Most travelers to Bali, Indonesia would instinctively flock to Kuta with its famous long and wide golden sandy beach that stretches for 2.5 km.
Kuta’s long, billowing waves have also drawn surfers in droves, especially those who’ve just found their teeth. The resort’s high concentration of bars, clubs and restaurants hasn’t diminished its role as a party nerve center either.
However for someone older like me it is counterintuitive to be there.
So I made my way to Bali’s northeast coast to Tembok, a sleepy fishing village off the beaten track.
You won’t encounter stoned hippie travelers or rich and noisy tourists. Here, foreigners who value privacy and the quiet, slower pace of life are the only outsiders.
Tembok is miles away from Denpasar or Kuta. In fact, it’s a three-hour drive along narrow and winding mountain roads.
But the long drive is well worth it as there are beautiful volcanic sandy beaches lined with tall green palm trees.
Then there is the towering Mount Batur and Mount Agung, the two active volcanoes that dominate the area and stand majestically.
These are stunning views on a clear day or during sunset.
Armed with two paperback novels, my wife and I spent the days staring at the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and taking the occasional dip in the sea.
At night we parked on the decks of the hotel garden and admired the shining stars in the sky. We were happy and grateful to be in Tembok because we knew we deserved this vacation because we worked hard all our lives.
As in Thailand, a massage is a must at many spa resorts, offering traditional Indonesian deep tissue massages. Nothing beats targeted pressure on a tired body, especially the knotted tissues, with scented oil.
But we are Malaysian. The food, the massage and the swimming will not be enough to tempt us to spend our entire vacation locked in a hotel. After all, my wife and I are not honeymooners.
Tegallalang was another stop for us, where the picturesque terraced hills offered lush paddy fields amidst lush greenery.
This is a totally Instagram-worthy spot, which has to do with its array of beautifully arranged panels. Tegallalang is in north Ubud, about a two-hour drive from my hotel.
We didn’t stay too long, however, as this agricultural icon, which sits 600m above sea level, was teeming with tourists. Ultimately, this is one of those mandatory stops for all tours.
We, like all visitors, enjoyed the view from the top, descended into the valley of the fields and then hiked back up the other side of the cliff.
It was good practice after the daily diet of nasi goreng, sate ayam, babi guling (fried pork) – tender and delicious, with a perfect crust – and other Balinese dishes.
The sight is indeed breathtaking, and proof of the pudding is the inclusion of the Tegallalang Rice Terraces on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Our nose and palate drew us into the local durian, and soon we found ourselves in Tejakula, a coastal village in the Buleleng Regency.
Although we didn’t expect the Musang King variety there, we were encouraged to try it as many of the farmers have stopped using fertilizers. So the less than perfect durians suited us just fine.
There were many stalls on the sides of the narrow mountain roads and all seemed attractive but our driver chose one that offered him the safest parking spot.
I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for the durian, but it was close to Kampung durian prices in Malaysia, and as expected, they were only average.
But then maybe I wasn’t quite sure what to ask for and didn’t want to negotiate and maybe I wasn’t offered the choice fruit. It might have been a different story if we had been accompanied by locals.
The trip to the remote side of Bali with its natural landscapes was exactly what we wanted and got. A retreat away from other travellers, spending quality time surrounded by nature, eating like the locals and relaxing your body and mind.
We were on the side of Bali that exuded calm and serenity. And it was certainly on the right side of the land of the gods, as Bali is called. Yes, the black sand beaches will see us again.