*bersantai (relaxation, rest) Indonesian/Malay bahasa
** see also, breaking news at the end …
Once we had decided on our destination (see previous post, Borneo Briefly), the journey from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah to Bali was smooth and straightforward, with a direct evening flight from Air Asia.
Landing in Denpasar late at night proved a bit challenging though, as we negotiated the ATM (withdrawing a quick 2 million rupiah), then hassled to sort a taxi at 2.00am. Trying to calculate and adjust exchange rates that had moved from a tenner for 55 ringgit in Malaysia to an equivalent 172,000 rupiah in Bali, we were always going to be mugged by the taxi at the airport, especially at that time of night. But at least we sat calm and cool in the back of the cab crawling around the tiny silent side streets, as the cab driver asked everyone still awake if they knew where our lodging was.
The 10 minute ride proved to be more like an hour, but we got there and slept soundly through what was left of the night, then woke to our first cup of Balinese coffee for breakfast.
Of course Kuta was unrecognisable from our visit 36 years previously, but despite the buildings, clubs restaurants roads and traffic it still hangs on some charm. The small canang saris (offerings with incense in a palm leaf tray) are everywhere, especially outside shops and on the shore.
Little Hindu statutes, or even temples are prominent in people’s homes or in losmens. And when you are approached to buy a bracelet, a Bintang or a massage, just like all those years ago, the people are invariably calm and smiling.
Alongside the upmarket, often arrogant and exclusive resorts, restaurants and bars, normal interaction still happens – food stalls, kite flying and little ‘bars’ on the beach, with eskies, plastic chairs in the shade and a crate to put your feet up, watching the surfers as the sun sets.
Kuta was never going to be our destination in Bali, and after a day or so sorting essentials we took a Grab to Padangbai, further East along the coast. Although it’s a ferry port, connecting Bali to Lombok, Flores and beyond, it’s a sleepy little town for the most part. This was accentuated by our lodging, up on a hill (with the family living in the floor below us) and being woken by sunlight and birdsong rather than motorbikes at dawn. We checked out the local dive shop, hired a couple of motorbikes, visited the local beaches and considered whether this might be the place for us to chill and recharge for a month.
The steep hills and very narrow roads put us off using motorbikes for anything but local exploration, but we managed to hire a car for a couple of days exploring.
They drive on the left in Indonesia (it seems the Dutch, and their colonies did before the Napoleonic invasion – not cars obviously, but the colonies never changed) and we felt safer and happier driving a car rather than motorbikes through the mountains and countryside of SE Bali. We could talk, share the scenery, discuss/argue about the route and clarify what we were looking for as we travelled this beautiful country.
We visited Ubud and Klungkung over a couple of days, taking time out of the car to visit temples, go on walks through vibrant green rice terraces and soak up the beauty of rural Bali.
So, after two days wandering and discussing, we ended up in Amed. In reality Amed is a string of fishing villages that follow the coast, increasingly merging and linking as tourism expands. There are no big hotels, just small groups of lodgings, warungs (small family shops and restaurants, used by everyone) lots of fishing boats and the odd dive shop.
The beach is black volcanic sand/pebbles and the sun sets behind the 3000m high volcano, Mount Agung the highest point in Bali. We had been recommended Amed by Eedes, a dive buddy we met in Bohol, and we soon agreed it was the place we were looking for. The dive shop, Adventure Divers, came up with some suggestions of where to stay longer term and we soon found a little place on the beach, with a kitchen, including a fridge and a two ring stove. Lily Amed is a quiet, laid back place with super friendly staff and just a few bungalows, so it’s never really busy. Perfect.
We’ve been able to relax, to plan, to cook, eat healthy breakfasts and watch sunrises and sunsets. Our local Warung Enak has wonderful food when we don’t want to cook, and they have been kind enough to let us have fresh Tuna, brown rice, black pepper and proper bread for when we cook ourselves.
We’ve been diving with Adventure Divers, just on days when we felt like it, and experienced some lovely dives, from the iconic USAT Liberty wreck to muck diving and some interesting and varied natural and artificial reefs, all surrounded by black volcanic sand.
Most importantly we have been able to rest up, read books, think, talk and plan. And we’ve made some decisions…
So, we’ll move on from here in another few weeks, head back down to Padangbai then to Lombok and Komodo.
Breaking News …
From there we are flying back to Denpasar as our two month visa runs out, then off to Malaysia, and from Kuala Lumpur we’ll fly back to the UK for five weeks to say hello to all our family and friends. We land at Heathrow on the 24th August (nine months after we left) and we’ll fly back to KL on 27th September. Super excited 😁.
We don’t quite know where we’ll be staying (offers appreciated) or how we’ll be traveling around yet, but we’ll be in London, Bristol and Scotland and maybe points in between. Get in touch (comments below, or SM) and let us know when you’ll be around. We are so looking forward to seeing everyone we can, it’s been a while …
And, to finish off for now, a few pictures from peaceful Amed.
‘Hello, what’s your name, where are you from?‘ is the familiar call on the beach in the afternoon (after school) as kids try to sell bracelets.
and of course, sunsets