Chilling in Amed, Bali

How glad are we to be doing the colloquial form of ‘chilling’ rather than the real form of chilling in Melbourne. Our days start at around 25 degrees, peak at around 30 before ending back at 25 in late evening. As we are rarely far from the sea shore we enjoy a cooling sea breeze and/or a dip in the pool or ocean when the heat gets too much. Life is tough.

We have come up to Amed for 4 nights to escape the hustle and bustle of Sanur (which I believe is nothing compared to the tourist mecca of Seminyak, Legian and Kuta). It is an area I have never visited in all my trips to Bali over the decades, and it is still holds some resemblance to the old Bali – although I’m sure those who visited in the early days would be shocked by the development. Whilst there is an unbroken string of accommodation all along the coast they are all low rise and relatively low key. There is a ramshackle quality about everything – the road is narrow and ragged (but, it is bitumen); many of the warungs have a lean to feel about them; and you can buy petrol in a plastic bottle from a roadside stand.

Home stays and family warungs abound, and there are almost no shops selling the unbiquitous Bali souvenirs. There is the occasional beach seller who nods and moves on when you shake your head. And you never hear the cry of “come look at my shop”.  There is a genuine warmth and friendliness – the greetings are simply that, hello, welcome, how are you.

But, like elsewhere in Bali, rubbish is an issue – and I did worry about the amount of sea water I inhaled whilst snorkelling as the rubbish filled creeks and drains run straight into the sea. I’m not sure I would swim after heavy rains (but then again, you can’t swim at Elwood beach after rain either).

And, the beaches are either black sand or rocky (the exception being the beach at Lean Bay, which is a yellow sand, although full of fishing boats). The picture below is ‘our’ beach – not easy for walking along; and getting in and out of the water is a very ungainly undertaking. Note to self: next time, bring water shoes.

To talk about coming to Amed is in fact a misnomer, as the name is shorthand for what is in fact a thin strip of coast running for about 14km and comprising seven ‘villages’: Amed, Jemeluk, Bunutan, Lipah, Selang, Banyuning and Aas – all linked by the narrow, and very busy, coastal road (filled mainly with motor bikes, ridden by tourists and locals alike). I get the impression that development decreases as you move closer to the end of the line at Aas. Certainly the peak seems to be around Jemeluk, which is chock-a-block with dive shops, warungs, and accommodation.

We are in Bunutan, one bay further on from Jemelak but much less busy, thus much nicer to our way of thinking (despite our rocky beach). We are staying at Apa Kabar Villas ( ),  a relatively small scale enterprise snuggled in between the ocean and the busy road. Owned by 2 Americans, together with a Balinese partner, we have since discovered. 

We are in an Ocean Front villa, and it is indeed ocean front:

We can enjoy both sunrise

and sunset from the lounge chairs outside our villa:

The room is simple but lovely, and very clean as it is relatively newly built:

And their welcome to your villa towel arrangement brings a smile:

As does the view from our bed:

The main draw card to this area, apart from doing not very much, are the multiple reefs along the coastline, perfect for both snorkelling and diving. Every second hotel or shop offers diving courses and expeditions, but we decide to stick with the more simple mode of underwater viewing – snorkelling. We have brought our own snorkels from Oz as mine has a prescription mask – crucial for me otherwise all I would be seeing would be indistinguishable blurry shapes. But, flippers are needed. 

No problem. Just outside on the beach is a lovely young man, Jaman (? Not sure how it is spelt) who will rent us flippers. The flippers have obviously seen many an underwater adventure but they work. Jaman is a perfect example of the Balinese entrepreneur – he has bought the used gear from a dive outfit, and recycled them to form the basis of his own business. Good on him. $5 to rent the flippers all day. Can’t begrudge him that, especially when he hear his 6 year old is ill with a fever and he is scared it is dengue fever.

Almost immediately outside the villa is a reef, helpfully marked out by a flag. Off we go to explore, and are not disappointed, although the water is a little turgid from the small swell. But, in this small local reef we see a huge variety of fish and coral, and spend a happy hour tootling around face down in the water.

Next day Jaman organises a local fisherman to take us in his boat to Lipah, the next bay along, where there is a bigger reef. Which indeed it is, again just off the beach so very easy to get to if you are staying in Lipah. Lots and lots of different tropical fish and a wide array of coral. We spend another hour or so face down, marvelling at the diversity of this underwater world.

In between our snorkels we can be found lazing by the pool or on the lounges outside our room:

Another good thing about Apa Kabar Villas is its easy proximity to some pleasant eating places. Over the course of our 4 days we test out a few. Amed Harmony Cafe makes a reasonable coffee, and is situated in a lovely garden. The food menu is small, but looks good, and they use a lot of their own grown produce. I believe you can do cooking classes there, and they also offer massages and spa treatments.

Closest to our villa is Galanga, which has both very tasty food AND yummy home made ice cream (we highly recommend the coconut). I did however make the mistake of deciding it would be nice to eat in one of their garden platforms where you ‘sit’ on a bamboo platform at low tables, then spent the night trying to find a comfortable seating position. In contrast, Pete settled right in.

The food was not only delicious but beautifully presented. And served by a charming and very cheery young woman.

Directly over the road from Galanga is the very new Utani Coffee House (& Bistro!), who are taking a serious approach to serving locally grown coffee. Next time though I will ask for a strong latte, as it was more milk than coffee.

We also tried out Taman Bebek Hita, situated just before Amed Harmony Cafe. Bebek is Indonesian for duck, so we went in salivating at the thought of a delicious duck dinner. I chose Crispy Duck, whilst Pete opted for their Angry Duck – crispy duck with a chilli coating. Well, they were certainly crispy – but the poor old duck had obviously done a lot of miles before being slaughtered for the table as he was lacking much flesh! However, the accompanying bean and coconut salad was yummy, and again the service was delightful and presentation beautiful.

We also try Gusto Bakery & Restaurant in Lipah for lunch one day. Perched on the hillside it offers uninterrupted views over the ocean, and very tasty food:

Our last evening meal was spent at Sails restaurant, which offers a pick up service from your hotel. Apparently the owner is a Kiwi. The main attraction of the restaurant is its outstanding location, perched as it is on a cliff top bend overlooking beautiful Lean beach:

The food is okay, but what I really enjoy is the glass of Cape Discovery rosé – made in Bali with grapes grown in the Magaret River. At $7 a glass I have two!

We end the evening with 2 scoops of ice cream from Galanga, where we are greeted like old friends. We leave Amed tomorrow – already I am missing the easy going pace of life. 

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