Eat, Pray, Love: This book by Elizabeth Gilbert, or rather its film adaptation with Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, is the most common association with the Indonesian island of Bali. And yes, you can eat well, pray, and fall in love here easily. “moving water”
Life in Bali, however, is dramatically evolving compared to the literary and cinematic depictions; mainly due to the increasing number of tourists – thanks to the book and the film. The southern part of the island has turned into a “party island”, a paradise for surfers, Ubud has become a Mecca of artists and “alternates”, the northern parts are loved by families with children and all those who seek peace and breathtaking natural sceneries created by mountains and volcanoes, including Agung, which has now been active for about three months and has become a recurring theme in Western media which seek for sensations. Agung though only occasionally breaths out some smoke, ash and fire. From time to time the nearest villages within the distance of up to 12 km from the volcano are preventatively evacuated, but the next day people return home in peace.
Naturally, tourists enjoy this volcanic activity the most. They are eager to get sensational snaps fro their Instagram and Facebook, “the ripping photos of the volcano in action”, which is quite incomprehensible to the locals. Hoping that “something happens”, the tourists observe the volcano every night from two renowned places in Amed where one can admire the fascinating views of Agung and sunset and where there is no threat of danger at all, as there are other hills in the surrounding area that would hold the lava.
In the north, especially northeast, visitors enjoy snorkelling and diving. It is a good idea to bring the snorkelling equipment with you because otherwise you need to borrow it on the beaches and it means at least 20,000 Indonesian rupees (cca 1 euro) just for the mask, and if you want to snorkel every day, this fun can become rather unnecessarily expensive. Buying a mask here can be quite problematic. These are imported goods, so they are quite expensive (around 600 CZK only for a mask), plus they are hard to find; you have to go to larger cities to get them.
All those who want to dive must have a licence proving they passed a certified course. This can also be done on the local beaches. There is a one-day “discovery dive” where the participants are explained the basics of diving, how to use the equipment, how to balance pressure, etc., and then dive to the depth of about 10 meters. Another widely used option is a four-day course that allows diving to about 30 – 40 meters for those who pass (a considerable amount of theory must be studied). Night dives are also very popular, as it is possible to see the glowing plankton, phosphorescent fish and all the translucent, ghostly creatures that normally hide during the day.
Snorkelling and diving are most commonly practiced in Tulamben where the USAT Liberty Shipwreck is located, and in Karanga (Seraya), where the wreck of a Japanese ship can be explored just a short distance away from the shore; sometimes it is poorly visible due to sea currents and strong wind, which is typical for the area and which creates large waves and thus impurifies the water. The day’s high tide comes at about ten o’clock and lasts till about 4 o’clock, so it’s best to swim in the area at around one o’clock when the water is relatively calm. In some bays, for example, in beautiful Jemeluk, it is possible to snorkel all day long as the water is perfectly calm and the temperature reaches twenty-eight degrees Centigrade.
Beaches in the northeast are most often made of black sand or lava stones with fragments of dead corals. However, there are also beaches with a mix of black and white sand – thanks to the wind, the mixed sand beaches create the most beautiful scenery with various ornaments.
From Meditasi Bungalows at the edge of Amed where I live and help as a yoga instructor (by the way, Liz Gilbert, while writing her famous book, was staying here for a while, too, in bungalow number 7, and labelled the resort on her page as “the most romantic on the island” while leaving the owner a personal message with thanks and compliments on the cuisine), there is an asphalt road (which later turns into a forest path halfway up the hill), to the mountains, where the villagers, who speak no English and greet you with a big smile on their face, breed pigs, goats and cows in open bamboo sheds, and where hens and chickens run everywhere and dig their nests in the dust by the road. For the locals it is quite a surprise when a tourist is really walking (otherwise hiking here is a scooter ride) up the hills to explore the genuine local atmosphere, including the scents that belong to this place and which are typical for the local cuisine, too.
Amed used to belong to the poorest areas of the island. People here lived mainly from fishing. Most of the beaches are covered with fishing boats, which go to the sea around 5:30 to return to the shore at around 8:00 with a catch of mackerel. This phenomenon, as well as the morning wake up by roosters (beginning around 4:00 and concluding their loud performances around 7:00 or even later), which are by the way truly important for the locals who proudly take care of them since cockpit matches are still common and frequent here, create the inherent genius loci of the whole area.