June 10, 2019. Not a lot of travelers go to Bali to trek its jungles and hike to its waterfalls. I realized it’s one of the things I that makes Bali a great travel destination–there are activities that cater to different types of travelers. For the more adventurous types, there are numerous cascades to trek on the island. For this particular adventure, we chose Sekumpul.
Before narrating further, I note that the night prior, Robby, one of our friends arrived from Manila to catch up with our trip. He couldn’t make it sooner, so for the first two days, it was just Rap and I. Henceforth, there were three of us buddies exploring the island.
We started our day early because it takes three hours to drive from Seminyak (where our hotel was) to Sekumpul far north of Bali. That morning, Joe, our driver, was sure to make a stop-over halfway through the drive, at a roadside shack that resembled your regular Filipino sari-sari store. There was your typical junk food and snacks. We had, aside from coffee, ta-da, more pork skewers! What’s with Joe, or Bali in general, and their penchant for babi (pork)?
Anyhow, after three hours on the road, through verdant rural landscapes and mountain passes, we arrived at Sekumpul. It was around midday, but we decided to postpone lunch and begin our trek into the jungle. It wasn’t really a trek trek, because much of the way has been paved with concrete. Although the climb down to the valley to the base of the waterfall and the hike back up was still as strenuous as it could be because a hundred vertical meters is, still, a hundred meters of pure physical effort.
June 8, 2019. My friends and I only had four whole days to spend in Bali, so we decided to do just some of the “essential” destinations for first-time vacationers on the island. Two ticks in the checklist were sites in Ubud, a town in central Bali, regarded as the island’s cultural heartland and a temple in Manukaya right next to Ubud.
I had previously followed the referral of another friend who recommended a local driver to take us around our desired destinations for a flat fee per day. His name was Joe. It is essential to have someone drive you around Bali since there doesn’t appear to be any mode of public transportation convenient enough for tourists to go about the island on their own. The only other way is to rent scooters or motorbikes. None of us knew how, so that was not an option. I coordinated with Joe days before the trip and agreed on an itinerary.
From our hotel in Seminyak, Joe drove us an hour to the interior of the island along rural sceneries typical of tropical Southeast Asia–meaning, nothing too unfamiliar to Filipinos like us–rolling hills, rice paddies, terraces and vegetable gardens flanked by towering coconut trees and clusters of village homes.
But first, breakfast! Joe drove us to an obviously tourist restaurant called Bebek Joni. It was your typical tourist trap, but hey, whatever–we were hungry. We were there for breakfast, so the chartered tourist groups have not arrived for lunch, and we were the only guests around. Set in the middle of rice paddies and duck ponds, it had a very peaceful and provincial ambiance. I had a combination plate of satay, fried chicken, and some morsels of scrambled egg with my nasi. It came with Bali coffee and some rice crackers.
After breakfast, we drove a few more kilometers to Tegalalang, still in Ubud, for its famed rice terraces. We dropped by the Instagram-essential Alas Harum agro-tourism site. It was a privately-owned resort with perfectly-manicured rice terraces running along a small valley with a freshwater stream in the middle. The basic entrance ticket allows you to roam around the garden for as long as you please, but for some additional rupiahs, you can avail of their other activities such as luwak coffee tasting, the sky bike, and the Instagram-famous swing. It is what it is–a beautiful garden with plenty of spots to take great vacation photos.