North and central Bali make up for the island’s muggy coastal humidity and the regions’ cool misty weather provides a great relief after a few sun baked Kuta or Seminyak days. A mountain lake resort sort of area, Bedugul is of immense natural beauty and is blessed with many crater lakes. It’s location at 4900 feet above sea level, brings about a mild, hill station like climate and flowers, mists, Indonesia’s largest botanical garden and waterfalls consist of Bedugul’s charms. Bratan, Buyan and Tamblingan form Bedugul’s much famed water bodies and the picturesque Ulun Danu temple lies on Bratan’s glassy surface. The region of Bedugul is surrounded by paddy fields and lush spice plantations at lower altitude and the approach to the lake resort town is as lovely as the place itself. A beautiful drive through terraced mountains, vegetable gardens of cabbage, onion, papaya and strawberry farms takes Bedugul’s visitor to Candikuning village and the magically beautiful sight of Ulun Danu shimmering on Bratan Lake takes everybody’s breath away.
Although Candikuning is most popular among the tourist circuit, Bedugul consists of a number of picturesque villages, scattered all across the mountain range and they offer some beautiful hikes and home stays. The remote old Dutch town of Munduk is also nearby and it is absolutely worth visiting at least for a day. My Bedugul trip had been a very memorable one and it had indeed felt good to bask in cool, misty weather for some days. I had stayed at Candikuning at a village home stay and my daily activities had included gardening, strawberry picking, reading a book and rocking on the host’s old grandfather chair. Flowers had filled every niche of the little cottage and bright blue morning glories used to push their way through my window every morning. Wild roses had grown in abundance, scenting the air wildly and Tiger, the pet pooch used to chase bees wildly on the sun drenched grass. A few short walks, sumptuous meals and gorging on a whole lot of fruits used to sometimes break the monotony of reading and rocking and a few times I had walked up to the Ulun Danu temple.
Built in 1663, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is dedicated to the Hindu god, Lord Shiva and is one of Bali’s 2 major water temples. The other one is Pura Ulun Danu Batur and it is not as picturesque as the Bratan Lake temple. The Ulun Danu temple is often referred as the 2nd most important Balinese temple (after Besakih or Mother Temple) and it is used to hold religious ceremonies making offerings to the Balinese water, lake and the river goddess, Devi Danu. Dedicated water temples in Bali serve the region’s outflow area and often subaks (irrigation cultivation cooperatives) have their own smaller associated temple. Lake Bratan is the main source of irrigation in central Bali and it is no wonder that, it is fondly called “The Lake of the Holy Mountain“.
The most astounding quality of Pura Ulun Danu is that, it appears to be floating atop Lake Bratan and on violet twilight and rosy sunsets, the lake temple of Bedugul seems straight out of a fairy tale. I had walked over to the lake many times and had only once paid obeisance at the temple. Partly due to lack of much religious sentiment and avoidance of busloads of tourists who visit the temple everyday, I had always prefered walking by the lake. Those used to be very peaceful walks and I had loved the way, the soft mists rolled down from the surrounding cocoon like green mountains. Only once during my nearly week long Bedugul stay, I had paid the Bali Botanical Garden (Kebun Raya Eka Karya) a visit and had come back from there satisfied. Founded in 1959, the 157 hectare garden overlooks Lake Bratan and is extremely well laid out, has a variety of flora and is impeccably maintained. There are plenty of self guided walks inside the impressive garden and the views from the northern end of the park is simply superb. I had visited the park on a sunny day, but had been pre warned to carry woolens as Bedugul’s weather is capricious as a diva’s tantrum. The lovely rolling lawn had a lush rain forest background and mirror like Lake Bratan shimmered in the middle of the crater valley.
On the way back, I had stopped over briefly at the popular Candikuning Fruit Market and had found it to be a tourist trap. A small, colourful potpourri of fruits, vegetables, spices and handicrafts (cheap souvenirs too), Candikuning is a must stop for all Bedugul group tours. The market is undoubtedly very photogenic and the vendors are friendly and non pushy, but the prices are way too over hiked and the souvenirs are not of the best quality. However it is the best place to sample some of Bedugul’s famous fruits and I had had a mild stomach upset once after sampling too many snake fruits there. The nearby Munduk is lovelier than Bedugul and the drive to the remote old hill town is absolutely stunning. Winding hilly roads, scented pine forests, drooping tropical blossoms, small villages and flower farms dot all the way and Munduk is delightfully obscure. I had been there on a day trip with the hostess of my home stay and had learned how to shop for a fighter rooster. Cock fighting (and illegal betting) is hugely popular in Indonesia and the prized fighters are protectively kept under oblong wicker baskets. Most roads in Indonesia are lined with these birds for sale and my landlady’s father used to be a fighter cock trainer in his younger days.
He had bred many champions in his hey days and was still in great demand for his rooster buying skills. He could supposedly spot a winner from a distance and that Munduk day had unfortunately been spent over the excitement of getting home an angry bird. I had badly wanted to stay back at one of the flower filled Heidi like cottages in Munduk and go for hikes around the area, but had ended up riding all the way to Candikuning with a crowing, pooping rooster in a big wicker basket (which had completely blocked my view because of its size). Because of the relaxing ambiance, I had very much nearly stayed put at my home stay in Bedugul and not much ventured around. The weather used to be very moody out there and often sunshine used to get dramatically overshadowed by dark clouds which used to unpredictably roll down from the hills, followed by patches of heavy rain. After getting caught in 1 or 2 surprise showers and nearly freezing on my ride back in wet clothes, my Bedugul days had been pretty much Candikuning centric. Only once I had hired a car and a driver to go all the way to the sacred hot springs “Air Panas” of Banjar and it had been a very enjoyable experience.
Located further north near Lovina Beach, the water of the hot springs is sulphuric in nature owing to its volcanic origin and supposedly has healing qualities for rheumatism. Set amidst a lush jungle, the pools are built in different levels and the deliciously warm water gush out of stone dragons’ snouts at varying pressure. Beautiful landscaped gardens surround it and dappling sunshine make the experience even more pleasurable. Although the air panas had been pretty crowded by the time, I had reached there, it had a lot of fun to get my aching back massaged by forceful hot water. I hadn’t been to Bali for some time after my Bedugul visit and had found myself to be missing its idyllic, tropical dreamy days. My last Bali visit had not been solo and we had enjoyed its touristy fun as a couple. Although Bali’s touristy part is heavily commercialized and a bit brash, the island had still not failed to charm me. Tanah Lot, Lovina sunsets, Monkey Forest, river rafting, surfing, staying at plush resort etc had featured on our itinerary and we had had a really good time. That trip had made me look at Bali from another angle, beyond the outlook of a solo traveler and I am happy to confess that, I have dreams of settling down in that paradise island someday. Beautiful, gentle and an epitome of grace, Bali is here to stay.
TRAVEL TIP – For more information on Air Panas of Banjar, check out http://www.northbali.info/nature/hot_springs_banjar.php Bedugul offers excellent hikes, walks, golf, water sports (para sailing, jet skiing) on the lakes and has the Bali Treetop Adventure Park (ziplining, flying fox etc). Strawberries are Bedugul specialty and there are lots of farms offering strawberry picking, home stays and boxes of fresh juicy red fruits for sale. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a must visit and it is most beautiful at sunsets.
Across the Bratan lake are three 25-meter-deep caves (Goa Jepang) dug out by Indonesian slave laborers for the Japanese during the world war. It is said that after the construction of the caves was finished, all the workers were shot. The caves are accessible from the rim trail to Gunung Catur. It is also possible to walk there from Taman Rekreasi in about 45 minutes. Candikuning Fruit Market makes a great photo stop and is located very close to Ulun Danu Bratan. Buyan and Tamblingan lakes are also worth visiting and there are lots of intrepid guesthouses and home stays scattered all along the shores of the 3 lakes. Nearby Munduk is also worth stopping over especially for nature lovers and warm clothes and rain gear is required for the Bedugul area. For more information on Bedugul and Munduk, check out http://www.travelfish.org/location/indonesia/bali/bali/munduk
Some photos have been taken from the internet.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE