Lightbox Bali

Text and Photos by Anton Muhajir

Cool Munduk

There is more to Bali than beaches and wild parties. Further up north, past the tranquil region of Ubud, lies another serene setting in which you can let go of your day-to-day worries. Anton Muhajir introduces the natural beauty of Munduk Village.

It was quiet. The night insects had ceased their noise and we could only hear the sound of water gurgling. The occasional snatch of birdsong could also be heard and added colour to the morning. And then silence.

Yes, things were placid indeed as the year 2013 came into view down in the village of Munduk in Banjar in Buleleng Regency on the ever-popular island of Bali. While Bali’s main tourist centres, such as Kuta and Legian, enjoyed raucous New Year’s festivities, tranquil Munduk was the exact opposite.

This tranquility, however, is Munduk’s main selling point. Located about 80km from Bali’s capital, Denpasar, and unlike the popular draws of Kuta and Nusa Dua, the village is not one of the province’s major tourist destinations. It boasts few tourist facilities, such as hotels and restaurants, and even the houses here are scattered diffusely across the landscape, and not clustered together as Balinese settlements usually are. Instead, the land is green with plantations and it is this natural beauty that drew us to Munduk.

Like many plantations across Indonesia, the cultivated areas in Munduk were once Dutch estates. Back in the 1900s, when the European colonialists controlled Bali from Singaraja, the former capital of the Lesser Sunda of which Bali was part, the Dutch turned Munduk and its surrounding villages, which include Banyuatis and Gobleg, into a retreat. The first guest house in Munduk was built by the Dutch back in 1908.

When Bali’s tourism boom took off in the 1970s, local residents began to build facilities themselves. Puri Lumbung Cottages led the way and it remains as the best-known accommodation in the village. Rates here range between USD 69 and USD 160 per night.

There are plenty of lodgings to be enjoyed which charge lower rates however. Meme Surung Homestay, for example, has rates that run from USD 37 to USD 42, while Melanting Cottages charges between USD 65 to USD 110 per night.

Almost all of these lodgings offer similar facilities. Best of all though are the balconies, which sport fantastic views of Mother Nature as it stretches out below. From the veranda of your cottage, you will be treated to fantastic views of hills and luxuriant valleys filled with clove, coffee and cocoa trees. Moreover, when the weather is clear, you can even see all the way up to Bali’s northern coast.

Trekking is particularly popular among the tourists who visit the village, and there are several points of interest to hike to here. One of these is the Melanting waterfall, which is located in the village itself, so it is not too hard to find. Simply stroll along the village lanes and follow the signposts up to the waterfall itself.

Amble along the village’s main road and then turn down the narrow path that leads to Melanting. From Melanting Cottages, where we stayed, the stroll to the waterfall down this pleasant path only took us around 20-30 minutes. We hiked along the banks of a small stream and its delightfully clear waters, and both the water and the air were crisply fresh.

The path then leads to the area’s clove, coffee and cocoa plantations, which are interspersed with vacant plots of land. At one point we had to walk along a slippery path covered with mossy rocks which lay adjacent to a steep slope that descended away from us on one side. If we had not been careful, we could easily have slipped and fallen. The trip to the Melanting waterfall ultimately proved to be well worth the effort however. When we arrived at the falls during the afternoon, the water was still clear, despite the fact that it had only just stopped raining. The water that sluiced into to the ground had created a pool measuring about 20m by 20m, and the water bubbled as it fell from the top of the cliffs above before flowing into the nearby rivers.

The pool is safe to check out, although you still need to be a little careful up here, as there are leeches to contend with. The pool is no deeper than chest high for an adult, and many visitors choose to enjoy a soak in the coolness of its waters. The stone-covered pool bed offers the feet a kind of soothing reflexology massage, which really feels pleasant after the walk up. You can bathe to your heart’s content here, yelling and splashing water at your friends and shattering the crystal silence of Munduk with your high spirits.

Aside from the waterfall, visitors can explore the natural surroundings up here, which takes a little more time. A hike around the area’s terraced rice fields takes around two hours, and one can also walk down to Lake Tamblingan, a hike of around five hours.

If you’re not so keen on trekking, then there are plenty of other, more self-indulgent activities to engage in, such as Balinese cooking classes and, of course, a visit to the spa for a good old-fashioned pampering. There’s plenty to do as you enjoy the cool and calm of Munduk.