When it came time to leave Ubud, we were truly sorry to go. When you’re planning any trip, it can be hard to know just how to divide your time. Usually we like to keep moving, and seeing new places. But we had found ourselves settling into a heavenly routine, and could already tell that we would hard-pressed to find comfort and beauty of the likes we had found in Ubud.
And yet, at the same time, we had great things in store.
We all climbed into Nyoman’s car and began the drive north. He had an especially lovely blessing on the dashboard from his wife for the long drive.
Permuteran is roughly four hours from Ubud, depending on stops. We chose to take our first break at Pura Bratan, a beautiful lakeside temple that is an important site of pilgrimage in the mountains of central Bali.
I recognized it as an iconic temple of Bali, often photographed at sunrise.
As usual, Hudson made us lots of friends as we wandered the temple complex. Many members of a Gamalan troupe, arriving for a performance stopped to pose with him.
Galungan, a ten day festival that occurs once in every 210 days and marks the beginning of one of the most important religious ceremonies in Bali, was nearing (August 29 in 2012). And so we began to see tall bamboo poles called “penjor” sprouting up all over.
The Balinese believe that the ancestors of their families descend to the earth during the Galungan period and should be welcomed with prayers and offerings made in both the family and village temples. We had heard that many Balinese go to their ancestral home during this period and that we might find disruption in travel, but never found this to be the case.
Very near to Pura Bratan are many of the island’s strawberry farms. We stopped at the appropriately named “Strawberry Stop” for fresh strawberry milkshakes and a basket of fruit. If you are passing by, you should definitely stop. They were so delicious! Had we more time, we might have also detoured to visit the nearby Botanic Gardens of Bali.
The central mountains are also home to many clove farms (close to 50,000 farmers have it as their crop, I read), and you could smell the aromatic spice buds drying in large swaths by the road as you passed through villages.
The roads were windy through the mountains, and when we descended we found ourselves in a completely different, very arid landscape fronted by a beautiful black-sand beach.
Permuteran is a small village on the Nortwest coast that has some lovely beachside accommodations, mostly owing to its proximity to good diving and snorkeling at nearby Menjangan Island inside West Bali National Park. The protected area is supposed to host some of the best diving on the island.
We were sorry not to be able to check it out on this trip (we couldn’t take Hudson on the boat with us and weren’t comfortable leaving him with a sitter when we would be unavailable for large chunks of time). Aron did do one night dive from the shore while we were there and said that while you don’t get the same big-picture perspective of the terrain that you might during the day, you see all kinds of interesting sea life (nudibranchs and unusual fish, for example). Hudson and I waited for him ashore and watched local girls practicing their dance moves for upcoming ceremony.
We had booked a bungalow at Taman Selini, which was completely charming. Our room had one netted bed inside and a netted day-bed outside on a large porch, where Aron and I could spend time once Hudson was asleep. As is typical in Bali, the bathroom and shower in back were completely open-air.
There were roosters around, and cute cats who would visit at mealtimes. It was here that Hudson developed his meow-sound (more of a meuuuu), that he makes to this day.
We immediately settled in and tried the Greek food.
Apparently one of the owners is a Greek expat, so the hotel menu featured the cuisine of both Indonesia and Greece. It was some of the best Greek food I’d had in years, and it was actually sort of a nice change to enjoy some meze and souvlaki on occasion for a few days.
Breakfast was delicious, too. We kept ordering the banana pancakes, while Hudson ate his weight in scrambled eggs.
Once again, everyone was so kind to Hudson and even offered to take him into the kitchen for a tour while we enjoyed our food. (He respectfully declined.)
We stayed fairly firmly put during our time in Permuteran. Our days consisted of taking turns visiting the spas and having massages at the hotels along the beach while the other played with Hudson on the shore.
Both Pondok Sari (next door, with a great pool) and Adi Assri had excellent spas with massages at very reasonable prices, but Adi Assri was my favorite. One small note: the expectation is that you get completely naked (you of course never have to), and modesty isn’t quite as well protected as it might be here. We both shared some laughs after our respective treatments about feeling cool breezes when (and where) one doesn’t really expect it, if you get what I mean.
While we missed the private plunge pool at Harvest Moon, I’ll admit is was a relief to be a bit more carefree when Hudson was playing. The gardens just in front of the bungalow were perfect for an early-walker.
Our fellow tourists seemed largely Australian or European—we heard lots of French and German—and most disappeared during the day on snorkeling and diving boats.
The shore snorkeling wasn’t bad however, thanks to an interesting beach restoration project. The reef had become damaged over the years from poor fishing practices, so the local dive shops and hotels, along with the local government, installed Bio-rock coral nursery structures in a protected area. It’s the largest Bio-rock coral reef nursery and restoration project worldwide.
When it came time to pick up a few more supplies for Hudson and some snacks, it was a short walk down the road to a nearby convenience store .
We brought along more toys than we needed to for Hudson. Somehow the prospect of a month on the road seemed too daunting not to bring along a few favorites. The globe ball proved to be a fun tool for playing with local children, to whom we could point out both where they are and where we were from.
I remember hating black sand as a kid. I didn’t like how it seemed to make the water appear darker, even dirty. Hudson had no such bias and loved every minute on the beach–I have a feeling there’s still some in his clothes somewhere.
Of course this time I thought it was beautiful, especially at sunset when it would glisten and hold the image of a reflected sky. It wasn’t pristine; but the fishing boats would come in as the day ended and it was lovely.
It’s a bit out of the way from the southern resorts and other major sites in Bali, but Permuteran would make a great stop for anyone interested in diving or in finding a less touristed, quieter beach.
Next up: East to Amed and Gili Trawagnan.