It was now time to transition from the blissfully hot seaside resorts of Candi Dasa to the cool refreshing mountains of Munduk in the North of Bali. The night before we leave we go around to say our goodbyes to our Balinese friends who had made our stay here is Candi Dasa so pleasurable. The best way to travel any long distance with luggage in Bali is to hire a driver and car. So we hire our new friend Wayan from the Bali Club to drive us. He picks us up at our hotel and we are off in a jeep for a long drive to Munduk, but not before making a few stops along the way. Our first point of interest was the Garden Temple of Batukau, which is one the temples that holds special significance for the Balinese people in accordance with their Hindu beliefs. As we arrived, it was very apparent why it is referred to as the Garden Temple, as it is set among this great jungle forest with bushes, shrubs, and palm trees throughout the temple grounds.
Then suddenly, as we were going through the temple complex with its numerous tower temples, pool areas with holy water, and this pond area beautifully decorated with Hindu statues and large imposing temple structures, this sound caught our attention, and it was coming from the main gateway into the temple complex.
As we turned our heads to find out what this sound was, what we saw was simply astonishing, as through the temple gateway was a ceremonial procession of Balinese coming into the temple towards us, and by this time, the Gamelan was now already playing loudly and rhythmically those familiar sounds we have grown so accustomed to near the temples of Bali. At this point, we were simply frozen in our spots near the top of the stairway leading into the entrance of the main temple compound.
As we looked at each other with amazement at our good faith to have once again been at the right place at the right time, the amount of people coming through the temple gateway was now increasing by the second to the point where there were now hundreds of Balinese entering the temple, proceeding up the stairway, and walking right before us in order to enter the main temple compound carrying baskets of colourful offerings.
We learned later that these people were all from the district of Amlapura where we had just left, and it was their designated time to come and worship at this Garden Temple in Batukau. Feeling that we were blessed with a great gift to have witnessed this community ceremonial procession, we decided it was time to leave them worship in peace and continue on our way to Munduk. In a certain way, it kind of felt as if this community had come to join us here to tell us their final goodbyes, as we had just left their district a few hours before.
Leaving hear, we then passed through another spectacular and scenic area of Bali, a place called Jatiluwih, where Jati means “really” and luwih means “special, good and beautiful”. As we made our way upwards down this winding one-lane dirt and gravel road, we were immersed into this lush green jungle full of bamboo trees, palms, and an assortment of other trees found here in Bali. To top off this beautiful scene, were these amazing vistas of rice fields and terraces around every turn we made it seemed. As we drove down this winding road, we also passed scattered patches of houses along with the Balinese people who were living in this beautiful but remote jungle area. Being lunch time by this time, we stopped at at one of road side restaurants that allowed us a great view to gaze out into this incredible expanse of rice fields and terraces, and of course to have a bite to eat to satisfy our hunger.
After filling our tummies, we then took to the road once again to regain the main road for a stretch northward before making the turn on this west bound road that would ultimately take us to Munduk, which would turn out to be an adventure all to itself. The road to Munduk actually follows the ridge of a crater, which affords these amazing views of two large lakes down below. Then at one point, elevation comes into the equation, as the road constantly goes up and then down, and if it’s not going up and down, it’s twisting and turning, or both, around these majestic large mountains that Munduk has become known for. Doing it by jeep is one thing, but as we found out a few days later, doing it by motorbike is another matter, and doing it on motorbike in the rain…and in the dark, well, let’s just say that’s a whole other matter their again that truly gives you whole other appreciation for these mountains.
Our first observations once having arrived in Munduk were the following, it is actually refreshingly cool here compared to the rest of Bali, and this is a truly isolated place set back along the top of this mountainous region. Late into the night, looking out into the mountains from the deck of our room at our guesthouse, this place took on almost a fairytale like kind of feeling, as in the dark quietness of the night, all that one would see was these strings of sparkling lights twinkling in the night throughout the mountains, almost like string lights decorating a Christmas tree. High above us, the dark black sky was filled with stars along with the familiar constellations, except one that we had never seen before or heard of, a “Double Heart”. One heart over the corner of the other. In the quiet of the night, all we could hear now were the songs of the various insects, crickets and toads, along with a single motorbike off in the distance making its way home…then, complete silence! The cool night air was refreshingly cool and pure here high up in the mountains of Munduk, compared to the warm tropical seaside air that we had previously experienced during our Journey through Bali.
During the daytime, from our guesthouse perched high up on the ridge of this mountain, we could see the magnificent vista of mountain jungle forest with a river that flowed deep below on the valley floor out of our sight on one side. Beyond this we could see rice fields along with fields growing an abundance of crops of fruits and vegetables, and beyond this, was the northern coastline of Bali and the warm friendly sea shore. On the other side, besides another range of mountains, were rice terraces after rice terraces that flowed from nearly the top of the mountain all the way down to the valley floor, making for amazing views as we quietly had lunch at one of the very few restaurants in Munduk.
We quickly noticed the weather pattern in Munduk, which was nice and sunny in the morning and then dark and rainy through the midday, to only clear up again for the evenings. So when we decided to go for our hiking excursion, which was one of the main reasons why we came to Munduk in the first place, we headed out early in the morning in order to make it back before the midday rain.
It was suggested to take one of the local guides when going hiking, and were we glad we did, as once in the jungle, there were so many paths criss-crossing each other, we may have never come out. Our hiking excursion brought us through rice fields, forest jungle, and down deep to the valley floor between these mountains to see a series of waterfalls in this garden-like environment.
All along the way our guide showed us all sorts of fruits, herbs and spices, and vegetables found throughout the forest, including vanilla, snake fruit, cloves, pineapple , papaya, turmeric, coffee, coriander, and many others. During our hike, we also passed along homes of Balinese living simply in this isolated jungle forest.
We also took a day trip from Munduk to go and see the Shangri-La Resort and Spa in Bondalem which is owned by a couple we had met in their spa one night in Ubud. It was a lovely place right on the north shore of Bali, tucked away amongst palm trees. During our visit there, the welcoming friendly staff showed us around the resort, which includes a number of bungalows, spa, meditation/yoga hall, and a small cafe restaurant, all of which enable them to have groups come to the resort and be self-sufficient for week-long retreats.
On the way back to Munduk, we stopped to see the Gigit waterfall, where we finished by purchasing a traditional Balinese scene which had been painted by a young man we had met in his shop on our way to the falls. Even back in the forest by a waterfall one can find a temple to honor the Hindu Gods.
We also met three little young girls (approximately 7 years old) selling bracelets, I guess they were already in training for the life they are most likely to live as vendors of Balinese arts and crafts to tourist.
Leaving Gigit Falls, we endured a 45-minute ride in the torrential rain on wet and windy roads going up and down the mountains all the way to our guesthouse back in Munduk, what an adventure to finish our day.
Leaving Munduk, we acknowledged that this place was very unique compared to what we had experience in other places throughout Bali. It was a refreshing end to our Journey in this beautiful country. We could not help but ponder the idea of when we would be back to experience all its beauty, from the natural environment to the Balinese people themselves.