On my first trip to Bali, Indonesia in September 2017 I really had no idea around what to expect from a visit to this small island and that of its people. Aside from the standard stereotyping of what many Australians consider Bali to be - a destination filled with cashed up 'Aussie Bogans' looking to party hard, I was to be corrected on that misnomer within days of my arrival.
In the first of my series of articles about my travels through Bali - Lovina provided me with a real insight into the culture and the people of Bali, like no other place I had visited around the island. This article explores the following aspects of my journey.
Luwak Coffee Plantation
Padmasari Resort Accommodation
Overall Destination Rating
Lovina is a coastal area of Bali, featuring a relaxed coastal village environment which boasts 12 kilometres of beaches. Lovina is situated along the West of Singaraja in Northern Bali.
Lovina is a destination favoured by families and older travelers who prefer a more natural and relaxed style of holiday destination, or those looking to take a break from the chaos found on Southern parts of the island including Kuta and Seminyak.
Lovina Fast Facts
The village itself is quite small Kalibukbuk, being the most developed in the region comprises a range of hotels rated between two to five stars, restaurants serving both local and a range of international food, bars and coffee shops. The area is safe, tourist friendly and offers up a range of activities including water sports and dive trips. Lovina is famed for its early morning dolphin watching tours undertaken by local fishing boat owners.
The central hub of the town revolves around the space between the dolphin statue and the main restaurant road. There are numerous bars playing live music day and night, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. The area is popular with expats who appreciate a more relaxed and simple lifestyle. They can be seen traveling around town on their motor scooters. The town itself has a great vibe, the people are friendly and only too willing to assist with little ‘touting’ for business or street harassment by local vendors.
Getting To Lovina
Getting to Lovina entails a journey of around 3 hours by vehicle from Denpasar, depending on the traffic which I found to be slow much of the way. Driving speeds averaged around 40 kilometres per hour over the length of the journey, leaving plenty of time to take in the sights along the way including the twin lakes or stopping off at the Luwak Coffee Plantation to taste from a range of locally grown and blended coffee tasting and to indulge in a Luwak Coffee. Luwak coffee is unique around the world and an experience not to be missed if you have the opportunity to do so - but more on that below.
For my two-night stay in Lovina, I chose the Padmasari Resort Lovina situated at Jalan Raya Seririt Singaraja, Lovina on the main road into town. I'd booked a spacious room with ocean views. The beach was little more than 5 metres from my door. As my suite was the last in the row, I was afforded uninterrupted views of the ocean from the glass doors which opened directly onto the patio. Total cost of the stay for two nights including breakfast was reasonable at AUD$176.00
As anticipated, Lovina provides the traveler with an alternative experience from the hustle and bustle of Northern Bali. But first a little about my journey from Ubud.
My journey with a private driver was pre-arranged with the Padmasari Hotel via booking.com’s private message service and was quoted at a cost of IDR500,000 including car and driver or around AUD$50.00
Travel to Lovina is quite limited when it comes to options and for the sake of comfort and a worry-free journey, this was my preferred mode of transport.
Right on 12:00 – (my scheduled check out time from Desak Putu Cottages, Ubud) I was pleased to see my driver ready and waiting for me. The Balinese are not known for keeping good time, and traffic conditions can play havoc with any schedule, so we were off to a great start.
He took my bag to the car, a modern air-conditioned vehicle and after taking care of the formalities, we set forth bound for Lovina. The journey took around 2.5 hours from Ubud which provided me with an interesting insight as to how the locals live, as we moved away from key tourist hubs and into the countryside.
Luwak Coffee Plantation
Around an hour into our journey we stopped off at Luwak coffee plantation which produces and packages for sale the famous Civet cat 'poop' coffee. The coffee guide first demonstrated the process wherein the Civet consumes the whole bean. The beans then pass through the creature (covered in poop) which is dried, washed away and the skins removed.
The beans are then hand roasted over an open fire and stirred for around 45 minutes revealing a rich black roasted bean. The beans are then ground by hand using a mortar and pestle.
After watching the demonstration, we then headed to one of a number of tasting tables to sample a range of blended coffee and tea, all of which were delicious and refreshing in the mid-afternoon tropical heat of Bali.
Some of the blends on offer included lemongrass, ginger, mangosteen and rosella amongst many others. We also sampled a range of blended coffee including coconut coffee and of course the famed Civet – or Luwak coffee. In Australia, a cup of this rare beverage comes in at around AUD$35.00 – $40.00 per cup, however for a mere IDR60,000 – or round AUD$6.00 I was anxious to savour the moment.
On first smelling the coffee, I detected a rich mellow aroma and the coffee itself was rich and a deep black in colour. The taste compared with no other coffee I’d had consumed previously – and I have to say, have I consumed a great deal coffee over the years.
I invited my driver Ketut - who explained he'd never tasted a Luwak coffee to join me. So, there we were perched high in the side of a mountain, seated beneath a covered picnic table and being attentively catered for by our plantation guide. During the tasting it became apparent our taste buds worked on two totally different levels.
Personally, I clearly detected a smooth, rich taste with a back note of chocolate and no hint of bitterness in this vibrant Robusta blend. Ketut tasted more of a distinctive nutty flavour in his cup.
After around an hour and after tasting around 20 different types of tea and coffee all of which were free, we headed over to the gift shop where I purchased one of my favourite flavours, a small bag of refreshing lemongrass tea at a cost of IDR160,000 - approximately AUD16.00
It’s worth mentioning here most all consumables purchased are taxed at around 21% on top of the quoted amount of any purchase no matter if it's at a hotel, bar or when shopping. So, be sure to check if taxes are included or excluded from your purchases.
Back in the car again, hyped up on coffee we continued our journey, and after passing by a number of scenic viewing points and what seemed like a thousand monkeys, in around 45 minutes we caught sight of Mt. Agung, the famous Balinese mountain - famed for its unpredictable volcanic activity - which I was to become familiar with the day before leaving Bali.
Shortly thereafter, we stopped again to view the twin lakes situated a short distance from the summit of the road. Another 30 minutes or so later we were on the other side of the range and approaching Lovina.
Padmasari Resort Accommodation
After exiting the vehicle and farewelling my driver, I checked into the Padmasari Hotel, formalities completed I was escorted to my room which was situated at the end of a row of suites and overlooked the ocean only steps away. The tide was out and many of the locals were bait fishing, and children were busy with their nets casting or scraping away rocks from the old jetty for shellfish bait to be used the next morning.
Dinner at the restaurant provided an impressive range of dining options and is open from 6.00pm to 9.00pm each evening.
Unfortunately, there are no bar facilities available within the hotel, however a range of beer and soft drinks are available for purchase from hotel Reception at reasonable prices. Still, there’s nothing nicer than watching the sunset with a tasty alcoholic beverage or two!
The weather in Lovina is much milder than on the Northern side of the island which is to be expected particularly as I was situated at a waterfront location. I slept restfully on my first night in a king size bed, with the small waves crashing against the retaining wall only several metres from my room.
My room was spacious, modern, comfortable and private with views of the swimming pool on one side, and the ocean on the other. The bathroom was large in size complete with a shower and all the usual bathroom amenities.
Breakfast is served each morning between the hours of 7.00am to 9.00am am in the open-air restaurant which provides guests with a choice of four dining combinations, including Indonesian and Continental. When making my hotel reservation, I opted for the inclusive breakfast however I noted the menu detailed a cost of around IDR60.000 plus 21% tax for those who choose to reserve their room excluding the breakfast option.
On my first morning at the hotel, I choose a Balinese style breakfast which included a combination of rice and noodles in a Nasi style with tomato and cucumber. Beverages included a fresh juice and Bali coffee. Nearby I witnessed a regular ritual conducted at around 8.00am each morning as the local hawker’s approach from the beach and begin their day by plying their wares directly from the black sandy beach.
They most certainly are persistent when it comes to earning a living, whose work is most surely dominated by the changes in tide, giving them near direct access to hotel guests to sell their wares up and down the shore front to many of the resorts which hug the coastline.
Myth busting continues as I am once again surrounded by tourists from Europe including German, French, Scandinavian and Dutch. I was fortunate enough during my stay at the Padmasari Resort Hotel to meet two delightful Australian families travelling with their children from Rockhampton (the Beef Capital Australia.) The children ranged in ages from around 12 to 16. The children delighted as they frolicked in the large swimming pool playing games of ‘Marco polo’ and making the most of the hotel grounds.
The next morning, I was invited to join the families on a snorkelling and diving expedition offshore. Due to their numbers, they were to hire 2 boats and had room aboard for one more. I politely declined their generous offer. Cost IDR7,000 per person for 2 hours for a visit to the reef nearby or the equivalent of around AUD$7.00
My plans for the day included taking the courtesy bus into town, only 10 minutes away by car. On venturing into the main centre, I spent the day exploring the area, visiting a small food market, enjoying a coffee and lunch at one of the many restaurants and taking in the ambiance of the favoured tourist haunts.
From a local stall I purchased a number of traditional kites, a favoured pastime for the local children who enjoy flying them. I wanted to gift them later to some local children who were working hard on the beach gathering bait for the following day’s fishing.
My evening was capped off with an invitation to join my fellow Aussies for dinner in the restaurant, which was a perfect way to enjoy my last night in Lovina. By now, like me they have no doubt returned home and slid back into everyday life. It's so nice to meet such wonderful people when taking a journey alone into the world - which capped off my visit to Lovina.
Once I’d checked out of the hotel, my trusty driver was waiting for me. Kites in hand, I asked him to take me to a nearby village to meet some of the locals who exist alone by subsistence farming their small plot of land. It’s a tough life for those living on the fringes of society and Bali is no different.
As my driver was a local man, he took me inland and up into the nearby mountains behind Lovina. We drove along roads not often traversed by visitors to the area. After approximately thirty minutes, we stopped several times along narrow roads to visit with a number of these families.
As we approached Ketut explained in his native tongue about my visit – to gift the children of the family with a kite and provide a cash donation to the family to assist in providing access to the staple foods they require – primarily rice or for the purchase of meat.
At the home of one family we visited, the father was busy in his yard making a new wall for his house, while the mother held her young child, a small infant. Through Ketut’s interpretation we spoke of the family and about their lives. The look on the face of the young boy who received his brand-new kite was priceless, the family were so very grateful for my visit and I was honoured to meet them.
We visited two more homes where the kites were given to the children, all with the same reactions, surprise, bewilderment and complete joy. It was one of the highlights of my trip to Bali.
After the home visits, our journey back to the North of Bali resumed. Around thirty minutes later, Ketut asked me if I believed in Karma, he then went on to explain to me that he had never previously had a customer who wanted to visit with the impoverished local population, let alone make a donation to a family.
He explained how my donation would make a significant difference in their lives as many find it difficult to earn enough money to purchase rice, which is a dietary necessity. Most grow vegetables in their small garden plots to supplement their diet, however with little rain and access to water limited, difficult times are just an everyday part of life for many people.
For many of the local population, rice is expensive and any form of protein, especially meat is only rarely eaten. My donation will greatly assist the families to provide a healthy diet for themselves and their young children for up to a year.
Overall Destination Rating
For those seeking an authenic Balinese experience, Lovina is well worth the journey. The ease of navigation around the town on foot, the warmth of the local people, the pretty sunsets make for a great destination.
There is much to while away the days in Lovina, and prices are around 20% less than in Southern Bali, in my experience. I rate Lovina highly on the scale of must visit destinations in Bali.