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On taking the less-beaten paths

ATUH BEACH

Atuh Beach is located on Nusa Penida – one of three satellite islands of Bali – so you’ll have to take a speed boat ride from Sanur harbour. Although Nusa Penida is by far the biggest compared to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, it’s also the most barren, and the sparsest in terms of population and development. While Lembongan and Ceningan see moderately lavish villasand budget accommodation alike, I didn’t stumble on any during my visit to Penida. While there are some homestays, the best way to enjoy Penida is to camp on one of its relatively untouched beaches. I did.

how to get there
Like I said, Penida is big but sparse, so you’ll find yourself driving for miles on the rocky roads before coming across a village, and it might be hard to locate Atuh Beach yourself. It’s best if you visit the island with someone who knows their way around. I suggest you contact one of the stellar tour operators
in Bali, NEWBali (newbali.info), known for their off-the-beaten-track trips. If you want the less costly (and more spontaneous) alternative, you can always show up on Penida and befriend a friendly local in the hopes of getting a guide or tips on the spot.

what to see
From the hill above Atuh Beach you can see how the vicinity majestically boasts immense rock formations emerging from the ocean; one of them is uniquely shaped like a pyramid. This is the Instagram-worthy spot. Atuh Beach itself is secluded white sand haven, where you can camp with the locals, build a bonfire, and just bask in the feel of having your own private sanctuary.


prepare

  • The last time I checked, NEWBali’s Penida camping trip cost US$149 per person, but the team guarantees you get from one point to another.
  • Comfortable hiking sandals or shoes. The track to reach Atuh Beach is not difficult, but you’ll have to go down (and back up) on steep stone stairs that can wear out anyone who’s not outdoors-savvy.
  • Swimsuit and sunscreen.
  • All the personal necessities if you’re going to camp.

BEJI GUWANG HIDDEN CANYON

Slightly out of Ubud, Sukawati is known for its traditional market, to which tourists have been flocking over the years. When I was still a student living in Jakarta, school field trips to Bali seemed to involve going souvenir-shopping at this market. I can’t understand why the market is one of the “mandatory” destinations, considering most of the sellers can be really pushy and drive really hard bargains. Because of that, I had steered clear of Sukawati…..Until I learned about Beji Guwang hidden canyon, that is.

how to get there
All you have to do is look for Pura Dalem Guwang temple in Sukawati, and right next to it you’ll find the entrance to the hidden canyon. To make things easy, you can just open the Google Maps application on your phone and type “Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang”, and follow the directions. Once you’re there, however, you’ll find a little post with locals offering their guiding service. I suggest you take it.

what to see
Cave-like canyons with dramatic curves and edges on the sides of Guwang River – someshaped like skulls, see if you can spot them. To reach the most breathtaking spots along the canyons is not actually a walk in the park, as you have to tread through the shallow water, and climb some rocks. However it’s not rocket science either, I could do it, so you can do it. The guide also proved to be very helpful , especially on the slippery slopes.


prepare

  • Google Maps application.
  • You will need to pay Rp.10,000 per person to enter the area, and afterwards you can pay the guide whatever amount you feel necessary.
  • Anti-slippery, waterproof hiking sandals. I didn’t have any so I ended up taking off my shoes and went barefoot. While it wasn’t a problem for me, some might find it hard because you have to go across slippery stones and sharp pebbles.

BIAS TUGEL


Padang Bai is a small area in the eastern side of Bali that is known for its port. People usually go up to Padang Bai to catch ferry to Lombok. What most people overlook, however, is the fact that Padang Bai houses some of the serene, white sand beaches on the island. A few years back, Padang Bai started to get noticed more for its Blue Lagoon Beach (or Bloo Lagoon, like the namesake accommodation located there).


how to get there
Drive up to Padang Bai sea port direction, but instead of entering the port area, you take a right turn and just follow the road. When you come across a road with high walls on both sides, it means you’re on the right track. The road ends with a Bias Tugel gate where you park your vehicle (parking can be tricky). After you pay the “donation” at the gate, you can go down through stone stairs before continuing to a more natural path (imagine dirt, tree branches, tall grass) that leads to the beach. This natural path is an easy one, so don’t fret.


what to see
The beach isn’t that much of a virgin, considering there were a number of people on it when I found it. In comparison to Kuta or Pandawa Beach, however, Bias Tugel is a pretty nice getaway. The sand is white, the water is crystal azure, the coconuts are in abundance; you can just lose track of time here. Once in a while the ferry from the next-door port passes by, reminding you of the world outside Bias Tugel. There’s also a natural lagoon on the rock formation at the closer end of the beach.


prepare

  • Google Maps application. Bias Tugel Beach is actually listed on the application, although the directions might mislead you by several metres, so be prepared to ask around.
  • Swimsuit and sunscreen.
  • Some money to enjoy the coconut water and some comfort food at the warung on the beach.
  • Some spare time to discover more secluded beaches nearby.

 

GEMITIR GARDEN

Gemitir (also known as gumitir or mitir) is probably known everywhere else in the world as the Mexican marigold. In Bali this flower species is practically the unofficial regional flower of the island. See, gemitir is essential in Hindu culture and ceremonies, that’s why it’s only natural to see baskets and baskets of the yellow petals in traditional markets all around Bali. While it’s still awesome to see the stacks of picked
gemitir, it’s so much better to see them in their natural habitat.

how to get there
I made the mistake of persisting to go to Bali Gemitir (baligemitir. com) – a gemitir breeding centre up in Banjar Mayungan in Tabanan. The road to Bali Gemitir is long and winding. Google Maps showed two ways – a short and a long one. Again, I made the mistake of opting for the shorter one. It was rocky and muddy, and regular cars are not advised to go through (my car got stuck in the mud, so yeah). After I managed to get out of there, I took the longer road only to find that the breeding centre flowers were not in bloom. My persistence made me overlook all the smaller gemitir fields owned by local farmers that were in bloom. I did come back to those, and one of my favourite is located near the old, unused, and said-to-be-haunted Pondok Indah Bedugul Hotel. From down south, there’s a steep right turn just before the hotel; you can take this road and find pretty gemitir fields here and there.

What to see
A wide spread of beautiful gemitir, which I think don’t get enough recognition. If The Netherlands has their tulips, and Japan has their tourist-studded cherry blossoms, then we have this gem that is as bright as the sun.

Prepare

  • Money to spend on famous Bedugul strawberries
  • Snacks and drinks as the tirp is quiet far up
  • Money to spend on the food and beverage joints around the neighbourhood
  • A car that is off-road ready.
  • To wake up early. Bedugul area tends to get cloudy and misty after 12pm, so the best time to enjoy the area is early in the morning

GUYANGAN NATURAL POOL


Here’s another gem from dry Nusa Penida: a spot so unbelievably jaw-dropping, I kind of hesitated to share this here. As someone who hasn’t mastered Penida yet, I have to let you know that unlike the other places on the list, this one isn’t on Google Maps, therefore I advise you get a guide to get here.


How to get there
I remember it took 45-minute rocky and winding drive from the harbour of Penida to the parking lot of Guyangan. Once you arrive, you have to take another 20 (or 30 for slowpokes like me) minutes to go down the manmade wooden steps to reach the natural pool. These steps are perched on the cliff wall, where you can already see the unrivalled view of the sea below. Some of the steps are very narrow, while the gaps between them can be too wide for my liking, so do be careful!


what to see
After climbing down these blue-painted steps, you’ll find a small temple right next to a tiny natural plunge pool. Take a dip, bask in the divinely splendid surroundings of where you are. If you still have the energy, do roam a bit further, climb down more natural rocky steps to another natural pool and a small tiered waterfall in a sheltered cave.


prepare

  • Swimsuit, obviously.
  • Some energy to climb down and up the steps.
  • Enough water to rehydrate.

KANTO LAMPO WATERFALL


Compared to the beaches and the rice paddies, Bali’s waterfalls are often overlooked – which I think is such a shame. Here we have the hidden Tegunungan Waterfall, the mesmerizing Aling Aling and gitgit waterfalls, and of course the majestic and elusive Sekumpul Waterfalls. Then there’s the slightly under-the radar Kanto Lampo.


how to get there
Located in Beng Village in Gianyar, the area is not exactly a hot spot on the map. However, thanks to Google Maps, all you have to do is type “Waterfall Kanto Lampo” in and voilà, you’re there. Parking is not an issue, and walking down to get a full view of the waterfall is easy too. All you have to do is climb down the eight-metre rocky cliff (they have a safe railing, so you can hold on to that; piece of cake).


what to see
While Kanto Lampo is not the biggest, nor the tallest or the most mind-blowing, it’s still unique in its own right. The water flows through multi-tiered rocky steps, which makes it visually more abstract and festive. The water is shallow, but it’s clear and cool enough to swim in.


prepare

  • Google Maps
  • Rp. 5,000 per person to enter the waterfall area.
  • Change of clothes, just in case you decide to get wetter than planned.

 

THOMAS BEACH


Out of all the spots in this list, this last one is probably the closest and easiest. It’s not in some unheard-of village, or some cave two hours away; it’s up in Uluwatu. And don’t worry, it’s not Padang Padang – which has been skilfully ruined by Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” fame.


how to get there
Go to the direction of Padang Padang, but keep going for about 1.5 kilometres after you see Padang Padang. Keep an eye on the signage of Thomas homestay on the right side, turn right, and follow the road. After you park your car or motorcycle, scan the place for two sets of stairs leading to the beach. I suggest the left one, because when I first went there and took the right set of stairs, I actually got yelled at by an old local man, slurring about how I – as an Indonesian – shouldn’t be coming here, as opposed to “bule”, as he said.Oh well, I should’ve known from the Caucasian-sounding name that I would run into this kind of bule-only treatment. No big deal, I went down anyway.


what to see
This stretch of beach is definitely longer, cleaner, and more beautiful than the neighbouring Padang Padang. I don’t know why it’s not more popular. Nothing to see here but uniquely-shaped rocks, endless ocean vista, and infinite happiness; take my words for it.


Prepare
Swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses
A book to help you lose track of time

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