Whenever I book a trip to a new place there are a few things that I always do immediately after confirming my flights: Buy the Lonely Planet guide, read loads of blog posts from other travel bloggers and search on YouTube!
When Lewis and I booked our trip to Bali we jumped straight on YouTube and found this fantastic video posted by Christian LeBlanc of Lost LeBlanc (check him out for travel vlogs so amazing you’ll want to drop everything and get on the next flight) who did a tour with a dude named Panca and had what looked like The Best Day Ever.
After watching the video, we didn’t waste a second in sending Panca an email and booking a full day with him while we were in Ubud.
We had our very own Best Day Ever.
Panca, a Bali native with a warm smile and a wealth of knowledge about the big island, picked us up from our hotel at 8am. Panca splits his time between running his tour company, Bali Customized Tours, and working at the Four Seasons resort on Bali so it’s fair to say he’s pretty well versed in top level hospitality.
Our first stop was the breathtaking Tegalalang waterfall. Panca knew just when the big tour groups tended to arrive in certain locations so he planned everything out that we’d get there about 30-40 minutes prior to the big groups and we’d have more time there by ourselves.
We changed into bathing suits and filled our camera’s memory cards with photo after photo with this impressive backdrop. If you’re headed to Bali anytime soon, ignore what they say about ‘chasing waterfalls’ this one is worth your while. Rushing water pounded down from what seemed like four stories high. The mist from the falls caught the sun light just right and it was like every drop was a sun catcher casting a rainbow haze around the pools at the bottom of the falls.
After the waterfall, Panca gave us some chilled water bottles and cool towels to refresh from the sweaty trek back up to the car park. We jumped back into his van and headed to Gunung Kawi temple.
Gunung Kawi was everything cool I was hoping to see in Ubud all wrapped into one location. As soon as I saw photos of this place I knew we had to add it to our tour.
Fascinating and breathtaking tiered rice terraces…
Monuments and temples rich with culture and history…
Gunung Kawi is actually a series of 10 shrines (called candi) each dedicated to a member of 11th century Balinese royal family.
Each member got their own monument carved into the rock face of the earth. The sheer HUGENESS of these monuments, they’re each about 8 meters high, was unbelievable. It’s so crazy to think that so many centuries ago they had the means to build things as massive as this.
After a great deal of exploring we set off for our next location…
Not gonna lie though, getting to the last two spots was EXERCISE so our next stop was a coffee break.
We headed to a coffee plantation and farm: Satria, home of the Luwak “Cat-Poo-Chino.”
Yup, you read that right… cat poo.
A luwak is a cat:
Well, it’s a type of cat…
Who is known for producing the world’s most expensive and (allegedly) best coffee… some kinds of Luwak coffee can cost up to $3,000 USD per kilogram! The Luwak cat selects only the best coffee beans to eat, the beans then get sent through his digestive system, fermented within his intestines and then, well, poo’d out. Here’s a visual:
Some poor soul then has to collect these, um, droppings, pick out the digested beans and then go through a process of peeling off the outer layer of coffee bean skin (so the inside bean is technically uncontaminated) and then roast them and grind them and make coffee like you would any other way.
Satria coffee plantation did a really good job of walking you through each step of this process whilst in a tropical and and authentic landscape. Since they don’t just make luwak coffee at Satria at the end of the tour they take you to a nice picnic table with a 360 degree view of the farming fields and of course, more rice paddies, and let you sample (for free) a selection of their home brewed teas, coffees and hot chocolates. To try the luwak coffee did cost IDR 50,000 (AUD 5) so Lewis and I shared a cup because how could ya not, right?
After the coffee we headed to our next destination: lunch!
But not just any lunch, lunch with a view of one of two of Bali’s active volcanoes: Mount Batur.
Although unfortunately it was quite cloudy so when we first arrived all we saw was a whole lotta gray. But the food at our destination was so good that at first we didn’t really mind. Panca took us to Madu Sari restaurant where you can get a buffet lunch of authentic balinese food for about AUD $10. I really like this because I’m kind of hesitant to order new food when I go out for a meal in case I don’t end up liking it, but this way I got to sample all the Indonesian food I’d been curious about all week and hadn’t tried yet! Nasi Goreng, gado gado, fried bananas and loads more. I think I went back for thirds. just as I finished taking my last heaping bite Panca came hustling up to our table to let us know that the fog had cleared and we would have a chance to see the view of the volcano!
After lunch the rain that had been threatening all afternoon started coming down and coming down hard. The rain in Bali is NO JOKE. But despite booking our trip for the tail end of Bali’s rainy season it didn’t really impede on our travels too too much. (There was, however, one incident on Gili T involving a flash flood and bicycles that I wouldn’t wish on anyone…I’ll post about that later).
We had one last stop planned: a look at Bali’s most famous rice fields, Tegalalang Rice Terrace.
It was POURING sheets of rain by the time we reached Tegalalang but Panca, ever prepared, had umbrellas and we braved the rain so we could get a closer look at the terraces. Unfortunately it was so rainy my photos didn’t even come out but trust me when Tegalalang looks exactly as beautiful as all the photos in the guidebooks portray it to be.
After a jam packed, incredible day of information and sight seeing we were headed back to our hotel.
I 100 million % recommend booking a tour with Panca at Bali Customized Tours if you are going to be in Bali anytime soon. Bali is SO packed with culture and history and tradition that is all SO completely different from anything I’ve seen in Western culture that it’s natural to have loads of questions about the way they do things there. I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice coming all the way to Bali and not learning about the truly fascinating culture you’ll be encompassed in…and hanging out with a local like Panca is the #1 way to do it.
There are loads of drivers peddling taxi tours down the streets of Monkey Forest Road in Ubud but with Panca you know you’ll be getting someone safe, trustworthy, reliable, knowledgable, fun and fluent in English (and he even speaks Japanese!). His rates are very fair, especially for a full day adventure like this one. You will, however, have to account for entry fees that each ‘attraction’ charges (but they’re all around AUD $4) so just bring a little extra cash. He lists a bunch of different tour options on his website but he isn’t kidding when he says “customized tours” you can contact him via email or What’s App and discuss anything you’re interested in seeing or learning about in Bali and he can figure out your perfect itinerary. It’s really an amazing service.
Please feel free to drop me a comment if you have any further questions about our time with Bali Customized Tours or about any of the locations I’ve mentioned above!
Thank you Panca for an epic day around Bali! As always, all opinions are my own!