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Bali in Green

bali green travel

Is it just me or do we live in a bright, vibrant, colorful world?

I’ve written before about how in tune I am to the color of certain places I visit, and Bali was no exception. Oftentimes when I return home from a trip, I remember places by the colors they exude.

Now that I am settled back home in Wanaka, when I think about Bali, and especially when I look back at my photos, all I see is green, green, green.

bali green travel

bali green travel

When I was planning my trip there (and by planning, I mean Googling dive sites for an hour and rewatching Eat, Pray, Love) it never really occurred to me that it would be such a green place.

I pictured beaches, reefs and Javier Bardem on a motorbike, not a verdant jungle.

I love being surprised on the road!

bali green travel

But perhaps what I liked the most about Bali that while it is full of rainbow colors everywhere, it’s not ostentatiously green. In many places you have to look for it, but it’s there.

When I think back on Bali now, I remember the sounds of chickens waking me up in the morning, the smells of incense left out as offerings and the hot dry summer scents of an island, but I also remember the colors, especially green.

So here’s a little impromptu color guide to Bali in green.

bali green travel

bali green travel

1. Being tricked at the Monkey Temple in Ubud

Even though I spent the majority of my time in Bali on the beaches or on a boat on various dive trips, I felt like a trip to this magical island would be incomplete without visiting Ubud. Everyone raved to me about what a cool place it is, a great hub for expats and the cultural capital of modern Bali so I was very keen to get to spend a few days there at the end of my trip.

And as soon as I heard there was a place called the Monkey Forest, I was sold! Monkeys are cute little animals right? I couldn’t wait to get there to see them up close and personal! Maybe I would get to hold a baby monkey or get a funny selfie with one!

Shame, shame, shame, Liz! Oh how naive I was!

bali green travel

Little did I realize that monkeys are terrible creatures and not to be loved.

They are smelly, and they are certainly not cute, especially when they bare their fangs at you. They are basically banana loving thugs that will steal the scarf off your neck and bite you if you get too close. Oh and they *might* have rabies, which I am way too cheap to vaccinate myself against. What joy!

And don’t let the babies fool you either, they are just as nasty!

bali green travel

bali green travel

bali green travel

But besides that startling revelation, the Monkey Forest was actually a cool site in and of itself.

Meeting up with a reader and former auxiliar English teacher in Spain (like me) we met up for the first time at the Monkey Temple and spent the day together.

Ubud in general is a very green space, where lush rice paddies rub shoulders with vine covered tropical trees straight out from a Tarzan movie with cafes, restaurants and cool buildings tucked in between. The Monkey Forest is also exceptionally beautiful, even with an overpopulation of devil monkeys.

Flipside!

bali green travel

bali green travel

bali green travel

There are some beautiful stoneworks interspersed among the vines and forest, and it’s a very peaceful place and I could see myself reading a book there one afternoon or just lounging under the trees, if there weren’t any monkeys of course.

Even as we were leaving I felt like we were being chased by the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz.

Verdict? I feel like the monkeys tricked me. On the outside they should be cute furry little creatures but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. All in all, the Monkey Forest is stunning but be warned of the little tricksters.

bali green travel

2. Chasing the sunset through some rice paddies

When I envisioned my trip to Bali, it didn’t occur to me that there would be rice paddies there. I thought that was more in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia.

I organized a driver to take me from Pemuteran to Ubud to finish out my trip – hiring drivers is the easiest and most comfortable way to get around Bali.

Considering how far they will take you, it’s usually a pretty good deal. I was very exhausted and just keen to get on the road when my driver pulled the whole “for special price I make you a beautiful tour of Bali” scheme with me on our way to Ubud.

bali green travel

bali green travel

bali green travel

At first I was like, not interested, pass, go away, but he managed to sell it to me, especially when he mentioned the rice paddies.

Considering how little touristic activities I had done so far, I figured since we were driving so far anyways and it was only another $15, why not. So for an entire day and less than $50, I had a private car take me to all of the beautiful spots between the north of Bali and Ubud.

For me that was a pretty good deal.

bali green travel

bali green travel

The sun was starting to set by the time we entered the area of rice paddies, and all of the workers, some in the iconic pyramid hats were on their way home.

It was one of those hot tropical sunsets where the sky was white, not blue and the clouds turned a pale pink before getting darker and darker.

We had the rice paddies to ourselves, walking around and looking for reflections and beautiful angles just as the humid air started to cool down. The rice and plants around the fields are bright green, not a dark forest green like other places or the dirty green color you get in all of the towns, but clean and sparkling green.

Sometimes it pays off to be open-minded about these kinds of things.

bali green travel

3. Coffee Diaries goes to a temple in Ubud

One thing I found surprising about Bali was how genuine and friendly the people are. In a country that is so heavily populated with tourists, I was expecting to get hassled and hustled at every opportunity. And while that attitude does exist to a certain extent, it’s by no means pervasive.

Bali is still welcoming with open arms.

On my last day in Bali I forced myself to get up early in the hopes of catching the sunrise and to get to explore a bit of Ubud without the traffic and hustle and bustle that comes as the day grows on. While I was too late for a sunrise, it was still early enough that everyone was still asleep and there wasn’t a scooter in site and the shops and cafes had yet to open.

I made myself a Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew Italian Roast to take with me as I walked around, and to wake myself up.

bali green travel

bali green travel

bali green travel

I followed my footsteps from the night before back to an incredibly beautiful temple in town, surrounded by water lilies.

Here I met an old man named Wayan. He came up to me when I was staring at the temple near my homestay, contemplating taking some photos.

“I understand, this place is very beautiful, he told me.”

I had walked by the temple the evening before, it looked like a place where they do dance shows and it was overrun with tourists, but in the early morning it was peaceful and quiet and blessedly empty.

Looking back I realize it’s quite a famous spot, the Pura Taman Saraswati, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

bali green travel

bali green travel

bali green travel

At this point I was still confused a bit about Balinese temples and the religious culture in general (well, let’s be honest, I am still pretty confused) and I was curious to know more. Wayan was one of those people who doesn’t even really need to be prompted with a question before he volunteers far more information than you could ever wish to hear.

While I was polite at first, I held the thought in the back of my head that he was only talking to me to get money out of me. I really, really hate that I still have negative thoughts like that, and I hated myself at the time for thinking that. Determined to conquer that thought, I decided to be super polite and listen to everything Wayan had to say to me.

As I slowly sipped my Starbucks VIA® letting him give it a try, I attempted to pay attention as he explained the difference between family temples and community temples. Pura Taman Saraswati, he told me, is home to many beautiful intricate carvings of Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and art as she blesses Ubud.

bali green travel

bali green travel

bali green travel

After what seemed like hours, more people started to trickle in and the pace picked up and I could feel our conversation coming to a close; we had long since stopped talking temples and were talking about famous Americans (no, I don’t know Obama).

Saying goodbye, he started to walk away before I stupidly blurted out something about giving him something for his time. Looking at me like I was crazy, he said no, no, no he didn’t want anything; he was just happy to have a nice chat. What a world we live in that we often see something as simple as a conversation with a stranger as suspicious.

Refusing to let him go without giving him something in return, I gave him my card and a couple of packets of my Starbucks VIA® we had shared earlier. Waving me off he ambled out of the entrance and down the street while I stood still wondering if that actually had just happened.

Faith in people restored!

bali green travel

bali green travel

4. Getting up close and personal with some of Bali’s best wildlife

On the same day as my special tour of Bali en route to Ubud, we stopped on top of a mountain for views. As I climbed up a rickety wooden ladder to an equally suspicious wooden viewing platform (bad idea Liz) for some views, I noticed some tourists behind me squealing and making a fuss.

And not a cute animal squealing, but a mildly panicky girl shriek.

Looking over, I noticed a guy holding what appeared to be the largest bat in the history of the world.

That was not what I was expecting to see. I thought it was the return of the Planet of the Apes, for sure.

bali green travel

bali green travel

I’ve never been good at making practical decisions on the road (remember the rabies part? I’m pretty sure bats have rabies), so I immediately forked over some cash to hold this gigantic fruit bat named Stella.

Plopping her on my crotch and handing me her rubbery wings to hold out, all I could think about was if she bit me there AND if she had rabies. After about 5 seconds I was ready to give her back. Looks like my cute animal quest in Bali would not be fulfilled. Bats are not cute. Even if they are furry.

As I was flicking through my photos on my camera of me and Stella, all of a sudden I felt a weight on my shoulders and looked up to see the roadside zookeeper placing a massive green python on me.

bali green travel

bali green travel

bali green travel

Jerking my head back a little, I froze with fear for about 10 seconds with my hands up in the air in a gesture of defeat before I hissed, “get this off me NOW!”

Of course, all of the Balinese men found this hysterical, patted me on the head, placed the snake’s head in my hand and grabbed my camera from me. Apparently I had ordered and paid for the full menagerie experience and I had no choice in the matter.

This snake must have been 15 feet long, and I am pretty sure I aged a decade in the minute I stood there while they took my pictures.

bali green travel

IMG_7698 copy

Luckily I was able to smile a little before leaving, getting to hold a massive lizard who was very peaceful and a couple of cute chameleons. I had never seen one before and they were really interesting animals to look at.

So while the python was a very terrifying green creature that I am pretty sure could have killed me and eaten me on the spot, my moment with Balinese wildlife was saved by getting to cuddle a couple of cute neon green chameleons.

Thank god for small favors.

bali green travel

5. How a dream mask in found me

There is a little shop in Ubud called Sarasari.

I found it by complete accident. It was my last day in Bali and I was wandering around the city center, poking my head down the narrow side streets looking for some last minute souvenirs and hidden gems, the usual.

I ambled down one great street that was full of artisan shops, cute dining spots and little stalls tucked away here and there when I looked to my left and saw a purple wall covered with the most incredibly carved wooden masks.

Staring at them mesmerized, I walked up to have a closer look when I met Wakjaka.

bali green travel

Sitting with his knees crossed carving a mask while chatting with an American guy perched on the steps next to the shop, we started talking.

Inviting me to sit, we chatted about life and Bali and everything but the masks. It was a casual, beautiful moment sitting in the shade of big tropical trees behind the shop while he worked away.

Telling him I was interested in buying a mask to take home but a bit overwhelmed with where to start, he reached up behind him and grabbed a mask from the wall telling me this was my mask.

bali green travel

I almost laughed out loud because it was the exact one that first caught my attention, though I had been looking at all of them closely trying to decide. It was like he read my mind, it was very freaky.

He carves all of the masks himself, sitting out in his shop every day, and they are all made from hibiscus wood. I didn’t even know it was a wood, and not just a flower. They are called dream masks and each one is unique and belongs to each person who owns it.

Debating on whether or not I should buy it (New Zealand customs is very strict about what you can bring in, and untreated wood from Bali would definitely have to be declared), I decided to risk it. I almost never buy anything for myself on the road, so this would be something I would keep for the rest of my life. Well, if NZ customs let me keep it.

It was a very beautiful, small moment to cap out the end of my trip, and it just felt right. Bali, you won me over.

bali green travel

Many thanks to Starbucks  for helping to host me in Bali. Like always I’m keeping it real, all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me!

46 Responses to Bali in Green

  1. Alana October 17, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Loved the story about Wayan, thanks for the reminder that genuine people are out there everywhere!

    • Liz October 18, 2014 at 9:31 am #

      I know! I definitely don’t want to become so afraid or skeptical that I lose out on these moments traveling.

  2. sara October 18, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    oh my gosh, I’d never get within holding distance of that snake… yikes!

    Sara

    • Liz October 18, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      I still can’t believe I did that haha

  3. Ashley October 18, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    I loved reading about your interactions with Wayan and Wakjaka. In Vietnam, a young man approached me in a park, and I was sure he was going to try to steal my camera or something. It turns out he just wanted to have a chat and practice his English. It was such a lovely encounter, and I hated that my initial reaction to him had been suspicion.

    Also, am I the only one who didn’t realize that fruit bats could grow to such a monstrous size?!

    • Liz October 18, 2014 at 9:34 am #

      I had no idea bats could be that big either. I know, I hate myself that I was suspicious!

  4. Elai October 18, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    I was so thrilled when it prompted on my e-mail that you had another post and it was about Bali. I am planning my first solo trip ever and of all places to Bali and because I adore you, I was really hoping you’d post something on the matter to help me plan my week-long trip.

    Aaaaah. Thank you! And to quote, “it’s like you read my mind.” 😀

    • Liz October 18, 2014 at 9:35 am #

      Cool! Bali was great, I just was in Amed, Pemuteran and Ubud and that was perfect, more posts coming soon xx

  5. christina October 18, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    colors are a huge thing I notice when I travel too!

    trying to explain to my family in south FL why I moved to San Francisco I literally answered “colors are just brighter here…” (they didn’t get it)

    Bali’s definitely on my list and how fun to share Seattle’s own with a stranger there. and a local souvenir, too. cheers!

    ~christina
    http://www.currentlyexploring.com

    • Liz October 18, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

      Glad to hear you notice colors when traveling too!

  6. Martina Donkers October 18, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Hey Liz 🙂

    I was also shocked by the monkey situation!! My first encounters with them were in Thailand and Cambodia. Luckily for me, I had a little pre warning as I had just met another traveller who had been bitten by one! So she was able to explain to me what they’re really like.

    The Monkey Forest looks amazing though. I have to admit I’m a little unsure about travelling to Bali because it seems a bit over run by drunk tourists. I struggled with Phuket, partly because of that. Did you find it had that side to it, or was it easy to find places that were more relaxed, less seedy, and not full of obnoxious drunken foreigners?

    Martina 🙂

    • Liz October 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      I think most of that is in the south around Kuta and beaches near the capital, I avoided that area like the plague. I based myself in Ubud, Pemuteran and Amed and they were just amazing! Ubud is touristy but not in a bad way and I really enjoyed the city.

  7. Katie @ The World on my Necklace October 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    We had the same thing happen to us in Fiji, we caught a taxi to get to the Market in Nadi and he did us a deal to tour around the top spots in and around Nadi for 3 1/2 hours for a special price. God knows if it actually was a special price but at the equivalent of AUD$70 for two of us for 3 1/2 hours of him driving us around and walking us through the market, pointing out the different produce, and telling us about his life and culture in Fiji, it was definitely worth it. I haven’t been to Bali yet and I was always kind of put off after watching a show titled ‘What really happens in Bali’ featuring a lot of drunk, idiot Aussies partying it up in Kuta. Nice to know that there is another side to the island

    • Liz October 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

      Sounds like it was worth it in Fiji! Yeah I wanted to avoid the party scene and I didn’t see it at all where I was, it was really nice.

  8. Justine October 18, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    I’ve heard the monkeys at the Monkey Forest are pure evil. I didn’t go when I was in Ubud because I was scared off by stories of monkeys jumping on people and stealing things from tourists! Ha, they totally look like the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz!

    • Liz October 20, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      Yeah they are evil, I was really on the fence about going but decided to anyways,I’d recommend a buddy system

  9. Ana October 19, 2014 at 1:25 am #

    I am so thankfull for you sharing this amazing journey with us. I love read your blog. May I ask when did you visit Bali? Wich month?

    • Liz October 20, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      September, it was a good time!

  10. Paula October 19, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    Hey Liz, great post on Bali. Ubud was a particular favourite of mine, so relaxing and calm ☺ I loved the cheeky monkeys, so entertaining! I’ll post you a photo on Twitter ☺

    • Liz October 20, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks!

  11. Matthew Cheyne October 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    All I can really say about this post is wow. I love the green of Bali too and I share the same love of temples as well.

    Just looking at your photos of holding the animals gave me the heebee jeebees and is certainly something that would have scared the hell out of me.

    I love the fact that you got yourself a wooden Buddha head. Whenever I see a figure or stature of the Buddha, I immediately feel calm and centered and feel grateful for the teachings I have received to this day.

    Just to quickly clarify something about religions and temples. Most of the temples on Bali are of the Hindu faith as that is the predominant faith on Bali however I am lead to believe there may be a Buddhist temple or two on the island. If you go to Borabudor, still in Indonesia but on another island in the archipelago to the west, you will find the ruins of a Buddhist complex, a must see if you’re into checking out temples and ruins. I’ve seen footage of it and it’s absolutely stunning. And of course you can’t go past Ankor Wat in Cambodia which is another complex of temples over various sites and can only be described as truly epic.

    • Liz October 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

      Ah that’s interesting, I didn’t know that. I didn’t get a budda mask though, the one he’s carving definitely looks like one though. The one I got is more like the masks on the wall behind him, not sure if I’ll share a picture or not because it’s very special to me 🙂 we’ll see!

  12. Sara @ Simply Sara TravelS October 19, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    Wow, this sounds like an incredible trip! Especially love all the wildlife pictures – that close-up of the bat is crazy! I really don’t know how you got the gumption to actually hold a bat, or manage to smile with that gigantic snake around you!

    • Liz October 20, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      they wouldn’t take the snake off until I smiled for a picture haha

  13. Charlie October 20, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    Love the mini stories in this post, Liz. I can’t wait to visit Bali next year, looks like a beautiful place in so many ways. Very much hope customs didn’t nab your mask off you!

    • Liz October 20, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      I got to keep it! Just had to declare it 🙂

  14. De'Jav October 20, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Looks like you’ve got to experience lots of Bali. Funny about your monkey comments. Living in Australia never wanted to go but you’ve showed to be more than just the tourist areas.

    • Liz October 20, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      Thank you! That was the goal 😀

  15. Christie October 20, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    Love this! Bali totally won me over too, Ubud in particular stole my heart. I really enjoyed the monkey forest but thats probably because I stayed far away from the monkeys and just watched other people get climbed all over and bitten – those monkeys sure are little ratbags!

    • Liz October 24, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

      Terrifying creatures!

  16. Miles of Happiness October 20, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    Waw, you make me miss Bali so much 🙂

    • Liz October 24, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

      hahaha forgive me!

  17. Miriam of Adventurous Miriam October 21, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    I love your photos of Bali, especially of the rice terasses. It sounds like an amazing trip!

    • Liz October 24, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

      It was really beautiful!

  18. Mary October 21, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Ahhh Bali was one of my favorite travels. I was expecting it to be a hellhole of tourism, but it actually retains its magic and splendor and integrates tourism nicely with the economy. There is really something special in the Bali air… it’s an island that heals.

    Anyway, I went to that monkey forest with an American friend and before we walked in my friend went to one of the ladies at the entrance gate selling bananas and said: “give me all the damn bananas you got.” My friend defiantly walked into the forest cradling 30 bananas and the monkeys immediately jumped on him (his girlfriend and I walked at least 20 paces behind, hoping he’d make it out alive). Even after throwing 30 bananas at the swarm of monkeys, one monkey (at least 3″ tall) still managed to follow us and climbed onto my friend’s shoulders, perched there, and touched her face for a good full minute. She froze in place and started crying in fear–my poor friend! haha, those monkeys are scary, man!

    I loooooooove Bali. I only got to spend a week there but I hope I can go back for a month. It’s so relaxing and wonderful.

    • Liz October 24, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

      I’d love to go back for a month one day too. And yeah those monkeys are terrifying. When one climbed on my friend I picked up a rock to throw at it, and I literally had 20 monkeys barring their fangs at me as I slowly put it back down.

  19. Ryan Biddulph October 22, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    Hi Liz,

    Those monkeys are SO cheeky. Scary, but I love ’em. We’re heading back to Bali in a week. 5th time we’ve been there. The colors are amazing, from green, to red, to blue, and the sunsets, well, you’ll see a bit of everything when the sun drops on a clear night. Lovely.

    We’ve been to Sanur, Legian, Jimbaran, Keroutan, Lodtunduh and now, outside of Ubud once again. Not sure of the village this time but it means plenty of trips into town for awesome food, motorbike rides through the rice fields and a vibe that can’t be re-created anywhere else on earth. I tell folks, once you get away from the Kuta sprawl, and head to Jumbaran, or Sanur, or any of the quiet areas in the rice fields or jungles outside of Ubud, you’ll have an experience like no other. From the vibe, the beauty, the people, and all the cool little critters, you’ll be enchanted. Excited to get back to see what new insect species I’ll see this time. Always something new.

    Thanks Liz! Tweeting from Fiji.

    Ryan

    • Liz October 22, 2014 at 8:37 am #

      Awesome! Have a good time!

  20. Patricia November 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Wonderful post! I remember thinking the same thing when I arrived in Indonesia (albeit Jakarta), that it was so green! Followed immediately by the thought that it was so humid!

    I haven’t made it to Bali (yet), and so it was great reading about your trip and getting some tips on places to visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • Liz November 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

      it was so humid! i can’t wait to go back to Indo!

  21. Anna @AnnaEverywhere November 5, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Beautiful photos! Can’t wait to visit Bali 🙂

    • Liz November 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

      It’s a great place!

  22. Tony June 5, 2015 at 2:37 am #

    That’s really amazing photos. I have always loved all things green and natural. really fun. and this is the other side of Bali that does not pick can be found by anyone. nice post, Bali is a great place. really nice post. thanks.

  23. Villa Lumia Bali February 17, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

    Hey Liz !

    Excellent post 🙂 You seemed to like Ubud Monkey Forest (the trees there are magnificent), love the place too !

  24. Carmen Everywhere February 23, 2016 at 6:42 am #

    I was in Bali not so long ago. When I take a look at some of these photos it seems they were clicked by me. Brings back fond memories of Bali. Bali is greener than you will expect before you land there. It has a variety and that is why it is more than another tropical island full with tourists. Though it certainly has its share of them. I have to disagree about the monkeys though. How dare you call them thugs! Cmon they are cute little creatures.

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  1. On Safari at Phinda, South Africa - Young Adventuress - August 2, 2015

    […] I hate monkeys probably more than any other animals. They are naughty, terrible creatures who know no fear. Guard your breakfast because they will steal it along with anything else they can get their mitts on. […]

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