Bali can be easily divided into 5 sections and each part has its own uniqueness. Central Bali is most culturally active and has Ubud, the misty hilly getaway of Bedugul and lovely lakes, gardens and temples. East Bali is riddled with quaint coastal hamlets, excellent snorkeling and diving, beautiful winding roads and the powerful Mount Agung. Amed, Kintamani, Candidasa, Padang Bai, Tirta Gangga etc are all located in east Bali.The not so popular west Bali is mostly used as a ferry point to and from Java (Gilimanuk), but it supposedly houses the very less frequented West Bali National Park (Taman Nasional Bali Barat).
A popular destination among divers (off shore reef of Menjangan) and bird watchers, this national park has among its 160 avian population, the nearly extinct and endemic (found only at that place) Bali Starling. The quiet black sand beaches of Lovina and the old capital of Singaraja lie in the north and it is the southern part of the island which is most widely visited and known among international travelers. Most of iconic Bali lie in that region and it includes Kuta, Seminyak, Denpasar, Sanur, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran etc along with the south eastern tiny islands of Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan. The most photographed place in Bali, the stupendous Tanah Lot temple is also located there.
Apart from west Bali, I had been to nearly every part of the island and had loved its pockets of breathtaking beauty. Bali’s beauty was more grounded and realistic, unlike the intimidating moon like alien landscape of Bromo and Ijen and that’s what made it all the more endearing. It’s a kind of beauty which is like a mother’s face, known, familiar and one which makes you feel very comfortable and at home. My favourite places in Bali (besides Ubud) had been the stunning Jatiluwih rice terraces, Bedugul and Amed. Rice fields and Bali are nearly synonymous and they form an indispensable part of the island’s charm. Although the stunning layered Tegalalang (30 minutes by car from Ubud) has more tourist footfall, I found the quiet Jatiluwih more beautiful.
I had visited Jatiluwih twice and both the times had found the sky heavily overcast and the rice terraces bereft of the much famed swaying paddy. It had been beautiful nonetheless and the beauty of the watery patches of the rice terraces mirroring the dark brooding clouds had been enchanting. Its cool quiet calm had made me stay at one of the guesthouses for a night and I had woken up to the most refreshingly soft morning. Located around 2 hours away from Ubud, Jatiluwih is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is particularly important for its support in organic agriculture.
An initiative by the ancient Subak Cultivation (cooperatives), Bali’s rice terraces are the perfect harmony of nature, human interference and belief in 11th century farming methods. The water collected from Bali’s incredible network of 150 rivers and streams are chanelled into various rice terraces at different times (as per Subak guidelines) and this thousands of years old practice is responsible for Bali’s jaw dropping beauty of terraced landscape. Incidentally most of Bali’s rocky hilly slopes had been cut into tunnels and channels, thus giving rise to the tinkling gurgling sound which accompanies every rice terrace.
Jatiluwih is hard to access by public transportation and both the times I had visited there on my own rental scooter. While 1 visit had culminated in an expensive overnight stay, the other one had ended at the spectacular Uluwatu temple. Located in the large limestone Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu is one of Bali’s oldest and 9 directional temples. Officially known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu, it was built in the 11th century to protect Bali from evil forces. Its magnificent location, stunning sunset views and beautiful Indian Ocean panorama make it a popular place among Bali visitors and it is my favourite temple of the paradise island. While the drive from Jatiluwih to Uluwatu had not been easy (owing to my lack of direction sense and bad map reading skills), the beautiful cliff hanging temple had been worth all the trouble. The Pecatu village (where it is located) had been closer to Kuta and I had hugged rice fields, ocean and frangipani covered villages of Jimbaran countryside along the way.
The beautiful black coral rock temple had indeed been standing at the tip of a cliff and the most magnificent surf broke at its feet. The sheer drop into the Indian Ocean from its precarious location made it a photographer’s delight and although I had been there on a cloudy evening, its haunting beauty had been hard to forget. Uluwatu had not been the 1st temple in Bali which I had visited, but it had been the most spectacular in my eyes. I had also been to the beautiful Besakih (Mother Temple), the grand Taman Ayun, super touristy Tanah Lot and the placid Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, but none had been able to match Uluwatu’s charm. That sunset had passed in a blur and no memory of it remains except for the way sharp winds had tugged at my skirt and hair, drawing me closer to the cliff. It had had the same magnetic pull of Uluwatu temple and I had sat there in a womb like trance for a long time as the world around me had gone wild. Till today I don’t know if it had been the temple or its surroundings which had made lose myself, but that evening I had braved wind, rain and mischievous monkeys under a hypnotic trance of a calm peace which had completely blanked out my mind. And that could happen only at Uluwatu under the possessive Balinese clouds.
Travel Tip – Tegalalang makes an ideal quick getaway from Ubud and has some beautiful rice terrace views. It is just 30 minutes from Ubud center away and is easily accessible by public transport. Most small group tours from Ubud stop by at Tegalalang restaurants for lunch stops. While it is beautiful, it does get pretty crowded and there are lots of pushy souvenir vendors around. However it is also the best place to get the perfect shot of an old Balinese farmer on rice fields (albeit for a small fee). The nearby village of Padukoi is also worth stopping by and has beautiful stone and wood carvers’ studios. Jatiluwih on the other hand is hard to reach by public transport and is worth staying for at least 1 night. The village has some beautiful walks through the undulating rice fields and a pleasant cool climate. Located in Bali’s Tabanan district, it around 40 kilometers from Denpasar and takes around 2 hours by road.
There are a few guesthouses and resorts around Jatiluwih, however they are nor cheap (there’s a small road/entrance fee to enter Jatiluwih). The nearby Gunungsari Orchard makes an interesting stopover for nature lovers, if staying over at Jatiluwih or visiting it by your own car. For those interested in enjoying Bali’s rice terraced hilly beauty to the fullest, opt for cycling or walking or eco tours, which include short hikes, interesting home stays and hands on experience of planting rice saplings. Most tour companies in Bali offer such eco tours and its best to hunt around a bit for the best option. Small group tours (out of Ubud) to Tanah Lot etc also include Jatiluwih and these make great options for those interested in just photo stops. However, many drivers do not always stop by at Jatiluwih (claiming road block etc). In case it is included in the package, do insist in visiting Jatiluwih because it is simply stunning.
The cliff hanging temple of Uluwatu is one of Bali’s most popular sunset points and can be easily accessible by public transport. Close to Kuta, Seminyak and Jimbaran, it is breathtaking. However it gets crowded in the evenings and pushy vendors, guides and aggressive monkeys make Uluwatu visits hassle prone. It is also included in numrous small group tours in Bali. It is advisable to cover up if visiting Uluwatu (being a temple) and there’s an entrance fee to this attraction.
Some photos have been taken from the internet.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE