Amed has been a well kept secret for yearsIt is a favorite retreat for alot of Balinese in Bali wanting to escape the mainstream and busy towns such as Kuta and Denpasar.Amed is also naturally-preserved as a "little backwater of Bali". Padi fields with small villages, "lontar" palms that is used to make the famous local "tuak" or "palm wine", the hinterland lies in the shadow of the famous mountain. The road comes to an end right at the beach of Amed – and then you turn right – into the "other Bali".
The road winds bypass more Padi fields with a few small villages and a salt farm or two. Sights of a beautiful sea flash by in-between the short buildings. Amed is by far, Bali's lesser humid area and you can bet on a bright weather in Amed throughout the year. The frangipani are particularly pungent and life is as intense as it is relaxed. The hot bright sun burns colour into the lively bouganvillea that blossoms along the road, making it a startling contrast to the dark blue sea.
A string of hotels and dive companies have been set up in Amed with a few privately-owned villas for rent appearing although it is still very low key. "Di-jual" (for sale) signs stand right in the middle of corn fields and the price of some beach front land is almost as high as in the south. The hilly hinterland land is alive with tiny villages and the bleat of mountain goats.
The beauty of silence may be an aquired taste, but it is a taste that grows on you. At first glance Amed may seem a little boring, a little remote, but there is a subtlety works on the senses and little things start to mean a lot. The lack of crowds, the pleasure of sitting and chatting with a villager or lying on your balcony bed reading a book or even or sitting on the beach eating a plate of fresh grilled prawns - mean an expanded consiousness. Life becomes more of a meditation and the soul becomes refreshed.
It is this very essence that is causing in Amed the first stirrings of a new age consiousness. The first spa, an ayurvedic centre, a place called The Retreat, a Fung Shui Resort, yoga classes on the beach – the early beginnings of an movement which may make it the Koh Samui of Bali – let's see what happens.
On one of the evenings, we met a "welcoming local fisherman" on the beach who invited us over to experience the local banjar gamelan practice which is during the next day at 9.00am. Arriving just a little after nine I was astonished to discover that the session was well under way – no rubber time here! The sharp staccato sounds melded, flirting around each other, while held together with the softer base - thrillingly lively and vivacious. These fishermen were playing for their banjar and later, for the gods rather than for a group of tourists and their enthusiasm was catching. The humid dry air seems to affect even the music, making it as vibrant as the vegetation.
During the fishing season, which starts around September, the morning fishing boats come in loaded with baby mackeral – which you can buy straight from the boats – delicious barbequed or fried and eaten with sambal Bali. Fishermen are also very willing to take guests out fishing, or diving, or sightseeing. There is no shortage of boats to choose from.
Snorkelling is a must for almost all the tourists and the diving industry is well established and earning. Divers can experience the beautiful shallow waters and easy slopes although experienced snorkellers can enjoy deeper waters and current dives nearby. One beautiful sight to explore is the site where a Japanese shipwreck lies which makes a great spot for snorkeling.
The Tulamben wreck is about 30mins away. Many dive-tours providers cater to German groups and the long established Eco-Dive company brings in divers from all over. Well-known American movie director, John Huxley, is one of the longest staying expat there. Besides starting an excellent dive business and giving dive courses, he is also a philanthophist who helps the local poor population. When a diet of fresh seafood or fried noodles begins to pall, the quality Mediterranean style cuisine of Anda Amed Resort becomes even more appealing. Here at the most stylish small resort on the coast, Kim and her Balinese partner Komang offer exotic fare like fresh chicken liver pate, a delicious white gazpacho, fresh grilled tuna salad nicoise as well as Indonesian favourites. The elevated terraces look out across the bays inducing feelings of well being. But accommodation is plentiful with dozens of choices of all styles. A couple of stylish new private villas are also available for rent further along the road and those needing cheaper digs could try any number of places depending on taste.
Wawa Wewe is the local hang out that everyone seems to enjoy, be it whether the visitors, local expats or the locals themselves. Wawa Wewe is located in Lipah Beach and saturdays are normally the "big night out" at Lipah Beach in the centre of the Amed strip. They all come to listen to the band and have fun. Music is the usual mix–reggae, rock and slow stuff and it is a fun night for everyone. Thursday nights have a band at another restaurant and you just never know who will turn up.
The tourist tagline – "Bali the way it used to be" still applies. You can really feel that you are in Bali and a few days there leave you feeling soothed and cosseted. People are mainly farmers and fishermen – tough earthy people wresting a hard living from the sea or the fertile dry earth. The friendly smiles are genuine. Beach vendors barely exist. Boys may come along offering masks and snorkels, conversation and a chance to practise their English but there is no pushiness and no stress.
Don't me taken aback if the locals in Amed says "selamat jalan"(have a safe trip) when others in Bali now says "hati hati"(take care). Just for your information, in the older days, saying "selamat jalan" is a better and pleasant way to tell someone before they leave. That's one example how Amed and their residents still stick to the older style and roots. It was really pleasant! I was in Amed last Saturday and Sunday and no doubt it really rejuvenate me and kept me sane :)