East Bali in my eyes is the most naturally beautiful part of the island. Life is slow there, the coastal scenery absolutely stunning and the seclusion makes it perfect for a romantic getaway. While interior Bali is beautiful and has every facility of a comfortable base, making it a popular tourist hub, it’s the island’s stunning stretch of coastline which draws mesmerized adventure lovers in hordes. Abundance of marine life, wrecks, amazing surf breaks and beautiful beaches make Bali popular with divers, snorkelers, surfers, honeymooners and beach bums and it also provides a break from the dense green cultural overdose of the center.
Inland Bali had a certain landlocked, dense charm which used to make me feel a wee bit claustrophobic and it’s streams, balsam bushes, palm trees and glimpses of friendly villagers in sarongs, lace blouses and flowers in their hair, used to get monotonous after a few days. I used to escape to the beaches during those days and the open blue ocean had never failed to free me. I love space and freedom and perhaps that’s why the vastness of east Bali had always drawn me like a moth to a flame. Although I had visited Amed and Candidasa twice or thrice, I had never actually stayed at any of these places for the night. The sight of too many lovey dovey couples and rampant PDA, during those early days of my loss, used to make me feel horribly lonesome (and irritably jealous) and staying overnight there would have guaranteed making my pillows wet. To avoid unpleasant thoughts and weepy nights, all my Candidasa and Amed visits had been day trips and only 1 had happened after a badly crowded Besakih/Mother temple morning. The largest and the holiest of all Bali temples, Besakih or Mother temple was also a World Heritage Site and built on the slopes of smoking Mount Agung. A beautiful ancient monument, it is highly revered by the islanders and features in nearly every Bali visitor’s itinerary. However aggressive self imposed “tour guides” and their constant fleecing make Besakih a tough place to visit for solo/independent travelers and I had never really liked going there.
The temple was exceptionally picturesque and had the most beautiful spiritual aura, for which in spite of the adversities over the years I kept going back. That day there had been some kind of a religious festival going on in Bali and Besakih was filled to the gills. Beautiful Balinese people decked in all finery thronged there in masses and burning incense sticks, flower petal offerings and excited chatter had filled the air. Balinese are extremely photogenic people and their festivals are equally captivating. Unfortunately these qualities also draw photographers, tourists and local expats in swarms and their festivals make most parts of the temple off limits for on lookers. In spite of being a Hindu, lack of appropriate clothing had refrained me from taking part in the festivities and I had left Besakih soon to avoid the stomping crowd.
The morning had still been tender when I had left Besakih and an entire unplanned day had stretched ahead of me. Visions of east Bali’s waves and tranquility had seduced me and I had happily zipped towards the lovers’ coves in Amed. Nothing feels better than a Balinese sun drenched morning and a smile had played on my face as I had ridden solo towards the beautiful black sand beaches with only my trusty rental scooter giving me faithful company. It had been a lovely drive through the beautiful Balinese coastline with fresh balmy breeze kissing my face and the mighty Mount Agung watching over me protectively. A still active volcano Mount Agung is the highest point of Bali and is extremely popular among day trippers and trekkers. On clear days, Lombok’s Mount Rinjani is visible from its summit and the morning vista of Bali from there is supposedly one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
TRAVEL TIP – Mount Agung can be accessed through organized treks or small group tours. Solo trekking is also possible and a night start is necessary to reach the summit for sunrise. It takes around 12 hours to reach the summit and warm clothing is advisable for the trek as its quite cold at the top. The organized treks usually cost around 84 USD/person. Refreshments, transfer and Mother Temple is also included in these packages.
On that lovely sunshiny day, tender green rice fields had shimmered in the warm golden light and after passing by quaint hamlets, endless frangipani, tangly banyan and glistening bamboo groves, the turquoise blue ocean had stretched visibly beyond the carpet of swaying young shoots. From my vantage point, it had looked almost like a painting and taken my breath away. Huge fluffy clouds had raced through an immense expanse of a clear blue sky and the rolling green hills had been dappled by their play of sun and shade. Hardly any vehicle had passed by and the only noise filling the air had been of humming bees. Forested tracts had accompanied me throughout the drive forcing me to keep a sharp lookout for monkeys and zooming missile like bees. It had been absolutely stunning and the seclusion had made me stop there for a while. Apart from the beauty, east Bali’s seclusion was also magical and there had been too many moments during my Amed visits, when I had stopped my scooter in the middle of nowhere, only to stare at the panorama in front of my eyes.
A semi arid region (being Mount Agung’s rain shadow area), the coastal strip of Amed is quite poor and has limited infrastructure (compared to south Bali). Salt production, fishing and diving based tourism form the backbone of the region’s economy and the water around Amed is teeming with marine life. Beautiful coral reefs and schools of parrot fish, black snappers, wrasses, sharks, sponges, barracudas etc make it a snorkeler’s paradise and incidentally there are a few wrecks in the shallow areas too. My Amed stop had always been at the Tulamben village and I had snorkeled there many times. Only once had I ventured off to the famous Liberty wreck and had found it to be extremely crowded. After that, it had been just counting waves, watching colourful outrigger boats and lazing on the glistening soft black sand at Amed. I loved Amed’s village community like atmosphere and the sight of cloud topped Mount Agung towering over the sparkling curved black sand bay had never failed to mesmerize me.
Candidasa in comparison, had been more upscale, old school and expensive. The drive from Amed to Candidasa used to be very pretty too, but broader roads accommodated more traffic and frequency of heavy vehicles thundering down that stretch made riding scooter a bit dangerous. It was still a remote region of brilliant blue and green and only the vibrant frangipanis and shocking pink bougainvilleas broke the colour monotony. Candidasa is as dated as tourism in Bali and apart from its old world charm, in reality, it does not have much to offer. There are practically no beaches and its coastline had been fortified with a sea wall to prevent erosion. More popular with elderly tourists, Candidasa has lots of excellent restaurants, hotels (with open roofed bathrooms, private coconut groves) and a handful of beautiful Gili islands (Gili Tepekong, Gili Biaha and Gili Mimpang) nearby.
Candidasa’s best kept secrets however are the pristine Pasir Putih (White Sand Beach), Blue Lagoon and Pantai Labuan Amuk (Black Sand Amuk Bay). I had given Amuk Bay amiss, due to its proximity to an oil terminal and Pasir Putih had eluded me because of my own lack of directional sense. A difficult to find place, it is hard to locate even for experienced navigators and the small beach is as secluded as paradise. Instead I had gazed at the coastal town’s lovely lotus filled lagoon, visited the royal water palace, the beautiful Tirta Gangga and paid obeisance at Goa Lawah. Popularly known as the Bat Temple, Goa Lawah is another one of Bali’s 9 directional temples and supposedly protects the island from evil forces of the ocean. My best Candidasa moments however had been spent doing nothing much except watching waves dash against the concrete T shaped breakers. It is there, that I had seen dragonflies mating atop a lotus blossom, sunset of the most shocking red colour and learned that for some reason the 9th breaking wave always seems to be the strongest. Needless to say, I have spent hours there, among bougainvillea and reflecting lotus lagoon.
TRAVEL TIP – Amed is a great diving destination for both learners and experienced divers and offers amazing wreck, drift and free dives. Night diving at Liberty is very popular and it is advisable to stay at Amed for a few days to experience the richness of Amed’s marine world to the fullest. Tulamben is the most popular Amed village and other bases include Jemeluk, Bunutan, Lipah Beach etc. Jemeluk and Lipah Beach have the best wreck diving and there’s a great drift dive at Bunutan. The protected bay of Cemuluk is ideal for snorkeling and further south, Banyuning has beautiful coral gardens and a small wreck.
Amed is located North East from Amlapura and can be reached within thirty minutes by car from there. Public transportion includes a 2 hours bus ride from Denpasar’s, Batubulan Terminal to Amlapura, then changing to a bemo (a three-wheeled motoped) to Amed (another 30minutes drive). The bemo will usually stop at the village, but you need to mention that to the driver or else you may get taken you directly to Jemeluk Beach. Shuttle buses to Amed are also available from Lovina, Candidasa and Padang Bai. Amed Sea Express offers pick up and drop in Lombok, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Public transport is nearly non existent in Amed and the best way to explore that stretch of eastern Bali coast is by foot. A few taxis and bemos might be available and bargaining is practiced while deciding on a fare.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Amed ranging from diver’s shack, home stay to comfortable resorts and snorkeling/diving gear can be easily rented from any of these places. There are plenty of dive operators all along Amed’s coast and it is advisable to hunt around (and check the operator’s equipment) before selecting one. Every morning a village fish market comes alive and it is possible to buy best seafood at cheapest prices from there. Most Amed guesthouses prepare the catch bought by their guests for a charge and also organize sailing and fishing trips. Apart from diving, Amed offers yoga classes, Mount Agung treks and paddle boarding.
Candidasa offers some beautiful off beat cycling and cultural tours for intrepid travelers. The authentic old Balinese village (Bali Aga) at Tenganan is one such place. There’s another Bali Aga at Trunyan village on the shores of Lake Batur near Kintamani, but it is isolated and residents are less welcoming than the ones at touristy Tenganan. Both the villages are unique for fiercely upholding the ancient pre Majapahit Balinese culture and their rituals, beliefs, dialects etc are nowhere found in Bali. Bali Agas have rigid village systems and villagers must live and marry from within the community. Tenganan Bali Aga also offers excellent woven basket ware, beautiful intricate double weave Ikkat fabric called Geringsing and sometimes the blood spectacle, ritual combat of mekare kare is staged for tourists. Tenaganan tours are easily available anywhere in Bali, but for Trunyan it is advisable to hire services of a local guide.
The farthest eastern point of Bali is dominated by the beautiful Mount Seraya and the narrow coast juts out into Straits of Lombok as ravines and steep ridges. There are a few boutique hotels scattered along Bali’s easternmost coast and the area is riddled with secluded coves and bays. It is possible to hire an outrigger boat of a local fisherman for some independent exploration and sometimes they offer basic home stay facilities for a fee.
Some photos have been taken from the internet.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE