We left Ubud and got a shared taxi to Padang Bai which would end up to be our home base for the rest of our time in Bali. Padang Bai is just a small coastal town, and most travelers who go there are usually just passing through on their way to the famous Gili islands. But we read that it had a few good beaches and a pretty chill vibe, so we wanted to stay.
We stayed at Bamboo Paradise, which was perfect for us: big open common area with bean bag chairs, great owner, breakfast (chocolate and banana pancakes!), and cheap. PLUS it was two steps from the path to the white sandy beach, where we spent most of our time in Padang Bai.
Finally, we had found our beach in Bali. There are tons of amazing beaches in Bali (most of which we didn’t see) and this one is probably nothing special, but we loved it and spent tons of time there. It was a short stretch of beach, but the waves were big, sand soft, and great local food huts lined the beach. “Local” food is important, because it’s the same food you would eat anywhere else, but half the price. Basically our days were spent lying on the beach, reading, sleeping, swimming, eating, drinking Bintang, and throwing the disc.
This local guy saw us throwing on the beach, and ran over to us. He does freestyle disc (which is basically just frisbee tricks) and he was pretty good at throwing too. Everyday we were there he would run up to me and ask if I wanted to throw with him. He told me he has a hard time getting discs in Bali, so I got his address and told him I would ship him one of mine from the states. Too bad it’s gonna take months before I get back to the states.
After three days on the beach, we wanted to keep seeing other parts of Bali, so the best option was to rent motorbikes to drive around. We left our packs at Bamboo and hopped on the motorbikes with the plan of driving to Amed on the northeastern coast of Bali. Hopping on motorbikes sounds like a easygoing fun thing, but it was HECTIC. The traffic is crazy in Indonesia (and asia in general), and I had never driven a motorcycle. So driving out of the hostel, after a run-in with a plant and a wall, I made it down the street. The driving definitely freaked us out at first, but by the end of the day, we were pros.
There was a water temple we had heard about on the road to Amed, so that was our next destination. It was the Tirta Gangga (Water from the Ganges). The last great king of the region had built the palace of his dreams in 1946, and it looked like it was straight out of a dream. It also looked like it was straight out of Ocarina of Time, if you ever played Zelda before.
Back on the motorbikes, the best part of the drive came up as we wound our way through the mountainous interior of the island. There were rice terraces and more rice terraces; it was hard to keep my eyes on the road.
In Amed (which is a series of small villages along the coast), we found a place to stay for two nights and it had a pool! First pool we had been in… and it felt like heaven in the hot hot heat of the day. We drove around on our motorbikes during the day and went snorkeling off the coast. There was a Japanese WWII shipwreck right off the coast that we could swim to. Amazing that the ship is so close to land, it almost pops out of the water. We found a great restaurant and ate there both nights cuz the owner was so damn nice and jolly. Also the food was good.
Next up was Nyepi back in Padang Bai. Nyepi is the Balinese New Year and the day of silence, which was on March 31st this year. We had decided to stay on Bali instead of taking a bus/ferry to Java, and the main raeson for this was to celebrate Nyepi. On the day/night before Nyepi, everywhere on Bali has huge celebrations and parades. Each town or village prepares for this parade ahead of time and builds ogoh-ogoh, which are the devilish figures that they carry through the streets. As the procession goes on, the ogoh-ogoh are bigger and bigger.
After all the festivities in town, it’s time to party. There were a few big parties in this little town, and eventually everyone ended up at the same place, dancing the night away. It was great to be in a small town, because by the end of the day, all the tourists in town knew each other. There were only about 20 of us. At the end of the night, I stumbled down to the beach with some friends and had a fire on the beach. It was a long fun night, and by 5:40am (20 mins before curfew), I was back at the hostel. The next day being Nyepi (day of silence), at 6am there are guards with machetes patrolling the streets. This is a serious holiday.
On the day of silence, you are not allowed to be out on the street at all, not allowed to use lights at night, and the whole island shuts down. That’s about 4.2 million people. Luckily, we had moved next door from Bamboo, and our place had a sweet pool! Our friends from Bamboo snuck out, came over to the pool, and we all chilled by the pool all day. Not too shabby of a day. I like the idea of a day of silence after a huge party. I hate having to do shit when I have a massive hangover, so why don’t we all decide together to do NOTHING.
When civilization sprang back into life, we made our way back to the airport a day later. After two weeks, it was time to leave Bali and head to the Asian mainland! Well, not technically, because Singapore was our next destination and it’s still an island.
Steve is on leave near...