Bali 2022

It was easy going Bali that broke my 3 year international travel drought signalling that the bug is definitely back; travel bug that is. Happy to post that a solid month spent in Kuta, Munduk, Amed, Nusa Lembongan and Sanur went down pretty darn well.

Kuta was our first stop. A short distance from the airport (handy when your flight lands at 10.30pm) with a good beach, numerous laneways, cafes, market stalls and a much larger BeachWalk, Kuta was indeedy salve for the travel starved soul.

We stayed at our usual, Poppies Cottages, liking that it’s still steadfastly wedded to its 70s flashpacker past. It fronts Jalan Poppies I, normally frenetic with motorcyclists, but quieter this visit. The transition period from pre to post covid is evident. Some market stalls and warungs remain closed, those that are open are doing OK and vendors are glad, so glad that tourists, the lifeblood of this Indonesian island, are returning.

Bungalow @ Poppies Cottages with its alang roofing
Poppies pool is a little oasis in the searing humidity
Poppies Restaurant
Another good restaurant with impeccable service is Kori on Jalan Poppies 2
Sunset drinks @ Kuta Beach
This is Bayu. T shirt designer, boxing coach and fitter than a mallee bull
Jalan Legian – same same but different. Legacy of the pandemic is the mushrooming of tattoo shops
Hindu Bali with its many temples and offerings

Legian was a bit bouncier, but not heaving in its usual way. Beach drinks were a quiet affair. Interestingly, a wide concrete walkway is being built along the beach connecting Kuta to Seminyak. Also back on the drawing board is the electric train, some say skyrail, connecting the airport to Seminyak. Decision expected next year.

20 years ago. Just awful

Munduk. Often visited. Never stayed. Expect misty mountains, cool temps, coffee and clove plantations, waterfall chasing and beaut family guest houses perched over lush valleys.

Road to Munduk
Adila Warung and Homestay – had a fabulous stay here with the most friendly family. Only a homestay offers those wonderful connective experiences. A good place to start the waterfall trek too.
Red Coral waterfall
Favourite waterfall – Labuhan Kebo
Golden Valley waterfall
Melanting waterfall. Leg muscles were sorely tested with 400 steps. Next day was a definite lay day
On the waterfall track we called into this warung serving excellent cinnamon tea accompanied by coconut sugar, cocoa beans and banana fritters
It’s been a few years since the track from Melanting to Munduk has been regularly used. Blame the pandemic. Overgrown and barely visible at times, but worth pushing through.
The smell of drying cloves hangs heavy in the Munduk street air
Moding Coffee Plantation and Resort at Munduk. A honeymooners’ delight. Called in for coffee; didn’t disappoint

Amed on the east coast was our next port of call. This patch of Bali with its laidback, quite traditional fishing village vibe has spearheaded its way into my General Douglas Macarthur ‘I shall return’ list.

Fishing boats line black sand Amed Beach while an imposing and for now, quiet, Mt Agung stands solidly in the background
Amed main street – easy going

Tourists are not plentiful; those who are here are mainly Europeans seeking out the excellent diving spots like the US Liberty wreck as well as the good snorkelling.

Amed’s warungs, bars, shops and guest houses are open and keen for business, but flexibility is key. At a beach bar, I ordered a mojito:

‘I so sorry. No rum. Pandemic.’

‘That’s OK. You have gin?’

‘Yes, we have.’

‘Watermelon gin cocktail thanks.’

So good, ordered a second.

Our Amed accommodation was close to perfect in so many ways. From the very friendly Balinese welcome to the gorgeous bungalow, beautiful pool and well kept gardens, KubuKangin won us over. Just 4 bungalows were built in 2017 on the family plot in a village (so expect roosters crowing, children calling out, coconut tree groves) within easy walking distance to Amed’s main street. Simplicity is par for the course here and it takes but a nanosecond to fall into the rhythm.

Our bungalow @ KubuKangin
Besotted with traditional Javanese timber and alang roofs
Doubly besotted with Balinese outdoor bathrooms. Poppies has one too.
Village road to our bungalow
Breakfast – banana pancake (made with green banana leaves) and fresh papaya juice

Property in Amed is mainly local owned, hence lots of low rise buildings and a strong community/village atmosphere. Just like Munduk, everyone knows everyone.

A side trip to Sidemen to scope out a future stay. Liked what I saw.

From Amed we drove along the east coast to Kusamba and then ferried to Nusa Lembongan. Day trippers we were on past trips; beyond rapt to stay for a week this trip.

East coast ricefields enroute to Kusamba
Heaving in the jetty so we can board the Lembongan boat which you can just see behind the blue jetty. Full moon has created some big waves. The 78 seat fast boat carried only 18 passengers. Barely 20 mins for the crossing.
Lembongan views
TS Huts Lembongan at Mushroom Bay – couldn’t fault. That’s ours on the left.
Epic sleeps assured
Mushroom Bay – perfect for morning swims
Hidden Beach
Bit smaller than the 750cc he rode when I met him at 18. Seriously the best way to get around Lembongan
Yellow Bridge links Lembongon to Nusa Ceningan – single bike lane only, but a very squeezy double lane works too!
Things coalesce at Mushroom Espresso –  good coffee, guitar softly strumming and light banter
Mahana Point Ceningan – good for surfing or cliff jumping or a cold drink
Almost at the northern most point of  Lembongan
Riding the back roads to a couple of good beaches
Dream Beach
Sandy Bay Beach Club
The freshest spring rolls with peanut sauce and ice cold mango juice. Trees everywhere are bloated with mangoes.

Nusa Penida lies off Lembongan and it’s rather large as we found out when we took a local boat over for the day and met a driver who showed us around. Its reputation is a bit on the wild side since dark, black magic spirits were banished from Bali to Penida for many years. I deliberately refrained from asking if this is still the case.

The island is still developing, so roads can be pretty rough. It’s also spread out and much time is spent driving/riding from one point to another. Getting onto a beach is quite challenging as it often involves an almost vertical descent down a cliff. But, diving to see huge manta rays is said to be brilliant. And the densely forested mountains as well as copious cornfields, banana, cashew and papaya trees mean the island is scenic.

Nusa Penida has not long been on the tourist radar. Since 2015, I’m told, so infrastructure is naturally lagging. However, a quick look at booking.com shows a plethora of accommodation. My recommendation is to stay a night if you can, visiting East side on one day and West side the next.

Diamond Beach
Kelingting Beach – resembles a dinosaur backbone. ‘Discovered’ by divers in 2003.

G20 was held in Nusa Dua while we were ensconced on Lembongan. Joko Widodo’s obvious pride in Bali’s post covid return to tourism as well as his deft dismissal of political questions in favour of economic, didn’t go unnoticed.

This G20 action didn’t slip by unnoticed either.   https://en.antaranews.com/news/260573/29-tons-salt-spread-in-balis-skies-to-support-g20-summit

A half hour fast boat from Nusa Lembongan is Sanur. No secret that this predominantly European tourist spot is a favourite haunt of mine.

Sanur is a pool villa, good dining, a wonderful 6 km beachfront walk, bars with good bands, coffee, market stalls and shops. Perfect holiday stuff.

Sanur Beach
Sanur Beach dining

Nike Villas is incredibly comfortable with its 10 metre pool, outdoor sitting/kitchen, well air conditioned bedroom and huge bathroom. Fantastic staff seal the deal, but like businesses everywhere, the pandemic has left its mark.

Nike Villas

Closing up shop for 2 years in humid, wet, tropical conditions means a Catch 22 is in play. Repairs and maintenance can’t be carried out in the absence of a steady income. Reducing prices seems to be the current business model since it’s better to make some money than no money.

Eating well at our local Lilla warung
Massimo for good Italian fare

Many will remember the closure of the very popular Hyatt in 2013 and the ensuing desolation that pervaded the 9 hectare property. Well, the Hyatt is back in business big time. The existing buildings and grounds have been renovated to become the Hyatt Regency and judging by the activity, it’s a popular choice.

The Hyatt though has gone one better by building a completely new hotel, the Andaz, next to the Hyatt Regency, and it is stunning. We checked it out, ate lunch at Fishermans Club and left thinking, ‘That was worth waiting for.’

Andaz reception

The without warning Java earthquake during our stay was a stark reminder of Indonesia’s membership of the Ring of Fire club. Over 200 deaths, children too; some things you never get used to.

And the Bali weather? Hellishly hot as usual, but cooling rain is on its way.

If you’re planning a visit to Bali, this website has excellent information  https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/asia/indonesia

http://www.booking.com keeps going from strength to strength, but worth cross checking against the hotel directly and http://www.agoda.com

For the hikers – https://adventure.com/astungkara-way-bali/

For SE Asian travellers – http://www.travelfish.org

Impossible to distill a Bali holiday into a brief blog. Enjoy the read. Terima kasih Bali.

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