to Gili Islands/Lombok? I am looking for somewhere or something awesome to do for my husbands birthday in that 8 days. Wondered whether we might need more snorkelling on Gili or whether we might have had enough after Menjangan and Amed?

Cheers

Jackie

London
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28. Re: Off the tourist trail

Thanks Jackie,

Are you diving or just snorkelling in Amed? I can highly recommend diving, the scenery is incredibly diverse and you don't get a sunburnt back. If you go to the Liberty it's best to go early as it can get a bit crowded with the groups from the south later in the day, but to be honest, my favourite sites were the reefs - Coral Garden drop-off (near the Liberty) and Jemeluk.

Amed is very quiet and there are no ATMs in the village itself and most places don't do credit cards, so you need to bring cash. (There is one in Culik, which is close to Amed but I believe it can be a bit moody).

When you're in Lovina, are you going to visit the Banjar Hot Springs? It's worth a visit, but go early to avoid the crowds. Gitgit waterfalls is also within easy reach of Lovina.

The Gili Islands are wonderful - total relaxation, gorgeous beaches and no traffic! If you don't dive you can go on a glass bottom boat tour and snorkel from it too, I think. And you might well end up swimming with turtles from the main beaches, there are quite a few of them around. There is a turtle sanctuary on Gili T (on the main beach) and they have pools with loads of tiny turtles swimming.

I haven't been to Lombok, so if you go, please post and let us know what you think.

Even though there was heavy rain for much of my Bali trip, I really enjoyed the forays into the mountains and jungles to the less visited temples. Kehen in Bangli and Batukaru were probably my favourites. Both were in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by jungle.

We saw Jatiluwih from two very different angles. The second time we stopped at a restaurant called Mahagiri in the village of Rendang (I wrongly referred to it as Megagiri in a previous post). The views were absolutely spectacular. According to Kadek, they do rafting and trekking in the jungle near here, but I think the rafting is a little more arduous than the Ayung River (near Ubud). And after that we drove through Pandangbai (where you can snorkel at the Blue Lagoon) and then a fantastic drive along a road cut through thick jungle to the Bali Aga village of Tenganan.

Kadek also took me to a high temple on the western side of Kintamani. There were a lot of steps to walk but the views were great, even just the drive there provided great photo ops. At one point I could see Batur, Kintamani and Agung all line up in a perfect row.

The night markets in Gianyar were also an experience I won't forget. We visited around 5pm when it was just starting, so not too busy. If you want to try babi guling, this is the place, there were loads of stalls selling it.

If you don't have a great memory (like me!) make notes of the names of the places you visit. Kadek was telling me so much and I jotted down a few names and things on my iPad, but not enough. It can be quite tricky trying to look up the smaller sites and villages later. It might also be worth investing in a good map. I bought the Berndtson Roadmap at the airport (85,000rp) and wished I'd gotten it earlier. It is fairly comprehensive and shows all of the smaller villages.

I'll be watching out for your posts later in the year as I hope to go back to Bali again next year. A few weeks is just not long enough. :-(

London
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29. Re: Off the tourist trail

My first attempt at blogging, I hope this link works.

…wordpress.com/2013/…

I mainly wanted a place to put some accessible photos but haven't seemed to master the art of captions yet. I also apologise for my lack of photographic skills. If anyone is interested, that's Kadek in the 10th photo (white t-shirt, left hand side). My photos are scattered across the old Macbook (that I took to Bali) and my home laptop, so putting up more pix of the other sights might be a slow process.

Any feedback would be very welcome!

Karen

coffs harbour...
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for Tulamben, Lovina Beach
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30. Re: Off the tourist trail

thanks for sharing your wonderful trip Karen, we do much the same as you, well, as much as our advancing years allow anyway. Hubby drives a rental car in Lovina & Ubud, and we get to experience so many things that are well off the beaten path.