Pemuteran: The Quieter Side of Bali Posted by sasha on Aug 20, 2015 in Uncategorized
For most visitors to Bali, your first impression will be the southern part of the island. This is where the airport is, and thus is far and away the most touristy area. Encountering horrendous traffic, pushy touts, and places like the Hard Rock Cafe, you might find yourself wondering why they call this place the Island of the Gods. Travelers who take a different approach to Bali, however, will be pleased to find a much more relaxed, scenic place. Arriving via the short ferry ride from Java, you find yourself in the northwest corner of the island, worlds apart from the madness of Kuta in the south.
From the port town of Gilimanuk, it’s just an hour drive up the road to Pemuteran, a sleepy little town on Bali’s north coast. There’s barely any traffic, the beaches are free of touts, and neither packaged tour groups nor beer-schwilling backpackers tend to make it all the way here. 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. For those willing to put forth the effort, here’s a short guide to this quaint Balinese town:
The main draw for visiting Pemuteran – aside from enjoying some peace and quiet on your Bali trip – is its proximity to Menjangan Island. A short boat ride away, this is a fantastic spot for snorkeling and/or diving. Setting out on a boat early in the morning and watching the clouds roll over a volcano in the distance just might be one of the best possible starts to a day ever.
This is no average boat ride out to a dive site, though – on the way you pass by an absolutely stunning white temple featuring a massive statue of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant-deity.
It’s just as beautiful under the water, as restoration efforts here have really paid off in recent years. We settled for snorkeling for budgetary reasons, but the diving is said to be superb here. For what it’s worth, we had a fantastic morning snorkeling and it was easily one of the highlights of our most recent 2-week trip to Bali.
Aside from exploring under the sea, there are also three temples just outside of the town that are easily reached by bike and are all well worth visiting. Heading out of town, the first one you’ll come across is Pura Pulaki, which is actually quite an important temple in Bali.
The 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. 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.
If the macaques freak you out (and they might), you may not be spending that much time here. Just don’t bother them and they won’t bother you, and you’ll be free to admire this incredible Balinese temple in all of its glory.
Next up is Pura Pabean, which is just 200 meters or so up the road. Featuring a postcard-worthy view of the coast, this temple is well worth a visit. You’ll see a few monkeys here as well, but not nearly as many as at the first.
Unlike some of the island’s most popular temples – Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, etc. – you won’t find any tour buses here. In fact, you just might get as lucky as I did and have the entire place to yourself. There are some incredibly intricate statues looking out to the north from the top of the temple, protecting the island from harm.
There’s more to this temple than just the view, so be sure to spend a few minutes walking around the interior. Get out your zoom lens to take a closer look at the detail on the temple – it sure is impressive.
Finally, there’s Pura Melanting, where visitors are encouraged to make a donation and required to wear a sarong and sash. Realizing how absolutely ridiculous I looked, I just had to do something I hate and snap a selfie.
The inner compound of the temple is the most impressive of the three, so it’s good to save this one for last. Just be careful where you wander – I accidentally stumbled into an area that definitely wasn’t open for tourists. Perhaps you’re better off hiring a guide to take you through this one. On the way out, I stopped to watch some local kids having somewhat of a band practice in the temple – a great way to wind down the day.
As previously mentioned, there is a decent enough tourism infrastructure in place to ensure a comfortable stay in Pemuteran. Accommodation ranges from simple budget rooms in homestays to beachfront villas. We stayed at the Tirta Sari Bungalows, which has a variety of rooms, a nice pool, and free breakfast. For around $30/night, this place was a steal and comes highly recommended.
There are also a decent amount of restaurants here, from standard warung with cheap local fare to a few Western-style places. We particularly enjoyed a lunch we had at Bali Balance, a great cafe with nice indoor and outdoor seating options. They’ve got great pastas, salads, coffee, and the always delicious avocado juice with chocolate.
While Pemuteran isn’t the easiest place to access – especially for people flying in and out – the juice is worth the squeeze if you ask me. Escape the congested roads and crowded beaches of the south and give North Bali a try. Chances are you’ll find you enjoy it much more than the other side of the island.