September 9, 2018 –
For our one full day exploring Ubud, we decided to hire a driver to take us to all the main sites including the famous Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Originally, we were going to rent a motorbike since it was super cheap. But I had heard horror stories ahead of our trip of tourists getting blackmailed for money by the corrupt Balinese police as well as horrifying crashes.
I know that’s not very adventurous of me, but the full day driver was only $40. We would be in an air-conditioned car and he would show us around the different temples. It was well worth the money in my opinion.
Our driver for the day was Margon with Your Bali Driver and he was waiting for us outside of our resort at 5:15 am to take us to Tegalalang Rice Terraces. It was extremely early, but that’s what the owner, Putu, suggested when I told him what we wanted to do.
Komaneka made boxed breakfasts for us to enjoy on our way to Tegalalang Rice Terraces. It was a huge box full of fruits, pastries, and juices. I was a little shocked by how much food they gave us!
I wasn’t sure how far Tegalalang was from our hotel but apparently, we were very close. It only took 15 minutes to get there. I was a little confused as was Margon. He told us we were way too early for the sunrise.
I told him his boss, Putu, suggested that time to me. But it didn’t really matter at that point. We were already there. It was 5:30 am and the sun would rise around 6:15 am, so we just enjoyed our breakfast in the car and Margon took a little nap.
Around 6:00 am it was starting to get light enough for us to see so we decided to get out of the car to start to walk down the stairs to the main part of the terraces. Margon wouldn’t let us go any earlier because he said it was too dark and there were snakes on the trail.
One benefit to us going early to Tegalalang was that we didn’t have to pay to get in. Normally, there would be people there charging admission to walk the terraces. It’s not regulated and technically, there isn’t a price to get in. But the farmers realized how many tourists were visiting and decided to capitalize on it. During busier times of the day, I read that the farmers will even charge tourists to walk past them while they’re in the fields. Again, we didn’t encounter this since it was so early.
As the sky started to get brighter, Margon told us to start walking to the other side of the terraces. He would meet us back at the car around 7:00 am. He told us that huge groups of people would start to arrive at Tegalalang around that time and it would be beneficial for us to get out before they all started to come in.
So we walked. I was wearing a long dress in order to be conservative for the temples, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to hike the muddy rice terraces in. I managed though.
The scenery was breathtaking once we reached the other side. I could see why this was one of the main attractions in Ubud.
Before our trip, I read about how touristy Tegalalang was and how crowded it got. We definitely did it right by going at sunrise. I did almost get my head chopped off by someone’s drone, but luckily he saw me in time.
As the sun rose above the trees, the light almost didn’t look real. I couldn’t stop taking pictures!
After we got a bunch of pictures and watched the sun rise above the trees, we decided it was time to head back to the car. Margon was waiting in the same spot so we hopped in and figured out our next stop.
There must have been some confusion when we booked this day. The one thing I knew for sure that we wanted to do was to see the sunrise at Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Other than that, I wasn’t really sure what temples would be the best to see and how much time we would need to see the main temples in the area. I asked Putu if he could suggest the best route to take after the rice terraces, but didn’t really see a response. I figured we would figure it out with our driver later.
Well, I guess Margon was under the impression that we already had a plan and asked us where we wanted to go next. I told him I wasn’t sure what would make sense because I didn’t know how far the temples were and I wanted to make sure we weren’t going back and forth all day.
He pulled out a tour book and started showing us some temples. After we both got over the second miscommunication of the day, we had a plan. We would start at the furthest temple from town and work our way back. Then he said we could add on a waterfall or coffee plantation if we still had time. That worked for us!
After the sunrise time issue and the miscommunication about our plan for the day, I was worried I made a mistake. But once we talked through everything and realized what had happened, the day started to go much smoother.
We arrived at Pura Gunung Kawi a little before 7:30 am. I knew absolutely nothing about this temple, but luckily Margon came in with us to show us around. He didn’t have to do that, but I was so happy he did.
First, we had to purchase our tickets. The Balinese people can enter any temple for free, but tourists have to pay. It was 15,000 IDR/pp (or $1.04). There was a big sign at the entrance reminding me of the Hindu belief that women are impure at certain times of the month and are therefore forbidden to enter any holy sites during that time. Don’t worry, there wasn’t an interrogation or any type of check. It’s based on the honor system. A strange belief to us, but we were in another country where even though we might not agree with what they believe, we always follow their customs.
Next, we were stopped to ensure we were dressed properly. They didn’t seem to care about our shoulders which I was surprised about. It was all about the knees and ankles. Luckily, my dress was deemed appropriate enough as were Eric’s pants. So all we were asked to wear was a traditional sash around our waists. If we had been wearing shorts, we would have been asked to wear a complimentary sarong around our waists. So in hindsight, I didn’t have to wear conservative clothing, but I was glad that I was prepared just in case. I also felt like the locals appreciated my conservative outfit because everywhere we went I received smiles and thumbs up.
Normally, I’m over-prepared for any place we visit in the world. In Bali, I knew nothing. For instance, I didn’t know that Gunung Kawi had 371 steps that we had to walk down and back up. Our knees were dying by the end of the visit.
So why didn’t I prepare? Well, there were so many temples in Bali I wasn’t sure which ones we’d actually get to visit. I left it open because I knew if I tried to plan it on my own I might miss something or plan a route that didn’t make sense. Looking back, I’m still glad I did it this way. However, having been to Bali, I think I could organize a great one day Ubud itinerary now. I feel a guide coming sometime soon (stay tuned).
Despite the stairs, Gunung Kawi was absolutely beautiful. The morning light shining through mixed with the fact that we were the only people there made this place feel magical.
What made this temple so famous were the giant carvings in the rock faces surrounding the temple.
On our way back up the stairs, we passed a guy carrying a bag full of feathers. As we got closer, we realized it was actually a bag full of live chickens. Margon must have seen our eyes widen upon the realization and told us the chickens were about to be used for a celebration feast at the temple later that day. The culture shock was real, but after experiencing so many interesting and different things on our trip already, it didn’t bother us as much as it might have on our first day in Asia.
We left Gunung Kawi a little before 8:00 am and made our way to Tirta Empul Temple or the Holy Springs Temple.
When we arrived the air was kind of hazy but the sunlight was still shining through. I couldn’t tell if the haze was from the ever-burning insense from all the offerings made or if it was something else.
We were asked to wear sarongs at this temple although I think it was more of a symbol of respect rather than making sure we were covered. Either way, the sarong rental was free with the ticket. Tickets were 15,000 IDR/pp ($1.04) just like the previous temple.
We first walked through a beautiful entrance where again we were reminded of the beliefs and customs of the Hindu religion. Then we walked into the holy springs area. There were many locals there partaking in the purification ritual. The ritual started on the left side of the spring. Pilgrims bathed under each one of the 13 fountains. The last three fountains were meant for purification.
At one point we kept hearing what sounded like people chirping like birds. We finally found them over in an area by the start of the ritual fountains sitting in a circle doing some weird meditation where they all chirped like birds. They all looked American/European and not at all like locals.
Margon thought it was hilarious and called them crazy. He said every now and then groups of tourists will go to the holy springs temple claiming to be Hindu pilgrims. He admired their love for the religion but their “rituals” were not that of any Hindu he knew.
We continued around the grounds of the temple. The sunbeams coming through the trees may have helped, but I thought it was one of the most beautiful temples I had ever seen.
The temple grounds weren’t huge so it didn’t take us very long to see the whole thing. We ended up leaving around 8:45 am. Crazy, right? We had already seen the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Gunung Kawi Temple, and Tirta Empul Temple all before 8:45 am.
Margon told us those were the main two temples in Ubud and all the rest were really scattered and much smaller. One of the temples I really wanted to see, Goa Gaja, was closed to the public for some kind of ceremony so we couldn’t go there.
I thought there were tons to see near Ubud, but Margon explained that the other really beautiful temples would take a while to drive to. We felt like we got enough out of the two we had seen already so we decided to move on to another activity.
I wasn’t planning on going to a coffee plantation while we were in Bali mainly because Eric doesn’t care for it. Bali is known for its incredible coffee especially the famous luwak coffee which comes from the excrement of an animal called an Asian palm civet or luwak as they are called in Bali. You read that right. Excrement.
Margon told us there was a really great coffee plantation right across from the Tegenungan waterfall. Since it was still morning, we decided to go ahead and visit the plantation followed by a visit to the famous waterfall.
Based on what I had researched, I had low expectations for the coffee plantation. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The plantation we visited was called Kampung Kopi Kemenuh and the tour was completely free, all we had to pay for was the luwak coffee if we wanted it.
We must have been their first visitors of the day because no one else was there. A young Balinese girl warmly greeted us and showed us around their gardens. They had so many interesting plants growing there like vanilla and starfruit.
They also had two civet cats (luwaks) who were sleeping during our visit so they just looked like gray blobs. Civets are nocturnal so it’s rare to see one wide awake during the day.
Our guide told us about the luwak coffee process. The small cats will ingest the arabica coffee cherries. Then they are partially digested, defecated, and then cleaned and processed by the coffee producers. As with anything involving animals, there is a controversy regarding luwak coffee. However, the luwaks I saw had large cages and weren’t prodded or woken for visitors. It didn’t look any different than someone having a cat as a pet.
After our garden tour, we were taken to a small pavilion where we were given a complimentary sample of all their teas and regular coffee. I was surprised by how much they gave us!
Of course, I couldn’t travel all the way to Bali without trying the luwak coffee so I ordered a cup. Eric obviously didn’t get any.
The presentation was just as fancy as the coffee itself. The price for a single cup of coffee was 100,000 IDR ($6.50). To buy a bag to bring home was around $60…for coffee! Luwak coffee is considered one of the most expensive coffees in the world and those prices were actually a steal. In the US, if you try to order luwak coffee at a chic coffee spot, a single cup can cost $50. A bag of coffee can run between $100 – $600.
Once we were done with our tasting, Eric went to the bathroom. While he was gone, our sweet guide told me she was so nervous showing us around. She told me she was currently going to school and in the process of learning English. I told her I would have never known because her English was excellent. I could tell she was happy and relieved. She said this job working at the coffee plantation was helping her so much with learning English because most of the tourists that visited spoke English.
We were about to leave when our little tour guide told us they had just made some photo spots around the garden and asked if we wanted to see them. She seemed really excited to show them off so of course, we went along. If you aren’t familiar with these Bali photo-ops on Instagram, they are super popular at the moment. From human-sized nests to giant swings, they are becoming a little cliche.
I told myself I wasn’t going to actively seek these out on our trip but our guide really wanted me to try out their brand new “nest” so I did it.
Once we got a few pictures, we headed out through their shop. Eric and I both really enjoyed their rosella tea so we bought a small bag to bring back with us.
After the coffee plantation, Margon drove us over to Tegenungan waterfall. This is another spot I didn’t think about going to because I heard how overrun it was with tourists. We were right next to it and we had a ton of time so I figured it was meant to be.
Margon parked the car and walked us through the entrance to the first of many photo-op spots. He snapped a few pictures of us and then told us he would meet us by the entrance once we were done.
I guess stairs was the theme of the day because there we were climbing down over 150 stairs to get to the waterfall. It was worth it though. The waterfall was beautiful and while there were a bunch of people there, it didn’t feel crowded because the area was so big.
We didn’t need much time at the waterfall. Neither of us wore our swimsuits so we couldn’t get in the water. There wasn’t much to swim in any way because most of the deep water was roped off.
After climbing back up to the top we met Margon and made our way to the car. He told us there was one more temple he thought we should see on our way back to the hotel. We were game for whatever so on we went!
Our final temple of the day was Batuan Temple. I have a confession. I completely forgot the name of this temple and thought I was going to have to leave it out of this blog post. By some kind of pure luck or Bali magic, I happened to find it on Google Maps just by clicking around different temples and looking at the pictures. I’m so glad because now I can share it with you!
While I’m glad I’m able to share this temple, it definitely wasn’t my favorite. It was still beautiful, but by the time we got there it was so crowded and there wasn’t anything too special about it like the other temples we had seen.
This temple was free to enter, as was the sarong we were asked to wear, however, a donation was expected. Margon told us 15,000 IDR per person was more than enough which was what we paid at the other temples.
The temple grounds were small but the structures were very intricate. This was one of the oldest temples in Bali dating back over 1,000 years.
After we wandered the temple for about 20 minutes, we exited and made our way back to the car. We had seen as much as we could see in our 8 hours with Margon so it was time for us to head back to our hotel. By the way, it was only 11:45 am!
I was actually a little excited that we had so much time left in our day. It meant we had time to go explore Ubud since we only had that one day.
Margon dropped us off at the Komaneka and we made plans for him to take us to Seminyak the next day. I decided to book him for this rather than our resort because he charged half as much as they did for the exact same thing.
Once we reached our room I realized this was the first time we were seeing it in daylight. How weird is that? We arrived after dark and left to explore before sunrise. The room was even more beautiful with the sunlight pouring in.
We changed out of our temple clothes and into more weather-appropriate outfits (it was so hot). Then we figured out where to have lunch.
Eric found a place with rave reviews called Locavore To-go. The main Locavore restaurant was way too pricey for us and hard to get reservations for. But the To-go restaurant was more casual and still had wonderful food.
It was a short walk from our resort and despite the heat, it was a beautiful day. I loved getting to see the town of Ubud.
I was fully prepared for Locavore to be packed, but surprisingly it wasn’t. We got a great table and immediately ordered their juice of the day: watermelon and mint. If you didn’t know, fresh juices are big in Bali. Bali is known for wellness for both body and mind and there’s no shortage of fresh nutritious food or yoga studios.
For lunch, I got the ham on baguette and Eric got the Cuban. Both sandwiches were so good. I highly recommend this place to anyone looking for lunch in Ubud.
After lunch, we decided to just wander. I forgot to mention, we got back in touch with our friends that we met in the Seoul, South Korea airport on the way to Southeast Asia. They were currently in Ubud staying at a different Komaneka resort around the corner from us. We decided to meet up later that night at Bridges Bali, one of the nicest restaurants in the area.
Our walk took us all the way down to the Monkey Forest since we had yet to see it. We didn’t go in because we would be visiting the next morning before heading to Seminyak. There were a few monkeys chilling outside the forest!
We were starting to fade a bit so we decided it would be nice to just relax by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. On our way back to the resort, I stopped to get some gelato. I went with some trending flavors of our trip: lemongrass and mango.
The pool at Komaneka was gorgeous. Surrounded by lush jungle and the comfiest lounge chairs I’ve ever experienced.
Around 4:00 pm we threw on some clothes so we could experience the complimentary afternoon tea our resort offered. I know when I see afternoon tea that usually means there are delicious treats to go along with it.
Unfortunately, the “treats” offered by Komaneka were not very good or maybe my palate wasn’t sophisticated enough to appreciate the flavors. Each item I tried was not sweet at all and a bit bland in flavor. At least the tea was good.
After tea, we decided to slowly start getting ready for dinner. We had been going non-stop this whole time so to be able to take an afternoon to go at a slower pace was really nice.
Around 6:00 pm Eric and I decided to go to Watercress for happy hour before making our way to Bridges. Their happy hour was buy-one-get-one-free on all specialty drinks so it was hard to pass up. Plus, their drinks were incredible.
I had the Te-quil-a Mockingbird and Eric had the Beet, Bruised, & Bitter. Mine was way better so Eric switched to that after his first drink.
Our bill for four drinks was only $17 including their ridiculous taxes/fees (6% service charge and 10% tax). What a steal!
After drinks, we grabbed a cab to dinner. Bridges was about a mile away and we needed to get there quickly. This was our first time using a cab off the street in Bali but we didn’t have any issues. We heard there were issues with cab scams in Seminyak but it seemed like Ubud was pretty straightforward.
We arrived right on time for our reservation. Kristi and Kevin were already there having drinks at the bar. Bridges was seven levels so finding our way around was a little difficult.
Since we arrived after dark, I couldn’t get any pictures of the outside of the restaurant. Check out their photo gallery for more.
Meeting people while traveling is one of my favorite things because typically we have a very big thing in common: a love for travel! Kristi and Kevin were awesome. It was like we were all old friends catching up, except we had just met randomly in an airport in a random country a little over a week ago.
We got so caught up in talking we didn’t realize our waiter had been trying to take our order for nearly 30 minutes. Poor guy. Finally, we ordered a bottle of wine for our table as well as some appetizers.
I cannot for the life of me remember what all of us had, but I do remember getting the lamb ravioli as one of our appetizers and I had the vegetarian wellington as my main course. We also had dessert but at that point, we had been talking so much through dinner I don’t even know what I ate.
What I do remember is that our food was so good and our company was even better. What an amazing memory we’ll have forever.
After dinner, we decided to walk back to our resort. Kristi and Kevin’s Komaneka Resort (Komaneka at Bisma) was less than half a mile from the restaurant so we dropped them off and kept walking. Ubud was very quiet at night and had I not had a few drinks I might have been a little concerned, but overall we felt safe.
On our walk, Kristi and Kevin asked if they knew a way that we could get them added on to our hike to the top of Mount Batur that was happening in less than two days. I told them I would email our tour company to see if it was possible. I was hoping it would be!
We made it back to our resort without incident and off to bed. Our plan for the next day would be to check out the Monkey Forest and then move on to our next resort in Seminyak.