5 Places Every Volunteer In Bali Should See
Aleisha Husolo went to volunteer in Bali last August and joined a community development program helping local people. Bali is such a wonderful island and Aleisha's spare time she got to see some really amazing places. Here she shares her essential must see locations in Bali...
1. Mount Batur
Mt Batur is a definite must do if you are thinking about going to volunteer in Bali. It was truly an amazing experience, despite having my own hesitations about not being the most active person.
We booked our tour with one of the locals in Penestanan near the Green Lion office. Everyone is really friendly and helpful when booking tours. This one started extremely early as we got to see the sunrise while at the top of the mountain. When I say early, I woke up at 1:30am for the hike. I’d recommend bringing friends for encouragement, some food to snack on and warm clothes for layering since it’s cold in the morning.
The bus that picked us all up even stopped at a small coffee shop where we were treated to coffee or tea and pancakes. At this point it was 2am and I didn’t feel like eating much so I just stuck with a tea. Once we arrived at the bottom of Mt.Batur it was pitch black, but no worries, they give you a guide and a flashlight. The beginning of the hike was pretty easy, mostly flat with just a bit of an upwards slope. The challenge was how dark it was, and the day we went was busy with locals. About a third of the way up was a lot steeper and the path was narrow. I was thinking I wasn’t going to make it 2/3 of the way up, but the friends I had with me encouraged me to keep going.
Finally we made it to the top. I felt so proud to have made it all the way up, the sense of accomplishment felt worth it alone. The day we went was cloudy, but we waited for the sunrise anyhow. As soon as the sun began to come out from behind the opposing mountain, Mount Agung, the clouds started to move. It was breathtaking. The sun was reflecting off the clouds and making gorgeous colors or red and orange.
The pictures don’t do it justice. I am not a morning person and have probably only seen a handful of sunrises in my lifetime but this is by far the most amazing sight. I felt like I could touch the heavens; it was peaceful even with all the other people around. I was tried and sore after, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Be warned there are some monkeys at the top and they will try to steal any food you have. Going back down the mountain was probably harder than going up. I thought being in the dark would make it harder but its way worse when you can see where you are going and how much farther you have left to go. The rocks were also slippery and so you have to be careful where you step.
On the way back our tour stopped at a coffee plantation to watch how they make luwak coffee. This is coffee made from the bean of a fruit that is eaten by the luwak animal and pooped out, and it was surprisingly delicious for those of us brave enough to try it.
2. Holy Water Temple
The holy water temple was part of my orientation week, I am not a religious person however this was a humbling and spiritual experience for me. Bring extra clothes, and a sarong if you buy one. The architecture in all the temples in Bali amazed me. It was so intricate and I enjoyed looking at it all. There were some ceremonies going on while we were there which was interesting to see however you must make sure to be respectful and not take pictures of anyone during the ceremony.
The main thing inside the holy water temple is the holy springs. This is where you get to cleanse yourself in the water. We also you got to use the flower offering we made earlier in the week to offer to the gods. The water was a large pool with 13 taps in it. We were told that we need to go to each tap except number 11 and 12.; those were used for birth and death only. At each tap we were told that we need to first say a prayer or make a wish and then wash our face 3 times and wash our hair 3 times.
We got ready to go in the water, it was refreshing. In the pool there were koi fish swimming around. At first I was a bit nervous about that but they didn’t do anything except swim past you and bump into every now and then. At the first tap is where you leave your flower offering and then you pray or make a wish and continue on with washing your fair and hair at the tap.
As I said I am not a religious person however I felt humbled while at the taps. I felt relaxed, calm and spiritual. I felt as if somehow the things I was wishing for were being heard. As I washed my face and my hair at the tap I felt cleansed. It was a feeling that is hard for me to describe and something that you must experience for yourself, leaving your hesitations at the door.
3. Kanto Lampo Waterfall
If you do the volunteer program with IVHQ which I did, the Kanto Lampo Waterfall is a good place to visit in the morning before you teach in the afternoon. It isn’t too far from Penestanan and it doesn’t take long once you are there. Bring extra clothes and your bathing suit. We booked a car to take us to the Tegalalang rice fields and the Kanto Lampo waterfalls. The rice fields were great as well, however we got a bit lost walking around them and they look beautiful once there however as you walk around it all looks the same. Find the swing near the entrance though that says ``Love Bali`` above it, it’s a great photo place.
Once at the waterfalls a guide will be there and will help you. He says he will show you the waterfalls and asks if you want pictures. Definitely take advantage of the guide, it’s not expensive and they take amazing photos. There are two waterfalls one right at the beginning and another a little ways down the river. We went to the far one first as the close one was busier. The guide stopped along the way to take pictures for us. He knew all the best spots for photos as well he gave us yoga and zen-like ideas of how to pose. We found out that he also loves slow-mo videos and kept getting us to do slow-mo yoga poses. The videos actually turned out really awesome. It was like having our own private photoshoot.
The far waterfall was beautiful, surrounded by the greenest trees and off hidden away. There was no one else there just us and the guide. We got to go under the waterfall too. It was as if you were one with nature, so beautiful to see how nature can make something so powerful. We made our way back up to the closer waterfall. This waterfall was much bigger than the farther one however it was busier and less tranquil. It was so cool to be standing in the middle of this big waterfall. This was definitely another must see, shows how beautiful nature is hidden away from all the cars and city.
4. Nusa Penida; Kelingking Beach
I went to Nusa Penida for my last week in Bali volunteering with turtle conservation. Nusa Penida is a remote island that isn’t full of tourists. Since it’s mostly locals, I felt more exposed to the culture, and how different it was compared to what I’m used to. There are a few amazing natural places to see on Nusa Penida one of them being Kelingking beach.
We took a taxi to take us around the island to see Angel’s billabong, broken beach and Kelingking beach. Out of the 3 that we saw Kelingking was the most beautiful. The taxi ride is pretty rough to get there so be prepared and if you get car sick make sure to sit in the front. Kelingking beach when you pull up to it doesn’t look like much but as you walk down the hill a bit you can really see the beauty of it. You stand on the side of the mountain looking down at this white sand beach and gorgeous blue water. It is extremely high up but we were still able to see the manta rays in the water swimming.
There was a path leading down to the beach however there were signs that warned you it was a difficult climb and that they don’t recommend you going down. You could see there were only 2 people down at the beach who had decided to make the climb. If you wear proper footwear, and not sandals like we did, you might feel more comfortable and braver to venture there. Maybe even bring your bathing suit for a swim. The ocean went on forever and was stunning to see.
5. Pura Lempuyang (Heaven’s Gate)
In most of the photos we’d seen of Pura Lempuyang, the sun was setting, but unfortunately we thought it was sunrise, so we decided to go early in the morning. Pura Lempuyang is the last temple that the locals go to after someone has passed away, hence the name heaven’s gate. The people bring food and sacrifices and the ashes of the person to the temple for the ceremony to celebrate the person’s life.
There are 8 temples in total at Pura Lempuyang however the “Heaven’s Gate” part was only at the first temple; just a small walk uphill to get to the first temple .We got up there and it was still dark out and we were the only people around except for a few locals. The gates themselves were beautiful and there was a courtyard behind them with more steps up to the temple itself. The temple was closed the day we went, but it was beautiful to see just from the outside.
Unfortunately you can’t see the sunrise from the temple because it rises behind the mountain the temple is on. So we sat on the steps of the temple in the courtyard waiting for the sun to come up so that we could get some pictures of the gate in daylight. As we sat there locals began to come through the gates and gather in the courtyard. They were there for a ceremony; someone they knew had passed away. They gathered in the courtyard and enjoyed tea and coffee and food that they had all brought, which they offered and shared with us.
It showed just how kind Balinese people are. These people were here for a funeral and they didn’t know us at all and yet still offered us what they had with them and welcomed us to sit and eat and drink with them. It was amazing to see because it’s so much different than I’m used to, and not an experience part of any tour with guides. We sat with them until they went into the temple for the ceremony. We found out that they carry everything to each temple up the mountain until they reach the top one.
Finally the sun had risen as we returned to the heaven’s gate and got some amazing pictures. When you look out at the gate from inside the courtyard you can see Mount Agung which makes some amazing pictures. The architecture on the gate is amazing as well as the steps up to the first temple have dragons carved at the bottoms of 3 staircases, it was beautiful to see. Once we had finished taking pictures, around 9am more tourists began to arrive. We got to be there before anyone else and experience the tranquility and beauty without all the tourists around.
We were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected on this venture, and I hope you are lucky enough to have the same kind of experience on your trip.
By Aleisha Husolo