Saturday, August 11, 2012

Kebun Villas in the western rice fields

Visited July 2012.

I saw a post on a travel site saying Kebun Villas was pretty special. Having enjoyed checking the ricefields in Sideman and around Ubud, I penciled this place in for my next Bali trip.

Kebun Villas is 9km up the ricefields road which connects the busy west coast highway to the north coast. You are talking 120 to 150 minutes daytime from Kuta - a little more from the airport (modified Google Earth image).

KB is a short distance from the small village of Belimbing (spelled incorrectly on map but too hard to change) which is exclusively on the side road, not the main. Tell your driver Belimbing - the website gives Papuan* which is a fair bit further up the road (* probably referring to Papuan DISTRICT).

This is shot from just below the restaurant at street level. The resort cascades down a steep gully (early morning sunlight is hitting one side) with villas distributed both sides of the path (mostly moderate to steep steps). There is a pool way down there which you may be able to see by clicking to expand.

Bungalows were duplexes in a really nice garden setting.

Chez Tezza at left. Big spacious brick and tile room. Firm but to me comfy king size bed, TV (no English language channels in a resort where most guests were non-Asian), safe, electric jug, no refrigerator. All or nothing doona fine for pre-dawn when the room had cooled but too hot earlier where a top sheet would have been welcome - tip, bring your own. Big stylish tile and brick bathroom, water supply a bit unreliable. Pretty quiet at night - some distant road noise but not much traffic. French neighbors reinforcing the national stereotype by shouting at each other in normal conversation (yeah yeah, I know: theres no-one noisier than a bunch of Aussie bogans in Kuta. But we bogans don't claim to be cool and sophisticated). Nice spacious balcony with outlook as in the pic before this.

Nice pool area at base of stairs. Just long enough for laps - small kiddies area other end. Building at left contains some gym eqipment, games, a dartboard and some nice bales for lying back and reading. Roofs above far corner of pool are the less expensive bungalows. Building at top center is the restaurant reception area.

Poolside rice terraces a nice feature. Plenty of sitting cabanas as at top of slope scattered around the resort.

Google Earth's definition for this area is fine enough to see KB's layout. Parking lot/reception/restaurant at top center, villas distributed down the gully, pool at bottom.

A short distance above the pool is a small putting green. Ground staff seem to spend as much time fooling around with putters here as on the grounds - although the latter are pretty immaculate.

This is part of the view from the restaurant - in the haze in background is the curve of the coastline right down past Kuta and out to Uluwatu. On clearer days the white of the breaking waves and the limestone quarries on the Bukit peninsula south of the airport was distinctive. Lights at night way better - and to the right of frame it was possible to see the lights of south-east Java.
Restaurant was disappointing. Inclusive breakfast was not very good (tea lovers - herbal only), and prices of other dishes were maybe 50% more than budget restaurants. Service was friendly but slow - most dishes arrived semi-cool as though they'd been sittting around for some time. The beer frig was broken so the Bintang was warm. The credit card machine was not working.

Other restaurants - fortunately there were other restaurants not too far up the main road (see second map up page) with good food at lower prices.

About 6 minutes scenic walk north is restaurant one (I forgot to get names - duh!) which had pretty nice views from its dining area from where this was shot. That's Guning Batakuru, Bali's second highest mountain in the background.
This restaurant seemed to attract Balinese passers-by and was truly budget in price (although the western menu had higher prices than that for the locals - still very reasonable). Food good.

Restaurant two is another 8 minutes walk north. It tends to have the best rice fields views (I took this shot from the car park on account we didn't eat here) and as such attracted quite a crowd of western daytrippers (it is a popular trip out of the Kuta strip to visit the lake Bratan caldera on the road to Singaraja, maybe check Lovina or Munduk and then return south via the more western rice fields  road - see map towards the end of this page). A check of the menu showed prices a fair bit lower than Kebun Villa but more than at restaurant one.

Restaurant three is another 2 minutes north at the junction of the main road and the side road into Belimbing village. It has pretty nice rice fields and Mount Batakuru views too. We found the food here very good with prices similar to restaurant two.

Belimbing is a small linear village along a side road off the main rice fields strip. It extends about 400m from the junction, then there is a 300m gap before another dozen houses plus a temple and the school. One or two very small shops although for general goods a couple of shops on the main road just north of the town road junction are better bets. Some aggressive dogs in this area, I walked with a big stick.

Trekking the countryside 
Unlike Sideman there is no circular route through the countryside - if you want to view the rice fields you are forced to stick to the roads and return the way you came. I found the best rice fields viewing was along the main road just north of the Belimbing junction. About 2km further is another ribbon village - the most notable feature being a couple of small timber mills (when I passed some locals were loading impossible heavy structural timber posts onto motorcycles - 2 each side). The side road past Belimbing village deteriorates quickly into an unsealed mess and has inferior rice fields scenery.

Organized Activities
Kebun Villas can organise guided trekking, beach visits, craft classes (the guy who owns the place is very arty, has a lot of nice stuff in a fairly large showroom adjacent the restaurant), coffee making lessons and road trips (KB is pretty central to the north coast, the south, the Lake Bratan region and Ubud). I'm not big on organized activities so I'll leave these to you dudes' trip reports.


Kebun Villas is best reached from the southern tourist strip by taking the busy western coast highway which runs all the way up to Gilimanuk in the north-west for the vehicle ferries to Java, and turning onto the rice fields road at Antosari. The resort is only 9km up this twisty, scenic and much less busy road.
The resort's website says KB is only 55km from the airport but I'd say over 60. We came up from Seminyak which is a fair distance north of the airport and the distance was 51 km - time taken 96 minutes. I'd say Kuta would be at least a half hour more - Kuta area traffic is horrendous. We paid the Seminyak transport mafia 300k idr (July 2012 prices) after furious bargaining (they started at 550 which is way over the southern full daytrip rate, and the crooks tried to tell me the rice fields road was an unsealed car-wrecker and that KB was at Papuan which is way further north) - I reckon most Kuta transport guys would do KB for 300 or less.

From Lovina or Pemuteran on the north coast the best bet is to make your way along the main coastal road to Seririt from where the rice fields road starts its steep scenic climb across the western foothills of Gunung Batakaru. Interestingly, considering he has a captive market, KB's transport guy took us up to Pemuteran for 300k idr which I thought reasonable for a longer distance and time than from Seminjak.

Kebun Villas is the better resort, but then it is considerably more expensive. It has a pool, nicer grounds and the villas are probably a bit flasher although not as big as Lihat Sawah's more expensive rooms which also have a more panoramic outlook over the surrounding countryside. Breakfasts and general meals are better at Lihat Sawah - dinner was included in our much lower tariff. Altogether Lihat Sawah was much better value - and if you need a pool there are more expensive Sideman resorts.
The nearby restaurants were probably better value out of Kebun Villas.
Sideman town is considerably bigger with more services than Belimbing. About the same distance from the resort.
I thought the countryside was nicer around Sideman although the rice terraces themselves were maybe not as good. The fact that you could do a circular walk on very quiet country side roads plus climb the far valley side at Sideman was a definite plus.
Now that the east coast by-pass road is finished Sideman should be much easier to reach from the southern tourist areas.

In general I thought Kebun Villas was a bit boring for more than two days unless you want somewhere to totally relax and sprawl by the pool or drink in the garden view from your villa's patio or one of the cabanas scattered through the grounds. I reckon it is the perfect place to spend a night or two breaking the journey between the south and the north-west coast, which indeed quite a few guests seemed to be doing - eg our noisy French neighbors only stayed one night.

I think for travelers into the rural scenic thing a trip which took in a few nights at Kebun Villas, then shifted to the coffee and fruit growing areas around Munduk and Lake Bratan, then took in the rice terraces near Ubud and finally shifted across to Sideman would be a pretty good experience.


Note - if you see mistakes or have extra information please post below. But if you have QUESTIONS please post them in THE FORUM. I check this most days whereas I seldom check individual place pages.

Another shot of Gunung Batakaru from restaurant number 1



Louise said...

I surely go there this month so beautiful place.Wonderful!

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Sumatra Tour said...

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