Touring Bali with a private driver: our day with Amansuka
In the busier parts of Bali, you won't walk more than a few metres without hearing the offer of "Taxi? Maybe tomorrow?"
Many drivers have laminated A4 sheets displaying pictures of tourist sites, offering their contact details, or our favourite, the words 'CHEAP. I SWEAR I'M CHEAP'.
Why take a tour with a private driver?
On an island where public transport can be unreliable and unorganised, scooters are a popular mode of transport. Given that neither of us have ever ridden one and we didn't rate our survival skills, taking a taxi was our preferred option. We could have easily negotiated with one of these men on the street and organised a day trip, but we wanted more than just a driver.
We were overwhelmed with the number of day tour companies across Bali. Guidebooks, websites and word-of-mouth indicate that between IDR 500,000 and 800,000 is a good price to pay for a 10-12 hour day of sightseeing with a knowledgeable guide. We emailed around ten companies two days before we wished to tour, and three were available, replying with details of their services and prices.
We were impressed with the reply from Amansuka Tours; Wayan offered suggestions based on where we had said we were interested in visiting, quoted a reasonable price and was open to our ideas. We arranged a pick-up time and looked forward to our tour.
PURA TAMAN AYUN, MENGWI
Our first stop was the moated Taman Ayun temple, which dates back to 1740. It holds shrines to the Mengwi family, former rulers. The towers represent mountains, the residence of the gods, the tallest ‘meru’ symbolising Gunung Batukau. There are eleven-tiered meru and several ‘bale’ which are wooden pavilions that sit atop stone. The water that surrounds the temple is used to clean it during anniversaries and other festivals. You cannot visit the main temple, and the doors are only open during ceremonies. Throughout the temple grounds, you can spot carvings of guardian figures from Balinese mythology.
COST: IDR 20,000 per person
JATILUWIH RICE TERRACES
An astonishing panorama of fertile rice fields sprawls the hills for miles in the western area of Tabanan. These terraces feed thousands of local people, and UNESCO rightfully protects the Subak system which dates back to the 9th century. There are a number of walking trails here and far fewer tourists than you’d expect, which was a relief for us!
COST: IDR 20,000 per person
GOBLEG VIEW OF THE TWIN LAKES
The unspoiled Lake Tamblingan and Lake Buyan can be seen from this viewpoint, against a backdrop of vast jungle. You can also tour these mountain lakes by canoe, and many walking trails pass them by.
Our penultimate stop was this zigzag of hilltop villages, famous for their coffee and clove plantations. We took a walk to the nearby Golden Valley waterfall, which Wayan explained was the least touristic and one of the better-preserved waterfalls of the area. We were the only ones there and were pleased to spot a rainbow.
PURA ULUN DANU BRATAN, BEDUGUL
Postcards and guidebooks frequently use an image of the ‘floating temple’ to advertise Bali. It’s dedicated to the goddess of the lake, Dewi Danu, and was built in the 17th-century. This tiered temple is beautiful, and we were lucky enough to visit during a festival, so the area was buzzing with locals celebrating, performing and presenting their offerings.
COST: IDR 30,000 per person (which is apparently doubling at some point in the next few months)
Book your tour
Amansuka offer a range of tours and can tailor the itinerary to your interests. We paid IDR 700,000 for a ten-hour day tour, which included our guide Wayan, a safe comfortable vehicle and unlimited drinking water. As well as the above, we visited a local Balinese village and were invited to the homes of some community members.