Asia Bali Travels

East Bali – Paradise Found

May 5, 2013

Forget about the tourists packed beaches and overdeveloped towns of Bali’s South Coast – the paradise is to be found in its almost intact Eastern region where great mountain scenery, picturesque villages, and gorgeous beaches make it a symbol of natural beauty you’ll rarely encounter these days.

Biking the rice paddies

The small roads going down through charming villages make for one of the most scenic bike rides on the whole island and one of the best ways to see the ‘real Bali’. I had a hard time not stopping my bike every two minutes to capture the stunning rice terraces, lush forested hills and colorful postcards of farm and rural life surrounding this magical area.

A native spider

Rice drying on the side of the road
Rice drying on the road

Rice drying

Young village boys loved posing for pictures
Little boys posing

Rice terraces everywhere
Rice Paddies

Rice Paddies

Lunch in a Balinese home – local specialties of fried crackers, chicken satay…

…tempe, long beans and green coconut, smoked duck, tofu and vegetables with peanut sauce, etc.

Agriculture

The locals here largely rely on agriculture for income and the fertile valleys are filled with not only rice but a slew of other crops as well.

Chili peppers farm
Chili peppers

A lot of plantations open their doors to the public so you’ll get a chance to see first hand what grows in the region and what makes the basis of Balinese cuisine.

Cacao pod, vanilla beans, sweet ginger and salak
Cocoa, vanilla beans, salak, sweet ginger

Cloves, cacao beans, and chili peppers
Chilis, cloves, and coffee beans

Kopi luwak (or poop coffee)

Kopi luwak is the rarest, most unique and highly coveted coffee in the world. The reason why? The sweet, ripe 100% Arabica coffee cherries are eaten, digested and fermented by wild civets (a bobcat-like animal native to Indonesia), before being collected, washed, and roasted. In other words, some wild animal is known to pick for his diet only the best coffee berries and therefore is used as a collecting and fermenting agent. The defecated coffee beans are known to have a special taste (I tried it, wasn’t bad though wasn’t the best either!) and are highly priced around the world, reaching up to $600 for 1lb!

Here’s the process illustrated:

Coffee cherries growing in abundance in Bali

Asian civets feast on them daily…
Civet sleeping

The natural result of their digestion is then collected (beans have stayed intact)
Pooped out coffee beans

…washed thoroughly and then dried…
Cleaned coffee beans

…and finally roasted for maximum flavor! Miam!
Roasting beans

Roasted beans

Most plantations you visit offers free tasting at the end so you not only get to enjoy fresh coffee and cocoa but also a bunch of different teas such as ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon, mangosteen, etc.

Mount Batur

Few know that Bali is home to several active volcanoes – Mount Batur (1771m) and Mount Agung (3142m) being the two highest. Located in the Kintamani region of North-East Bali, Mount Batur is a popular hiking destination. Paths to the summit are steep and volcanic rock hard on the feet but other than that it’s a very accessible hike and can be done in half a day.

Mount Batur in the daytime

Although accessible all day, the still active volcano is most famous for its sunrise trek, i.e. hiking to the summit in time to watch the sunrise. What would compel anyone, especially when on holidays, to scale an active volcano in the middle of the night? I guess I have to blame it on my insatiable appetite for adventure and slightly masochistic nature because I did it…

Climb began at the fresh hour of 3am in order to make the 2 hour trek to the peak for sunrise. You just turn on your torch and follow your Balinese guide through the dark and steep path, occasionally stopping to look back at how far you’ve come and admire the flickering lights on the lake below and the approaching dawn piercing the night sky.

Before Sunrise

Several makeshift huts near the summit offers weary hikers warm drinks and breakfast (banana sandwiches) as you try to warm up from the cool temperatures and strong winds waiting for the color show to finally lit up the sky. Once it does, take your camera, sit back and bask in the luminous glow of the Bali sunrise, you’ve greatly earned it!

Sunrise

We ended up watching ours from the lower summit as the top of the volcano was covered in clouds. Once the sun was up, we wandered around to admire the dreamy landscape and hissing sulphur rising from the craters before making the final ascent.

Main crater and sulphur rising

30 more minutes of climbing before reaching the summit!
Summit Ascent

The view from the top – standing in the clouds…
In the clouds...

The eerie and tranquil setting soon got a lot more action when we were surrounded by a small community of monkeys.

Monkeys at the summit

We lingered for a while, feeding them with leftover bread and just enjoying their playful nature before starting our descent. With the sky clearing up with finally had a great view of the valley and lake below us.

Descent

Tenganan

In the hills just 4 km from the coast lays the village of Tenganan, the most famous Balinese village for it has kept its ancestral ways of living almost intact for centuries and is a great site to visit.

The villagers strictly adhere to a rigid social organization, always living inside the village, marrying from within and keeping it closed to outsiders after dark.

One thing never changes though – little boys love having their pictures taken!
School boys

They also worship their ancestors and cosmology, though the one thing that’s most interesting to visitors is probably their quality craftsmanship which is prominently displayed across the village.

Crafts

Tenganan produces the unique double weave ikat fabric called Geringsing (of which I purchase a beautiful sarong), nice bamboo carvings (now sold as bookmarks and wall hangings) and some of the best basketwork in all of Indonesia.

Ikat weaving

Architecturally, the village is very different from what you normally see in Bali and you’ll be able to step in many homes which are almost all selling their craft to the public, making it seems like an endless row of shops in a unique setting.

Houses

A nice cultural experience to have before hitting the beach…

White Sand Beach

East Bali is also home to some of the most picturesque and least visited beaches on the island. The beautiful Pantai Pasir Putih (White Sand Beach) used to be a well kept secret due to its somewhat hidden location (the access is restricted by a downhill dirt road or a half-hour boat ride from Candidasa nearby) but words got out and it’s now listed in almost every guide books. Nevertheless, it’s still the closest thing to your idea of a paradise beach and development and crowds have been kept at bay for now.

Access

Once you get there you’re quickly rewarded with a stunning setting of crescent shaped beach going on for about 500m and separated from the world by green cliffs on all sides.

Though not of the whitest of sands, it is the whitest on all the island and along with the glistening turquoise of the water and swaying palm trees it gets pretty close to picture perfect, tropical island postcard scenario. Just set yourself up on one of the available beach chairs and marvel at the view for a few hours, slowly falling into a peaceful slumber to the sound of the rolling waves.

When hunger strikes, just choose from the row of casual warungs (cafés) lining the beach and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch in the shade with a view to die for. I savored there one of the best fish I’ve ever had – lightly curried mahi-mahi, grilled and smoked over charcoals, served alongside rice and a small salad with the ubiquitous side of delicious sambal matah, a must of almost every Balinese dish. It was fresh, slightly spicy, really healthy and went down extremely well with an avocado smoothie… total food bliss.

Lunch of grilled mahi-mahi

 

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5 Comments

  • Reply Mattt May 6, 2013 at 4:26 am

    Stunning pics Sandra!! Really beutiful country 😉

    • Reply Sandra May 7, 2013 at 9:07 am

      Thanks Mat! Many more to come…

  • Reply Anuj April 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Sandra
    You have a lovely blog. Would you be kind enough to let me know if I can take this bicycle tour and the early morning trek while staying at Ubud or do I need to stay in eastern Bali somewhere.

    Thnk you
    Anuj

    • Reply Sandra April 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks Anuj!
      Yes, you can stay in Ubud just like I was to do both tours. They’ll come and pick you up at your hotel which is great. Have a wonderful time!

  • Reply Anuj Lall May 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you!

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