26 October 2022

At Munduk Moding Plantation, Caffeination Meets Relaxation

A few months ago, I received the invite of dreams — to attend a meeting in Bali. I was also able to fly out 10 days early to take some much-needed holiday before the work part. Cue several weeks of intensive research into where I should go and how I should spend my time. And one place soon emerged as a top priority: Munduk Moding Plantation, a resort and coffee farm in the mountains of north Bali.

Munduk turned out to be a great first stop on a rather hectic whistlestop tour of Bali. After a two-hour wait to get out of Ngurah Rai International Airport and a two-and-a-half-hour drive north through the traffic of Denpasar and then the winding mountain roads up to Munduk, I was more than ready for some R&R. Surrounded by jungle and farmland, with views of Bali's northwest coast on clear days and of the looming dark peaks of distant mountains, Munduk Moding Plantation is located in a beautiful, peaceful setting. It's one of the loveliest hotels I've ever stayed in! I was there during the rainy season: this meant that it tended to be sunny (or, at least, dry) in the mornings before torrential rain arrived every afternoon.

The resort
Accommodation is in a series of villas dotted around the property. Mine was one of the most distant, but I enjoyed the short, if steep, walk back and forth to the main hotel (buggies are also available). There were lots of thoughtful touches, from the hydrangea garland presented to me on arrival, to the sweet treats and bedtime stories (some darker than others!) that appeared on my pillow each night. The huge bed was very comfortable and it was a delight to open the curtains to behold the gorgeous view every morning. Meanwhile, the bathroom had an indoor and an outdoor shower, as well as a huge bathtub and bath salts, which I took advantage of one rainy afternoon.

Over at the main hotel, the stars of the show are the two infinity pools. I swam in several infinity pools during my time in Bali and these were easily the best — they even have a schedule so that there's always one pool available for undisturbed swimming and one where you can take photos. While I was in Munduk, the weather tended to be nice in the mornings and rainy in the afternoons and evenings and on my last morning, a couple of fellow travellers took my infinity leap photo while the sun was out. 

If the weather is nice, you can stroll around the many trails through the resort, listening to the birds and the gentle babble of the local spring, and enjoying the views. There's also a hot tub set between the two pools, where I enjoyed the sunset views one evening. And if you're still not relaxed enough, they have a spa; I had a superb aromatherapy facial one evening.

Breakfast is epic at Munduk Moding. On the first day, I ordered the 'six in one' breakfast sampler, which kept me going until dinner time — especially when the staff also brought a fruit salad, a granola parfait and a mini-muffin. And the coffee (of which more to follow) is grown, processed and roasted on the farm — you can have an espresso-based drink or an Aeropress brew; I enjoyed both, of course! As for dinner, there are Balinese, Indonesian and international options on the menu. I had an excellent chicken sate one night and a chicken and potato curry on the other. The cocktails and desserts were good too.

The coffee experience

I've long wanted to stay on a coffee farm and this was one of the main attractions of Munduk Moding for me. As well as sampling the farm's coffee throughout my stay and strolling around the coffee trees on my morning walks, I took part in one of their free coffee experience sessions. What is covered depends on the season but for me, it involved a tour of the farm — and some insights into the life cycle of coffee plants and the differences between Arabica and Robusta varieties — followed by an explanation and short demos of the processing steps, and then some coffee tasting.

Both Arabica and Robusta are grown on the farm: it was the first time I'd seen Robusta plants, with their bigger leaves, up close and personal. There aren't that many coffee farms in this part of Bali (Kintamani, in the north-east, is Bali's primary growing region) and most of them tend to be small. I heard from a few people that some farmers are pivoting to hydrangeas instead, which flower every three weeks, providing a more reliable income — the blue flowers are only grown in this region and are used in the canang sari (daily offerings) throughout Bali. 

Next, we were walked through all of the stages that transform freshly harvest coffee cherries into roasted coffees, from processing and milling, to sorting, grading and roasting. We also learned about some more traditional local roasting and grinding processes.

In the roasting room, two members of the awesome coffee team brewed us up coffee processed in several different ways using their Aeropresses. I tried natural, anaerobic, honey and fully washed coffees...it will probably come as no surprise that the former two were my favourites and I bought a couple of small bags of beans to take home. Yuk ngopi, as the t-shirt of one of my baristas read. AKA, "let's have coffee."

The coffee experience was great both for coffee geeks like me and those less far down the coffee rabbit hole. All of the Munduk Moding staff — not just those working on the coffee side — were really knowledgeable about coffee and spoke passionately about it when I asked.

Other things to do nearby

Munduk is a couple of hours' drive from Ubud and it's possible to visit most of the below locations on a day trip from Ubud if you aren't able to stay in Munduk itself. If you don't have your own wheels, you can organise a driver and/or tour through the hotel, as I did, or find your own tour online.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. I visited a few rice terraces during my stay in Bali, but these at Jatiluwih were the most impressive. The subak irrigation system, developed in the 9th century, is UNESCO listed. There are a series of trails you can take that allow you to appreciate their scale and vibrant green majesty. I took one of the longer trails and very much enjoyed the quieter sections furthest from the main entrance.

Pura Luhur Batukaru. This Hindu temple is tucked away in the forest on the slopes of Mount Batukaru. It was Full Moon on the day I visited and the temple was very busy with people praying and leaving offerings. It was grey and cloudy when I arrived but this only added to the mysticism of the sacred site. Batukaru is pretty close to Jatiluwih and I visited them on the same morning.

Banyumala Twin Waterfalls. The Munduk area is famous for its waterfalls, but I was recommended to visit Banyumala, a short drive from Munduk Moding. After a steep drive down to the car park, it's a further steep but scenic climb down to the bottom of the waterfall. It's a beautiful spot and you can go for a swim in the pool at the bottom.

Twin Lakes and Bratan Floating Temple. Driving in and out of Munduk, I got to see the twin lakes of Buyan and Tamblingan, far below the mountain road, several times. There's a viewpoint where you can get a photo of both lakes together and several warungs (small, family-run eateries) perched by the road offer food with a great view. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, a temple complex at the edge of Lake Bratan, is also nearby but every time I tried to visit, the heavens opened and the temple disappeared from view.

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