Bali’s Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Sambangan Secret Garden Waterfalls, Holy Spring and Goa Gajah
By Tab Hauser
Bali, the “Island of the Gods,” for almost 100 was considered an exotic tropical tourist destination in the Indonesian islands. Unfortunately, the island’s star reputation started to dim in certain travel circles about five years ago when recordcrowds started to arrive.
At that time it was getting a reputation for the party place of Australians. Refusing to believe that Bali is far-gone we set out to see this big island in March in four different regions over a two week time.
With proper planning, vacationers can enjoy Bali’s beaches, temples, mountains, waterfalls, food and people. They can also find areas to party it up as well.
The town of Lovina is located on the northwest coast. It has two main streets with shops, restaurants and a tourist market near the beach. We picked the Lovina Bali Resort (http://www.thelovinabali.com) because of its quiet location just a few minutes via complimentary shuttle from town.
It has a clean black sand beach, large pool, good food, and excellent service. Accommodations range from spacious rooms to private pool suites.
We hired the hotel van ($75) for a private five-hour tour. This included a visit to the majestic Brahmavhihara Arama Temple in Banjar where we walked the peaceful grounds and viewed its ornate deity statues and structures. This was followed by a nice soak in the Air Panas Banjar Hot Springs.
At the springs you find a small upper pool and a larger lower pool where warm water comes out of the mouths of several dragons. Our last stop was at Sambangan Secret Garden Waterfalls. This pretty place has a few different waterfalls.
For thrill-seekers, you can slide down the first falls. We swam in between the top and lower falls. Others were jumping off the lower falls into a deep pool. The next day we were driven about 90 minutes to Menjangan Island, a national park, where we did a two-tank dive with Arrows Dive Center. Here we found the walls and reef in good condition. Snorkeling here is also available.
To immerse ourselves in Indonesian cuisine we arranged a cooking class with the executive chef at the hotel. This started at 7:30 AM with the sous chef taking us to the local market to learn about and to purchase the spices needed for our meal. We then spent the rest of the morning prepping and cooking our five courses for a delicious lunch.
For food in Lovina, we recommend a mix of hotel dining where a two-course meal and drinks for two is about $50. In town we tried a couple of small family owned places known as warungs. At Warung Ayer we ordered three main courses and two beers for $17. While all our meals were Indonesia or Balinese influenced, there are western and Asian meals available at most places.
Ubud: Culture, Scenery, Pools, and Monkeys
For the next four days, we were off to Ubud. On the drive down don’t miss a visit the pretty Ulun Danu Beratan Temple (www.ulundanuberatan.com/) on a large lake. Here you can stroll the property to visit the different pagodas and temples in a pretty setting. If you have time you opt for a boat ride.
The region around Ubud near the center south of Bali has a reputation of clean and spiritual living, art and the outdoors. The city itself has traffic and garbage on the main streets and narrow broken sidewalks which you need to take care at night on.
The only reason we came into the city during our stay was to see two Balinese dance shows, the wonderful art museum Puri Lukisan and a restaurant called Spice.
The city has plenty of small coffee shops, mini-spas, restaurants, and local stores. Commercialization has also reached here with fast food and name brands places including four identical Ralf Lauren Polo stores within a mile. We do recommend the Ubud Raw Chocolate factory as a stop on one of the quieter streets.
Kayon Resort Hotel
To enjoy the region of Ubud we chose the tranquil Kayon Resort Hotel. (www.thekayonresort.com ) located a very quiet three miles outside the city. This boutique hotel offers an infinity pool with jungle views and suites with river views.
It is peaceful and in harmony with the landscape and everyone “welcomes you home” on arrival on their complimentary shuttle from town. Things to do here include free twice daily yoga, full spa treatments, (Full body massages at $21), morning walks, free high tea and a swim in the infinity pool with the great view.
Seeing this pretty region is easy as the hotel charges $10 an hour for a driver in a new Wi-Fi van. During our stay, we did two, half-day outings to several places. This started with a visit to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary to see monkeys in a park running around going about their business.
They can lash out at people so do not bring food or stare at them showing your teeth. Next, it was on to the Goa Gajah or Elephant Temple that started as a sanctuary in the 11th century.
On the property, you will find a cave with an intricate cutout entrance along with a shallow pool having statues of women holding several pitchers depicting the holy rivers. Walking around further on the pretty grounds are a waterfall, pond, and small temples.
Gunung Kawi, (Rock Temple) is an 11th-century memorial. It has ten rock-cut shrines that stand 23 feet high in the cliff face. To get here requires a 300 step walk down.
Along the walk, there is a nice view of the rice fields. Our next stop nearby was at the Holy Spring or Tertha EmpulTampaksiring. This is a very spiritual place where people stand in line in a pool waiting for their turn to pray in front of one of 20 outlets where water rushes out. There are temples and a spring fed pond on the grounds.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
A popular quick stop in the area is the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. While the view of the terraced rice fields is nice, I would not drive out of your way for it as the place is getting a little too commercialized for something simple to see.
As pools are popular here we ended our afternoon at The Kayon Jungle Resort. This place has architecturally the most appealing three levels of infinity pools overlooking the jungle and rice fields.
Here you can purchase a day pass or go free if you are staying at the sister property, Kayon Jungle Resort. It was the perfect afternoon for the view and to escape the heat and humidity in the pools.
While we did not find much of Ubud City appealing, we do recommend going in on any given evening to see one of the traditional Balinese dance shows. One performance at the Ubud Palace had traditional music to go with a story told through dancing. The costumes and makeup were wonderful. What is impressive is watching the dancers that seem to almost never blink and how they use their eyes to show fear, surprise or love.
The other Balinese show at the Pura PenataranKloncing is known as the “Chaka-chaka” because the only rhythms made were by the sound of men voices verbalizing in different pitches to what sounded like a constant “Chaka-chaka”. Tickets are for sale an hour before start time. Check with your hotel for the schedules of the different styles of shows.
Sanur for Beach Time
Sanur is on the southeast coast. It has soft sandy beaches and flat water due to the reefs off the coast. Sanur is sometimes called “snore” by the party people because it is not as lively as Kuta or Seminyak at night.
Sanur offers plenty of good places to eat along with music on the town’s main road and along the beach walk. A city highlight is the beach promenade that goes for a few miles past restaurants and hotels.
The Sanur Night Market we found small and not appealing but we dorecommend dinner around the corner at the Warung Pengkola. It was our bestlocal meal in town at $18 for two with two drinks.
Our four nights were at the totally renovated Hyatt Regency Bali website because of its very clean beach, two pools, pretty grounds, and good location.
The lounge chairs at the beach are serviced efficiently by the hotel staff so order up the “Rendang” Nachos and enjoy.
Sanur is a launch point for boat tours to the small islands and beaches by Lembongan Island.
For our last stop on Bali, we experienced the busy beach town of Seminyak. Seminyak is like many popular beach cities that look similar.
The streets here have a constant flow of people and traffic. The main drag, Jl. Kaya Aya, has plenty of tourist shops and restaurants.
Walking around we passed a few night clubs filling up with a ’20s to 30’s crowd.
We opted to visit one of the rooftop bars for its acoustical guitar set and the older crowd. To get out of town, hotel concierges and sightseeing stores can arrange day trips to much of Bali however you can expect to be in the van all day depending on your itinerary to see a few things.
Seminyak’s highlight is the sandy beach with some surf to it. It is great for long morning walks. If you come to Bali and only stay in Seminyak you will miss what this wonderful island is all about. For your stay here, consider the Alila Seminyak (www.alilahotels.com/seminyak ) located on a sandy breezy beach just 10 minutes from the center of town.
They have two infinity pools that look into the sea, a beach level pool, large suites and one of the best breakfasts I have enjoyed.