Seven Gems of Bali
Pretty much over the decades I have seen and explored Bali to the max. On my travels there are those places that have re-visited and been disappointed mainly because of the ‘overkill’, due to the mass tourism that exists now on the island, where tourists and travellers alike are being charged ridiculous prices for entry fees and then getting hassled non-stop by persistent hawkers. And, there are those beautiful, quiet places that were gems to find and these were generally off the so-called tourist track and now, as I am led to believe, are also being included on tour itineraries. So, I decided to put together a few gems that maybe some of you have already seen, but if you haven’t, then it will give you something to look forward to on your next sojourn.
On the outskirts of Blahbatuh in Central Bali there is a beautiful, secluded Chinese temple. I can guarantee that you have crossed the steel-girder bridge as you enter town plenty of times, but, if you had have stopped on the left-hand side after you crossed the bridge then you would have noticed a stone stairway leading down to the river below. Here you will find Vihara Amurya Bhumi. This is a stunning and large temple literally sitting at the base of a cliff and on the cliff walls, unique carved Bhuddas. Entrance is free but a donation would be appropriate.
A half hour drive north of Pura Ulu Danau Bratan on the road to Singaraja, there is a sharp turn-off to the left. You can’t miss it because there are heaps of monkeys on the road where people stop to feed them. Take the turning to the left and follow the road for about five miles and you will see on your left-hand side the twin lakes of Danau Tamblingan and Danau Buyan. There are plenty of places to stop and take photos here and the scenery is spellbinding.
Most of you will have driven along the Jalan Ngurah Rai bypass on your way to Sanur and you would have passed all the mangroves on your right-hand side. These mangroves are vital to the ecosystem of the area and you can actually walk along wooden walkways through the entire mangrove swamps to the ocean. There are two walkways and so, enter in one and walk back out the other. The people at the research centre located at the entrance are a boon of information.
What I would consider to be one of the most peaceful and beautiful temples on the island, Pura Luhur Batukau is located at the base of Gunung Batukau. It is the quietness of the area that I find appealing and the cool air is refreshing. Walking around this temple at the base of the mountain is surreal as is the reflective gardens.
Without a doubt the most stunning Chinese place of worship on the island of Bali is the monastery of Brama Vihara Arama. Located not far from Singaraja just east past Banjar you will find the Buddhist monastery. The Brahma Arama Vihara is a spectacular place and is the most important Buddhist monastery in Bali. Complete with golden Buddha statues and a pristine natural setting, the most stunning part of this monastery is the miniature replica of Borobudur on the top level.
The east coast of Bali is in my opinion the most panoramic part of the island. Amed and surrounding areas are great places to stay and wile the days away far from the madding crowds of the Kuta tourist strip. Losmens and good hotels are clean and affordable, the diving and snorkeling is excellent and the locals, probably the friendliest that I have encountered.
In the central-west of Bali you will find one of the most surprising and eloquent surprises, Bunut Bolong. The road actually goes through a tree. Of course there is a hole carved in it and it is a sacred place to the Balinese. Head west to Negara on the coast road and turn off at the town of Pekutatan. The long winding road up into the cool hills will see you passing by coffee and clove plantations and just as you turn the next bend, voila, there it is.