Day Tripping around the Ubud Region

Having spent several days working on a book I am editing, I was excited to spend the day out and about in the region surrounding Ubud, Bali. My driver and I created an itinerary that would take us from watching a traditional Balinese dance to the return of thousands of herons, with much in between.

We headed to Gianyar first thing in the morning to watch a Barong and Kris dance, which tells an ancient Hindu story about the fight between good and evil.

The musicians


The Tiger


The Monkey

The Good


The Evil
The Evil


The . . . I forget, but they were entertaining!


The Cast

From Gianyar we headed to the beautiful Tegenungan waterfall. Stunning views slowed our progress on the short hike down concrete steps. It was a hot day, and when we finally reached the fall, the water was incredibly refreshing.

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Tegenungan waterfall


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Feeling the freedom!


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After getting in a good hike back up the stairs from the waterfall, we headed to the famous Tirtha Empul Holy Spring Temple. This sacred historical complex was full of tourists dipping in the holy waters. It is a gorgeous area (as is all of Bali!), and I enjoyed strolling the grounds.

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Tirtha Empul


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Onward we drove, to Goa Gajah, another famous temple, built in the ninth century. It sustained a lot of damage in the 1963 earthquake that devastated many areas in Bali, but the hilly terrain, meandering paths, and surrounding jungle made for a very pleasant stroll.

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I am standing in front of some of the ruins, giant carved stone pieces that fell from the hillside behind me, at Goa Gajah.

When one of the ninth-century temples was destroyed in the earthquake, the villagers stacked the rubble into a monument of sorts.

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Goa Gajah ruins

Upon leaving Goa Gajah, my driver, Yandi, and I drove through the sudden monsoon, the second of the season, and stopped for lunch at the Tegallalong Rice Fields cafe overlooking—you guessed it—the Tegallalong Rice Fields. The monsoon rain is torrential; it comes down hard, fast, and in one of the most vertical lines provided by Mother Nature! Streets are instantly flooded, and I was glad I had such a professional driver. I had already visited these rice fields, so it was fun to just sit in our own little covered area and watch the incredible view of the fields being pelted by the nourishing water as we enjoyed our lunch.

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My driver, Yandi, and me at lunch during a monsoon.

We ended our day at Petulu Gunung, a tiny village near where I was staying in Andong. This one-street village is home to the Kokokan, a white heron that stands about sixteen inches tall. The village is becoming famous because every day a huge flock of herons flies far away to seek food, then returns every evening around 5:00. We arrived right at 5:00 and already thousands of birds had returned to the trees. Baby birds had hatched and were being tended by their mothers in the hundreds of nests filling the trees. The Kokokan is important to the villagers, as word of their daily mass return has started to draw tourists from nearby Ubud to witness the incredible scene, relieving some of the devastating poverty that plagues the village.

As I stood, solitary, in a grassy field bordered by a couple of rice paddies, the beautiful white birds kept coming. Their graceful beauty was hard for this amateur photographer to capture. The villagers clearly respect and protect the herons, as they feel they were specially chosen to be stewards of this elegant bird.

The Kokokan, or white heron.


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It was truly a wonderful day of taking in the incredible variety of things to do and see in the region surrounding Ubud. The driver cost me $30USD for the full day, and I spent a total of about $18.50 on everything else, including entrance fees to some of the places and paying for Yandi’s and my lunch. I won’t be splurging like this very often, so when I do, you can be sure I will make the most of it!

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