Of all the tours we did while we were in Bali, the Trunyan Village Tour was possibly the strangest! In our itinerary it came after 3 days of the most amazing scuba diving and several days in Ubud that included a fantastic, community based walking tour and hiking up Mount Batur to see the sunrise.
What had caught my eye about this tour was seeing skulls in a wall in a publicity photo. That had me sold, I wanted to go somewhere that put skulls in walls! It looked like something straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
We booked through the Eco Bali Tours, not to be confused with the Bali Eco Tours company. It cost Rp. 1,700,000 for 2 people and included all entrance fees, an English guide, transport, an amazing buffet lunch and tax.
Trunyan Village Tour itinerary
Despite the name you do not visit the actual Trunyan Village but their burial grounds. Trunyan Village is on the banks of Lake Batur at the foot of Mount Batur. The village is only accessible by boat as high cliffs loom up behind it.
Apart from the isolated location, what makes Trunyan Village so fascinating is that the locals don’t bury or cremate their dead. They just lay them out under a cloth or bamboo cage for the elements. They are the only village in Bali to practice this custom.
The custom of leaving the dead out may seem pretty bizarre and gross and in all honesty it creeped the hell out of us when we were there, but there is a very interesting reason for this. There is a type of Bunyan tree around there that completely removes odour. The tree is called Tura Menyan and Trunyan Village is said to have derived its name from these trees.
The trees themselves are meant to have a strong odour and get used by local Balinese as a deodorant of sorts. The biggest thing that you notice when visiting the burial area is that there no smell whatsoever. You would think having several decomposing bodies would get pretty putrid but no.
These burial customs are reserved only for married couples, if a deceased person is not married then they are buried at a cemetery. Once the body has fully decomposed, the skull is placed on an altar about 500 metres north of the Banjar Kuban, a special place only accessible by boat.
We were not disappointed by the amount of skulls on display. Luckily there were no fresh bodies when we got there but there were several older corpses. It was surreal. It felt like some special effects for a movie or a game.
Things to note going to Trunyan Village
Despite all fees being covered by your tour costs you are still expected to make donation at the burial site. Each guest is asked for a Rp. 10,000 donation at the site and our guide suggested giving a donation to anybody who turned up to give us information or help us take photos.
At the end of it we had given about Rp. 100,000 in tips and donations. It may sound like a lot and feel a little irritating but that is less than $10. The community members benefit directly from that and it is something we can do as tourists to make sure that big tour companies are not the only beneficiaries of our money.
Was it worth going to Trunyan Village?
The short answer; yes. It was surreal and completely out of our comfort zone. But we travel to be exposed to new and unusual cultures and customs. Its what makes travel so exciting! If you are around Bali, definitely take the time to visit Trunyan Village.
Toyah Bungkah Natural Hot Spring
After the dark clouds of seeing dead bodies and skeletons at Trunyan Village we were whisked off to the Toyah Bungkah Natural Hot Spring that comes from Mount Batur. This was a definite highlight of the day and we could have spent the rest of our time just soaking in these warm pools.
The hot springs stem from Mount Batur, one of Bali’s many active volcanoes. It is said to have healing properties and it certainly lifted our spirits.
Physically we were exhausted from 2 days of hard travel and 6 days of scuba and tours. We just melted in the warm water and felt very refreshed and revived after our visit. We were also given a voucher for a small drink and snack at the hot spring cafe.
Lunch at the Grand Puncak Sari 2
For lunch we had a buffet meal at the Grand Puncak Sari 2. If you are looking for a very authentic Balinese meal this is not the place for you but we had been eating local food for a while so we didn’t mind having something a little more Western for lunch.
The venue is magnificent and I spent most of the meal admiring the ornate decorations of the building. It was a very pleasant lunch and the all you can eat was very welcome, we’d worked up quite an appetite at Trunyan Village and the hot springs.
Bali Coffee Agrotourism
You cannot do a tour in Bali without having a stop at one of their numerous coffee plantations. If you love coffee these little tours are fantastic. You get a free tasting of a huge variety of teas and coffees produced at local plantations. Anything from Ginseng coffee to lemongrass tea!
Having already done three of these tours we opted out of this one.
Just a note on these coffee plantations. Bali is famous for the Kopi Luwak; driving around you will see advertisements for it on every corner. This coffee is a contentious issue because of the treatment of the Luwak civets. The coffee has such a ridiculously high value that there are reports that Luwaks are force fed the beans to produce a higher yields.
We will be doing a longer post on Kopi Luwak, what we saw and our experiences in Bali. The difficulty of the issue is that many of these plantations are locally run so any proceeds go directly to the communities which is an important part of tourism.
So rather than boycott the plantations all together, avoid Kopi Luwak. Show that there is a bigger industry in non-exploitative products and ones that are harmful will fall away!
For a more detailed story of one of our plantation visits, read about our Rice Paddy Tour with Bali Eco Tours.
Tirta Empul Temple
Our final stop of the day is one of the most famous water temples in Bali, the Tirta Empul Temple. By this point we were pretty templed out but we weren’t going to pass up the chance to see this one.
Bali has the most incredible temples and the Tirta Empul Temple is no different. The stone carvings mixed with many water features is beautiful. You can take time to cleanse in the petirtaan (bathing structure) in the famous holy spring water. Or just walk around and admire the amazing craftsmanship of the Balinese people. The temple was built in honour of Vishnu.
Being such a famous temple it is swarming with tourists and can get very frustrating if you’d like to be away from crowds. As you leave the temple you have to navigate through a market maze, fending off lots of offers and dodging through fellow tourists.
If, however, you forgot to do souvenir shopping then this is a great opportunity to make up for it. It is definitely worth dealing with the crowds and it was a fantastic end to our Trunyan Village Tour.
Final thoughts on this unique Bali Experience
Even though the second half of our day was a pretty standard Bali tour, the first half of the Trunyan Village Tour is decidedly different from anything we’ve ever done. Seeing such a taboo part of a culture was as fascinating as it was creepy.
If you’re even slightly interested in learning the practicalities of other cultures, this tour is for you.
Safe travels and blue skies!
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