The different roads
From Ubud we decided to go towards the East to the village of Tulamben, in the vicinity of Amed, where we could go diving in Bali. The fastest way to make this road is to follow the South-East sea coast, but it is a busy road with not so much to see. We wanted to have the opportunity to explore more of the inside of the Balinese island. As a side note, I believe you some of the most beautiful parts of Bali are inland, not on its sea coast. Our itinerary would include passing by the rice fields of Bali, the Mount Batur, Tirta Gangga and Mount Agung. Our driver offered us to add a stop to taste the famous Luwak Coffee.
Note that passing by the Mont Batur volcano means you will have to pay some tourist road fees…I will talk more about it below.
Finding a driver
Finding a taxi or reasonable driver at a good price is not that easy in Bali. For simple transfers we recommend you to use Grab (the asian Uber). Note that many taxi drivers are trying to forbid it because it is a huge competition for them. Grab is often 2 or 3 times cheaper than taxis (the airport is an obvious example)! Therefore you might want to use a Grab discreetly, for both your and your drivers’ safety.
Other tourists recommended us a local taxi company with who we booked a driver for the day to bring us to different spots. We can recommend it to you to as they are very reliable, professional and offer fair prices. Moyo Transport: 0062 852 3884 6975. You can even WhatsApp them. 😉
Tasting the Kopi Luwak
The most expensive coffee
I am now officially a coffee drinker. But in my past visits in the region, I had mostly ignored anything related to coffee except maybe for visiting some coffee plantations here and there. When our driver asked if we wanted to stop to try the Luwak Coffee, all we knew is that the name rings a bell and that we are here to try new stuff. We had great experience in our past travels trying the egg coffee in Vietnam or the coconut blended coffee in Vientiane.
Well I will start by the most important: do not fall for it. Luwak Coffee is basically made out of coffee seeds that had been through the digestive system of a small animal called Luwak ( yes, the animal poopooed them 😯 ). Disgusting enough for some people but it actually gives it a special taste that makes it one of the most expensive coffee in the world! We tried it: not our personal favorite. But our problem was not that…
The history behind the Luwak coffee
We learnt afterwards that this particular coffee was initially drank by slaves who were not allowed to pick up the coffee – that they were cultivating – for their own consumption. Instead they would collect the seed left by Luwaks, who loves eating coffee cherries but does not digest the actual seed. Later on, when the colonists discovered the special flavor of this coffee it became the newest trend… and from the coffee of the poor it became coffee of the rich… But this is not all…
The production of Luwak coffee
Who says coffee for the rich, says interest in larger scale production. But who is producing this coffee? Well the cute little luwaks… who are now kept in cages and fed coffee cherries in order to collect their wonderful coffee poop! Note that the cages are kept in full sunlight for the tourist pleasure when the luwaks are actually nocturnal animals. Here comes another way to exploit animals for human pleasure. We definitely did not like that!
If you book a tour you may end up stopping in one of those places (we saw many vans and buses). No worries you can still get in: usually they attract you by offering you free tasting of their other coffee and tea products, only the luwak coffee is sold, obviously overpriced.
Wandering in the rice fields
Not far from Ubud there are some very famous rice field terraces, one of them being Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Well that was our second disappointment about touristic Bali…
Don’t get me wrong: the terraces are beautiful! But it follows the trend I noticed in Bali: you need to pay for everything. By staying in the parking you are required to pay an “entrance fee”. First scam as you do not need to pay any entrance fee to get to the rice fields… but even with this, you will get stopped all over the rice fields by farmers asking you for “donations” to pass through. I got literally burped in my face -*burped*- by one of those guys while arguing that they need to unify their system and ask money once for all rather than individually request donations. Here goes away the gentle balinese culture, carried away by mass tourism…
Still, you can enjoy our beautiful pictures! 😉
Mount Batur volcano
Mount Batur is the most visited mountain in Bali. It is the most active volcano in Bali (last eruption in the year 2000) that is relatively accessible to all hiking levels. From its 1717 m high you can get a nice view over the surroundings. It is particularly popular for sunrise (also it is less warm in the early morning so it does make sense)
But don’t expect to be able to go on your own. Under the pretext that you could get lost (even though hundreds of people are climbing it everyday) you are not allowed to go without a guide. And this is all clearly about money. Somehow a kind of mafia is ruling the access to the volcano and it is quite hard to get through. I let you read about the many stories online of people who tried (a few succeed, most ended having to pay).
Reading about this, and not being willing to pay 30 USD per person (minimum) to be stuck with a group on a crowded trail, we decided to skip it but still wanted to have a look at this beautiful volcano and its lake. Of course they don’t make it that easy and even that you will be required to pay an access fee… Aaargh, Bali you’re killing me slowly.
Enjoy the pictures, we paid for them! 😀
Tirta Gangga is not a temple but a royal palace, even though people to considered it sacred too. Initially built in 1946 by the late King of Karangsem, it was completely destroyed in 1963 by an eruption of Mount Agung. Rebuilt since then, respecting the original plans, this water palace is a peaceful park of fish ponds, fountains, pools, stone carvings and sculptures.
At the entrance of the palace, there is a little shop exposing animals such as pythons and bats. You can pay to take a picture with them or simply give a donation as those are rescued animals… still not the best way to rescue them. Our driver bought for us fish food, we were not sure why but we soon realized and had a lot of fun being surrounded by those huge fishes!
Wandering around the park is really relaxing, even with many tourists around. Most of them stay near the entrance so if you go further away you can enjoy the peace. There is also a pool area accessible for a small fee but we didn’t try. There was no one swimming there when we were there.
Besides of the mass tourism sad consequences, Bali remains a beautiful island not so much for its coastline but rather for its luxuriant landscapes. Balinese people are genuinely kind and the balinese culture is captivating and complex. But as in many other touristic attractions we can observe how mass tourism is denaturing places when no real political framework is being implemented. Many initiatives are being developed in Bali to preserve the environment and the local authenticity of the island, but private initiatives are not enough.
What do you think?