One of the problems with taking a family holiday to Bali these days is that it’s very hard to see the real Bali.
Walking down the street in any of the major towns: Kuta, Seminyak, Benoa or Sanur it is non-stop souvenir shops, day spas, mini marts and restaurants aimed at the tourist. The only locals you see are those working, locals do not live or socialise in these areas.
But for me one of the great things about travel is seeing how other people live.
So I was quite excited to learn about Green Bike Cycle Tours from a fellow guest at the Sanur Paradise Plaza Suites – who promised I would get the chance to see the real Bali.
Our Bali Bike Tour
Booking the Tour
It is really simple booking a Bali bike tour with Green Bike Cycle Tours through their website, I email the company a few days before we want to take the tour.
Later that day they confirm our booking, quote the price for the tour to be paid in Indonesian Rupiah cash, advise of the pickup time 7am, suggest we bring hats and sunscreen, and emphasis eat breakfast before departing for the tour as brunch will not be until 10:30am.
On the morning of the tour we head to our hotel buffet for a quick breakfast before waiting at the front desk for our pickup. Sure enough at the allotted time a driver collects us from the Sanur Paradise Plaza Suites in the 6 seater car.
We are joined by a single USA expat lady who resides in Singapore. A feel a little sorry for her stuck with a family of 3 for the day – I suppose the only down side to the fact that these small tours only have a maximum of 6 people per tour vehicle.
We drive up into the mountains and as we reach Ubud we collect our tour guide who lives locally on a family farm with his wife and children.
Agriculture/Luwak Coffee Plantation
Our first stop is a coffee plantation. We start with walking through the gardens of spice trees for vanilla, chilli, cacao, coffee and more. It is interesting to see some of these trees up close especially after visiting the Penang Spice Garden last year.
However the highlight of this stop is about the Luak or Asian Palm Civet – a cat like animal that eats the coffee beans and then poops them before they dried and roasted. We have a go at grinding the coffee beans and watching them being roasted.
Then we round the corner to a cliff top coffee shop overlooking a deep ravine filled with lush tropical jungle. We each order a 100 000IR Luwak coffee, though in hindsight wish we had ordered one to share, as we are also given a tray of 12 different coffees to taste (Lewis is given a hot chocolate). The actual Luwak coffee is very strong – I am a coffee drinker but it is a bit too much for me. The other coffees are sweet with various additional flavours.
We feet it a bit of shame that they push the Luwak coffee as we didn’t taste many of the other coffees that we then could have bought at the shop along with fragrant oils and soaps.
We get back into the car and continue winding up into the mountains passing orange tree plantations – something I am surprised to see as I would have thought Bali too hot for citrus trees, but it is cooler in the mountains.
Finally at the top of the mountain we see Batur Volcano and its crater lake. Whilst the mountain is covered in a bit of haze we can still see the smoke rising from the volcano.
From a restaurant across the road we get to enjoy this vista whilst having a brunch of fried rice, noodles, pancakes and toast with tea and coffee.
With our tummy’s full we get back into the car and make our way to the push bikes.
The Bike Ride
The bikes are ready for each of us as the guide has pre-arranged them during the drive. A tandem bike is out for Steve and Lewis, whilst the expat lady, 2 tour guides and I each have a single bike.
We are told to put on sunscreen, leave our hats on under our provided helmets and we each are given a water bottle for our bikes. We are able to leave our day bags in the car, as it will follow us along the ride.
The bike ride in not arduous at all, we actually spend most of the time with our hands on the breaks as we roll downhill on the back roads of Bali. Fortunately the local traffic is quite use to these cycle tours, they toot and make their way easily around us as we manoeuvre around pot holes and watch the passing scenery.
At one point I call ahead to Lewis as we see the kids coming home for lunch on the “school bus” an old Ute (pickup) has the kids piled on the back, stopping periodically to drop of the kids. The kids all wave to us and get quite excited when they see Lewis is also on the tour. “Boy, boy,” they shout excitedly.
Lewis is having a ball on the back of the bike re-calling instructions from the lead cycle tour guide (though Steve did comment at the end it was hard-work keeping the bike up as Lewis wriggled about).
Our first major stop on the ride is at a local village.
A ceremony to open the new village temple is taking place and the locals are all dressed in their best clothes. Most of the ladies are wearing bright yellow or white lace jackets that match the flags lining the main street.
At the next village we get to see inside a local villager’s compound. Each room is a separate building – the sleeping building is separate from the kitchen which houses an open fire stove, a large water tank is located just outside, a bit further away if the ablutions room and a pig is settled undercover at the far end of the lot, there is also an area set aside for the family’s temples. We now understand how all those stone carving shops along the major roads stay in business – every family compound has shrines and temples.
It is here that we also learn how to make a Hindu offering and we leave a tip for the local villager for showing us around her home. Just a note here – remember to take some small notes for the tipping and coffees along the way.
We keep rolling downhill and make our way to a town in the centre of Bali.
We stop under the shade of a tree in the main square, catch our breath, have a drink of water and watch the local kids showing off doing tricks on their bikes.
Lewis comments that his hands are sore, so the guide suggests he sit in the support car until we reach the entrance to the rice fields.
Riding through the tracks of the rice fields was probably the hardest part of the whole journey, I was actually really impressed Steve stayed upright as I nearly fell off at one point due to the corrugations in the sandy tracks.
But it was well worth it to see the rice fields and the irrigation system – water trickles down stone trenches and branches off into each rice field. Our guide explains that the rice fields are handed down from generation to generation.
As we exit the rice fields it is 2:30pm and our tour is almost over. We are taken to swanky new villas overlooking the rice fields for lunch.
We enjoy a nice chicken satay with fried rice (a fairly traditional Bali dish), fortunately I had the forethought for my non adventurous eating child to pack some sandwiches I had made up at the breakfast buffet early this morning.
At the end of the tour we pay our guide in cash for the tour and a tip, as we were so impressed with the quality of the tour educating us into the real Balinese culture.
Do you like to see the real culture of a place when you travel?
Tell me whether you think this tour would do it for you.
If you would like to read more travel stories from our family holiday to Bali please click HERE.
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