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 :

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. 

Trip to a Thai floating market 

   
As if the various markets going on all around the city were not enough, decided to check out a real special one. A market on the river.
After a two hours drive from Bangkok we reached this very touristy, but yet so authentic floating market, called Damnoen Saduak floating market.  

The bus drive there is way longer than spending time at the market itself, but it does worth the travel. More or less in an organized way – Thai standards – the tour guide directs us first of all to the long tail boat and in each boat board aprox 6 people. Off we go! Not more, maybe just less than 10 minutes of long tail boat ride and we had a sneak peak of the market. But that’s not all. 

   
   
Those people put out all their products to be sold and they definitely know to advertise them. In order to have a close look and literally float between “boat boutiques” we take this time a regular boat that a strong Thai gentleman is rowing around trying to avoid the boat traffic. 

  
That’s nearly impossible though, all the others trying to do the same thing. Boats everywhere, we are being pushed either from the right or from the left ,but also from front and back and our boat does the same thing to the others . Perfect location for socializing with people from the other boats. 

  
As soon as we get close to a boat full of souvenirs the seller quickly pulls the boat closer and the bargain starts. 

  
Seller: “1000 baht for 2 wooden elephants.”

Tourist: ” whaat? 400!”

Seller: ” 500″

Tourist: “350.”

Seller: ” ok”

And that’s how my friend, Jonas ended up buying his souvenirs for much much less than the initial price. Basically they accept any price you offer as long as you don’t give up on bargaining. When you give the impression that you are losing the interest they will accept your price instantly. 

The floating market is going on all day long, 7 days out of 7 and if you haven’t found what you’ve been looking for on the boats, there’s a chance to find it on the riverside. 

From clothes to souvenirs, the selection is vague. 

   
 You can easily empty your wallet, but fill your stomach. Food is present in several locations, great cooked meals or easy snacks and fruit salads, mango or coconut ice cream and my favorite of all: pancakes. 

   
 There is also an unusual attraction that I got the chance to meet from close and despite his scary behaviour , I enjoyed posing with the massive snake.

   
  
 Shopping, eating, snake cuddling, all possible at the floating market! Don’t forget sunscreen and hat, the sun is burning over there! But if you did forget, for sure you’ll find at the market! One rule: bargain rules!

Singaporean layover – excellent choice

When you are on your way to the charming Aussie summer, escaping the cold European winter, along the way you may end up enjoying the Singaporean stop over. I can only recommend it!Singapore looks appealing already from the window of the landing airplane you’ve been staying in for many many hours.
   
   

Finally taking off the last piece of winter clothing you have on and starting your summer vacation in the middle of December is epic. Singapore is warm and humid already in the early hours of the day, but that’s just a good reason to directly jump in one of the most famous swimming pools in the world. Not only the water is refreshing, but also the view is a buzz that will lift your energy up.

   
   

I’m talking about the Infinity pool, located on the 57th floor of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands hotel, where a room per night starts at the ” modest” rate of $400 and can reach the stars. Theoretically only the guests of the hotel can benefit of the pool, in reality if you are lucky and know who to talk to, you can find your way to the big attraction completely costless. I can consider myself fortunate in this case, because I wasn’t willing to pay insane amounts for such a treatment, yet still I was spoiling myself at this cool spot just like that, free! 

   
   
After some chill time, ready to explore the city that from above looks so interesting and diverse.

Singapore won’t disappoint anyone that appreciates quality, safety and clean surroundings. I would call it the Switzerland of Asia. It is indeed clean, safe, public transport is good and people respectful. A lot of nature at every step and no need to travel long from a spot to another.

Marina Bay Gardens is absolutely impressive, with a huge variety of vegetation and a cute Christmassy atmosphere.
  
   
    
    
   
  
Whether it comes to shopping or eating , Singapore is a good place for both. You can find from very cheap to very expensive, but in both cases you will not be disappointed. Though some areas are super cheap for eating out, it’s very safe for your stomach, I’ve tried and licked all my ten fingers a few times. Asian food is amazing and hospitality is their number one quality!
In my 15 hours layover I truly felt at the end of the day that I did explore the city and felt like I’ve spent at least a few days. 
    
   
    
   
I arrived to Singapore tired after a long flight, left Singapore refreshed to continue with another long flight, but in between I had a big smile on my face and nothing else matters…