The drive from Munduk to Banjar was memorable, both for the amazing scenery and the terrible roads!
Once we arrived and I looked at the map, I realised that we had definitely taken the back roads instead of the route that would have been further kilometer wise but quicker in time! While the road easily was the worst we have seen so far in terms of pot holes and broken asphalt, the view almost made up for it.
At times we travelled along narrow mountain ridges with steep cliffs falling away on both sides and the only traffic we passed was local traffic! Overall it was one steep descent. Here is an experimental clove plantation we stopped at:
Heading out of Munduk, we drove towards the ‘Twin Lakes’ and this road was in tip top condition and gave little indication of the roads we were about to experience. Right at the top of the road was a parking area where many tourist vehicles had stopped to enjoy the amazing view out over Tamblingan and Buyan Lakes.
Also at this stop were a variety of animals that you could pay to be photographed with. There was an enormous python, 2 large bats and a variety of chameleons. A group of European tourists were happy to pay to be photographed with the bats but the python stayed in the box! The view of the lakes was absolutely beautiful and from our viewpoint, looking down, we could clearly see that they were crater lakes.
We then headed back towards the turn off we had passed earlier. This turn off was clearly labeled Banjar, however it was the only sign post we saw on the entire journey! It wasn’t until we almost reached the town itself that we came across any written confirmation that we had been on the right road. As we drove along, whenever we saw someone on the side of the road, I would slow down and ask to check that we were still heading in the right direction. Whereas I used Indonesian to ask for directions, the directions were almost always given in English!
We finally drove into Banjar around midday and as we had come from a totally different direction than the last time I was here, I didn’t recognise any part of the road until we reached the actual turn off to the hot springs. That was the only familiar part of the whole trip!
The hotel we are staying at is 50m from the hot springs and is absolutely beautiful. It is called Pondok Wisata Grya Sari and is set in very lush tropical gardens along a small creek fed from the hot springs. Th couple who run the place are very warm and friendly and speak excellent English. Ayu, the wife, offered us a choice between a room on the ground level or the suite on the top level for Rp50,000 extra! We splashed out on the extra $5 and even though has many steps leading up to it, has been well worth it. The room itself is very spacious and comes with a private verandah and equally enormous bathroom. In the bathroom is a western toilet up on a pedestal and a bath which can be filled with normal water or with water straight from the hot springs!
All in all, a gorgeous hotel in a beautiful setting.
The hot springs has a very interesting history. While the hot springs has been a popular destination for locals over many centuries because of its sulphuric waters, renowned for their healing properties, the current layout dates back to the Japanese occupation and was created to provide a relaxing place for Japanese officers who were based in the nearby barracks.
The hot springs themselves were just as lovely as I remembered them from my last visit in 2009. Our first visit was just after midday, soon after we checked in. There was only one tiny corner out of all the pools that had any shade cover and so swimming in the hot sun in very warm water wasn’t that pleasant. Our swim the following morning at 7am before breakfast was an absolutely gorgeous way to start the day. We had the entire pool complex to ourself for almost an hour before we had to share it with an Indonesian couple. We could try all the water spouts and find the one with the right amount of pressure and also wander around taking photos!
The pools were being emptied and as the level fell lower and lower I was surprised at the number of tourist groups that arrived. In the above photo you can see how low the water level is and in the top corner is a group of Dutch tourists preparing to get in. Must have been disappointing to arrive to discover the water disappearing. Surely the tour guide was aware of the closing times!
While in Banjar we also took a drive to the nearby Buddhist Temple. It is built on the side of a hill and is more like a terraced temple because as you explore one level you discover steps leading up to another level. On each level was either a meditation hall or a temple and each one was quite different. This bell statue was on one of the upper levels and it was very impressive both because of its size and its brilliant gold paint.
The gardens surrounding the temples and meditation halls were lovely. The gardens on the older levels were more established and included lovely old frangipani trees. One tree I found had the most unusual fruit and I was delighted that one of the fellows watering the garden could finally identify it for me:
Apparently this is a variety of jambu!! Did you know that?
All up our stay in Banjar was just lovely, so peaceful and relaxing which was just as well because our next leg was destined to be exhausting!