Back to Bali
Before leaving Indonesia for this period of my life, I returned to Bali — twice. This, is about the first time.
I was excited for my parents to see Indonesia. After over a year of Skype conversations, they’d finally be able to see the places I had described with excitement, complained about, loved and hated — because it really is hard to describe Indonesia until you’ve seen it. So where do you go with your parents or in general for your first trip to Indonesia if you only have one week? Well, I decided I wanted to start in Ubud, Bali, and then move up north to Pemuteran, Bali, for some beach time. Then we flew to Java and spent time in Jogja, the cultural heart of Java, and then my parents left via Jakarta.
The great thing about having my parents visit was that I got to go and do some more touristy things that I missed the first time around. On Saturday night in Ubud we watched a dance and gamalan performance at the Ubud Water Palace, Puri Saren Agung. It was a really nice performance and the slow and delicate hand movements the women made were fascinating to watch.
Expats in Indonesia tend to harp on Bali these days: “Oh, it wasn’t what it was 30 years ago.” And if you decide to spend time in areas like Kuta (hello, every American fast food chain you could want) this is true. But you still can find beautiful, peaceful areas not crawling with too many tourists. If you are looking for deserted areas not well tracked on the tourist map, then you should head further east to the islands of Lombok or Flores. To a certain extent Bali is in trouble. The tourists keep coming and the infrastructure and concern for the environment need to keep up. If you’re interested in this topic, here is a great video on the subject by an Australian journalist.
Really, this isn’t too bad of a breakfast view:
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we went to Pemuteran…
I called up Pande, the driver I had used last time in Bali, and my parents and I started the four hour drive from Ubud to the northern coast and the town of Pemuteran. The drive was longer than four hours because you have to pull over and take photos:
The day was a bit rainy and overcast. When we drove by Lake Buyan we could barely see the lake. On our drive back a few days later, it had cleared up:
If you are driving in the Lake region, there are delicious roadside snacks that I had never seen in other parts of Bali. These cassava chips were crunchy with a sweet (perhaps palm sugar?) topping drizzled on.
When we descended from the mountains, the fog cleared and paradise was found. Pemuteran is ruggedly beautiful — it is surrounded by mountains and the volcanic blackish sand beaches and warm waters make you never want to leave:
This little boy’s brother wouldn’t let him join in the daily evening football match on the beach:
During our drive, Pande suggested we visit a coffee plantation/shop near Ubud, Tegal Sari. My parents and I sampled many coffees and teas for free (they hope you buy some) and then for $5 decided to try kopi luwak, civet coffee. Kopi luwak is famous around the world for being some of the most expensive coffee around. The cat-like civet eats ripe coffee beans and once they pass through the digestive tract and are pooped out, the beans are collected, cleaned and roasted. Yes, this is the famous shit coffee.
Civets aren’t the nicest or cutest animals. They are nocturnal and are down right mean if bothered during the day, according to a man at the plantation. So, how does poop coffee taste? Well, it is a darn good cup of Joe that is smooth and strong. Would I pay outrageous amounts for it in the West? No. But if you are ever in Indonesia, you should try some or buy some beans to take home. Just make sure you try the real stuff and not instant luwak coffee which some places try to pass as the real deal.
Pande dropped us for a few hours at a beach in the Jimbaran area 10 minutes from the airport so we could have some dinner before our flight to Jogja. The beach is lined with pricier restaurants aimed at tourists. We ate some fish, watched a woman leaving offerings and saw dozens of planes fly in and out of Bali. Before we knew it, we were flying away from the island of the gods…
Where to Stay: In Ubud, we stayed at a fantastic place overlooking rice fields, Green Fields Hotel. Spend a bit more and get a big second floor room (Bale Adat) with an absolutely stunning view.
In Pemuteran we stayed at Taman Selini. This was a terrific place right on the beach. The bungalow rooms are cozy with terrific day beds out front and the outdoor bathrooms add a fun touch.
Getting a Driver: I recommend Pande Nyoman Gama: 08155768357, email@example.com. Or as his business card notes, “Stand by, the front of Ubud Village Hotel.” Be sure to negotiate with him. I’ve used him as a driver on two separate occasions and both went smoothly.