I’ve been to the island of Bali three times now and this is the first time I did a Bali volcano climb. Wow-wee. I’m so glad I did. My previous visits I remember thinking were a little underwhelming, based in the usual tourist haunts of Kuta then Sanur. I was frustrated by the endless haggling, surprised that the beach seemed quite dirty, and surrounded by drunk Aussies (who I see enough of!). This trip, I’m happy to report, was spectacular. If you plan to visit Bali make sure you spend some time towards the north in the beautiful region of Kintamani.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
MOUNT BATUR | I’m writing this post on my Bali volcano climb in a pretty tardy manner, a full month after I actually visited the semi-active volcano of Mount Batur. Hence it’s a lot easier to say – ‘definitely do it!’ I’ll be honest though and say at the time I found it bloody hard. I can walk and walk on the flat, but give me excessive cardio activity and a steep uphill climb and I’m quickly pooped. This 4am trek takes 2 hours and the views are pretty incredible from the summit. Cool that they can hard boil eggs in the volcano steam too.
BALI SUNRISE VILLAS | a little tip if you do visit Kintamani, for a Bali volcano climb or otherwise: do stay nearby for at least a night. It’s a really beautiful area and I think it would be a shame to only drive through on a hired moped or guided tour. I stayed at Bali Sunrise Villas – a brand spanking new hotel offering that had only just been completed in 2016. The accommodation was gorgeous: traditional Balinese, spotlessly clean, calming and spacious, really friendly and lovely staff. I particularly appreciated my extra hour and a half in bed ahead of the volcano climb!
CANOE BOAT | this was such a minor part of my visit lasting probably 20 minutes at most, but I absolutely loved catching a local canoe style boat from one side of tranquil Lake Batur to the other. It gives you an opportunity to observe the countryside as well as get closer to the fish farms, which are the primary commercial use of the lake.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
CALDERA | it’s a tough toss up for a must-do between this walk and climbing Mount Batur. I gave the latter the trophy as you get the kudos of climbing an actual volcano, but I have to say this much easier hike was equally beautiful albeit marginally less ‘satisfying’. I loved that you can see Rinjani volcano on Lombok to the east and the torch lights of people climbing Mount Batur to the west. I only did the Caldera short walk, however a couple continued on without me to check out traditional Balinese villages along the lake side.
LAKE BATUR | is Bali’s largest lake and it’s a natural attraction in it’s own right. I don’t think anyone swims in it and there don’t appear to be any foreshore walks, however you can get a good view of it from most elevated angles or walk down towards some of the many fish farms. We stopped in at the Floating Restaurant Kedisan which apparently is very popular with locals looking for a fancy night out!
GEDE MANGUN | probably a little strange to put a person as a ‘worth a snoop’, and I certainly don’t mean get physical! However I wanted to include a mention for Gede – the owner of both Bali Sunrise Tours and the newer Bali Sunrise Villas – as he was such a helpful and informative guide and host. I hugely respect how passionate he is about inspiring his community that local people can have educations and careers beyond farming. Check out his charity Cempaka Putih and support local business by trekking with his company.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
HOT SPRINGS | I was quite excited by the idea of some indulgent hot springs to soothe my tired limbs after my Bali volcano climb. Perhaps it was simply out of season, but unfortunately instead of a little slice of thermal luxury I was greeted by some rather sorry looking outdoor pools that looked more like a construction site. Even more off putting was the reminder that locals cannot afford the 150,000 IDR entrance fee and must use another door.
LUWAK COFFEE | is supposedly only made from the most ‘premium’ beans, and that’s because they have already been digested then pooped out by the all-knowing Luwak – a native cat-like creature! Unfortunately, on top of the extortionate price (at least 200,000 IDR or £10+ for 50g of Luwak coffee), every identical coffee farm set-up is uber touristy with a few poor little Luwaks pacing in cages. Trying the teas and coffees is interesting but personally I’d skip it.
COCK FIGHTING | apparently this is a big deal in Bali with lots of people keeping the poor animals in order to train and then fight them for bets. The cages they are in are so small and often seem to be just left on a main road, baking in the intense island heat. Sad.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
PURA ULUN DANU BATUR | is the second most important temple in Bali and was built in 1926. It’s dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of lakes and rivers and literally translates as “head of the lake”. This temple was right near where I was staying on Lake Batur for my Bali volcano climb and I didn’t even realise! Whoops.
AND KNOW THIS: much of Bali embraces the fascinating Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, based on three roots of happiness found through good relationships with God, other people and the environment. In the example of Balinese coffee production, a co-operative – called Subak Abian – was created to act as a smallholder for the farmers (i.e. fair trade for the people) and agrochemicals aren’t used (i.e. organic for the earth).