I spent the majority of my first full day in Bali white knuckling anything I could get my hands near in the back of a Jeep. My friends and I had rented a car and we were making the journey from Amalpura to the coastal fishing town of Amed. Being the adventurous (or, in my mind about half the time, stupid) souls we are, we decided to venture off the paved main road and take the more scenic route along the coast. Lonely Planet describes this as the “longer, twistier, and more adventurous road”. A more apt description, in my opinion, would be a harrowing, sometimes paved, sometimes not cliff side lane full of hairpin turns and oncoming traffic. Did I mention I have a serious fear of driving in these types of situations? Well, I do. Heart palpitations and sweaty palms aside, the day turned out to be an experience I would have been upset had I missed.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, Villa Surya‘s location makes it a great jumping off point for day trips around East Bali. Knowing this we squeezed into our rented Jeep and headed off early to check out Amed. We cruised easily through the city center of Amalpura and then took a turn off the main road toward the water. This is where the terror began. The road began to climb upward and narrow significantly and at every blind turn I was sure we were going to collide with an oncoming vehicle. But, this was also where real Bali began. Away from the easily traveled paved roads lies untouched nature, beautiful beaches, and small villages of incredibly friendly Balinese people.
After a few too many cries from the backseat (the Jeep was a manual and I’m an American, thus was never actually behind the wheel) my friends pulled the car over so I could get out and compose myself. I took a few deep breaths and looked over to see the vividly blue expanse of water. The kind that seems to go on forever. As I got in the car I told myself that even if we did got plummeting over the side of a cliff to our deaths, at least we were doing it in a beautiful place.
We continued driving and eventually hit a bunch of small villages. These villages are especially poor due to the arid climate and poor growing conditions created by Mt. Agung and the people see few, if any, foreigners, and when they do they are usually accompanied by a Balinese driver. Because we were three white girls driving by ourselves we created quite the spectacle. Shouts of tumu (foreigner) could be heard and every time we drove past a child they shot a cherry “Hello!” our way. At one point a woman called her entire family out of the house and started gathering neighbors to look at us as we were stopped in the middle of an intersection for quite a few minutes trying to decide which pothole filled path would lead us in the right direction. In some places blatant gawking at your foreignness can make you feel uncomfortable, but here it just seemed to be caused by a general interest. And they did eventually point us in the right direction.
Once we reached sea level again, almost two hours after setting off (and an hour more than Lonely Planet said it would take) we knew we were in Amed. We pulled off onto an even more narrow lane and parked the Jeep on the beach next to a lineup of colorful jukung, the Balinese boats typically used for fishing. Besides the boats, the beach was empty as we frolicked around dipping our toes into the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
A little further up the road was the actual village of Amed. Though traditionally a fishing village, much money has been spent by the government in the past years to encourage tourism to this part of the island. The town center has rows of small hotels and guesthouses, local hole in the wall restaurants, and plenty of dive shops. And while you will pass a foreign face when walking down the street, it is still nothing like the tourist havens of Kuta and Ubud.
After a lunch of fresh seafood on the sea we started the journey back to the Villa. Much to my delight, we took the paved, flatter route home.