Are we really renting a Bali villa or have we been mysteriously been teleported to a Swiss chalet? Why are there some many eerily empty hotels and villas in this area where stands one of the most photographed temples in Bali, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (you know, the pyramid-shaped one on the mountain lake)? What attracted the Dutch colonists so much to this part of Bali that they opted to spend their vacations here? And why do I think that this Bedugul area is a very romantic, yet strangely overlooked, place to spend a big weekend?
Imagining yourself waking up on a cold morning, in a wood chalet with a view on a lake surrounded by high mountains covered with green trees. In the bed, under the comfortable blanket, your spouse stirs. You get up, put a sweater on, go down the stairs to the kitchen and make yourself a cup of Balinese coffee. You step outside the French windows and look over Lake Bratan, the very lake on which stands the most iconic temple in Bali.
Now, you get back up to the stairs, get back under the blanket, enjoy the warmth of your spouse’s body. What a romantic way to escape the crowds and the heat of Kuta and Seminyak.
Why travel guides are wrong to tell you it is just worth a day-trip
When I read my travel guide, I was told that the temple of the lake (Pura Bratan) was indeed one of the most iconic sights in Bali. But as it takes only 30 minutes to visit it and as there is not really much else to do up there, it would be better to make it a day-trip from Ubud or Seminyak, or maybe to stop by it on your way to Lovina.
How wrong you are, Mr Travel Book! Staying in this area, called the Bedugul region, for 3 days actually made for in love with Bali much more than any busy street or crowded beach in Kuta.
True, if you think that you can find a nice hotel there and eat in one of several nice restaurants in the area, you will be disappointed. The key is to rent a house and to cook a bit for yourself (breakfast at least).
Here are few points that makes it worthwhile to plan a weekend:
- Yes, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, the famous floating temple on Lake Bratan, is great to look at it. This Hindu Bali temple was built in 1633. Can you imagine that this actually a lake sitting in an ancient crater? If you stay like me in a villa / chalet nearby, you can visit the temple almost all alone in the morning, before the buses of Javanese and foreign tourists invade the place starting 10 AM.
- Fresh air. When they occupied the island, the Dutch would come here to rest from the tropical temperatures. While located less than 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Denpasar, Bedugul enjoys a mild mountain weather due to its location at an altitude of about 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) above the sea level. The average temperature is around 18-24° Celsius, so it gives you a great reason to snuggle happily under the covers at night.
- 3 lakes, a volcano, a scenic drive! You get 3 natural lakes, not just 1! Overall, there are 4 mountain lakes in Bali. One is near Mount Batur, in East Balu, but the three other ones are right here, in Bedugul, within a few kilometers of each other: Lake Bratan, Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan. The drive on the crater rim road is stunning. On one side, you can see the lakes drowned by lush trees. On the other side, the slop goes all the way down to the sea. There are monkeys all along the road, be warned!
- Fresh fruits, fresh flowers, fresh vegetables. The Bedugul area is very famous in Bali for its fresh produce. For instance, the strawberries are the best in Indonesia. Visit the local market and see the baskets full of colorful fruits like dragon fruit, mango, guava, kiwis, leeches, rambutan, apples, berries, etc. I bought lots of fruits from the market and had them for breakfast, lunch and dinner in my rented Bali chalet.
- Highest waterfall in Bali. Drive for 20 minutes, to the other side of the crater, and you reach the 35-metre (100 feet) high Gitgit waterfall. I really likes this place, with the waterfall spraying fresh water on us (bring a sweater!). You can actually swim in the water under the waterfall. You have to hike a gentle trail along lots of souvenir shops, but it’s worth it.
- Bali Botanic Garden: A huge, 160-hectare botanic garden, with more than 2,000 species of trees and flowers from Bali and eastern Indonesia. In season, the orchids are very nice to see. I have not had the time to see it yet.
- Bali Treetop Adventure Park: Lots of fun for kids and grown-ups, can actually bee challenging according to one of my friends.
What is uncommonly romantic about the area.
– The Chalet: Different from renting Bali villa without personality
I call this a chalet because this experience really reminded me of my vacations in Switzerland. The villa / chalet was made of wood, with beautiful French windows overlooking Lake Bratan. Very comfortable, nice furniture and free wifi. The bathtub was very retro looking, which was full of charm (we ran out of warm water at some point, but we called the maid and she went out her way to get things repaired in record time).
If you live in a city like Singapore or Hong Kong, you can understand the charm of feeling a bit cold, holding a cup of hot tea and just relaxing together.
– The empty and abandoned buildings
It may be strange to you, but the romantic atmosphere was enhanced by the sight of abandoned villas and hotels. Nothing creepy, just the charm of ruins and the impression of being ones of the few knowing this secret place overlooked by others. The places that I am mentioning here are scattered in the area, it is as if I was saying that the Bedugul area is littered with ruins!
For instance, our chalet-villa was standing on a hill with other chalet-villas of the same style. The ones nearby were in perfect shape, but most of the ones on the other side of the hill, around the entrance road to the compound, had been abandoned. This was very strange and I first wondered where we were going.
Then, there was the mysterious Bali Handara Golf & Country Club. Picture a beautiful, manicured 18-hole golf course, with no one in sight. We drove through the place, a spectacular area with the crater as a backdrop. We arrived at the country club itself, which looked a bit dated. It’s a great place to golf, but from what we’ve seen the hotel needs major renovation works.
Last, there is also in the vicinity the Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel & Resort, a huge 4-star hotel that was ready to open in 1998, but never welcomed any guest, due to some political and financial troubles. If you like modern ruins, it is quite spectacular.
Faded glory can be romantic, and this definitively added to the mysterious charm of the overlooked, but so worthwhile Bedugul area.
My personal advice:
– Buy some food at a supermarket on the road, so that you can cook in your rented villa. There are only a few restaurants
– We went to a strange, but good restaurant near Lake Bratan (no lakeview), owned by a Japanese guy. Lots of different kinds of food (Indonesian, Western, and Japanese) and even a chimney (first one I had seen in Bali).
Good area descrpition
Villa Bukit Bungga