Getting Lost in Bali

1st Oct 2013
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Gili Islands
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Tanahlot Temple
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Uluwatu Temple
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Gili Islands
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Travel has always turned out to be the right life-choice for me yet every time I pack my bags so many people around me say, “You are leaving again? That is just not normal!” To them, it seems unusual that I spend so much time working at sea or on the road with George. It is anything but unusual for us. Travel makes us happy. And that is reason enough to keep on going!

In The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger, the somewhat dramatic character, Kim says: “I wanted to go to India, which turned out to be the best thing I ever did. Have you ever noticed that—the way the best and worst things in your life can be all twisted up so you couldn’t have done one without the other?” For George and me, travel is both twisted up and the most important part of normalcy.

This itinerary is a part of our trip to Indonesia and covers the time we spent getting lost in Bali’s various neighborhoods, temples and snorkeling spots.

We spent our first week in Bali exploring areas around Kuta and Ubud before changing locations to Deddy’s bungalows in Amed, where came across around seven fishing villages lined up in a row while wandering around on foot or motorbike. Our stay at Deddy's bungalows was quiet a treat. The pool area with the ocean view, attentive staff, breakfast, and well-decorated and spacious rooms made our stay a pleasant experience. George even played one night with the guitarist at C’est Bon.

A highlight of this area was the sunset viewing spot, walking distance from Deddy’s. We saw the sunset and Mt. Agung—truly gorgeous, and rode to Japanese Wreck and spent some time snorkeling the following day. There was current in the water, but it wasn’t too bad and the visibility was incredible. We finished our three days in Amed longing for more but we had promised to be in Tulamben so George could play with a local band there before returning to Ubud for the Royal Cremation Ceremony.

After our time in Ubud, we moved to Bali Amed for seven nights. The black sand beach in Lipah was lovely for long walks with friendly natives teaching us a few words of Balinese! I highly recommend a stay at Bali Amed and experienceing the snorkeling opportunities and the warungs by the sea. I’m a snorkeling and scuba diving aficionado and have tried these sports during my travels around the world, and Northern Bali as a snorkeling destination ranks among the best I've been to.

Indonesia, world’s largest archipelago, is fast becoming one of the leading travel destinations in the world with the number of visitors steadily increasing every year. A lot of Australians are visiting because of it being close to the land down under, but, surprisingly, there has been a rise in Russian tourists with a sizeable number of charter flights from Russia during the 3-month holiday season between December and February.

We had booked our room online, and it turned out to be a great stay. The hotel itself looks like a temple, with ornate Balinese-style architecture, with the courtyard leading up to it flanked by an abundance of green, and bells chiming in the background. Great location, breakfast, pool and charming gardens. Could have done without the termites in the bathroom--but would stay there again!

Photo of Bakung Sari Hotel, Kuta, Bali, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

While the Kuta beach itself is one of the best in Bali, with surf that attracts tourists from all over the world, it suffers from the usual catches of being a tourist hotspot: overcrowding, unplanned buildings, and hiked rates. Kuta is the main tourist destination in Bali and is a big party town with great food and accommodation. If white sand beaches, nice accommodation, great nightlife, surfing and relaxing is what you want this is the town you're looking for. Kuta has all of this for anyone on any budget. We left Southern Bali and returned to Kuta for the Balinese festival of Galungan which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma on August 29, 2012. There were penjor-bamboo poles or towers with ceremonial offerings at the street ends and people worshiping on the streets and in the traffic circles. During this time, the spirits of the ancestors visit Earth and return to their former homes and descendants are meant to be hospitable by making offerings. This holiday happens twice a year on a 210 day Balinese calendar.

Photo of Kuta, Bali, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

USAT (United States Army Transport) Liberty Wreck, Tulamben This snorkel site is directly across from the Puri Madha Hotel. This 120m long American ship was built in 1915 and came to Indonesian waters during World War II. On January 11, 1942 it was torpedoed by the Japanese, then dragged to deep waters because the wreck was a hazard to navigation. After the volcanic explosion of Mt. Agung in 1963, the ship moved closer to the shore because of the lava greatly shifting the coast line. The snorkeling here is fantastic. Colorful soft and hard corals as well as fish make their home in this wreck, which is in three large pieces. Sometimes over 100 divers visit the site at the same time so it can be crowded!

Photo of Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

We stayed at Villa Sanggingan on Jalan Sanggingan and it was fantastic. The staff is incredible. Located near the Alberto Blanco museum where we went in 2008 with Dov Fraser for the Ubud Writers Festival, this area is removed from the main tourist strip. The hotel is available on, and We stayed five nights and ate at several great warungs, including the famous N as well as Fuzion Café on Jalan Lungsiakan, which felt like dining in a rice field. I thought the décor was charming; this is one of the original hotels in the area and along with the Neka Art Museum, has been there more than twenty years. Bagus (Good) Laundry was great, too. I have to admit clean clothes, fresh from the laundry, are one of my favorite things!

Photo of Villa Sanggingan, Kedewatan, Bali, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

Ubud is a wonderful affordable arts-driven town in Bali, well inland from the tourist-crazy beach areas of Kuta and Legion. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to get from Kuta Beach to Ubud. In Ubud, home of the Balinese royal family, we saw the Puri Agung Ubud building a bade (cremation tower) and an enormous twenty-foot papier-mâché bull for a cremation ceremony for Prince Tjokorda Putra Dharma Yudha. We didn't have anything else planned so we decided to attend. Johnny, a dive master and member of the local band, T-WRECK, told us we were lucky (b-ungtung in Balinese) to see such a large ceremony — or to see one at all. The last royal cremation occurred two years ago. Many of the locals we befriended in the diving meccas of Amed and Tulamben explained that they could not afford to attend but would have loved to join us on the big day. Wayan, the owner of the Puri Madha Beach Bungalows in Tulamben, who had organized a cremation ceremony for a family member the year before, said that a ceremony on the lower end might cost 200 million Rupia ($20,000 USD) and estimated that the cost for the king’s cremation would be more than ten times that amount. To our surprise, the ceremony was a happy event. In Hindu culture, the burning of the dead is a sacred ritual that frees the soul inside so that it can be reincarnated. During the ceremony, the authorities turned off the electricity in the city so that when the hulking bade moved down Raya Ubud no one would get shocked if it happened to brush against the power wires. As it was explained to me by Wayan, the prince “was very well-liked.” Greg Roach of Spirit Quest Tours told me that much of modern day Balinese society has roots in the ancient Royal Court of Java, cremation rituals included. The ceremonies always utilize the same elements—the bull, the tower, and the burning. “When someone dies, they are buried,” Roach explained, “Later, the body is disinterred and the bones are burned."

Photo of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

Nestled in the Northeastern coastal section of Bali, Amed actually refers to a dozen small fishing villages that line the coast from Amed to Aas. The majority of these beaches are rocky. However Lipah Beach has soft, inviting black sand. The locals are friendly and the food is tasty. This area of Bali still lacks the mass tourism and traffic that has been the recent bane of travelers to Bali over the past few years. Recommendations What To Do: Lipah is a very laid back place. Activities include sunbathing, snuggling up with an enticing novel and chatting with the locals. However, the main draw is the excellent coral reef just off Pantai Lipah. Expect to see a variety of soft and hard coral as well as a variety of small to medium sized fish. It is common to see sergeant majors, butterfly fish, bat fish, angelfish, and trumpet fish. Basically, if you were to construct a massive aquarium and needed ideas how to beautify it, you could use this location as a model. The surrounding fishing villages toward Aas are also picturesque. They can easily be viewed by renting a moped ($5US). In addition, the small Japanese Wreck in the village of Banyuning is also a worthwhile visit while in the area. If visiting the wreck, you can have lunch right on the rocky beach at the Kawi Karma Restaurant. The diced sweet chili chicken and sate dishes are both delicious. Where To Stay: We recommend the Bali Amed Hotel. Sweeping views of Lipah Beach from a raised balcony with hot water shower, AC, including breakfast (eggs and toast or pancakes with a fruit plate and coffee or tea) all for a very reasonable $30 per night (all prices quoted high season). If you wish to be right on Lipah Beach itself with ocean-view cottages, then we recommend the Vienna Beach Bungalows, $45-50 per night for two people including breakfast and dinner. Where To Eat: There are quite a few warungs (local eateries) so you can take your pick.

Photo of Amed, Bali, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

During our trip to Gili (a series of islands located just off the northwest tip of Lombok, Indonesia) we meandered our way to the islands rather than taking the Gili Cat, a brand new speed boat. We had more time to meet people and ultimately arrived in the Gili after several days in Senggigi. Gili T seems so different compared to our time here in 2008. Is that why they say, “You can never go back?” I wish infrastructure would develop without compromising beauty, the coral and the shoreline. Last time we traveled in Southeast Asia we did not arrive until September which is after the “high” season. I remember all the coastlines being quiet, as most tourists had returned to school from their holidays. We left Gili T by public boat for 20,000Rp ($2/each) and in about fifteen minutes arrived at Gili Meno. After a few key questions, we set off by foot on the trail to the sunset side of the island. I was told the walk would take 40 minutes. A little further into the walk we stopped at a fork in the road, puzzled as to which direction to take. A little girl stood nearby. “Panta? (beach) … Sunset, Gekko?” She pointed both ways. It is an island, she was telling us. I said, “Bagus? Indah?” (More better? Pretty?) She pointed and said, “Sunset Gekko.” So we went to the left. The snorkeling was much better than what we saw at Gili T. Immediately we counted two turtles, several schools of fish, and many colorful hard and soft corals. I also saw a lobster. I called to George to make sure he saw it as in hundreds of snorkeling excursions and over 300 dives I had never seen one wander about so much and have such a colorful look. Later that day during sunset, I saw dolphins jumping and spinning. What a great day! The next day, we snorkeled and walked the entire island.

Photo of Gili Islands, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

During our stay in Southern Bali at Bingin Beach, we rented motorbikes to visit the famous cliff temple of Uluwatu. Some of the hills are steep but the road is basically good. The views are incredible and we were there the day before the start of the festival, Galungan. The surfers at Uluwatu Beach were impressive and the water, crystal clear. While I enjoyed our five days in Southern Bali, I am not sure I can recommend this area over Amed unless you are a surfer. I would rather be in Amed for great snorkeling but maybe a day trip to Uluwatu from Kuta would have been enough for us.

Photo of Uluwatu Temple, Pecatu, Bali, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

I really loved the ocean temple of Tanalot. We were there with many locals who were enjoying the spirit and sea air. At times, you cannot walk up to the temple due to the sea conditions. It is the first temple I have even been to that had a lifebuoy nearby!

Photo of Tanah Lot Temple, Tabanan, Indonesia by WeSaidGoTravel

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