After my mom left Ubud, happy gal and I had 2 and a half weeks to “kill” in Bali before heading to Hong Kong. We were debating between just staying in Ubud or renting a moped to go tour the island. We had already spent 7 days in Ubud and really enjoyed our time but wanted a change of scenery. However, I admit I was afraid of driving a moped in Bali: lack of license, opposite side of the road rule, and the countless stories of people getting into accidents. Regardless, I put my fear aside and headed to the police station to get a drivers license.
Our trip started with a 3 hour ride to Lovina, in the north side of the island. We heard this is where you get to see dolphins and get to snorkel off the beach. As we started heading out of Ubud, we start seeing all these different signs that say: Hati Hati .. and various signs with the skull symbol. Unfortunately we did not have an English-Indonesian dictionary and these signs just elevated my fear like a kid afraid of the monster beneath the bed. It took about 20 minutes of driving between cars, between pot holes and behind large slow red trucks for me to realize there is no monster but only my imagination that controls my fear. After the initial 20 minutes of fear, the rest of the trip was quite enjoyable.
There are two different ways to go from Ubud to Lovina. You can take the long route with little elevation changes or the short route which passes through the tallest peak of Bali. Since I no longer had this fear, we opted for the short route up the mountain. To our surprise, we experienced 3 levels of climates during the trip. At first in Ubud we had a humid hot weather followed by fog and cold peak (where we had to stop for happy gal to switch from short to pants), and finally ending in cool humid beach town. The scenery was spectacular with temples, rice fields, fog eating a mountain range, and strawberry fields.
Halfway through the trip, we start getting hungry. I started seeing huge posters on the side of the road with images of banana leaf plates and some cafe named Tahu. The first sign I saw said: Cafe Tahu 20km. I was really hungry but 20km was about 20 min. The pictures looked good and it intrigued me. I later saw the same poster but it said 15km. Then again at 10km .. In the end I think I saw like 20 posters each time building the anticipation. Each poster had images of delicious food and by the time I saw the 15th poster we were determined to eat there.
With no surprise, we stopped at Cafe Tahu for lunch. This restaurant was very popular with the locals, no english menu, no other tourists in sight, and delicious food. I was hesitant of venturing with my stomach in fear I would be at my stomach’s mercy during the last leg of the trip. Last thing I wanted to do was have an emergency stop in some rice field. But my taste buds got the best of me. Between the waitress’ suggestions and images from the menu we ordered four small plates. I would lie to you if I told you what we ordered but in all honesty I do not know. I do know, however, that the main ingredient was tofu with tons of different vegetables and spices in most of our dishes. Apparently Tahu means Tofu! =) With no surprise, the food was delicious and we hoped the rest of the trip would bless us with such good food.
We chilled in Lovina for 3 days before heading out to Tulamben. We had originally planned to drive to Menjangan Island to go scuba diving but we opted to use a scuba company (Malibu Dive) to take us there. It was the right choice. In addition to diving in Menjangan, we took a morning trip to go see the famous dolphins. At first, I was doubtful we would see any dolphins. The last dolphin trip we had done in Agonda, India I expected to see 10 dolphins and barely saw one dolphin for like a second. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. After 30 minutes of the small fishing boat driving around we start seeing the dolphins one by one until eventually we were surrounded by hundreds (no exaggeration) of dolphins! A few of them even gave us a show jumping and twisting in the air. All we can do was say: “Oh my God” and laugh out of excitement.
Our road trip to Tulamben was uneventful but our experience there is unforgettable. We’re driving on the main highway looking for Tulamben’s city centre. Unable to find it, we stop at a hotel called Liberty Shipwreck (the reason we’re heading to Tulamben) and we’re informed we already are in Tulamben. This city is known for the USAT Liberty Shipwreck, the shallowest shipwreck in the world. It is a 120 m long navy ship that got hit by the Japanese during World War II. Besides the dive site however, there is nothing else to see. The hotels are hidden in small alleyways and each had their own restaurants. Other than that, the main highway has nothing more than trees and some houses. Tulamben really deserves it’s own post but I’ll summarize here by saying it was one of the coolest diving experiences I’ve ever had. [Although I’ve only dived 9 times …].
After Tulamben we head over to Padanbai to catch the ferry to the Gili Islands. During our bike trip to Padangbai we stopped to check out an abandoned temple on the coast of northern Bali. The temple itself had carvings of dragons, birds, and plants overlooking the beautiful blue water. It was interesting because there was no one around except for some roosters in cages off the road of the temple. I later found out the locals do this to create aggression in the roosters for the cock fights. I have not looked into it yet, but I was told cock fighting is a form of a religious ceremony in Bali. Unlike other parts of the world, betting at a cock fight is frowned upon in Bali and the main purpose of the cock fights is spiritual.
We stayed in Padangbai for 2 days (probably too long) and then headed to Gili T. Since there are no motorized vehicles in Gili T, we left our moped in the hotel we stayed at. At first we thought that was not going to be an issue but upon our return we were confronted by the wife of the owner. She wanted to us to pay for the parking even though her husband had already offered us free parking because we stayed with him 2 nights. We really did not do anything wrong and I was very polite in letting her know her husband offered us the parking. Unfortunately he was not there to back me up but she would not believe me. Long story short, we left with her cursing at us and probably doing some type of black magic as soon as we were gone. Bali is a place that believes a lot in spirits, ghosts, magic, re-incarnation, and black magic. Luckily the trip ended without any problems!
There is something about not having an itinerary and the freedom of exploring the unknown that our drive back to Ubud was sad as this was coming to an end. It was such a great experience to rent the motorcycle and regret not doing this more often during our 10 month trip. You really get to explore the path less traveled by tourists.
Here are some tips/facts about the trip should you ever want to venture out in Bali:
- The cost of our moped rental for 14 days was $45 USD in 2012
- Gas is no more than $2/tank
- We used 4 tanks during our trip
- The roads are safe as long as you drive with care
- Both offensive and defensive driving is required
- We got a tourist driver’s license in Bali but we recommend you get an international driver’s license before your trip
- Have fun!