I was in Bali for the first time this past February to attend a friend’s wedding reception. Since there are many things to do in Bali, we extended our trip to have 2 full days to explore the island. On one of the days we booked a private driver who brought us around to check out the sights. With a driver, we had the flexibility to pick and choose what we wanted to see all at our own pace and at a reasonable price.
There are many companies in Bali offering private driver services so how did I finally decide on Suma Bali Tour? By reading the reviews on the ever-popular Tripadvisor of course, and trusting my own instinct. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made because Suma, our driver and tour guide for the day, was great.
I arranged for the pick-up for the day tour at 9.30am because I wasn’t sure what time the wedding reception would end on the night before. Pick-up was punctual although we had some delay on our side and needed the driver to go back and forth our hotel. By the time we actually set off, it was just after 10.00am. I’ve listed the things to do in Bali in my email to Suma’s company a few weeks earlier.
He must have been thinking about the route in his head when Suma asked whether we would like to see a waterfall. Since it was a free-and-easy schedule that day, we were happy to accept any good recommendations from the local expert. For some reason, I never linked waterfall with Bali.
After paying our admission fees right next to the carpark, we took a very short walk and could see the waterfall from the viewing deck. It was apparent that this was one of the more popular tourist attractions. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded.
Walking down to the waterfall was easy. After just a few minutes we were standing right in front of it, feeling the power of the water from a distance. Many people were swimming or just cooling off from the heat in the water. There’s a few bamboo deck chairs lying around which nobody seemed to be using. If we had more time or were more adventurous, we would have walked across the bamboo bridge and climbed up by the side of the waterfall. The view from there and right at the top would have been a big contrast from the ground.
I mentioned walking down to the waterfall was easy. Well, going back up wasn’t that bad but the last 10 steps or were a little bit more tiring because of the high steps. A few slightly elderly people were walking in front of us but they had to stop after every couple of steps. So we just took it easy too. It was just the first stop of our day tour, definitely didn’t want to tire ourselves out this early!
Admission Fee: IDR 10,000
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Second stop on our tour was the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. The Monkey Forest is owned by the village of Padangtegal. To the villagers, the Monkey Forest is not only a spiritual centre to them, it also has educational and conservation purposes. Other than the almost 700 monkeys living harmoniously with the locals nearby, there are 115 species of trees in the forest. Some of these trees are considered holy and are used by the Balinese in their spiritual practices.
Right after entering the forest, we saw 2 ladies selling bananas on their carts. These bananas are meant for the monkeys in case you are wondering. But if you are not careful, the monkeys will snatch them from you.
Suma cleverly kept the bananas in his bag until we met a marshall. I was asked to sit down and the marshall tried to get the monkey to climb onto me using the bananas. MJ was scared but Charles joined me. Photos and video opp!!
Somebody said I looked terrified but the reason why I kept my hands in that position was because we were not supposed to touch the monkeys. I actually thought Charles looked more scared, right?? It was fun feeding the monkeys so I tried again before we left 🙂
The Monkey Forest wasn’t huge but was big enough to allow visitors to take a nice walk in the premises and enjoy the nature for a change. Charles for one, who had been working crazily hard, was appreciative of the nice little stroll and relaxing time with the monkeys.
The monkeys could be seen on the trees, railings, statutes, people. They were EVERYWHERE!
Some advice for people visiting on their own / who received no briefing from their guide:
- Do not stare into the eyes of the monkeys;
- Do not eat or drink;
- Do not go near a baby monkey (the mothers are protective); and
- Do not touch the monkeys.
They are generally not aggressive. If a monkey jump on you, do not scream and run! Just keep walking calmly and try to shake it off. There are marshalls around the forest who can control and scare the monkeys so if you want to feed one, go to them for help. It is safer that way.
One other note, the monkeys are wild animals so you may find some pee / poo stain on your clothes after the close contact. At least I did. And oh, don’t forget the insect repellant!
Open daily: 8.30am – 6pm, Ticketing: 8.30am – 5.30pm, Admission: IDR 40,000
Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka
One of the many things to do in Bali is to eat! We were hungry after all that fun with the monkeys so we headed to Ibu Oka for some Babi Guling (suckling pig). Babi Guling is one of Bali’s most famous dishes and Ibu Oka is one of the best Warung (small restaurant / café) in town. According to Suma, there were a few Ibu Oka branches but we went to this one which provided parking lots.
Our friends recommended the crispy skin of the suckling pig but were told that they were sold out! Next time come between 11am to 1pm they said. We were there at 1.30pm – disappointed! Anyhow, we ordered the lunch set which came with a soup and rice with different dishes by the side. Mmmm… it wasn’t the best food I’ve had but was decent. I also shared an avocado smoothie with chocolate with Charles and MJ. That was thick and delicious.
For dessert, we had the locally-made ice cream which was really yummy! We ordered 2 flavours to share – snickers and durian. And the verdict – Super Good! Especially the durian flavoured one, it was flavourful and light but still rich enough to taste almost like a real durian. It made up for the crispy skin we didn’t get to eat.
Bali Geo Coffee Plantation
On the way to Tirtha Empul Temple, Suma asked whether we would like to visit a coffee plantation. It wasn’t in my rough itinerary emailed to Suma because I thought we would be going to one on the following day. I don’t drink coffee anyway so it didn’t bother me much. But since we had some time and both MJ and Charles love coffee, we went. They wanted to try the world’s most expensive coffee – Kopi Luwak (civet coffee / cat poop coffee).
Someone came to the car park and brought us into the Bali Geo Coffee Plantation where we were given an introduction on how coffee were made. We saw plants along the walking path which they used to produce the coffee and some civet cats (luwaks). They were sleeping in a small wooden box. Next to them were the poo they defecated which contained the undigested coffee beans. The poo and coffee beans would then be washed, dried and pounded to remove the skin, sorted and finally roasted like other coffee beans.
We were given free coffee and tea to taste. I’ll admit that some were unique and tastym like mangosteen tea and durian coffee (I took a sip). MJ and Charles both decided to buy a few packets of the coffee powder but because of the price, they decided on one each eventually lol.
I only realised upon our return that those civet cats we saw were farmed animals. Which means they were captured to only eat and defecate to produce the special coffee beans for sale! Definitely not my cup of
tea coffee. Please say no to farmed luwak coffee beans!!
Pura Tirtha Empul
Next stop, the Bali Holy Spring Water Temple. It was founded around a large water spring in 92 AD and in the temple, Balinese Hindus go through ritual purification.
Before entering the temple we were required to cover ourselves with sarong and a sash around the waist. Suma was helpful and saved us the trouble of figuring out how to securely fasten the sarong.
After we entered the central yard, we could see 2 pools with showers. The Balinese Hindus go through ritual purification here with hands pressed together and bow under the gushing water from the first to the eleventh sprout. The last 2 of the 13 sprouts are meant for purification purposes in funerary rites.
Visitors can also experience the cleaning process but must obey and comply with the same rules as the devotees. The rules are written outside the temple. Like all other temples in Bali, ladies who are having their period are not allowed into the temple.
Behind the central yard, we found the origin of the spring water feeding the showers. There were also a section where the Balinese Hindus were undergoing some kind of prayer which was out of bounds to visitors. We took a short and relaxing walk around the compound and even fed some big fat koi afterwards.
Admission Fee: IDR 15,000
Goa Gajah – the Elephant Cave is not full of elephant or elephant carvings as the name may suggest. It is a spiritual place built in the 11th century for meditation. From the carpark to the main grounds of the Goa Gajah, visitors will pass by souvenir shops and refreshment kiosks. I read that some visitors were being pestered by the hawkers. We reached there late and had no issue.
Again, visitors need to cover their exposed legs before entering the compound. But don’t worry, the admission fee include the free sarong and sash, just like the Holy Spring Water Temple. So even if you don’t have one, there is NO NEED to buy any sarong from the hawkers.
On the ground, we saw a pool with 5 statutes. They were supposedly 5 of the 7 statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts.
We then moved to the Elephant Cave itself. The entrance was an elaborate relief carvings on the cave wall which showed a giant head. Some said this was a Kala (Javanese sea king) Head which symbolises maintaining the sanctity of asceticism and providing protection.
The inside of the cave however, was simple and dark. There were 2 statues, one of them of the Hindu Lord Ganesh who is characterised by an elephant’s head. Is that why the cave is called Elephant’s Cave? There are still speculations to-date.
Admission Fee: IDR 15,000
Black Sand Beach
We were at a traffic junction on the way back to the hotel when Suma asked whether we want to go to the Black Sand Beach. One of our travelling companions (( won’t say who) hadn’t seen a black colour beach before so we took a short detour. Admittedly, this beach was black-er than what I’ve seen and was impressive. It was a looong stretch of beach with many locals enjoying themselves in and outside of the water. There were even people fishing from the edge of the beach.
While we were enjoying the scenery Suma called us over to where he was. He had been writing my name on the beach. How sweet! After the waves washed away the first scribbling, he continued with MJ’s name then Charles’. We had to snap a photo of the writings before the next big wave came along! It was a race against the tide and it was hilarious!
Was really glad that we stopped at the black sand beach and witnessed the beautiful sunset. The orange colour sky set against the black foreground, it was gorgeous. Listening to the rhythmic waves crashing onto the shore also helped us to relax (even more!). It was a lovely way to end our Bali day tour.
There are many other things to do in Bali and this one day itinerary only scratched the surface. My next post about our cycling tour in Bali will be up soon. Akan Datang (coming soon)! Remember to check back!
For anyone visiting Bali, I highly recommend Suma from Suma Bali Tour. He speaks good English, has a great sense of humour and goes the extra mile to make his customers, us, happy. He even managed to get us back to the hotel right on time so that Charles could take a quick shower before heading to the airport.
Note: This is in no way a sponsored post for Suma or his company. I merely wish to recommend someone honest, patient and who has big dreams, to visitors to Bali. If you mention my blog in your booking, he may take even better care of you 🙂
Have you been to Bali? Which was your favourite attraction? What other places would you recommend?