Having been to Bali thrice in a year, I wanted to do something different.
“Why don’t we travel to West Bali?” I asked my partner. He couldn’t have appeared more shocked. This is because apart from water sports enthusiasts, who love the diving scene there, hardly anyone else travels to West Bali, an area with mostly wilderness, a huge national park and government buildings (or so most people would think).
After some research, we came to the conclusion that there are some things you can do in West Bali, even if you’re not into water sports or are aquaphobic (like me).
You just need to possess a love for adventure and you can plunge into the unknown!
…… of course not.
For your own safety and sanity, you’ll need to arm yourself with the following:
a very good GPS system
a good and reliable car that can take you through mountainous roads
a good driver (in this instance, we drove there ourselves, but you need to be pretty skilled at driving on the Balinese terrain)
lots of food and snacks stocked up in the car (trust us, there’s nothing much to eat in West Bali, unless you want to try the local eateries, which I’m sure are pretty good but perhaps not recommended if you’re foreigner with a weak stomach)
mosquito repellent (surely you’ll need it almost everywhere in Bali)
and of course – a heart for adventure!
The road trip to West Bali is very long, and you will be spending at least three hours on the road before you get anywhere. But what really surprised us was that the main roads were really wide and very developed (much more developed than many areas in central and east Bali actually), so driving there was a cruise – as long as you stay on the main road along the coast.
It’s a mountainous area, so if you veer off the coastal road you’ll be going up the winding hilly paths into the villages (which of course is pretty fun too if you have a good car and driver – really I can’t emphasize on this enough. It really makes a huge difference).
So let me bring you along as I recount our lovely quiet road trip! Recommended for couples or groups of friends who just want to do something different. You’ll enjoy good privacy, peace and awesome bonding time without being harassed by the sight of throngs of tourists in Kuta, Seminyak and even central Ubud.
1. Find the Banyan Tree with a Hole: Bunut Bolong Tree
Nestled in the Manggissari is a strange little phenomenon – a majestic tree that’s worshipped by the locals, as it’s believed to possess supernatural powers. And mind, this is not just a usual tree – it has a hole in the middle of its roots.
So it has huge roots on either side of the road, forming an arch where people can drive through.
If you happen to be travelling along the Denpasar Gilimanuk Road to West Bali, this is an attraction that’s worth dropping by at.
But if you’re a newlywed couple, take note. Legend has it that brides and grooms who pass through the tree this way will end up separated.
If you just want to be careful (better safe than sorry, no?), you can pass through via another road constructed next to it.
The road up is not easy, as it’s located in the middle of narrow, winding, hilly roads, and you need to be really careful here when you drive up. Follow the coordinates given below on Google Maps and you should be able to find your way up.
Nevertheless, just in case you lose your way, it’s still very, very important that either your driver or someone in the car knows how to speak and understand a bit of Bahasa to communicate with the villagers.
In all honesty, for your own sake, please do not drive up the hilly slopes with a weather-beaten car like this (we do treasure our lives but I must admit we were a little crazy at that point in time – so please don’t follow in our footsteps, or car tracks to be exact).
The locals seem to drive through here on an everyday basis though.
We even spotted a truck full of caged chickens (that might unfortunately end up as someone’s dinner).
It’s a very interesting place to do a photoshoot at though. Just be respectful of their local customs and don’t disturb the offerings around it.
Now you must have heard of this abandoned Boeing 737 in Kuta. But did you know there’s another one in Jembrana?
And this one is luckier.
When we visited the place, there was heavy construction in the area, and we were told by one of the workers that someone had bought that piece of land (yes the portion where the plane is sitting on), and has plans to turn the place into a residential estate and convert the plane into a library.
We wouldn’t have believed it if not for the fact that this is Bali. You know, where everything is possible, even the most random and craziest things you can possibly think of. This is the land where you can find the ultimate Treehouse and stay in, where you can sleep with animals, dine with predatory mammals and enjoy some booze with zombies.
I mean, this is where some villagers don’t bury their dead and underwater temples actually exist.
So really, finding a strange abandoned plane here in the middle of nowhere and learning that it’s going to be converted into a library? Sure, it happens every day, only in Bali.
As we weren’t allowed to drive in, we had to trudge across the construction site in the sweltering heat.
There were cranes around it and we couldn’t find any way to get closer, so like any photo-loving traveller, we just snapped away the best we could, trying to be oblivious to the great afternoon sun burning our skin (remember to slap on lots of sunblock!).
So photoshoot with an abandoned plane, checked!
3. Chance upon crashing waves on deserted quiet beaches
As you drive along the coast, along the Denpasar-Gilimanuk road, you’ll find yourselves passing by beautiful coastal areas like this.
Isn’t it such a huge contrast to Kuta beach, where every inch of the sea is covered with surfers? (Not saying that having surfers around is a bad thing though.)
No clutter, no hoards of tourists, just a vast expanse of sea crashing on the sand, and there’s no one around at all!
4. Have a quiet romantic dinner in the jungle
Yes, you can literally dine in the middle of the wilderness.
Nestled in the vast forest of The Menjangan resort, the Bali Tower Restaurant is the place to go if you want some privacy and peace.
The jungle experience is so real, you’ll find yourself in the middle of it before you even get to the restaurant. When we drove into the resort premises at around 7pm, it was pitch dark, and we had to drive our jeep along the dirt roads into the resort (yes there are no proper roads constructed, so you get the full-blown wilderness experience).
So you can imagine – it was so bumpy and we had to travel at 10 km/h because the road and darkness just didn’t allow us to go any faster.
And mind, even though there was a road sign indicating that we were driving into the resort from the outside, we had to go on for a good 10 minutes or so in the middle of the jungle (that made us wonder if we had missed a turn – I mean, how can a resort be in the wilderness right? But yes all the undeveloped land really belongs to the resort and they just want you to get a safari experience).
After 10 minutes, we finally reached a crossroad where there are signs and a security guardhouse, which made us feel more assured that we had been travelling in the right direction.
So you’ll need to make a turn at the crossroads, following directions to the Bali Tower Restaurant.
If you don’t drive, you can call and make a reservation at the restaurant and request for them to pick you up. And you’ll be able to ride this really cool two-storey jeep-bus in, safari-style.
The Bali Tower Restaurant is lighted up prettily like a Christmas tree, and you can dine at whichever level you like, depending on availability.
For lunch and dinner, you can go up to the third storey, while the fourth and fifth storeys are for drinks and dessert only.
So like any other excited traveller, we went up to the top floor to take a look (though the waiter advised us to stay at the second or third storey), and realised why so many guests chose to seat themselves on the lower levels.
It was SUPER WINDY.
So windy that you feel like you’re about to be blown away, no kidding! I mean, south Bali is usually very hot and humid, but west Bali, according to the locals, is usually very very windy and chilly, especially at night.
After 10 minutes on the top floor, we realised that the strong winds were just not going to stop, and it would be extremely difficult to eat and drink anything in comfort, so we gave up and told the waiter sheepishly that we were just going to stay downstairs, on the third storey.
And even on the third storey, where they are blinds to block out part of the wind, it was still considerable windy and chilly too.
I must say the staff were rather attentive, and made sure you were comfortably seated and everything, even though it must be rather difficult for them to keep going up flights of stairs to serve guests as the kitchen is downstairs.
And here’s our dinner!
Their prices are admittedly a little pricey, pretty much what you’d pay at a high-end restaurant in Seminyak, but the food was delicious.
We ordered dessert too!
Overall verdict: Very exotic and different experience of dining in a jungle. We’d be there again the next time we travel to west Bali.
5. Almost like glamping: Staying in luxury in the wilderness
If you love glamping, you’ll love staying at one of these jungle resorts in West Bali.
We spent two nights at Naya Gawana Resort, and loved it. You get a wonderful view from the pool at the lobby area.
Our villa was bright and spacious, and they had such a well-thought-out welcome display on the bed.
It’s about 8 km away (15 minutes’ drive) from The Menjangan, so if you’re thinking of dining at the Bali Tower Restaurant, it’s pretty convenient. The resort is also a rare find, more affordable than The Menjangan – Naya Gawana Resort costs at least USD 60 for a standard bedroom (which is actually a villa of sorts, so it’s very value-for-money).
In fact, in West Bali, it’s very difficult to find affordable stays. Guesthouses are rare, and most resorts or villas cater to the luxury crowd, due to the lack of demand there.
The breakfast buffet at our resort was pretty average, but it was nice lazing near the poolside with some toast, waffles and tea. If you love the sun, you’ll love to sunbathe under the pretty blue skies here.