Amongst other things, Bali is known for its many temples, rice fields, and waterfalls. Although we stayed in Ubud because of the Family Adventure Summit, we did venture up North for a day to see some extraordinary sites!
We signed up for this popular tour on Airbnb, which required us to wake up at 4am to began our 2 hour ride to the first location– the iconic Gates of Heaven. If you have an Instagram account, chances are you have probably seen a ton of amazing photos from this majestic place. I certainly did, so I was eager to see it in person, and did not even mind the early wake up call. However, I couldn’t have been more shocked or more disappointed upon arrival. This was what I saw:
I was initially confused, and kept asking our guide “where is that large pool of water in front of the gates?” Due to the language barrier, it took me a few minutes to finally understand what he was explaining. There was no real pool of water. The beautiful pictures of the Gates of Heaven with the reflective pool of water that has been circulating all over the internet was simply a facade, created by none other than a small piece of mirror placed under the camera of an iphone.
I was incredibly disappointed about this and also a little upset at myself for trusting all those pictures on Instagram without doing my own thorough research about this site. Our guide then told us that on average, people wait 3-5 hours to have their picture taken in front of the Gates of Heaven, but because we arrived so early, our wait would only be about an hour. An hour still seemed excessive to me, but we were there already, so I decided to make the most out of it. The wait turned out to be rather entertaining as we watched groups after groups strike really creative poses in front of the gates. Each group had about a minute to do as many poses as they can fit in, so everyone’s strategy was to discuss and practice all their different poses as they were waiting for their turn. There were 3-4 locals just sitting there all day helping tourists take photos with that mirror effect. Once your number is called, you pay them (I think it was about USD $1), hurry over to the gates, and then strike as many poses as you can in the allocated time.
Here are some of our own photos taken at the Gates of Heaven after the 1.5 hour wait.
Was it worth the wait and early wake up call? Probably not (to me) but being that the place is still flooded with tourists waiting for over 3 hours everyday for their photos to be taken there, I’d suggest you decide for yourself how much you want photos like these!
Because the Gates of Heaven is located at Pura Lempuyang Luhur, which is a Balinese Hindu Temple, everyone is required to cover their shoulders and legs with sarongs.
Our second stop was the royal water garden of Karangasem Empire called Tirta Gangga. It was beautiful, full of ornate stone carvings, fish ponds with stepping stones for people to cross, and traditional pavilions.
We stopped for a buffet lunch at a lovely restaurant situated above lush rice fields. While the food was just mediocre, the view more than made up for it!
After lunch, we briefly trekked through a jungle, cave, and river to reach the Tukad Cepung waterfall, one of many extraordinary waterfalls around Bali. If you’ve ever been near or under a waterfall, you know it is loud and wet, but soooo majestic!
Next up was a tour of a coffee plantation, where we learned about the processing of coffee and tasted over a dozen different flavors of Balinese coffee and tea.
To be honest, we didn’t learn much from the coffee tour. The guide gave us a very brief tour with very limited info, and then quickly sat us down for the tasting as she wanted to encourage us to buy their products afterwards. We did end up getting a few bags of coffee and tea as souvenirs, but we were disappointed to not have learned much at all there!
Following the coffee tour was the famous jungle swing that everyone who visits Bali must do! It’s become so popular amongst tourists that there are a number of jungle swings all throughout Bali. Our guide claimed that the one he was bringing us to had the best view all around, and we could see why the minute we arrived, as we were just surrounded by the greenest, lushest rice fields and trees!
Okay, so prior to visiting Bali, I had seen a ton of jungle swing pictures on the Internet, and I honestly thought people just swung on it like a normal swing! During the ride there, I was even preaching to Bridgette the importance of holding on tightly so she wouldn’t end up flying off the swing and into the rice fields, lol. As it turned out, getting onto one of these swings required that you be harnessed and strapped up. Ofcourse! Safety first! What was I thinking???
We ended our full day tour at the Tegalalang rice terrace. By then, we were so exhausted and ready to go back to the hotel. Overall, this tour felt more like a tour for people who are eager to visit many different locations in a day for nice, Instagram-worthy photos, and not so much to learn and experience the local culture. Not really our cup of tea, but our guide was very nice and tried hard to answer all of our questions along the tour. Plus, we did get some nice photos even with just our iphone! 🙂