This is the third post of six of my Bali adventure. For parts one through six, please see below.
Travel to Bali – Cathay Pacific
Chedi Club at Tanah Gajah, Ubud Bali
Ubud – The Tour
Amankila – Part One
Amankila – Part Two
Seminyak, Bali – The Legian Hotel, Shopping and Eating
Chedi Club at Tanah Gajah, Ubud Bali
The main goal for our trip to Bali was really relaxation – it had been a while since our last holiday and we needed to just unwind somewhere away from our daily lives and jobs. However, since it was our first time, I really wanted to see some of the sights and decided to book a private tour for a day. If you are going to Bali, I would really recommend this route – whole day tours (including the driver) cost between $50 – $100 per car, and you can entirely customize the itinerary.
I’m like jelly on vacation – I usually don’t want to move anywhere but instead just want to sit and glutton around for the entire time. I have to admit that after I booked our tour, I wondered if I’d regret having to wake up at eight in the morning and spend the day actually learning things instead of just expanding my waistline lying by the pool. I have to say though, that I loved our day! We saw so many great sights we would have never found ourselves in Bali. We booked our tour with Bali Traditional Tours, which I’d highly recommend. Our tour guide was the owner Nyoman, and he met us at our hotel. Our first stop was a temple, so he brought sarongs for both of us!
The temple we went to was Tirta Empul – a Hindu temple where people from all over Bali (and Indonesia) came to be purified in its holy water. When we entered, there was an area for offerings.
Then, we walked further in and found the purifying pool and fountains, which were stunning. There was a long row of fountains and each one (except for two, as they signified events around death) had a line of people in front of the spout, waiting to run their head under the water and be purified.
Nyoman our guide told us which each fountain stood for, but I’ve probably forgotten most of them. I remember there was “academics”, “career”, “love”, “health”, and the like. Mr. Feather was interested in hopping in and getting purified, and Nyoman helped him get changed into a sarong and guided him in! The locals in the fountain were very kind and supportive in guiding Mr. Feather along – in retrospect I wish I had worn my swimsuit so I could have gone in too. While my husband was in the pool, I entertained myself by asking Nyoman some questions that popped up in my head:
Question: Does anybody ever get shoved in? Can I push Mr. Feather back in when he gets out?
Answer: No…that is probably not a good idea.
Question: I know it’s a holy pool, but I see a lot of kids in the pool. Do they ever….pee?
Answer: Unfortunately yes probably…that’s why you see people washing their face only from the fountain and not the sitting water.
There were also people at the fountains filling up bottles with the holy water to bring back home, since many traveled long distances to come to Tirta Empul.
After Mr. Feather was finished and had dried off some (which took about 10 seconds in the hot and humid air), we walked around the fountain so we could see the natural spring where the water came from. It was beautiful. We even saw an eel swimming around, which Nyoman was quite excited about and called a “holy eel”.
After we gave some of our own offerings at the Tirta Empul temple, we decided it was time to move on to the next sight. I was feeling a little bit tired and snackish at the time, and was thrilled when Nyoman announced that our next stop would be a local plantation!
We drove about half an hour, and then pulled into the Ubud Coffee Plantation. As we were walking into the main area, Nyoman would stop and show us all the various spices, herbs, and more that were growing all around the pathway.
There were also little trays of vanilla, ginseng, coffee, cocoa beans, and more that you could split apart and smell. Below was the vanilla.
Nyoman also taught us a little bit more about coffee and coffee beans. If you split open a coffee bean, and see one “seed” or chamber inside, then it’s a male bean. If you see two like twins, then it’s a girl bean!
There were also active honeybees (?) around the property.
The plantation specialized in coffee and was particularly well known for its Kopi Luwak coffee. Kopi Luwak being of course, the very expensive coffee made from the err…excreted coffee beans of the Palm Civet cat. Yes these cats eat coffee beans (apparently only the very top, choicest beans), excrete them, and then down the line that turns into a $20 cup of coffee at Whole Foods.
Nyoman showed us an example of the semi-final product direct from the civet cat – though this specimen thankfully had been cleaned.
You know what though? These civet cats are really cute!
They are nocturnal, so were sleeping while we were hovering over them.
As we came to the end of the plantation path, we saw some ground coffee and cocoa beans.
Along with some of the workers actively roasting the beans.
Then, we were ready to sit down and try the coffee! They brought out about 8-10 little cups of different coffee and tea variations.
All of this was free, including the coffee/tea tasters – though of course you were then led to a gift shop afterwards where you could buy some tea. I was happy to indulge though and we bought about 4-5 boxes of various teas and coffees to take home. They were priced fairly high (Western prices) so just be aware of that.
There was also a long row of benches so you could sip your coffee/tea and enjoy the view.
We also tried a $5 US cup of Luwak coffee, which wasn’t included in the complimentary taster. It was fine, though perhaps a bit…gritty for my taste.
After the coffee, we were ready to go to our next activity. I had mentioned to Nyoman when I booked the tour that I was interested in a few specific activities if possible. I wanted to see a local school, and also to see a traditional family compound. Unfortunately our tour happened to be on a Sunday when school was obviously not in session. However, Nyoman surprised us with a quick trip to his family compound.
It was a great experience and we loved meeting his adorable children (twins – a boy and girl!). We also met quite a few of his other family members, all living in one large compound with multiple buildings and their own family temple.
Afterwards, Nyoman drove us to have lunch at a local restaurant in Ubud that I had read about – the Melting Wok Warung. Melting Wok is probably one of the most popular restaurants in Ubud – run by a gracious French woman and her Cambodian husband (the chef). Make reservations if you go, and I would recommend the chicken curry noodle soup. Nyoman said it was his current favorite dish ever, and so we each had a bowl.
I am happy and in deep concentration whenever it comes to noodle soups!
Each bowl was about $3 US.
After we had our fill of lunch, we went back to Nyomans’ van and headed over to a sight we were REALLY excited to see – the famous Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary. I had heard that there would be monkeys everywhere in this little forest, but didn’t realize how pervasive they were until we pulled into a parking lot and a random monkey scattered away. They were literally everywhere.
Besides the monkeys, the Sacred Forest and Sanctuary itself was quite beautiful – there were lots of carvings, statues, and beautiful trees all around (and places to sit).
But of course, the main feature were the monkeys. Nyoman advised that we go around 1-2 PM, after the monkeys had already eaten their morning meal, so they weren’t too aggressive, which I would advise. These monkeys must be getting fed constantly however, because they were some of the most food picky, spoiled monkeys ever! There were piles of sweet potatoes just sitting around, which the monkeys would just ignore. We picked up some of the potatoes and tried to entice the monkeys with them, but their reaction was an emphatic “meh”.
Of course the best way to get the monkeys attention was to feed them bananas, and there were people selling bananas at multiple entrances to the Forest. My husband was very eager to hang out with the monkeys, and Nyoman kindly ran out and brought back some bananas to him as a surprise. It was amazing – as soon as he held out a banana, a monkey would literally dash out, climb up on him and grab it! It looked very fun but I was too scared to try, even though I was assured that the monkeys wouldn’t bite (as long as you don’t freak out). I went through a period where I was obsessed with microbes and bought Ebola, The Hot Zone, The Andromeda Strain and a bunch of other books and movies. As a result of that, I had no desire to become a Patient Zero.
Here’s a guy clutching at my Mr. Feather’s sarong, looking for more bananas.
The last stop we made was in the village of Celuk, near Ubud. Celuk specializes in silver and gold work, and as a jewelry lover I had to go. A lot of intricate silver work is done in Bali for designers all over the world – John Hardy’s workshop for example, was located nearby.
Nyoman took us to Prapen, which I would recommend for anybody looking for jewelry in Bail. Unfortunately many of the shops which do sell silver/gold jewelry may be unreliable and may be selling metals that are diluted/plated/etc. Prapen has a solid reputation and was also fixed price (no bargaining).
Inside the Prapen showroom, there was an area where you could see the artisans creating their silver goods. It was really fascinating and gave me a deeper appreciation of the work it took to create some of the silver items we saw.
Mr. Feather actually has a much better eye for home decor than me (when we met there may have still been a Jay and Silent Bob movie poster lurking in my apartment), and he really enjoyed looking at all of the silver crafts for the home. He ended up selecting a beautiful black silk and silver fan for our home.
After Celuk and Prapen, Nyoman took us back to our hotel at Chedi Club. We were so thrilled with our day and it was an absolute pleasure spending it with Nyoman. Whenever we look at the fan, we think about our time in Bali and in particular our day with our wonderful guide.
You can contact Nyoman at his company, Bali Traditional Tours.
Next I’ll be covering our stay in East Bali – thank you for reading along!