Candidasa is a charming little town in East Bali that offers many amenities for tourists without being touristy. The main road is dotted with small hotels, guest bungalows, and restaurants serving a wide array of culinary options. Being only a short drive from the villa, we would hop over to Candidasa when we needed a little break from the tranquility, or in some cases when we needed to achieve an even higher level of calmness.
This was the case when we went to the Alam Asmara Resort and Spa for massages and facials. Bali is known for offering fantastic spa treatments at a fraction of the price you’d find in your home country, and Alam Asmara did just that. The spa was beautifully decorated in a traditional Balinese style and the service was fantastic. The three ladies who helped us were friendly and did everything to make sure we were comfortable. I’ve had massages before but there is something innately relaxing about being in the tropics and seeing geckos run across the ceiling (honestly, and this comes from someone who is terrified of most living creatures that aren’t humans) that made this one to remember.
After being kneaded into a trance-like state we decided to caffeinate ourselves back to normalcy at the restaurant located on the back patio. This low key place was located right on the water which allowed for some spectacular views of the jewel toned sea on this sunny day.
Following blended ice cream and espresso, we went to check out Pasir Putih, better known as White Sand Beach. This rather short stretch of beautiful white sand is located off the main road and while it is described as East Bali’s “hidden gem” by many guidebooks, it would seem from the number of people on the beach that this is no longer the case. Even with the larger number of tourists than I’d grown accustomed to seeing in the area, and the somewhat tumultuous drive to beach (another hilly, unpaved path), it was worth the trip.
Most of the other beaches in the area are made up of wet, black sand due to the volcanic ash and aren’t the best place for sunbathing or swimming. On Pasir Putih the sand is soft and light in color, the waves perfect for swimming, and there are many beach front establishments selling ice cold Bintang and renting lounge chairs for less than a dollar. If you’re lucky the owners of these places will continue to adjust your chair every so often so you are lying at the perfect angle to soak up as much sun as possible. Which was much appreciated.
On our last night at the villa we went to Candidasa for dinner and drinks at Vincent’s. This restaurant, named after Vincent Van Gogh, makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into 1950s Havana with its retro vibe. We made it about five minutes before happy hour was due to end, so we sat in the bar area for a quick pre-dinner drink. They have an extensive cocktail list which reaches far beyond the typical pina coladas of beach front bars. The dining area, located in a garden off the back of the restaurant, is full of tables positioned between palm trees and the entire area is lit only by torches. The atmosphere complimented the wonderful array of Balinese and international dishes. Well, the atmosphere felt more high dining until we got there and started eating. About halfway through the meal my friend chipped a tooth on a piece of crab shell, no fault of the restaurant. After a minor freakout we decided that the best way to survey the extent of the damage was to put the camera lens into her open mouth. I’m sure the rest of the diners really appreciated a girl with a DSLR stuffed into her face and my jerking tearful laughs. Luckily, I had no self sustained injuries during my meal and was able to fully enjoy the delicious food. I started off with a calamari salad tossed in a chili dressing and continued with the more traditional dish of ikan pepes, fish cooked in a banana leaf with Indonesian spices and coconut milk. Both dishes were seasoned perfectly and showcased the fresh ingredients and distinctive flavors of the region. The prices at Vincent’s are a bit higher than many Balinese restaurants, but the quality of the food, attentive service, and (usually) wonderful atmosphere make a trip here worth it.
Candidasa has a lot of charm and a lot to offer the traveler who isn’t looking for massive resorts and all night clubs. With great restaurants, beautiful beaches, dive shops, and spas you are able to find a lot to do and still feel like you are in Bali.