The Unusual Places Bali Tour Guides Won't Mention
March 24, 2019
by Josie Adams
Part of the thriving country of Indonesia, the island of Bali stands proud as the global mecca for eating, praying, and loving. While half the visitors swill smoothies and do sunset yoga, the other half make the most of cheap beers and cigarettes. Whichever path you take, there will come a time in your holiday when you feel the urge to try something different; something off the beaten path.
You can do sun salutations anywhere in the world. Only in Bali can you meditate with bats or play mini-golf with a monkey. It’s an incredible place with a deep history, most of which you won’t see when sticking to the usual tourist traps. Below are some of the more unusual things the island has to offer: if you like hunting ghosts or chugging coffee, you’re in luck.
1. Bali Mini Golf
It says mini golf on the tin, but the infamous kopi luwak is what this café’s putting forward. You’re warmly welcomed to the Tabanan café by several smiling faces and one civet (luwak in Indonesian). This furry animal looks a little like a possum, and is the source of the most expensive coffee in the world. The luwaks roam coffee plantations and eat only the nicest beans; they then excrete them out in partially-digested clumps. For only Rp. 50,000 (US$3.50) you can try the resultant coffee; it’s slightly more bitter and less caffeinated than your average long black. Add a sliver of lemon rind and this is a damn good beverage. The luwak’s a cuddly critter; although it might nibble, those teeth are designed for cracking coffee beans, not skin. Nestled up the back is the golf course and a monkey or two to watch you play. Enjoy the huge platter of free kopi bali (Balinese coffee) on offer, and then spend all your money buying a kilo of it to take home.
2. Ghost Palace Hotel
Only about 50 km north of the bikini-ridden streets of Kuta lies one of Bali’s most feared attractions. For those who don’t want to risk taking home a Balinese hex, the Ghost Palace Hotel is a must-do. Originally called the P.I. Taman Rekreasi Hotel & Resort, construction was halted in the 90s when workers mysteriously disappeared overnight, leaving demons and spectres to take their place in the halls. Locals will tell you that there’s no mystery: the wealthy owner couldn’t get planning permission for what he wanted, so abandoned the project. They will tell you this, but admit they never go there. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many other visitors except for the resident lizards, snakes, and – of course – ghosts. Ghost-hunters should go during the day – it’s tricky to get in at night, and if they catch you sneaking past the guard you could be deported. With an entry fee of only Rp. 10,000 (US$0.70), it’s well worth the price.
3. The Temple on The Lake
Near the Ghost Palace Hotel is Lake Beratan, which the locals will tell you is more haunted than any man-made building. Built on the lake is a 17th-century temple, created for worshipping the Hindu trio (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) alongside the lake goddess, Dewi Danu. Interestingly, this floating temple contains a sarcophagus and stone tablet dated back to pre-Hindu worship in the area – so this is a spiritual hotspot. Unlike the coastal temples, Ulun Danu Beratan temple sits in the middle of still, mirror-like water. Its beauty is almost unparalleled in Bali – a country known for being Insta-friendly. To re-charge your soul and get a great ‘gram, there’s no better place.
4. Goa Lawah
Just like Bruce Wayne, Bali has a bat cave. Located on the south-east coast of the island, Goa Lawah is a cave-based temple complex that dates back to the 11th century and is still used for worship by locals and curious tourists. It’s a fine enough photo opportunity on its own: its ornate stone walls and the piles of beautiful, bright offerings are inspirational. However, Goa Lawah is loved by the local bats as much as the local priests. In the centre of the temple you can find colonies of nectar bats, chirping away like so many angry aunts. The shape of the cave actually amplifies the noise of the bats, but no-one seems to mind. In fact, people who meditate in the temple say the high-pitched noises help them focus. If you’re a yogi looking for something new, why not try it?
5. The Abandoned Airplane
In Denpasar, on a long, boring road, next to a Dunkin’ Donuts, is an abandoned Boeing 737. Unlike the other abandoned Bali Boeing, which is in some lush hills near a beach, this poor soul stands alone in a dry, urban field. The plane is gutted. It’s propped up on stilts. A square gap in its underside invites anyone in, so long as they can do a pull-up. Apparently it has an owner, who wants to turn it into a restaurant – this has been in the works for several years, to no result. If you can’t resist the temptation of walking along a plane wing, check it out – and grab a donut when you’re done.
6. Gloria Jeans
This entry is for those missing home. In the depths of Echo Beach, you can find a decent frappuccino. In this humidity, the last thing you need is to wrangle your composure over a grainy americano. Smooth grey tiles pull you in, and a pine fresh air con turns the pages of a familiar menu. A koi splashes in an indoor pond. Ah, the sweet melt of canned whipped cream; the gentle tang of a half-shot of espresso; the complex rainbow of hazelnut and vanilla syrups coagulating at the back of your wattled throat. It’s been three long days of cocktails and pizza – you don’t trust that mie goreng business. Right now, you just want free wifi and the milk sweats. Gloria Jeans will deliver, just like it does back home.
Feeling inspired yet? All of these incredible places are easy day-trips from the major centres, so you don’t have to check out of your Air BnB.