Munduk and around – Bali travel tips

I’ve never heard of the little village of Munduk before my travel to Bali, but people that have been there described it as peaceful, mountainous and pretty. I thought it does worth a try, so spontaneously hopped on a shuttle bus in Ubud, direction Munduk. The ticket cost me a modest 150K IDR and the journey took three hours. The drive to Munduk is in particular scenic, passing next to rice fields, lake and the mountains. The road is almost the whole way very curvy, I’ve been warned by a fellow traveler that I may get sick, but that didn’t happen, I was just enjoying the panorama.
When the driver suddenly pulled over and claimed we’ve reached central Munduk, I was looking with disbelief though because that didn’t look like a center at all, unless the center consist just of a restaurant on the side of the road. It was just me and another traveler, the rest of the passengers continuing their way further north. We got off and looked around, nodding towards each other that it’s impossible to be right in the center of Munduk and there’s nothing around. Luckily her internet reception was working, cause mine refused loading, this way we figured we’ve got more than 1 km to walk to actually reach the village and our accomodations. With our backpacks on ( cherishing the fact that I travel light ) and a few bad words told, we started rolling ( not literally ) downhill for the next few minutes until eventually reached the actual center of Munduk. According to the locals the shuttle bus normally drops people on the top of the hill, which is still bizarre because it’d really take just some extra minutes drive to the village itself. 
However, the mountainous setting is gorgeous and very peaceful, gives you the feeling that you’ve just traveled back in time. 
In any direction you look there’s the stunning Mother Nature smiling back at you.


Not only nature is beautiful, the locals are in particular nice people. It was enough to walk once from one end of the village to the other and locals were already calling me by my name, but they have never heard of the existence of my country. Once in Munduk don’t forget to:

Indulge in delicious local food 

As small of a village that Munduk is, it still offers numerous restaurants with spectacular views. 
Warung Classic has been my absolute favorite for the amazing food and the best spot to watch sunset and Warung Dong Paloh for the super delicious breakfast and the signature Balinese black rice porridge .

Take a dip in the gorgeous waterfalls 

I could rave about the great food, but it’s not just food that I’ve been so enthusiastic about, it’s also waterfalls. Yes, the Munduk area is probably the best in Bali when it comes to ticking off the list the most spectacular waterfalls. Walkable distance from the village center, there are three of them: The middle falls, Melanting and Red Coral. Each of them require a visiting fee of 10 -20 K IDR. I made it only to Red Coral waterfall and I was more than delighted with the scene, but I’ll let the picture speak for itself.


A short drive from Munduk, followed by a little steep but enjoyable hike, nestled in the lush forest, it’s the spectacular Banyumala Falls or simply Twin Waterfalls if the Indonesian name sounds too complicated. An absolute must visit, Banyumala is gorgeous and so refreshing. The best time to go is early morning, before the crowds invade it. I got there around 8:30 amand no other soul was there, except my two travel buddies for the day, but one hour later, when we were leaving there were already people coming. The entry fee is 30K IDR and it includes a small bottle of water, which comes handy considering the hike. Regardless, carry plenty of water with you wherever you go, it’s hot and humid at any time of the day and night in Bali. 

Visit temples and lakes

Lake Bratan, with its famous Beratan Lake Temple is located near the town of Begudul, less than an hour drive from Munduk. It’s the second largest lake in Bali and rated by Huffington Post as one of the 20 most beautiful lakes in the world. Tourists from all over the world visit this place, the temple being the icon of Indonesia. It’s certainly beautiful, but since it’s so extremely touristy it doesn’t represent anymore such a strong cultural and religious meaning.

If most people visit the popular Beratan Lake Temple, the hidden gems hunters go trekking through the jungle and canoe over the lake to find the less famous version of it.
Lake Tambligan Temple is situated beside Buyan Lake and although you can drive there from one side, it’s way more interesting, challenging and satisfying to sign up for a two hours jungle trekking adventure.
The cost of the trekking with an English speaking local guide is 275K IDR and it does worth every penny. First things first, our guide, Gudi ( I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong spelling ) handed each of us a bamboo trekking stick and we started venturing into the rain forest, following carefully his passionate explanation about the trees that we were seeing.

Along the way, in the middle of the jungle we stopped at a little temple, which he educated us about, mentioning that locals trek there on a daily basis to do the traditional offerings ritual. Quite an effort of them to do that daily?!


Gudi told us also about the previous years floodings and many more interesting information that kept us interested while following the trail. Time passed quickly and we weren’t even tired when we reached the lake and have been invited on the canoe, where we didn’t even have to paddle. Crossing the lake in the canoe has been relaxing and filled with beautiful mountain views. The temple is quite unique and the whole trekking and canoeing experience just adds to it.

Get your photo taken at Handara Bali Gates

Heading to the Begudul area it’s impossible to miss the famous picturesque gates that are all over social media. It’s actually the entry to a golf course and resort and in no time became so popular, that now they even charge 30K IDR for a 10 minutes photo session in front of them and the receipt you get is called  Selfie ticket. Hahaha!  Been there, done that…

Relax in Bali Botanic Garden

It provides a great escape to enjoy the cool temperatures under a tree and get familiar with the rare tropical plants and wildlife in their natural habitat. Ideal for any age, the gardens offer a vast variety of activities and families, including accomodation or treetop adventure park. 

Wake up for the sunrise 

Munduk is great not only for sunset, but sunrise is spectacular too. The early hours of the day are being announced by the roosters ( which annoyed me most times ),  I didn’t need to set an alarm, but after I dragged myself out of the bed I was in fact grateful to the noisy creatures.  Needless to say that the hardworking locals were not even close being as sleepy as I was, it looked like they were going full power already at not even 6 am. 

I’m sure there’s much more to do in and around Munduk, but I’m afraid my only three days there allowed me to do just the above mentioned ones. It’s been one of my favorite parts of Bali though, lots of memories made, nice people met and beautiful places visited. Sadly, during the hikes I did around there I’ve seen a lot of trash left behind, which seems to be a general issue in Indonesia. On that note, I’d like to add a reminder: while traveling please, please :

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Padangbai and it’s hidden gems

Most people use the little coastal town just as a transit from Bali to the Gili Islands or Lombok, without knowing that Padangbai has more than that to offer. 
I spent not just one, but two days there, indulging in finger licking delicious and ridiculously cheap local food and sunbathing on the nicest beach I encountered during my Bali trip. 
Everything is within maximum 15 minutes walking distance, but for those that prefer the two wheels, of course renting a scooter is easy to arrange.
Not a fascinating place at first, but when you reach the white sand beach, you surely have a different opinion.
Bias Tugel or White Beach or Secret Beach, as locals like to call it, is easy to reach, although it requires a light hike, hence advisable to wear sneakers. I wasn’t having the best of the time in my flip-flops, but no major difficulties occurred either.

The way is pretty straightforward, the trail is easy to follow, what’s slightly confusing is that the few signs indicating the beach is 300 m away appear all along the way and the number doesn’t change. It’s like you walk and walk but there’s still 300 m to go?! Anyways…
It’s a small, but serene beach, which happened to be quiet and most importantly clean!

Sadly, most of the beaches I’ve seen in Bali were not left without trash, so I was delighted to have found one where the sand is soft, the water blue and clear and no leftover plastic bottles and such. The few little restaurants by the beach offer not only food and drinks, but also beach beds and relaxing music for the perfect ambiance. 
Locals proudly let me know that it’s not only Bias Tugel that they’ve got, I should check out also Blue Lagoon. With such an inviting name and after such a positive surprise with the white sand beach, of course my next stop later that day was Blue Lagoon. And there dropped my enthusiasm … Basically the exact opposite of the first one, this beach is dirty and I certainly didn’t feel any desire of even stepping into the water because the plastic bottles were floating even there. It’s meant to be a good snorkeling spot, I can just hope that people will stop leaving their rubbish behind. I literally spent 10 minutes at Blue Lagoon and struggled to avoid the trash while snapping a few shots.


There’s a nice looking restaurant overlooking the water though and the walk from the town to the lagoon is enjoyable, but at this time I’d suggest going there with no high expectations.
Other than that, Padangbai is relaxed and friendly, locals are very eager to invite you to try their food at the warungs. My favorite eating place has been Padangbai Billabong, which is on the way to the lagoon. The food is fresh, well prepared and service is great.
I also noticed that fastboat tickets from Padangbai to the Gilis or Lombok are sold at half price than in Amed, although the distance is longer. 
Thumbs down: everything  seems to be moving in a slow rhytm in Padangbai, which is not such an issue in general, but nobody seems to be respecting any sort of schedule when it comes to transportation. I’m literally waiting for a shuttle bus for more than an hour and no sign of it as of yet. 

Iconic Bondi – Sydney

Sydney’s most famous and certainly the busiest as well beach, Bondi for sure rings a bell even for those that didn’t get the chance yet to visit it. The iconic beach attracts many people surprisingly even in winter. Winter at this part of the world is mild though, today in a pleasant 18 degrees sunny day I was lying on the beach, reading a book, while a few brave ones were taking a dip in the ocean.

Just recently Bondi hosted a typical winter activity location, an ice rink, where both young and older could enjoy some fun on the ice with ocean views. That’s probably the closest you can get to winter here.

Nothing to complain about, especially when you’ve got the amazing coast line to explore.

On a day like today, when it’s warm and sunny, but not too hot, coastal walks are the ideal weekend activities that keep you in shape.

The stretch from Bondi to Coogee is easy and starts right from the beach, passing Bondi Icebergs and going all the way along the coast.

Very relaxing, on one side with the waves hitting the rocks and above us the beautiful blue sky, amazing combination of what in my terms means perfection.

Along the way you’ll see plenty of interesting and picturesque stone formations that look great in photos.

Also, a few small beaches, such as Tamarama or Bronte, where there are barbecue opportunities and always good vibe.

Lots of people take their dogs on this walk as it’s a very pet friendly environment and I’m sure the dogs enjoy the walk as much as their owners.

As Australia seems to be encouraging a lot sport and fitness in general, this part of the city is in particular a great example of that. Everywhere around Bondi and the sea in general, there are always many super fit people doing their work out, run, stretch or yoga. While on our coastal walk we’ve been taken over so many times by runners that just casually jog from one beach to the other on a regular Sunday afternoon.

The walk goes through a cemetery as well and between the graves you still have the magnificent view of the ocean. One way takes usually just over an hour in a normal rhytm with occasional stops for drinking water or taking pictures. Whether you opt for one way or return, in either cases there’s public transport available.

It does worth it sticking to the area until sunset for having the chance of looking at the ocean on a different light, that is quite pretty and relaxing.

The atmosphere becomes quiet and romantic as the night falls and the waves sound much louder but in the same time more calming. In the distance the city’s light start turning on and the darkness begins to take over slowly. It’s handy to have a light jacket because it gets windy and chilly very quickly, as soon as the sun sets.

The return walk took almost 3 hours and at return  the night lights welcomed us back to reality: busy, noisy and always fun Bondi.

First paragliding experience in Flüelen – Switzerland

I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky … – and if you don’t believe probably you shouldn’t sign up from the very beginning for such an adventure. Paragliding – as exciting as it seems, I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s an adventure sport and either you want to make it a once in a lifetime event or practice it on a professional level – it sure requires some guts to do it. Considering that it’s been for ages on my to do list and theoretically I could have done it anytime in the past, I would say that you will just feel when you are really ready to do it. Really ready it’s relative though,  before take off your pilot will ask you: ” are you ready” and of course you will be completely lost and won’t have any idea wether you are ready or not, but about that a bit later on.

As a person who likes to share strong emotions and experiences with someone who is on the same page with me, in a rather unusual setting I met the right person. She’s Kaola, the girl I called a couple of times koala – I’m pretty sure you can understand why, don’t you? – and after a few emails and phone calls with our paragliding professional, Marcel, we were all set up for our first ever paragliding event.

  
The excitement before the flight was as big as during and after. Exchanging a few lines with Marcel the previous day was totally helpful, he is easy to talk to, funny and positive, so I was sure to fly with him, feeling somehow a specific trust level. Kaola was going to fly with Phillip, who is the other half of our paragliding team. The preparation takes around 10 minutes, during this time we joke around and take pictures, put the harness on and check a couple of times if we are well tied to our pilots. 

   
 Marcel explains the easy steps the passenger must follow and from there on we rely on the force of nature, in this case the wind. Lucky us, cause Mr Wind starts to blow gently so when I hear: “Run!”, the good listener I am, I do exactly that. From then on it’s: Wow! In a few seconds we are up in the air, above the trees, the streets,the lake, the people, above the world. You don’t even have time to be scared, you are too busy enjoying the view and experiencing this unique feeling. To be honest, actually you really don’t have any reason to fear. The seat is comfy and the flight smooth, the view absolutely breathtaking and such a relaxing silence that I wish I could float for hours up there. 

   
   
I took the chance of interviewing Marcel up in the air while he was flying me around and found out that besides the hobby of flying, it’s also his full time job, taking aprox 5-6 flights/day. The whole equipment weights aprox 25 kg and during the way more than 10 years experience he has, he just suffered minor injuries, managing to bring  all his passengers to the ground in one piece and fully satisfied.

  
Me: How did you discover your passion for flying?

Marcel: Exactly like you ( laughing ). Took a tandem flight and loved it, so I continued and now it’s my living.

Me: Which was your most memorable flight?

Marcel: I did many great flights in various locations around Switzerland and not only. The first flight for sure it’s memorable, but not necessarily the best one. I did a flight once in Brazil that lasted 12 hours. I covered a few hundred km. That was amazing!

Me: Wow! ( completely overwhelmed) How did you manage with the basic needs for so long? And I assume it must be tiring too…

Marcel: Eating and drinking is not an issue, I can carry the products and eat, drink without any problems up in the air. Toilet can be an issue though… At the end of the day I am tired, yes.

Me: I read online that there’s no age limit for the passengers. Is that so? Did you have any extremes?

Marcel: Just a week ago I flew  with a 5 years old kid and my oldest passenger was 81. 

Me: Could you imagine yourself doing something else for a living? What could determine you to give up flying?

Marcel: I could  never give up flying!  ( very, very firm) I could imagine working something else, of course, and I sometimes think that yes, I do this now but what will happen let’s say when I’m 50 and maybe can’t do it anymore, what’s next? But I definitely wouldn’t want to give up flying!

  

During the discussion I was looking down at the mesmerizing landscape and under me the everyday life was having it’s own rhytm, the cars where going on the streets and it looked like the pieces of a moving puzzle which I could almost touch and rearrange the way I wanted. The wind was blowing us, we took turns, we were gliding and I was even managing the direction at some point, which for sure wouldn’t be a smart idea for more than 2 minutes. The landing is a whole adventure itself. A roller coaster kind of sensation with turns one after the other with a great speed in a spiral down until you nearly reach the ground. After a little more run and that’s what I call landed succesfully!

Belgium in 6 days

Belgian beer and chocolate attract for sure many tourists from all around the world. Most of them land in the capital and unfortunately many don’t make their way out of it to the less well know towns. Belgium is not just about Brussels! Just a 20 minutes train ride from the airport and we are in:

Leuven
This cute university town is my first stop in my Belgian backpacking trip. On a Sunday it’s very quiet and relaxed,but I don’t mind as the weather is nice and I can soak up the sun in the Botanical Garden of Leuven next to a Belgian beer.

  
Leuven is a university town and you can notice this while walking around and seeing at every corner the bars and restaurants advertising their special student menus at low,student prices. Though no student on a Sunday! “The city is empty of students during weekend” – locals say – ” here,in Belgium students still like to go home for the weekend and spend time with their parents.” Nice of them I would say… I have to just imagine how crowded it gets during the week and the now almost empty Oude Markt probably is murmuring.

  
I can still notice some movement around the city hall: a huge group of elderly tourists posing with the beautiful landmark. Conclusion: Edit come back on a weekday if you want to see the other face of Leuven!

  
Brugge

Before going to Brugge I watched the movie In Brugge and the town is so small that I didn’t need any direction to find the places presented in the movie. It’s loaded with tourists facing their cameras in every direction, because in every direction there is something pretty. Brugge, although is very touristy, was my second favorite town in Belgium. With it’s canals and those eye catching medieval architecture, Brugge steals your heart in an instant. 

 Walking around Brugge is more than relaxing, it’s a real cuddle to the soul and also a perfect ambiance to endulge in the delicious variety of Belgian chocolates. You can find any shape and flavor you desire, just at a hand stretch towards the chocolate and of course your wallet.
 
Ghent

From the second favorite I made my way to the first favorite. Ghent has the perfect vibe, the friendliest Belgians, the funniest Monday night out and I bet that many other – est-s. I didn’t expect so much from this town, I’m sure that also the company made a difference, but man,I really liked this place! You actually have the impression that you are wandering around a big city ’cause it’s active and full of energy. If you ask me to describe Ghent in one word, I’ll just say: alive. Let me add also: divers. It has chill riverside, busy shopping street, medieval castle, artistic grafitti and my super awesome friend, Cindy. 
   
 

+ 10 for Ghent!

Antwerp

Biking in Belgium is a pretty popular way of getting around and Antwerp is a good place to do so. It’s a rather small town but with fairly enough to offer and a gorgeous train station.

   
  

 

You would think that the pics above are from a cathedral,right? Well, that’s the main station in Antwerp. It’s ranked as the worlds most beautiful train station and no doubts about that.  

Not only the train station is beautiful in Antwerp. The city hall and various buildings in the central area worth checking out too.

   
  

 

We are in the country of beer, so let’s pay a bit of attention to this detail and find out that Belgium has more than 375 types of beer. Basically you can treat yourself for a whole year every day with a different kind of beer and that still leaves  you for New Year’s Eve with at least another 10 different flavores to try out. Cool, no?

  
Brussels

Arriving to the capital might sound exciting, but in fact it isn’t. For me Brussels was rather disappointing and from far not the prettiest place in Belgium. Such a pity that many tourists visit Brussels only and miss so much by not checking out the others.

However, Brussels is a city as any other capital, with it’s multicultural mix and the best waffles in the world. 

Grand Place is not as grande ( = big) , but not too bad for hanging out , there are many shops, restaurants, bars and waffle vendors closeby. 

  
Mmmm, did I tell you that in Brussels you have the best waffles in the world? Right, I did, but it’s hard to focus when you remember that taste. Don’t – and I mean DON’T – skip that! Waffles are a must! 

Ok,getting back to Grand Place – which is still not as exciting as waffles – it’s nice to walk around and make your way to the famous Mannekin Pis.

 
Of course, Atomium is nice to see, there’s also a cute park next to it with lots of rabbits jumping around freely in the grass.

   

 And you can admire the beautiful flowers all over, but after that rush out of Brussels and discover the real beauty of Belgium. In less than an hour train ride you reach:

Liège

Laidback, small town, perfect for a daytrip from Brussels. Besides the center there’s not much to see or do, but it’s great for a day when the motto is : “take it easy “. 

 For church lovers there are a few to check out, as I had enough time I walked in a few and were quite nice, all just a few steps from each other.

The Liège Guillemins train station is another masterpiece Belgians are proud of, being also in the top 12 most beautiful train stations in the world.

 
  


In order to put an original print on the whole trip I ended it in a Romanian restaurant in Liège. No matter where I am, for me the best food still comes from home, so I’m sorry Belgium, you might have the best beer and waffles and fries, but my yummi ciorba de perisoare doesn’t have any comparison grade. Though it’s not much appreciated by locals, says the restaurant owner.