On our last weekend in Bona Ranah and I decided to get away from paradise to more paradise one last time while all we needed was a purse and a toothbrush. With little to no full plan for what we would be doing, we left everything we needed at home… including the toothbrush. Oh well! We had a great weekend! Here’s the TL;DR summary of what we did:
Day 1: Bona –> Lebih Beach –> Padang Bai Beach –> Tenganan Village –> Sleep & eat in Amed
Day 2: Amed –> Diving in Tulamben –> Amed Beach –> Tirta Gangga –> Good-bye Bona!
Ranah and I woke up late because I was doing interviews in Kuta until 1 AM and we only got back at 2 AM. (If you’re curious about what I was doing, message me!) Then, because some awful human being tried to steal my kindle while I was (stupidly) trying to read it on the back of the motorbike, we were up an extra two hours reading fear-inducing articles about the danger of Kuta and watching Mad Men. So we started our adventure late, is the moral of the story.
When we finally got going we were surprised by a gem of a find called Lebih Beach. It was a nearly deserted black sand beach seemingly inhabited only by locals and a cross-cut of the rich and famous. Or, at least, that’s my theory judging from the resort.
The nearby resort, only 5 minutes to the right of the beach’s main drag, apparently cost a minimum of $250 CAD per night. It was a gorgeous place, though, and we infiltrated the grounds under the guise of eating at the restaurant.
Since it was already getting late, though, we got back on the motorcycle and kept driving. Our route took us around the eastern edge of the island to get to our top destination for the day (Bali’s Aga village of Tenganan), but we just so happened to pass by Padang Bai, and we thought to ourselves, heck why not? So there we went.
Padang Bai is another gorgeous beach on the eastern coast of Bali. Padang Bai, unlike the first beach we went to, is a small port town. There, we ate lunch – baracuda curry for me and the best Mie Goreng Seafood that Ranah has every had. We were told that the beach was close, but it was actually quite a ride on the motorcycle, and then a bit of a rugged walk to the beach. Entrance was 10,000 rupiah/$1 CAD/$0.75 USD.
On either side of the port are beaches. To the left is the beach for Bloo Lagoon resort, while on the right is a public beach. White Sand Beach is located in a small rocky bay, with a bed of white sand on the water. Small vendors sell beers and food near the water, while tourists lazed on soft sand and played in the water. We passed a group of four tourist girls sitting with their legs stretched out in front of them on the sand. Each time a wave crashed into them they held out their arms and squealed.
Our next stop, Tenganan Village, was one of the big highlights of our day. Tenganan is an ancient Aga village in Bali, reportedly one of the first villages to adopt Hinduism. Luckily (by which I mean unluckily, sort of) for us there was a ceremony happening, and so we were unable to get a guide for the village.
There’s a portion of the village which you can donate an optional amount in order to enter. Outside was an artist making these incredible folding paintings from palm bark, charcoal, and candle nuts. We bought two.
Large cows roam in the village, lazing easily on the grass. The people of Tenganan still wear traditional sarongs.
While we didn’t get to learn as much as I would have liked, just taking a walk through the peaceful village while gamelan music played and people walked in ceremonial clothes to the main gathering place.
Our last stop for the day was Amed, but it was too late to visit the beach. The small beach town was covered in night’s thick blanket. It was different than we had expected. It was small, peaceful, and it had the playful ramshackle quality I’ve come to associate with beach towns. We ate at The Meeting Point, and the food there was excellent. I got hummus and avocado on toast, and if you know me then you know that for me this is a most excellent combination.
We slept at Bali Yogi (130,000 rupiah/$12.86 CDN/$9.75 USD), crashing into bed after a midnight rendez-vous through the small town’s host of ATM’s. Ranah was able to withdraw money, but I was not. Later we learned that TD had blocked my account — lucky me! Anyways, Ranah was my sugar mama for the weekend.
Tulamben is the place to go diving in Bali. Or at least, this was the conclusion that Ranah came to after her near-obsessive research on the diving scene in Bali. Though apparently the northwest coast (Taman Negarra) has better natural diving, Tulamben had something we’d never seen before: a wreck!
We dove with Dive Concepts. Each dive was only 275,000 rupiah/$27.20 CAD/$20.63 USD. They were a great company to go diving with. Everything was organized and worked well, and our dive master, Rico, was excellent (though there was a bit of a misunderstanding about the camera). It was a shore dive, so we walked to the beach for about 5 minutes in our dive shoes. Tulamben is a rocky beach so I felt I was constantly fighting with the rocks underfoot to avoid tumbling onto my knees as the small rocks constantly gave way. The Dive Concepts staff transported the air, but we brought our BCD’s and other equipment down.
The U.S.S. Liberty wreck was an underwater behemoth. It towers above you so high that it seems to go forever. It was surprisingly also some of the best coral I’ve ever seen. Almost every inch of the broken ship is colonized by fish or coral.
The fauna highlight of the dive was definitely the small nudibranchs and tiny shrimp living in soft pink coral.
Our second dive was of the Drop Off. There was a strong current, so at times our visibility was almost nonexistent. Nevertheless, the coral was very nice. However, it couldn’t compare to our first dive and our first ever wreck.
At one point we met some young Indonesian girls. The waves were crashing heavily against the beach. It was high tide, so each sweeping wave made a mass of foam at our feet. Sometimes the waves were so large they went all the way to the girls’ small raised platform. Their mother passed us a book labelled English, but it was misspelt. In it was a small description. I assumed it was of the girls’ life. The book said they were selling bracelets and trinkets and salt to make money for school, and that they begged on the streets, but Ranah didn’t have a penny left after paying for both of our diving that day, and I only had a small amount left but wasn’t able to withdraw money from the ATM.
We couldn’t help them, but in the classic style of a former English teacher I rewrote the small description so it was legible. Before it had been nearly indecipherable. The girls were so charming though. The older one ran into the sea to grab a crab, at which point Ranah decided to teach them how to tell the difference between a male and a female crab. They delighted in their chat, and they were so full of sweetness, but they clearly knew that it was the part they had to play to sell the goods to go to school. When they realized we didn’t have money the older’s girls face became still with disappointment. Later we tried again to get money. Again, Ranah was successful but I was unsuccessful, so she bought me a grapefruit radler and watermelon juice for herself. I read and she played on her phone while the waves crashed before us. We felt too ashamed to go back to the girls. Privilege can be a funny thing that way.
We met a guy at Dive Concepts named Harry. Harry had been travelling throughout Indonesia for 9 years, and recently his travels had landed him in Tulamben. He recommended that we visit Tirta Gangga, and so we did. We almost missed it — in fact the first time tried to go in we did. We had to do a U-turn to reach it.
Hindu gods faced each other, good and evil side characters from the Ramayana standing together to tell the story.
Nowadays it’s also a hotel with a restaurant overlooking the gardens. I suppose it’s one way to fund its maintenance.
And then we got home, wet with rain and tired and sore from hours upon hours of driving. It was our last night in Bona, so we got our favourite Bona foods: gado gado (hot salad with peanut sauce) and pisang keju (fried bananas with cheese and chocolate sauce). We tried to get sate kambing (goat satay) but it was too late and our favourite shop had closed for the night. Instead we went for lunch the next day, and got fried chicken for dinner. Once home, we had our last Bona feast and watched more Mad Men. As a treat to Doggie, we bought him a leg of fried chicken. He howled at our door as we gave it to him piece by piece.
We left Bona on Monday, February 6th. I was so sad that when I pet Doggie for the last time I began to cry. It has been a wonderful home for the last month, and we’ll miss it forever. It will be one of those places and times for us that will always stay in our hearts. I hope that whoever goes there next knows to feed our skinny, skinny dog.