“What are you thinking?”, she asked me as I stared at the roaring waterfall in the midst of the lush green forest while the clouds above moved around with glee. I just smiled at her, hugged her and said, “Nothing”, but my mind and heart felt something entirely different as I was in awe of this kaleidoscopic canvas that was on display. When was the last time you felt a sense of euphoria and were at a loss of words? How often has a place with magnificent landscapes and tranquil nature made everything else around you seem inconsequential? Munduk, a scenic hillside village in Bali made me ask to myself, “Is This For Real?”.
On my seventh visit to Bali, I was on a quest to get away from the sea and sand for a few days, and be somewhere I’ve never been before. So after three days of island time at Gili Trawangan and three tiring hours of a taxi ride from Amed, we reached the quiet little village of Munduk. As we meandered along the curves along the hill, we were welcomed by the fresh mountain air, mild scent of cardamom and coffee, cloud covered valleys and some drizzle. We were quite amazed to find a place that was a stark contrast to where we had been in Bali till then. I guess this is kind of diversity that made me fall in love with Indonesia’s most popular destination in the first place.
Located along the hills in Northern Bali, Munduk is a charming little village which boasts of stunning natural landscapes. Often overlooked by visitors to this Indonesian island, Munduk appeals to you the moment you reach here. With a very laid back and rustic countryside, you can’t help but be amazed as the simplicity of this place grows on you with every passing minute. For the party-goers and late night revelers, this place might seem like a downer as there are no pubs or nightclubs here. It is devoid of the vibrant chaos of Kuta and Legian, or the colorful art markets of Ubud. Convenience stores close as “early” as 8-9 PM and swanky restaurants have absolutely no presence here. Instead, you are treated to the sights of some magnificent sunrise and sunsets, the lush green forests along the slopes of those mighty mountains and the sound of water streams flowing downhill through the thick canopy of trees.
Here, the cool air is fresh enough to cleanse your body and soul, the clouds kiss the slopes of the hills and the mountain mist surrounds you as if to connect with you. Coffee and spice plantations are plenty here and you can smell the mild aroma of cardamom, cloves and coffee beans as you explore this beautiful place. A single main road runs through the mountains with the village settlements on either side along the slopes. Venture out on a scooter along the highway or go trekking on foot to explore the surroundings and you will discover some astonishing sights ranging from lush green rice fields, spice plantations and beautiful waterfalls.
The famous twin lakes of Buyan and Tamblingan are a 15 minute ride away from the centre of Munduk and this is one attraction that is not to be missed. Take a trek down to the lakes from the trekking point if you want to explore through the jungles or just marvel at the stunning view of the two lakes perched at the base of the mountains. Enjoy a cup of hot local coffee while you let your senses take in the phenomenal dance of the rain clouds above the two lakes. A good thirty minutes drive will take you to the famous and beautiful Ulun Danu Beratan temple. Although this scenic temple is outside Munduk, it is quite accessible if you have a vehicle. The backdrop of Lake Beratan gives this entire place a magical look.
The Munduk waterfall is a short simple trek down the main road and is the closest and most visited one by visitors to this place. Beware of the force with which the gallons of water come rushing down to the base and keep a safe distance. Tiny is what you feel standing infront of this waterfall. The roar of the water feels music to the ears with the tall bamboo trees and green ferns swaying at the wind from the waterfall. A further fifteen minutes away from Munduk, lies the twin falls of Banyumala which we stumbled upon just out of pure good luck as we almost missed the signboard for this waterfall. A treacherous scooter ride and a short trek later, we stumbled upon this gem. Swim or take a dip in the pool at the base or lounge around on one of the many rocks while admiring this hidden treasure. As for me, I walked into the pool and stood there looking up to the waterfall. That was the place and time when I had one moment of being moulded in this serene wilderness.
Munduk feels too good to be true but yet it is. The nature is unspoilt, the people are real and the food is authentic. When you talk to people here, you can feel the sense of earnestness behind every word they speak. The warmth that exudes from their smiles compliments the honesty in the twinkle of their eyes. You feel all that love while staying at the homestays and eating at the local Warungs. The coffee smells like pure bliss and the food will take to a journey to the roots of Indonesian cuisine. The freshness of each and everything you eat/drink here is pure.
During the course of a nomad life, there are times when you get stuck or momentarily lose sight of your motivations. That moment under the waterfall was something I needed to realise the worth of my self-made journey. Munduk is off-beat if you have been to other popular areas in Bali, but off-beat is what makes this place so special. Yes it takes a good 3 hours from the airport or the eastern/western coasts of Bali but a place like this is worth the taxi ride. This place is not about letting go off your inhibitions and pushing your boundaries. Instead, it bonds you with your very own self. Travel does turn you into a storyteller but places like these are way beyond the realms of just words. Bali just got more special for me, thanks to Mesmerizing Munduk!!