Indonesian Language Blog

Bali Barat (Part Two) Posted by on Apr 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

After finding a remote waterfall and a giant tree with a road going through it, our journey around Bali Barat (West Bali) continues. From the small surfing town of Medewi, you can continue along the main road headed northwest to Jembrana. If you’re making this trip between July and November, you’ll get the chance to experience the amazing Makepung races. That’s precisely where we’ll begin Part Two of our West Bali adventure.

Makepung Races

The amazing makepung races.

So, what exactly are the Makepung races? These races are done with water buffaloes and are a big part of the culture of West Bali. A pair of two water buffaloes is paired with a jockey and hooked up to a traditional wooden plough. Teams are divided into east and west, which you can recognize by their uniforms. Teams from the east wear red while those from the west wear green.

Makepung dibagi menjadi 2 wilayah – barat (hijau) dan timur (merah).
Makepung is divided into 2 regions – west (green) and east (red).

The Makepung races are quite the occasion, with thousands of people turning up for each one. There are tons of vendors out selling snacks, drinks, clothing, and toys. Not surprisingly, betting is also a big part of the races.

It can get a little rough out there.

A word of warning if you want to attend the Makepung races – the jockeys push their buffaloes to go faster by whipping them on the back. By the end of the race, the buffaloes are bloodied and beaten. If you can’t handle seeing this scene, it’s best to just stay home. Like it or not, animal rights are not big in Balinese culture.

The Makepung races are held every two weeks throughout the dry season, always on Sunday. This year, the first race will be held on July 15 while the final one will be on November 18. There are seven different circuits that are used for the races and they’re all located in Jembrana.

As the races generally take place earlier in the day, you’ll be able to get back on the road and continue your West Bali road trip.

Visit a Naval Monument

Visiting the naval monument.

Just before you reach the town of Gilimanuk, you’ll pass by a monument called Monumen Operasi Lintas Laut Jawa-Bali. This is dedicated to the naval battles that occurred between Indonesian militants and the Dutch in the country’s fight for independence. It’s a nice place to get off the bike for a bit to stretch your legs. Plus, you can take your picture sitting in an old tank. Bagus sekali! From here, you don’t have very far to go to reach the national park.

West Bali National Park

Getting ready to head out to Menjangan.

Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National Park) is definitely a major highlight of this trip. There are several activities you can take part in here – birdwatching, hiking, snorkeling, and diving to name a few. You’ll need to purchase a visitor’s permit to do anything in the park, and it’s also necessary to go with a guide on any hikes. There are two different offices for the park where you can sign up for a hike. Try to count how many different types of birds you spot on your walk, as the park is said to be home to 160 species of birds, including the near-extinct Bali Starling.

Diving at Menjangan rocks!

If you’d rather explore under the sea, this is one of the best places in Bali to go snorkeling or diving. The national park includes a small island called Pulau Menjangan. You can sign up for a trip from one of the nearby towns or just show up at the pier at Labuan Lalang and join a group.

Under the sea.

A snorkeling/diving tour will usually last half a day and include lunch. Having done both, I can vouch for this being one of the coolest experiences you can have in Bali. Even if you’re not a diver, the snorkeling here is still excellent and well worth it.

The amazing temple on Menjangan.

Some tours will also allow you to walk around on the island. Here you’ll see plenty of wild deer, which explains the name of the island (menjangan means deer in Indonesian). There’s also a beautiful temple called Pura Gili Kencana that you’ll want to check out while here.

Pura ini sangat indah!
This temple is very beautiful!

After all that excitement, you may want to chill out for a couple of days. Thankfully, the perfect town to do just that is our next stop.


Chilled out Pemuteran.

If you’re looking for a base to explore this corner of Bali, Pemuteran is the perfect choice. You won’t find a rowdy bar scene or Western chains here, but you will find a peaceful town with a handful of hotels, restaurants, and shops – more than enough for the small crowd that manages to get to this part of the island.

Monkeys galore.

There are a few temples that are worth exploring around Pemuteran, including Pura Pulaki. This temple commemorates the arrival of a Javanese priest-saint to Bali in the 16th century. Legend has it that monkeys led him through the forest, and he later established this temple.

Ada banyak monyet di sini.
There are many monkeys here.

Since then, the monkeys have been guardians of the temple, and you’ll see plenty of them as well as a few statues in their honor.

With a couple of days in Pemuteran, you can get in a few dives, visit the temples, and relax on the beach. This chilled out town feels worlds apart from the chaos of South Bali and it’s one of my favorite places on the whole island. There’s still a lot more to see and do on this West Bali trip, including soaking in hot springs and visiting one of Bali’s most famous temples. We’ll do just that in the third and final post on this epic West Bali adventure.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.