Again, pictures will be added to this post later, when we finally have enough WiFi juice to upload! 😦 In the meantime, check out our Facebook page because, for some reason, we’re having better luck uploading pictures there (at least sometimes!) ….
For fast acting relief; try slowing down. – Lily Tomlin
On our sixth day of being in Bali, Indonesia, we travelled from the hectic touristy area of Sanur to a sleepy coastal region coined Amed which is on the Northeast coast of Bali and far from the throngs of tourists who mainly visit the southern coasts. Driving along the winding roads through villages and mountain regions, we came upon a wedding ceremony in one village and a cremation ceremony in another. This was an early introduction to a much more spiritual side of Bali than we had seen thus far and each passing village opened up to us a much slower paced, less stressed lifestyle. Amed became a much needed place to begin to unwind from the hectic, stressful lives we left behind.
As it turns out, the cremation ceremony we passed along the way was for the grandfather of the family that owned the hotel we were staying at. Nick, the hotel manager and grandson, was very gracious in explaining the ceremony and tradition to us. It was explained that in Balinese culture, the dead are first buried in the ground for three years. Then a cremation ceremony is held. These ceremonies are lavish affairs that are organized by the family and the whole village and surrounding villages attend. After three years, the corpse is dug up and the ceremony begins with carrying the corpse from the burial site to the place where the cremation will be held. The participants are dressed in beautifully crafted traditional sarongs and a band plays music on traditional instruments while the corpse, bound tightly in dried palm fronds, is carried by family members on a stretcher made of bamboo. The cremation is done on a large open fire as the family congregates around celebrating the life of the deceased with a huge feast. Afterwards, the family floats large wooden “spirit houses” out to sea with offerings to ensure that the deceased’s spirit passes from its earthly realm to the heavenly realm where it will experience reincarnation.
We stayed at Amed Beach Resort which owned by a family that makes up close to half the population of Amed. Sufficed to say, everyone knows each other in these parts and most are at least distantly related therefore marriages only happen with women outside the village area. This is a very community-focused culture with many Balinese having never travelled far out of their home village. However, it is tradition that the women leave the village of their birth upon marriage and join their new husband’s village. Yet even in this close-knit community, the people we met in Amed, welcomed us with open arms and broad, genuine Balinese smiles! What a breath of fresh air from what we had seen in Sanur!
Other than being politely asked if we wanted a massage and one seller offering sunglasses while we walked along the black sand beach, we were only solicited by the preteen girls next door to buy natural sea salt. Those same giggling girls shyly asked if we knew Justin Bieber when they learned we are Canadian. I guess there are Beliebers here too! Sad to think he is our best known export….
The manager and staff of Amed Beach Resort often told us that their motto is to treat their guests like family and this was certainly true. One night, we stayed up late to try to hear word from Canada on how my (Carol’s) mother’s surgery went (it went well by the way, and she is healing quickly) and the staff from the hotel sat and watched movies with us on our laptop (just the action scenes because the storyline was too difficult to understand without Bahasa subtitles) and expressed genuine concern about my mother’s well-being. Some of their friends also joined us and helped to keep the mood light and our minds off our worries. It was a fun night despite eventually giving up on hearing any news from Canada until the morning. In the morning, they did their best to ensure we had good WiFi signal at breakfast so we could receive an update right away and each one of them asked us how her surgery went. It felt comforting to experience their warmth and kindness during a time when I felt homesick and a little guilty for not being there for my mother.
The staff might seem a bit standoffish at first because they want to respect their guests’ privacy. However, after they got to know us, they loved to joke and laugh with us and often joined us at our table after dinner to chat. They especially enjoyed challenging our ability to handle “Balinese spicy” as opposed to “tourist spicy” after they learned we like hot food! One night, Nick, the manager, even grilled us a mackerel (off menu) freshly caught and straight off his father’s fishing boat. Best fish meal yet! Eddie, nicknamed “Eddie Murphy”, regaled us with jokes and tried to teach Al to play their traditional instruments without much luck. They also let us tag along with them to the local bar that has live Reggae music on Tuesdays and Fridays. The band was good and it was fun to dance and sing along with the locals who were more than happy to share their fun with us. If you go to Amed, try to be there on Reggae night as it seems to be the only real nightlife experience in the area. And you haven’t really lived until you’ve heard Balinese accented Reggae music!
Nick also took us out on a sight-seeing tour to nearby Water Palaces and a traditional Balinese village. It was a great day day that included some education on the Balinese Royal Family, beautiful water pools and fountains, amazing views, a stop off to see monkeys (yay!) and the hottest Bakso (street-vender made soup with egg and chicken dumplings) lunch Al has ever tasted! The soup itself is not really spicy but Al accidentally emptied almost half the bottle of Sambal (hot chili sauce) into his bowl when trying to spice it up. He was a trooper though and finished the whole bowl with a cold Coke chaser! I think Nick was impressed, once he and the other locals got over laughing at him!
It was a great visit to Amed and snorkelling nearby was good, despite having our pale Dutch-Canadian complexions fried to a crisp in the Equator sun. In Jemeluk Bay, the coral is quite healthy and there were numerous fish. It has pretty calm waters and the good snorkelling can be reached by swimming only a short way off shore. The shore is rocky and coral strewn though so reef shoes would have been handy for our sensitive Canadian feet. Again, adventures in footwear! We would have loved to snorkel more but our sunburnt bodies kept us under the shade of the umbrellas by the pool for a few days. Although we discovered that even the umbrellas were no match for the strong UV rays and our sun burns worsened rather than healed…. Word of advice, buy the strongest UV protection sunscreen you can find and reapply liberally after swimming in the sea even if the label says it is waterproof! We learned the hard way that SPF 50 will still cause a nasty burn after less than two hours in the sun here! When we were in Sanur, we saw that they sold SPF 110 and thought it was ridiculously over the top. In Amed, we wished we had bought it! Another piece of advice we would offer would-be travellers to this area, bring the biggest bottle of sunscreen you can fit in your luggage because it is crazy-expensive everywhere in Indonesia!
We would love to go back to Amed at some point in the future and we are happy to keep in touch with some of the friends we made there. Nick, who will be leaving Bali to study in Sydney, Australia soon, has offered to meet us in Kuta before we fly out. We hope we can take him up on his offer. He will be studying in Australia for three years which is very expensive for Balinese and a scary venture for someone who has only really known Bali his whole life and has always lived close to his family. We wish him the best of luck and will be in touch when our travels take us to Sydney.
Have you been to Amed? How does our experience compare with yours? For those thinking of going, we would highly recommend Amed Beach Resort for experiencing some real Balinese coastal living. It is a great place to chill out and slow down, meet friendly locals and learn about the day to day life and culture of rural Balinese people.
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