There are so many things to do in Bali but we only had 2 full days to explore. After a fulfilling first day going around the island with a driver, we decided to do a countryside cycling tour on the next. The countryside cycling tour took us through the local villages, bamboo forest, temples and rice padi fields.
The driver collected us from our hotel bright and early before proceeding to Tegallalang Rice Terraces. The journey from our hotel in Nusa Dua took more than an hour. The driver said that we could take some pictures but cannot walk down the terraces. We were disappointed since we only spent like 10 minutes there. But we appreciated the calm and peacefulness in the morning sharing the Rice Terrace with a few other tourists despite the short stop.
Best Mountain-Top Fried Rice
Our next stop was “up in the mountain for breakfast” as described by our driver. In fact, we were soon seated in Sari Restaurant in Kintamani with one of the best views in Bali.
Mount Batur right in front of us is an active volcano. Kintamani village sits on the rim of the huge Batur caldera about 1,500m above sea level. There are sunrise treks organised by local tour agencies for Mount Batur for anyone up for it. For us, the view from Kintamani was spectacular enough.
We had a few choices for breakfast – western (waffles, toast) and local delights. Since we were in Indonesia we opted for local food – nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (stir fry noodles) – to share. To our surprise, both the fried rice and noodles were delicious. MJ couldn’t get enough of it and till now still call it the “Best Mountain-Top Fried Rice” she’s ever had. Lol!!
Countryside Cycling Tour
After the delightful breakfast, we were driven to a village to collect our bicycles. Upon arrival, the entourage was already waiting. There was a van full of bikes (just for the 2 of us!), our cycling tour guide Wayan and the van driver. We were told that the ride will mainly be going downhill which was a relief! Suited up, received some basic safety rules and off we went.
Wayan first led us along the small roads outside the local’s houses. We also stopped outside their community temples and even visited their beautiful garden.
Shortly after travelling on the main road, we rode into the Bamboo Forest in Bangli. Once we entered the bamboo forest, we could feel the drop in the temperature. It was cooling and peacefully quiet in the forest, a total different atmosphere from the world outside.
According to the Bali Hai Bike Tours website, they are the only company in Bali cycling through this route, i.e. the Bamboo Forest. I checked with Suma our driver from the day before and he confirmed it too. We are not sure why.
Inside the Bamboo Forest, we met a couple of extremely adorable residents here. They were initially scared of us but tried to follow us and were meow-ing away after we cycled into the distance.
After we got out of the Bamboo Forest, Wayan led us to the Penglipuran Traditional Houses Village next. This is one of Bali’s Ancient Village with 72 houses, i.e .72 families are staying here. The village houses here retained the layout of traditional Balinese architecture and they look almost identical. At around 700 meters above sea level the village has a cool mountainous atmosphere surrounding it. The Penglipuran Village has evolved into a community based tourism site which means visitors need to pay an entrance fee of IDR 30,000 per person (for a foreigner). Visitors are allowed to enter any of the houses but we felt a bit uncomfortable to intrude.
We walked along the corridor with the houses flanked on both sides and could feel the serenity in the villagers’ lives. As we walked to the end, we saw children coming back from school. One of them even tried to interact with us. Luckily we had Wayan to help translate when the communication kind of broke down. The intelligent young lady walked with us until we bade her goodbye outside her home. Wayan suggested we visit the house since she was so friendly. Still feeling uneasy, we went inside when an elderly lady greeted us with a big smile. Wayan politely told her we were looking around. There was a outdoor sheltered kitchen / store built right in front of the yard between the front gate and main door that looked similar to this:
The young lady re-appeared and looked happy when she saw us. So just before leaving the house, we took a photo with her. Even though the community is now open to the public, personally I still didn’t like the idea of imposing on the locals by walking into their house. But it seems they have gotten used to this kind of lifestyle.
Next up on the countryside cycling tour was the Pura Kehen. This is the biggest and finest temple in East Bali. It is often described as the miniature version of Pura Beskih (the Mother Temple or Bali’s most important temple) and it serves as the state temple of Bangli. On both sides of the entrance staircases are guardian statues.
After the first flight of stairs in the first courtyard, there is a huge and old Banyan tree, a few hundred years old, with a monk’s cell among the branches. The middle courtyard houses the offertory shrines and the top-most courtyard with 11-tiered meru with a carved wood and stone base. This is dedicated to the God that protects the temple. Around the high meru, there are other smaller merus meant for the mountain gods to rest when they visit the temple.
Wayan warned us about people selling things or pushing things into our hands outside the Pura Kehen before we set out for the temple. “Do not touch any of the stuff they are holding in their hands” he said. Fortunately, when we arrived there was nobody around except a few other tourists.
As we made our way to the lunch place, we were given a choice of using the tarmac road or back road. On the back road we would cycle along a narrow trail in the middle of the nature. We opted for the latter of course. However, before we reached the narrow trail, we had to meander along the big ugly tarmac road first. Then an accident occurred. A small puppy was ran over by a big truck while crossing the street!
As many of you would know, I love dogs. After witnessing the tragedy, I had to stop and try to help the poor little thing. The furry and adorable pup was obviously in excruciating pain. Wayan took a piece of cloth and covered the cute face to avoid either of us being bitten. After he carried the pup to the side of the road, I saw the pup twitched a few more times and then stopped…. That’s it! Wayan tried to console me that the owner will take care of it and we should be on our way. I returned to my bike feeling extremely sorry for the puppy and then my eyes started welling up with tears uncontrollably. (I’m even tearing up a bit now while writing and re-living those moments!)
MJ consoled me that it’s probably better for the puppy that way. I agree but still couldn’t help but get emotional about it. And I was grateful that the guys from the tour company stopped to help when I did.
Wayan tried to make us feel better after that episode and brought us to another temple that looked like it was sited in the middle of a lake. He tried to cheer me up for a bit. Then we cycled past some rice padi fields. Being kids who grew up in the city, we were ashamed to admit that it was our first time looking at and touching unprocessed rice grains.
We reached the end of our countryside cycling tour at about 3pm and proceeded to have our home-cooked lunch in a simple hut nearby. The hut was right in the middle of the forest / padi fields with plenty of ants and other insects crawling around. It wasn’t the best place to enjoy a well-deserved lunch but we made do.
The countryside cycling tour in Bali was a great way for us to get in touch with the nature and the way the local Balinese lived. Even though it was a long day for us, we were able to enjoy every stop (except the rice terrace) at our own pace. There are many companies in Bali organising cycling tours so I would highly recommend new and repeated visitors to go on one.
Tips for going on a countryside cycling tour in Bali:
- Remember to apply sun block! MJ’s back was burnt badly by the sun.
- Spray insect repellent, especially before going into the Bamboo Forest. The mosquitoes were starving and we I got attacked mercilessly!
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