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  • Writer's pictureSarina Harper

Indonesia ↣ Part 8: Bali Beyond Ubud

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Ornate Temples! Lush Jungles! Vibrant Rice Paddies! Towering Waterfalls!

After three nights enjoying dancing, shopping, tasting menus, and monkeys galore in Ubud, it was time to experience what drew me to visit the island the most: it’s stunning, natural interior.

These few days took us to the most spectacular sights on our trip to Bali.

So hop in the car with me, and let's explore Bali beyond Ubud! Enjoy the photos!

Making our way north of Ubud, our first stop was the popular-for-a-reason Tegallalang Rice Terraces. Though spoilt with gorgeous rice terraces in the Philippines and Lombok, we couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the green gleaming before us.

We enjoyed moseying through the paddies despite the sticky afternoon heat, then headed further north to Gunung Kawi. This 11th-century site of carved shrines is one of Bali's oldest and most important monuments.

Set deep in a stunning river-valley, the magical atmosphere of this site was immediate: surrounded by birdsong, we trekked down the steep path into the lush rainforest, butterflies dancing around us as if guiding us. Crossing a rocky stream, we paused to refresh ourselves in the cool water. Impressive vines hung from massive trees, but through the curtain they created, we glimpsed the impressive shrines carved into the earth.

Continuing north, we checked into our next Airbnb which seemed luxurious compared to camping on a volcano 10 days prior.

Tastefully decorated with Indonesian furniture and crafts, our glossy wooden house overlooked the lush rice fields it was nestled atop of.

Rivaling our place in Gili Trawangan and Ubud for ‘best bathroom’, this one was indeed actual paradise: a waterfall shower surrounded by flowers and palms - and a soaking tub that was calling my name after our steamy Balinese day out.

Sliding open the floor to ceiling shutters, I eyed the chickens flocking about. After weeks in Indonesia, we were used to roosters being our alarm clock.

I prayed they enjoyed a lay in.

That night we enjoyed the farm’s fresh curries for dinner, then relaxed before the next days’ packed adventures!

Awakening bright and early, we set out with a local guide to explore a stunning region I’d read about: The Sideman Valley. Off the usual tourist track, this area of Bali is for nature-lovers looking to experience a quieter, more local part of Bali.

Our guide led us through rice terraces where farmers worked slowly under the rising morning sun. Pops of color grabbed my eye from every direction - along with the unique flavors of Bali, it seemed every day held new flora for me too! Interesting bugs flew about as we wove through the valley’s tall grass, and children stopped their playing to wave to us as we passed, excited to see foreigners enjoying their beautiful landscape.

Leaving the friendly faces and stunning landscape behind, we hopped back in the car. En route to our next destination, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy a kilo of jackfruit recently macheted off a tree (I would travel back to Bali in a heartbeat just to snack on this delicious fruit!). We ate the sticky sweet fruit greedily, then headed to yet another fascinating temple.

After stopping for a quick lunch of my favorite Balinese dish, Bebek Betutu, we cooled off with fresh watermelon slushies before our final temple of the day - where we arrived just in time for the gorgeous sunset.

Sadly, it was our final day in Bali - but I’d made sure our itinerary was bursting with seriously amazing stuff to see and do.

We began with the island's chocolate factory, where I definitely didn’t buy 6 bars of chocolate to bring home (I obviously did). In addition, this pit stop offered insight for how Bali’s chocolate is grown, produced, and shipped - and there were free samples, so need I say more?

Next up: the largest rice terraces we’d seen yet!

We took our time wandering through the emerald Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, seeing paddies in various stages of growth. Farmers worked away but paused to wave hello as we walked by. Having finally digested all the chocolate samples, we paused to enjoy the Balinese breakfast pastries our guide brought us, taking in the stunning views.

After a quick roadside lunch, it was back in the car. We climbed higher through the mountains of northern Bali, passing through multiple climates, the scenery changing dramatically. We stopped atop a viewpoint, noting nearby Gunung Agung (the same volcano responsible for interrupting so much during our trip) was smoking yet again… but we were assured this was normal.

After our steamy morning trek through the Sideman Valley, I was giddy to cool off at our next stop: the magnificent Sekumpul waterfall!

Working up even more of a sweat, we walked through a small village, clustered with wooden homes and food stalls until we found the small path leading down to the falls. Immersed in the jungle now, we could hear the rushing water beckoning us. The rocky path became slippery and a welcoming mist drenched our faces. Then finally: the canopy cleared and this gem towered above us:

Not holding back, we splashed in, the chill of the water finally relieving us.

I was surrounded by towering, lush jungle, the smell of fragrant flowers permeating the air, and my love by my side; I didn’t think a bathing experience could surpass our current bathroom's - guess I was wrong. This was truly paradise.

After frolicking in the oasis, it was time for the afternoon pick-me-up I planned. Self-declared coffee snobs, we headed further into the beautifully fertile region we were close to - Munduk - which specialized in coffee production. Finding a nearby cafe with a wooden deck overlooking the fertile valleys, we enjoyed a strong brew surrounded by the sounds of the jungle.

Navigating through twisting mountain roads, we stopped at another roadside fruit stand for the most unique fruit I’d tried yet: snake fruit. Unique to Indonesia, if you’re not deterred by its snake-like scaly exterior, you’ll enjoy the sweet, juicy pineapple-like interior.

Emerging through the misty clouds to the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan we were startled to find it was a whole different climate up there - chilly and windy! After a long day of exploring, we headed back to our retreat, enjoying the sunset behind the volcanos in the distance.

We enjoyed the dancing in Ubud so much that on our final night in Bali we squeezed in one more dance performance before retiring to our dreamy cabin in the countryside.

The next day, we headed back to Lombok, where another plane would whisk us back to China - but just for two days.

I was halfway through my summer break from teaching - and we had a globe to cross!

Next up: Switzerland!

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