After more than four months in Southeast Asia we still hadn’t ridden a motorbike. You might ask yourself how the hell that’s possible. Everyone drives a bike in Southeast Asia! Simple. We’d never ridden one before and weren’t keen on trying it in the crazy traffic of most Southeast Asian countries. Instead we walked a lot and took a cab or Uber trip if necessary. After some insisting by our surf instructor in Kuta, we tried it for the first time in the slightly calmer traffic in Ubud. And we loved it! What a shame we hadn’t tried it before! Nothing difficult about it. (Especially when sitting at the back when Brecht is doing the driving.)
So for our first time on a motorbike, we rented one from our guesthouse and took it on a day trip around Ubud. (Read more about our stay at Desak Putu Putra Homestay in one of our next blogposts.)
Our first stop was Goa Gajah, also known as the Elephant Cave. We each paid the 15,000 IDR entrance fee. Loaning a sarong at the ticket checking office was not necessary, as we were both wearing long pants. Do check the map next to the ticket office before you enter, so you know what’s to be seen. As with every tourist attraction there are local guides offering their services, but we declined. We admired the bathing temple figures and entered the cave. We found a small waterfall hiding behind a bunch of rocks that are supposed to be Buddha statues. All in all we were there for about 30 minutes, just wandering around.
30 minutes later we arrived at Gunung Kawi. You can drive all the way to the ticketing booth to park your motorbike, provided that you pay 2,000 IDR for parking. Paying 15,000 IDR per person allows you entrance and sarongs are on loan at the ticketing office. The shrines are at the bottom of a valley, so you have to take a lot of steps down to get there. Didn’t count them, but there should be more than 270. You are down in no time, distracted by the beautiful rice terraces you pass. Of course you’ll encounter quite the number of souvenir shops as well.
Before entering the site, you are asked by a sign to sprinkle holy water over your head. Besides the rice terraces, the main attraction here are the shrines, carved out in the rock wall on both sides of the river that flows through the valley. They’re huge and very impressive. There is an old temple and some statues as well, but they’re not worth it to take your shoes off for. We were there for about 40 minutes, a lot of them sweating to climb the stairs back to our motorbike. Man, I didn’t think this through when descending.
After a small detour (we took some wrong turns), we arrived at the nearby Tirta Empul about 20 minutes later. You can park your motorbike very close to the ticketing booth. It’s possible you have to pay 2,000 IDR when entering the parking, but no one asked us for any money. We paid once again a 15,000 IDR entrance fee per person and were obliged to wear a shawl around our waist. They lend it at the entrance, but we were asked for a donation in exchange. There’s a sign stipulating some rules for entering the holy grounds, mostly for women. They cannot visit when they are on their period for example and they have to tie up their hair.
Tirta Empul means Holy Spring and is a Hindu Balinese water temple. We visited the temple on a Sunday, probably the reason for the huge crowds of locals. The temple has two pools with showers where people line up for ritual purification. It was something special to behold, but we also felt like intruders disturbing their ritual. One piece of very useful advice: don’t follow the exit signs, but be a rebel and exit where you entered. Unless you’re interested in a massive detour along tons of souvenir shops. In that case, please do follow the signs.
Cantik Agriculture Coffee Farm
Back at our motorbike a local guy approached us and started a conversation. He asked where we’re from and where we were going now. He told us about the coffee farm from a friend of his where we could look around and taste for free. It was a friendly guy and we were planning on visiting a coffee farm anyway, so we followed him to this friend.
At about noon, after a 15 minute drive from Tirta Empul, we arrived at Cantik Agriculture Coffee Farm. A nice lady welcomed us and led us through the green garden, explaining the different trees we saw and the drinks they made from its fruits. We saw how they process the coffee beans: 45 minutes of roasting on a wooden fire, before they ground them into powder. Apparently there are male and female coffee beans, who knew? The male ones are single beans and more bitter than their female, double bean counterparts.
After this tour, the friendly lady told us to sit down and wait a moment while she prepared a range of coffees and teas for us to try. All for free. If we wanted to taste the (in)famous Luwak coffee, or “poopoo coffee”as she called it, we had to pay 50,000 IDR. Of course we wanted to try this coffee made of beans that passed through a civet cat! Apparently they only eat the red skin of the beans, the rest just comes back out and is collected. They clean the poop from the beans (a mix of female and male beans), and remove another layer of skin before processing the beans to coffee powder. They have two of the animals on display, but use the poop from the wild ones.
It was a very interesting half hour we spent at the coffee farm. We learned some new things about coffee and got to taste a range of different coffees and teas. We liked almost all of them, except for the ginger tea, that was something special! We even got to taste some kind of peanut cookie. We ended up paying 100,000 IDR, instead of the 50,000 IDR we owed them. We saw it as a thank you for the explanations and tastings and an apology for not buying any coffee, tea of chocolate from their shop.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Next, we took the scenic route over small roads crossing numerous rice terraces to the restaurant Brecht had picked out for lunch. We passed Tegalalang Rice Terrace as well, which is warned to be a tourist trap. It was indeed extremely crowded and the traffic was stuck. We made a quick stop for some pictures and a guy tried to charge us 10,000 IDR for parking. It’s truly beautiful though and you can even walk the rice terraces for some pictures of local farmers working their fields.
At about 13h30 we arrived at Warung BintangBali, a nice and cozy restaurant between rice fields. All vegetables are organic and the staff is very friendly. The grilled tuna is supposed to be spectacular here, but unfortunately they ran out. Brecht was very disappointed and could only think about what he missed out on, while eating his grilled chicken (35,000 IDR). The spare ribs were very good, I loved the sauce that came with it! I had the small rack (42,000 IDR) which was very small, but enough, otherwise I just overeat anyway. The menu says it is served with potatoes, but you get fries!
Mount and Lake Batur
After a motorbike ride of about 1.5 hours, we arrived at Mount and Lake Batur. Mount or Gunung Batur is an active volcano, situated in Northeast Bali. It’s next to Lake Batur, a caldera lake formed thousands of years ago by a volcano eruption. The views are stunning, but there is an entrance fee of 31,000 IDR per person. Earlier a guy had warned us to pay no more than 10,000 IDR entrance fee, but the tariff was mounted on the ticket booth so we had no grounds for discussion.
We took some pictures from the top before descending to the lake. There’s a parking down there where you have a beautiful view, but had to pay 2,000 IDR once again. We had some (cheap) tea with a view at Pulu Mujung Warung before we headed back to Ubud for dinner.
What we think our Motorbike Day Trip around Ubud
If you followed along on the map you might have noticed that our itinerary was definitely not following the optimal route. Driving around in itself is a lot of fun though and there are great views to be found everywhere, so just go out and explore.
Renting a motorbike is definitely a fun (and cheap!) way to explore Ubud and its surroundings. We paid 50,000 IDR for the motorbike, including two helmets. Through the entire day we filled up on petrol three times, costing us 30,000 IDR in total. They sell petrol everywhere in water or wodka bottles, so no need to look out for a real gas station. You probably won’t find one anyway.
We really enjoyed this day trip around Ubud and regret not trying a motorbike earlier. Just take that step!