Into the Hills of Pupuan, Untouched Bali
This beautifully landscaped area is just where to go if you long for tranquility and relaxation, and if you would like to experience Bali in its own special and traditional nature.
Despite its natural breathtaking beauty, Pupuan still hasn’t made it to many travellers’ bucket list of places to visit in Bali – I’m guessing because the area doesn’t get the high number of instagram posts it deserves.
Anyway, Pupuan’s cool pockets of air bring a refreshing change from the oppressive tropical heat of coastal, southern Bali. Entering the area, nestled some 600m above sea level, you’ll be greeted by a landscape that is spectacular and truly exotic. It’s the home to the grand sight of terraced rice fields that carpet the ground for as far as the eyes can see.
The ridges of Pupuan’s rice fields are one of the magical examples of how talented the Balinese hands are; it astounded me to learn that the beautiful, vast terraced rice fields were manmade. These enchanting fields, which are arranged in a series of terraces to follow the natural contours of the landscape, offer some of the most stunning views on the entire island. That’s right, the rice fields of Pupuan are so picturesque that once you’ve seen it, you might think that it was created as if the emerald green shade from a painter’s palate had been generously spread over the land.
The agricultural community in Pupuan has more or less remained untouched by the impact of tourism. Instead, many villagers seem to maintain a simplistic lifestyle that concentrates on the continual cycle of harvesting their crops and their strong faith in the Hindu religion. There are frequent ceremonial rituals prepared by each family of farmers to express their gratitude to the gods for the provision of earth, water, and all of nature’s components that allow mankind to exist.
Another interesting aspect is the organised irrigation system, known as the Subak, where farmers share water in a tradition that dates back centuries and has united generations of farmers in their common need for this highly valued resource. As for visitors, the opportunity to wander through the fields and watch the birds as they attempt to steal rice grains from immature stalks is an inspiring experience.
With that being said, spectacular rice fields are not all that Pupuan has to offer. Ascending inland through the smooth, winding road of Pupuan will also lead you to Vihara Dharma Giri, a Buddhist temple that has flown under the radar of many visitors to Bali.
Home to a giant statue of sleeping Buddha, Vihara Dharma Giri is a tranquil worshipping site frequented mostly by some 100 Buddhist families that reside in the town of Pupuan. The giant statue, which is a huge attraction at the temple, was built by the craftsmen from the Klungkung regency, and is nestled on wooden decks that overlooks the charming natural beauty of the hills of Pupuan that surround the temple.
Although Vihara Dharma Giri was built in the late 1990s, it was only inaugurated in 2007, when the statue was completed. The temple is comprised of three different areas for visitors to explore – with the exception of several sections in the three areas that are reserved only to pilgrims. The first section, on the lower part of the temple, is a courtyard adorned by an assortment of plants that add to the freshness of the air on this hilly region of Bali. There’s also a section dedicated as a meditation place on this area. Typical Balinese statues decorate the short steps to the second area, where you’ll find manicured gardens with a collection of bonsai trees. To your left is the wooden deck where the giant, sleeping Buddha statue nestles.
To your right is a small enclave surrounded by different types of plants and flowers. Here you’ll find another serene garden with a small Buddha statue meditating on a golden snake. A small bale for meditation is also located here. The third area, on the higher ground of the temple, is where you’ll find the main worshipping building, which is strictly reserved for the Buddhist pilgrims. With that being said, you can still wander around the area outside of the building to enjoy the fresh air and the refreshing, surrounding scenery.
There’s a small gift shop in the first area where you can stock on cold drinks and snacks before continuing your journey around the hills of Pupuan. Alternatively, you can buy cold drinks from the stalls located outside the temple, or drive less than 30 minutes to the town of Pupuan where you’ll find convenience stores.
Different from the other parts of the area, the town at Pupuan is bustling with life. In addition to the convenience stores, here you’ll also find shops, banks, a hospital, schools, and public buses taking passengers traveling from the Buleleng regency to Denpasar. From here, if you take the scenic road through the hills that lead to Negara, the capital of the Jembrana regency in West Bali, you’ll drive past several villages interspersed between the vast sections of green views of the surroundings. Just follow on the main road, and you’ll come across the one of a kind natural wonder knowns as Bunut Bolong in Manggisari village.
Bunut Bolong means “a tree with a hole” and is a sacred tree with a big hole cut through its base – so big that even a truck can go through it. It is situated on the ridge of a hill flanked in the east by a clove plantation and on the west a gorge bordered by a lush green tropical forest. The road is constructed through the tree as the tree is too big to allow the road to be built around it. Moreover, in Bali, cutting down a sacred tree is out of the question – especially since it is believed that there are two tiger spirits residing in every tree. Two shrines are built on the south side of the tree to honour the great sage Dang Hyang Sidhi Mantra who happened to pass this area hundreds of years ago.
Rules of thumb:
1. The best time to visit the rice fields in Pupuan is probably in the morning, when the gentle morning breeze wafts the hair of the village farmers as they are absorbed in their work amidst the brilliant greenery of the surrounding rice fields.
2. Dress appropriately when visiting Vihara Dharma Giri, for it is a worshipping place that also welcomes visitors – not a tourist attraction. Sarong is provided at the entrance door, and donation is required upon entering the temple. You must take your shoes off in certain areas of the temple.
3. You’ll be required to fill in a guest book and pay a contribution fee in Bunut Bolong. And the the tree is not located inside a temple, the area of Bunut Bolong is considered sacred; please be respectful at all time here.