Tour Around Bali With Bali Customized Tours
Why would you go to Bali and then not take the time to go explore the beautiful island? You would only do that in case you were only interested in partying your ass off and getting drunk all the time. This wasn’t on my schedule even though I would be celebrating my birthday while I was in Bali. No, I really wanted to soak up some of the rich culture and history of the best known Indonesian island and found Bali Customized Tours to be a perfect fit for what I had in mind.
After I had booked my flights and hotels for my stay, I started looking around the internet for tour operators, but where the hell do you start? I didn’t have a clue, so I searched on YouTube for the terms “bali tours” and queried Google for “must sees Bali”. Of course this resulted in tons of search results… One organisation kept coming back though and that was Bali Customized Tours.
I don’t know how it happened but shortly after watching a video of YouTube vlogger Christian Leblanc, I received a friend request on Facebook from Panca. I don’t know if it was coincidence or not, but sometimes in life things just happen for a reason. We started talking about my upcoming trip to Bali and the possibility of some tours around the island.
We continued our communication through e-mail and discussed the details of the tours.
Bali Customized Tours
If you have a look on the website of Bali Customized Tours, you’ll notice that there are tour packages on there. You could contact Panca and book one of these tours. He’s very flexible with the bookings, it all depends on how many people actually book tours.
I decided to book 2 tours with Panca and also asked him to book a hiking up the holy mountain of Mount Agung. Besides tours, Panca can also arrange airport transfers for you. The day I arrived in Bali Panca couldn’t make it himself to the airport as he was feeling a bit sick. Instead he send his friend Putu to pick me up. Like Panca, Putu was very friendly and always smiling. Due to the crazy traffic around the airport he arrived a little later than planned. But we were able to find each other quite quick as he had a sign with name on it.
The price for a oneway airport transfer is 24 USD, you could pay in local currency but Panca also accepts USD. Actually he prefers to be paid in this currency. Now you might think that it’s a bit expensive, but instead of jumping into a local taxi and maybe getting ripped off. You get picked up in a nice air condition cooled minivan, doesn’t matter where you need to go or how long the drive is. Maybe you get stuck in traffic around Kuta, the fee stays the same.
Here are the details for the tours that I booked with Bali Customized Tours:
- Ubud & Surroundings Tour was 23 USD per person, we would be picked up at 8.30am at our hotel in Kuta and got back around 6pm. This tour is about Bali art, culture and nature;
- Mount Agung hiking at 180 USD, during which I was picked up at 10.30pm at the hotel, hike to the summit during the night to reach the summit by sunrise and made it back to hotel at 3pm;
- Exploring Wonderful Bali Dance was 15 USD per person, Panca took us to the Uluwatu temple, we watched the fire dance ceremony and sunset and afterwards had a seafood dinner BBQ on the beach.
Any lunches, dinners and drinks that you might do along the way, you will need to pay for yourself as extra. Also some of the sites and temples we visited, charged an entrance fee. I will break down all the costs below.
Ubud Tour – Barong Dance
On the day of the Ubud tour we had an early breakfast and when we walked over to the reception area, Panca was already waiting for us. He is such a nice guy, always smiling and in a good mood. He explained the schedule of the entire day to us and then we went on our way. It was going to be a hot day, but Panca came prepared. He had the airco running in his minivan and he had a cooler with some drinks and cold towels.
The first stop would be at a small theatre where we would watch a Barong dance ceremony. When we arrived it was all quiet and we paid our entrance fee. The cost was 100.000 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) per person, which is about 7 Euros a person. We picked a spot on the right side of the stage. More people started coming in, but all of sudden loads of people came in!
There were several schools that had planned an excursion to the same site today, so the place got packed in no time. For me the whole thing took a bit too long. Yes it was interesting to read the story on paper, but it took over an hour. The main characters did a good job entertaining the school kids. If you’re into watching a long dance ceremony, go and have a look. Otherwise skip it as it felt like too much of a play.
Panca was waiting for us after the dance ceremony had finished. We continued our way down the winding roads through Ubud. Each of us got a cold towel to fresh up and Panca educated us about Ubud. I can’t tell you enough good things about him. He explained how every town or district has its own specialty in craftsmanship.
Traffic is always a bit hectic in Bali, even on some of the backroads. So Panca had plenty of time to explain everything to us. As you can see in the picture above, we drove through a district which is known for its gold and silver processing. The raw materials are imported from abroad and then processed locally.
We got out of the car to check out some Batik processing at Legong Batik. This is a place with free entrance. Although you don’t have to pay anything to visit, the people there will try to sell you something. But the prices are steep, so beware.
The people doing this kind of must have a lot of patience and be very passionate about their job. The time it takes to paint one of these cloths is unbelievable. And the precision they work with, amazing!
This place brought back memories for my mom. Seeing the women paint all of a sudden made her realise that she had been here before. The previous time it was with my dad about 7 or 8 years ago. Emotions were triggered and I explained the situation to Panca. He immediately understood and talked to my mom.
Pura Desa-Puseh Temple
The next stop was the Pura Desa-Puseh Temple in Batuan, again free entrance. The sky was all blue, not a cloud in sight and the temperature kept creeping up. It seems that Panca knows a lot of people because as soon as we drove up to the temple, the parking guards greeted him and gave him a spot in the shade.
When visiting temples or holy places, please behave yourselves. Respect the culture and it starts by wearing the traditional clothing. The sarong will cover your legs and the sash will go around your waist. Other than that, don’t expose too much skin on your upper body and you will be fine.
Panca showed us around the temple, explained the history of it and what it meant for the local people. All around the temple you will see tiny offer baskets. These are placed at random on the grounds of the temple. So make sure not to step on these.
The offer baskets are made on site by several women. They will sit there for most of the day and create these offerings. My mom wanted to have one to remember my dad. But these are offerings can’t be bought. Instead Panca did something unbelievable. He talked to one of the women and explained the situation.
A couple of minutes after we had to follow the lady to one of the altars within the temple. She was allowed to place an offering to remember my dad. The lady took both my mom and Panca through the entire ritual. Thinking about it again brings back emotions and tears as both my brother and me were allowed to do the same. The local people didn’t know what went on, so Panca kindly explained what had happened. Unforgettable moment!
After the temple visit we headed to a coffee plantation. Not just any plantation, no this was the Luwak coffee plantation which also has free entrance. “Luwak kopi” is also known as one of the world’s most expensive coffees. A couple of years ago, it sold for a price between $ 100 and $ 600 per pound!
We got a guided tour throughout the plantation. It was nice to get out of the scorching sun! But beware if you’re tall that you don’t bump into any overhanging tree branches. Why? Well as you can see below, the bugs will be waiting for you…
The walk over the plantation gives you a nice insight on how they work. Not only that but you will also see what other things they grow. As it’s not only Luwak Kopi they grow, but also other blends of coffee. They even grow cacao beans on the plantation.
The creature below is the Asian palm civet. It’s a cat like creature, only lower on its feet. During the day they sleep and get active at night. They will look for the coffee beans and eat them. As the beans are not fully digested, they will follow their natural flow through their digestive system…
The excrements are then gathered and sorted out, ieuw! After a lot of sorting and cleaning they are ready for roasting.
It’s all manual labour, that explains the expensive price for this kind of coffee.
After the tour we had the chance to sit down to do some tasting. Now I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but my mom tried it. I’m more into tea and luck was on my side as they also grew tea. There were 15 different varieties of tea to taste! We ended up buying a small bag of the Luwak Kopi and a couple of bags of different tea blends.
When we left the coffee plantation, Panca told us it was time for lunch. He knew a great place to eat, so he drove us over there. Now Panca is so humble that he told us to go into the restaurant and he would wait in the car. No way! He had done so much for us, so I was not going to have him in wait while we ate lunch.
I invited him to join us and his smile said enough about the gratitude. He’s such a great guy, I can’t say it enough. We had a delicious lunch.
During lunch we had a brilliant view over a rice plantation. It was so quiet and peaceful out there. The pond you see below was full of Koi carp. Seeing the picture just makes me want to go back!
In the afternoon we headed over to the Monkey Forest park in Ubud. Here you need to pay an entrance fee of 40.000 IDR per person. Which is about 2,7 Euros per person, peanuts! When you come into the park, you’ll get a small map, but the place is huge. You can easily spend an entire afternoon here. Either play with the monkeys or snap loads of pictures.
Although beware of the monkeys, make sure you have nothing in your pockets or hanging on your neck. Also make sure to put away your sunglasses or jewels. Those little buggers will try to snatch anything!
Throughout the park you’ll find sign with information. Of course Panca knew just about everything, so another reason for you to join him on a tour.
I made various attempts to take close up pictures of the monkeys. Eventually my patience paid off and the little guy below didn’t move an inch when I got close to him. He was probably like: “What’s the big ugly monkey looking at me for?”.
Inside the Monkey Forest you’ll come across a couple of small temples. These are closed to the public and will only be opened on for holy ceremonies.
It’s a great place to walk around as most of the park is covered in shade. Duh it’s a forest! It’s crazy to see how some trees have evolved and grown over the years. Overgrowing some of the buildings that are there.
Tegenungan Water Fall
We had one more site to visit during our tour of Ubud. That was the Tegenungan water fall. In order to go and see the water fall, you need to pay a visiting fee of 10.000 IDR per person. This is roughly 0,67 Euro! As you can see, it’s cheap in Bali to visit things.
Everyone in our group was thirsty so we decided to have a drink first. Now who doesn’t like a fresh coconut? It’s a great thirst quencher and is healthy too.
From the terrace we could see the water fall in the distance. My mom and Panca would stay up on the terrace. My brother and me decided to head down the steep stairs in search of the water fall.
Going down the stairs was the easy part. But don’t get too confident and start running cause you’ll have a crash landing! And as the steps are made out of concrete, you’ll end up hurting yourself. The closer you get down, the more you start to hear the roar of the water.
When we were there, there was a bit of a crowd. Not too many people though. I think everyone headed down to the water to cool off during this hot day. It’s a beautiful place, although make sure you take a cover for your camera. Otherwise it will get wet from the spray. You could of course also use a GoPro with a waterproof casing.
My hike up the holy mountain Agung was quite an adventure. I wrote about this in a previous article. Panca arranged everything for me. I pushed myself to my physical limit and found the hike to be tougher than the climb up Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. Nevertheless I’d do it again when I get the chance!
A couple of days after our tour around Ubud, we also went to visit the Uluwatu Temple. This temple is located high upon the cliffs of Uluwatu. It can get crowded there, but rely on Panca as he knows the best times to go. He’ll make sure you can make the most of your visit.
As the temple is a holy place, you are obliged to wear traditional clothing to cover your legs. Also make sure that you don’t wear any sleeveless shirts. Respect the local traditions!
This place is a photographer’s dream, you can easily spend hours in search of the perfect picture. Either a panoramic scenery or a brilliant sunset picture.
We walked around the temple complex for a while and then went to the open air theatre. This would be the place where the fire dance ceremony would be held. In order to view the ceremony, you need to pay an entrance fee of 100.000 IDR per person. It’s just under 7 Euros. The money is used to maintain the temple complex. The Balinese people are proud of their history. So the ceremony is a way to teach both foreigners and young local kids about the culture.
While everyone looks for a place to sit down, offerings will be made prior to the start of the ceremony.
Either you like it or not, but I got mesmerised by the dedication of the men participating in the ceremony. I have captured part of the ceremony with my GoPro. I will try to get it online for you.
Jimbaran Bay Seafood
We had enjoyed the beautiful sunset and ceremony and went to look for Panca. He met us right outside the theatre. By this time we were all hungry and Panca would take us to Jimbaran Bay for some excellent seafood. Again he wanted to stay in the car, no way mister! “Come join us for dinner!” I told him.
We ordered 2 huge seafood platters, one regular and a spicy one! The drinks were included with the meal. We had a table close to the water. In the distance we could see airplanes land at Denpasar airport. It was a clear sky that night, so it was a dinner under a heaven full of stars. I know for sure that my dad was looking down on us…
Oh behold, look what they brought us! Seafood galore! It’s a lot of food and while my mom and brother soon had their tummies full. Panca and me continued eating and licking our fingers, so good! We finished everything and were both completely stuffed.
The only conclusion I can draw from this is that I will definitely book with Panca again! He is such a humble and knowledgeable man. All he does is smile, you can tell he is happy to do his job. And that is showing people around his beloved Bali! Until next time my friend!