If added, batik would become Indonesia’s third entry, the others being the kris, a traditional dagger, and the wayang puppet theatre (nope, dangdut hasn’t made it onto the list yet).

Personally I’m not a great fan of batik. The shirts are generally made of thickish material and not that comfortable to wear unless you are in an air-conditioned environment such as at an indoor wedding ceremony (which is when they are mostly worn of course).

Batik shirts are also a complete bitch to wash. Stick them in a washing machine with your white business shirts and say hello to a new bunch of light brown shirts in your shirt collection a short while later; the old white shirts mysteriously gone.

I’ve got a few batik shirts at home myself – just like every foreigner who has lived for a while in Indonesia I guess. They are the standard Jogya and Solo designs (sludgy brown and yellowy - Batik Keris I think) and, all credit to the tailors, they have served me extremely well and have not fallen apart at the seams despite years of use (maybe Indonesia’s telcoms firms could learn something from them about how to make a good quality product perhaps?)

It’s also interesting to note that batik is not supposed to show animal designs (including birds) due to that perennial problem of religious limitations and instead tends to show rather abstract designs, some apparently mystically influenced (which is quite ironic when you think about it).

Batik really made it on to the world stage a few year’s back thanks to that great black dude Nelson Mandela who championed the merits of the shirts over the standard Western business suit and tie.

And his efforts have been successful - in fact so successful that more than
half of the men in the African country of Tanzania now wear batik on a daily basis – even prompting a bunch of Kenyan journalists visiting that country to conclude that batik shirts were the National Dress of Tanzania!

And batik also has great snob appeal – well at least the high quality hand made (batik tulis) stuff certainly does. These shirts are works of art in themselves and definitely not the sort of things to stick in the washing machine (or give to the maid to hand-wash lest she goes at the thing with a hard-bristled brush, reducing the precious article into rags after only five minutes.

For a good batik tulis shirt be prepared to fork out a few hundred bucks (
Iwan Tirta does some nice ones), unless of course you are a famous foreign dignitary like Bill, and then you can probably get one for free.

 At the opening session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference in November 1994 in JakartaHand made batik tulis shirts are really nice - but it can be a real bitch getting the stains out (just ask Monika)


A couple of biologists have caused a bit of an uproar in the scientific world by suggesting that our closest cousins are orangutans rather than chimps (the DNA of chimps is much closer to our DNA than orangutan DNA apparently).

But rather ironically, the question would actually fall on deaf ears in the countries where the orangutans actually come from (Indonesia and Malaysia) as neither chimp nor orangutan is considered to be our closest cousin in those countries - Darwin’s work may be considered a comical farce but it also poses a threat to the conventional wisdom. Bring in evolution and the bloody great tower of cards simply collapses.

Personally, I’d have to side with the chimps. They are better actors after all (do you really think orangutans could have done those PG Tips ads?!)

But then again, the chimps don’t have beards. Hmmm…

Oran Utan at Taman Safari


It’s not getting much attention in Indonesia, but the trial of a not-unattractive Australian woman named Angelita Pires for her alleged involvement in the attempted murders of East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is totally bizarre to say the least.

 Angelita Pires
The murder attempts took place on February 11 last year when:

the rebels came down to Dili and broke into two groups.

One, led by Alfredo Reinado, allegedly went to the President's compound where Reinado was shot dead and the President badly wounded by one of the rebels.

The other group, led by Reinado's second-in-command, Gastao Salsinha, positioned themselves outside the Prime Minister's house and ambushed his motorcade.

But why is Angelita being tried in the attempted murders?

Well, not for actually being directly involved in the attacks, but – wait for it – being the girlfriend of Alfredo Reinado, the leader of around 600 rogue soldiers who opposed the East Timor regime!

Ms Pires is accused of being an "indirect author" of events, having encouraged Reinado, with whom she was having a relationship, to go to Dili to attack the President and Prime Minister.

But Angelita maintains she is innocent (but not in that sense of course with Reinado), and even attended her trial at the Dili District Court barefoot – a highly combative gesture in Timorese culture.

Given that she faces an extremely lengthy jail sentence if found guilty, it is surprising that her case is not generating nearly as much interest as the Schapelle Corby case did a few year’s back. Not that Angelita isn’t any less attractive than Corby for a start and, more to the point, actually has a far better case for proclaiming innocence than the busty surfer who claimed she knew nothing about the 4kg of dope somehow packed (badly) into her surfboard.

So why the lack of interest?

Well, could it be she’s not a blond?!!!!

NB: while checking on the latest news, it seems that poor old Corby really has lost the plot and now thinks that her pet frog is now talking to her she can walk out of Kerobokan prison any time.


It was rather galling to read about the total solar eclipse taking place over parts of Asia on Wednesday while having to miss out on the show in Indonesia. So near yet so far, you could say. Oh well. Not the end of the world admittedly, but solar eclipses are a bad omen nonetheless and are even said to exert extremely strong negative energies on planet Earth. Stock prices fall like camel shit drops to the ground. Could even explain I suppose why the moonbats take to slaughtering innocents in five star hotels – if you could ever find reasons to explain the totally unreasonable of course.

But if the solar eclipse really is a bad omen then we should be grateful that the next time one will be seen in Indonesia will not be until March 9, 2016. That’s a long time, but would it be expecting too much to hope that the terrorist vermin are gonna be quiet until then?

It’s not only the moonbats who are blinded


I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this ad in Sunday’s Kompas. :)


Michael Jackson visited Bali a number of times - apparently because he fell in love with the place, but perhaps, for more dark and worrying reasons (and I’m not suggesting he liked any herbal either!) Of course the truth is never likely to come out, but what is certainly true is that Michael got to visit Antonio Blanco, and even commissioned a few paintings from the Spainish maestro (hopefully not of little Balinese boys playing in streams!)

But even though Jacko is gone – at least from this world – there are apparently concerns – justified in my opinion – that he might be tormented in the spirit world for what he had got up to – or down to as the case might be – on planet Earth. So up crop a US trio of music lovers who liberate Michael Jackson’s soul in a moksha (liberation) ceremony at the Nava Mukunda temple at Tirunavaya in India. As for Bali, no ceremonies have been conducted thankfully, although now might be a good time for the Balinese to start praying that the terrorist lunatics don’t launch any more attacks in Indonesia after the mayhem last week in Jakarta.

But liberation is one thing and memorials are another, and reports have surfaced that the authorities plan to
erect statues of Michael Jackson in certain touristy spots. How many will be errected in Kuta I wonder?

“Not only will it give a boost to tourism in Bali but it will also honor Michael’s life,” said a local official.

But let’s just hope the Balinese don’t start worshiping them…


Some people obviously don't.


Fetus version, of course:

 Pangolin Fetus SoupSource: National Geographic

Yikes! Now if that’s not the sickest thing I’ve seen since, er, the absurdly OTT funeral of a world-famous pedophile wacko, then I don’t know what is.

And not the sort of thing you’d want the Misses to serve up for your evening meal.

Hell, I’d rather eat bakso. I would. I really would….

Note: The Indonesian variety of the scaly anteater is called Sunda Pangolin and it takes its name from the Indonesian word pengguling (something that rolls up). And right now, our scaly anteater friends are being hunted to extinction by morons to be supplied to other morons who believe that these endangered creatures somehow make you more virile. Now that’s obviously a load of old cock, and – more to the point - couldn’t these people just take the little blue pill anyway?


The business of high-cost nuptial ceremonies has excellent growth prospects in Indonesia.

At least for marriages among foreigners.

Indeed, the tropical resort island of Bali is Southeast Asia's leading marriage and honeymoon spot. Most foreigners who go there to be married are from neighboring Australia; but the island also attracts couples from the world over.

Among Westerners to get married in Bali, Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger must be the most famous example. He married model Jerry Hall there on 21 November 1990, in a spectacular Hindu ceremony.

But while it may seem romantic to get married in a place like Bali, what most foreigners don’t realize is that the marriage certificate might not be worth more than the paper it is printed on.

Which was, fortunately as it turned out, the case for Mick Jagger, as his “marriage” with Jerry went sour and the leggy American tried to screw the poor Brit for everything she could get. (She may have argued that Jagger had previously only wanted to screw her for everything he could get, but hey what do you expect if you “marry” one of the world’s greatest rockstars?)

Anyway, according to an authority on oversees weddings, “Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall's "marriage" was annulled because their 1990 Hindu wedding in Bali was not recognized in English law”.

But I’m sure Jerry Hall isn’t the only foreigner to think they’ve been married in Bali - or for that case Indonesia.

You may think you’ve been married, but if you’ve only done the religious part, and the extremely complex bureaucratic procedures – including notification of your own country via your Consulate – haven’t been followed through exactly to the book then technically you aren’t married.

And do you really trust that Balinese “marriage” company to bother with all that paperwork?

But does it really matter anyway? After all, marriage is more of a state of mind than just a piece of paper, surely?

So be warned. Don’t bother coming to Indonesia to get married.

Just come for the honeymoon…
Judging by the photos above, I’d say that Jagger got the better end of the deal in their “marriage”. And he didn’t even have to pay her off to get rid of her. Lucky old Jagger!

NB: The lead singer of the Indonesian band
The Upstairs bears an uncanny resemblance to the great Mr Big Lips when he was still young. And I bet he’s looking for a lass with Jerry Hall looks as well…


At the Matahari dive resort in Tulamben, Bali there is a poster on the wall which explains the fascinating story behind the Tulamben shipwreck. This is the text:

USAT Liberty Glo, a United States Army Transport Ship, was built at the Hog Island emergency shipyard in Philadelphia during World War 1, but was completed after the November 1918 armistice. Shortly after the U.S. entry into World War II, Liberty Glo was torpedoed by the Japanese and beached on the island of Bali and is now today a popular dive site.

Hog Island Hull No 517 was laid down as SS Scooba on June 12, 1918, but by the time it was launched on June 14, 1919, it had been renamed SS Liberty Glo. Delivered to the US Shipping Board on 2 August, 1919, she was a cargo ship of 5,000 GT and 7,825 long tons of deadweight (DWT), 394 feet (120 meters) long, and 54 feet (16 meters) beam. Liberty Glo was the 36th Hog Islander built and one of 12 built as “type B” troop carriers. (Liberty Glo was NOT a Liberty ship, which were a similar concept of vessel built during World War II)

On December 5, 1919, the Liberty Glo stuck a mine 10 miles (19km) northwest of Tershelling on the coast of the Netherlands. The explosion broke the hull in two from waterline to waterline, but with the deck plates and bulwarks holding the ship together, the captain managed to get it ashore with no casualties despite the heavy seas and save most of the US$2,000,0000 cargo.

The redesigned USAT Liberty Glo, remeasured at 6,211 tons was bound from Australia to the Philippines on January 11, 1942, with a cargo of railway parts and rubber for the war effort when she was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-166 about 10 miles (19 kms) southwest of the Lombok Straits. US Destroyer USS Paul Jones and a Dutch Destroyer took the damaged ship in tow attempting to reach Singaraja on Bali’s north coast. However, she was taking too much water and so she was beached at Tulamben so that the cargo and fittings could be salvaged.

Liberty Glo was one of 58 Hog islanders that were casualties in World War II.

In 1963, the tremors associated with the eruption of Mount Agung caused the vessel to slip off the beach, and she now lies on a sand slope in 30 to 100 feet of water, providing one of the most popular dives in Bali.

Dive operators commonly misname the wreck “USS Liberty” and it has also been incorrectly referred to a Liberty ship, which were a similar concept of vessel built during World War II.

Although very popular among divers, the shipwreck can also be reached by snorkelers – provided that the sea conditions are calm.

It’s best to go at lowish tide – around 3.00pm – and when it’s sunny as you’ll see more.

Simply walk along the beach at Tulamben to the Balinese temple which is close by the Coral Beach bungalows.

Here you must swim in a perpendicular line from the temple and after about 30 meters you should see the wreck below.

A lot of huge fish gather here, many of which are surprisingly tame and not afraid to come within touching distance of you. So bring along some bread to feed them!


When I was a kid my mum made a family tree.

2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents and so on. Very quickly it gets very big. Going back only 6 generations to around the year 1800 and you already have 64 great-great-great-great grand parents.

But then I thought. Just how many great.. grandparents did I have say, 1,000 years ago when King Harold had to pull an arrow out of his eye at the battle of Hastings?

Well, 1000 years ago is - roughly speaking - about 40 generations. And I’m sure you’ve noticed the series above expands exponentially as you go back in time.

Okay then, so we have 2^40, which is…


or 1099,511,627,776

or 1099 billion great grandparents!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WTF - there are only 6 billion people living on the planet at the moment!

I asked my mother for an explanation, but she didn’t have one. And as I couldn’t find the answer anywhere else I didn’t think about it again until many years later on Sunday night, when I read the answer in Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything”:

“The reason, of course, is incest. If you look around you on a bus or in a park or café or any crowded place, most of the people you see are very probably relatives.”

Ah of course: your line is not pure and there will have been many occasions when a relative from your mother’s side has procreated with one on your father’s side! And Bryson goes on to say:

“Indeed, if you are in a partnership now with someone from your own race and country, the chances are excellent that you are at some level related.”

Probably relatives?!!!

Isn’t that incest? Yucks! No wonder foreigners find Indonesian women attractive!


How much money do you need for retirement in Bali?Well how long is a piece of string? It all depends of course on your lifestyle and how much you will need to support that lifestyle.

But however much money you need, the basic principal behind retirement is the same: build up a large enough nest egg that is invested securely and provides a steady stream of income. Easier said than done of course – as anyone who has invested in stocks will tell you after their savings had been heavily depleted as a result of the financial markets’ meltdown.

And to live in Bali is not as cheap as many people make out. Sure a lot of things are cheaper here than in developed countries but there are plenty of expenses that can easily make the best planned retirement plans go awry.

So what is a reasonable sum that you could live on in Indonesia?

Well here are my estimates for living in Bali (per month for two people):

Rental of a small but nice house (no swimming pool): Rp3 million
Electricity: Rp500,000 (assumes 1 aircon)
Telephone/internet: Rp300,000
Food: Rp5 million
Visa extensions: Rp1 million
Petrol: Rp300,000
Entertainment Rp1 million
Miscellaneous expenses: Rp1 million

Grand total: Rp12.1 million/month

or 12xRp12.1 million = Rp145.2 million for one year

So how much would you have to have invested in a retirement fund to generate a perpetual income stream of that amount? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer precisely, but to be fairly conservative I reckon you could count on a fairly secure US dollar high yielding investment fund to give you a return of 5 percent – perhaps 7 percent if you were pushing it.

That translates into an investment fund of between Rp2.1 billion (US$210,000) and Rp2.9 billion (US$290,000).

A pretty sizable amount of money by any standards – and that’s just living simply.

Maybe Bali isn’t so cheap after all…

>>> Retirement in Bali - the practicalities


In the good old days it used to be pretty hellish getting from Bali to the trio of beautiful Gili islands, just off the west coast of Lombok.

Sure you could fly to Mataram’s Selaparang Airport on mainland Lombok but you still needed to take a long taxi ride from the airport to Bangsal - probably one of the most miserable little harbors that you can find in the whole of Indonesia – before taking a small and always overcrowded boat across to the Gili’s.

And as for the slow ferry from Padangbai?

Well don’t even mention it!

Unless, of course, you are a sucker for punishment and enjoy melting away in what is effectively just a huge rust bucket which moves (but slowly; very very slowly).

But those were the old days and they are long gone.

Because now it’s possible to get a fast speedboat directly to the Gili’s from South Bali!

Admittedly it’s not cheap, but then again, the prices are not prohibitive either.

Here are some of the deals worth checking out:

1) Bluewater Safaris. Daily departure (8.00am) from Benoa Harbour on the BlueWater Express. Hotel tranfers to and from Kuta, Legian, Sanur, Tanjung Benoa and Nusa Dua are included free of charge. Also included: Passenger insurance, use of facilities at Bali International Marina, tea. Price: Rp690,000 one way; Rp1.3 million return.

2) 'Mahi Mahi'. Purpose built 12m aluminum motor yacht has twin V6, 250hp engines, and with a cruising speed of 32 knots it takes 2.5 hours to reach Gili Trawangan from Bali's SERANGAN HARBOUR. Boarding time at 07.00am; Departure time 07.30am. PRICE Rp. 550,000 O/W per person.

3) The Black Pearl. Nice name and a nice boat. Departs from Bali’s Serangan Harbor (Turtle Island), Departure time 9am. Price Rp 680.000; although discounts available online.

Enjoy your trip. But please remember: the seas can get choppy, so take anti sickness pills if necessary. Otherwise it might turn out to be a journey that you’ll never be able to forget – but for all the wrong reasons! Pass the sick bag please…


Map of Lake Batur and the surrounding region including the villages of Penelokan, Kedisan and Toya Bungkah.


Quite incredibly, no one can be absolutely sure where the “Big Apple” tag comes from. As in most things that affect this great city, there are diverse opinions. However, the romantic view, held by many, is that the “Big Apple” phrase has its origins in New York’s musical and sporting heritage. Most of the credit is given to well-known horseracing columnist John Fitzgerald. He apparently picked up on the term after talking to stable hands who had used it in describing New York City's racetracks in the 1920s. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that the term became widely used. In that decade, a new black dance called the “Big Apple” took the city by storm, and the city’s jazz musicians soon latched onto the expression.

But a much less glamorous - and one might even say rather sordid account - links the phrase to an aristocratic French immigrant. Back in the early 1800s, along with many others, Evelyn Claudine de Saint-Évremond of France traveled to New York to flee worn-torn Europe and start a new life. Well-educated and by all accounts very beautiful, she soon became a favorite in the high-society social circles of the time. But when her planned marriage was called off at the last minute, this plucky immigrant didn’t go to pieces. Bravely she decided that she would take control of her own destiny by starting a business to avoid having to depend on any man. Modern day feminists would have been proud of her!

So, as the story goes, she started a salon, where well-to-do New Yorkers could find an attractive female companion. And as her business flourished, Evelyn, amused by her customers calling her Eve, played on the biblical connotations herself by referring to the female hostesses in her employment as her “irresistible apples”. After time, Eve’s patrons then came to talk of visiting these “apples” of hers, one of whom was ostensibly of sizable proportions, thereby helping to establish the city’s famous nickname.

But for whatever reason New York picked up the “Big Apple” tag, is it even appropriate?
Because unknown to most people, and as a result of a remarkable twist in fate, the city’s fortunes actually owe far more to some exotic tropical spices than they do to the humble apple.

The spices in question are nutmeg and mace. Both come from the nutmeg tree which is native to a tiny chain of islands called the Banda islands, which themselves are part of a larger group of islands called the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, a chain of islands in the vast Indonesian archipelago. Today the Banda islands are largely forgotten and sometimes even omitted from maps of the region. But this common oversight belies the huge importance of these islands in former times because of the indigenous nutmeg trees growing there.

Although exotic spices from the Spice Islands had been traded for thousands of years, it was not until around the thirteenth century that they started to become popular in Europe. For 300 years up to around 1500, the Venetians dominated the European trade in nutmeg and mace – as well as other exotic spices from the Spice Islands such as cloves - since they controlled the Mediterranean seaways. Venice became very rich as these spices were in high demand in Europe and could attract astronomical prices. Nutmeg in particular was highly valued. This sweet tasting spice was used as a hallucinogen and as an aphrodisiac. Meanwhile, cloves, which have a distinctly pungent flavor, were revered for their medicinal properties. Not only did physicians believe that they could cure the common cold and settle an upset stomach, but that they could also improve poor eyesight!

The Venetians themselves obtained the spices from merchants in the Middle East who kept their sources a closely guarded secret. But the Venetians’ monopoly could not last forever. Indeed, the potential rewards from discovering the source of these increasingly valuable spices provided a great incentive for European explorers to unravel the mysteries of the unexplored lands in the southern hemisphere. Portugal took a leading role in this respect, and in charting the route around the southern tip of Africa accidentally discovered the coast of Brazil in 1500.

By 1511, a Portuguese fleet commanded by Alfonso de Albuquerque reached the strategically important port of Malacca on the Malaysian peninsula where the spices from the Spice Islands were brought to be traded. Among those onboard was the legendary explorer Ferdinand Magellan, famous for later leading the first true circumnavigation of the globe, even though he didn’t actually make it back to Europe (he was killed in a brutal fight while trying to set up a trading post in the Philippines).

The Portugese finally reached the Spice Islands in 1512. This was their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: even when paying inflated prices for the spices to the local natives, they could still expect to reap profits of up to a phenomenal one thousand percent when selling them back in Europe. The Portuguese were naturally exuberant at their success. And to safeguard their newly found sources of riches from the competing Spanish, they built forts across the Moluccas islands, many of which can still be seen today.

But the lucrative spice trade had also caught the attentions of other European powers, most notably England and Holland. Although the Portuguese held onto the islands for a while after, the Dutch managed to wrestle control of them by 1605. But the English hadn’t given up their aspirations either. Indeed, explorers from both countries made many attempts at identifying alternate routes to the Spice Islands, as the arduous two-year journey east from Europe often ended in disaster, with ship crews decimated by scurvy and other deadly diseases.

One of the European explorers keen to locate the Spice Islands was Henry Hudson. Although English, he had been recruited by the Dutch. But after failing to find a northeast passage to Asia via the Artic Ocean and North Pole in 1608, his ship sailed further east and ended up exploring the east coast of North America, even sailing for a distance up the Hudson River that now bears his name. He brought back news of fertile lands on his return to Holland, and the Dutch later sent more missions, eventually establishing a permanent presence in the area in 1614. Not long after, amid the threat of attacks by other European colonial powers, the Dutch constructed a fort to protect their trading post at the southern tip of what is today Manhattan. Little could Hudson have realized at the time the significance of his voyage to the Americas!

Meanwhile, in the Spice Islands, the Dutch had won the upper hand over the English. But even so, they did not have exclusive control over the Banda islands. Somehow, the English, under the resourceful and determined spice trader Nathaniel Courthope, had managed to establish a foothold on the tiny island of Run where they quickly erected forts to protect the island from the onlooking Dutch.

However, the presence of the English on this island was a thorn in the side of the Dutch governor-general of the East Indies Jan Pieterszoon Coen even though both sides were technically allies, united in their common hatred of the Spanish. By all accounts a ruthless and bloodthirsty man, he set his sights on sending his unwelcome British neighbors packing. This did not take him long. He quickly captured two English ships and ordered the British to surrender. Although Courthope refused the request, his courage did not get him far: he was shot while trying to flee from the Dutch some time later.

But in 1624 the Dutch went one step too far. On Ambon Island (around 132 km north of the Banda Islands), the Dutch unfairly accused the entire contingent of English traders of engineering a mutiny. As was the fashion of the time, these unfortunate traders were soon beheaded after their confessions were drummed out of them through particularly outlandish methods of torture that involved partial drowning in water accompanied by the judicious use of fire. News of the outrage soon filtered back to England, where there was a public outcry. Feelings ran so high for a time that the Dutch even had to recall their ambassador. But after much heated debate, the Dutch finally relented and agreed to hand back the island of Run to the English.

Nevertheless, the peace did not last long. By 1660 the English and Dutch had gone to war after the former passed the controversial Navigation Act that sought to protect England's trade by requiring all goods imported to England to be carried on English vessels. Putting an end to the hostilities was the Treaty of Breda in 1667. As part of the deal, the English agreed to give up their interest in the island of Run in exchange for the Dutch island of Manhattan in North America. Quite incredible! Even though the English had thought they had got the better deal, they could not have imagined - even in their wildest dreams - that they were now in possession of what was to become the world’s most influential and important city. So if anyone ever asks you about New York’s nickname, why not suggest that perhaps the “Sweet Nutmeg” would be far more appropriate?


The Borobudur Temple Complex  is considered by many to be one of the seven wonders of the world. And no wonder. It truly is a remarkable architectural achievement, being the largest Buddhist monument on earth.

Stupas at Borobudur Temple Central Java

If you want to visit the complex it’s best to base yourself in the historic Javanese city of Yogyakarta which is located just 25 miles away – around an hour’s drive – from the Temple Complex. How you get to the  depends on how much you want to spend: public bus is dirt cheap but tricky, taxis are a better bet, but if you want real independence, rent a private car and simply drive there yourself!

Best is to go real early in the morning to avoid the local tourist mobs who tend to converge on the temple at the weekends and especially on public holidays. The light at sunrise is also very special and makes for an even more enjoyable experience.

But be prepared for the racist ticket policy!

Admission is cheap – if you are Indonesian. Foreigners, however, are obliged to pay about seven times more! In the past you could ask a local to buy you a ticket, but this trick no longer works. Given this racist policy, more and more tourists are opting to boycott Borobudur (and Jogya's other famous temple, Prambanan, as well).

Whether to pay the crazy admission fee or boycott the temple is ultimately a personal decision, of course. I know many people who refuse to pay - but then again many tourists just bite their lower lip and pay the charge. For families though, it certainly makes for a very expensive trip and, to be honest, there are better ways to spend your hard earned money than to hand it over to money-grabbing racists.

The Borobudur Temple was built sometime between 750 and 850 AD. For about a century and a half it was the spiritual centre of Buddhism in Java, but was lost until its rediscovery in the eighteenth century by the intrepid British explorer and Lieutenant-Governor of Java, Lieutenant-Governor Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

The structure itself is composed of 55,000 square meters of lava-rock and is erected on a hill in the form of a stepped-pyramid of six rectangular storeys, three circular terraces and a central stupa forming the summit. The whole structure is in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of Buddha.

For each direction there are ninety-two Dhyani Buddha statues and 1,460 relief scenes. The lowest level has 160 reliefs depicting cause and effect; the middle level contains various stories of the Buddha's life from the Jataka Tales; the highest level has no reliefs or decorations whatsoever but has a balcony, square in shape with round walls: a circle without beginning or end. Here is the place of the ninety-two Vajrasattvas or Dhyani Buddhas tucked into small stupas. Each of these statues has a mudra (hand gesture) indicating one of the five directions: east, with the mudra of calling the earth to witness; south, with the hand position of blessing; west, with the gesture of meditation; north, the mudra of fearlessness; and the centre with the gesture of teaching.
Buddha inside a stupa at Borobudur Temple Complex

Borobudur is an impressive temple but a racist ticket policy is causing more and more tourists to boycott the temple.


When armed conflict broke out between the rebellious Islamicized coastal districts of East Java and the Hindu Majapahit Empire at the end of the 1300s, the nobles, priests and artisans fled to Bali (the famous Tanah Lot temple was built by Javanese priest, Sang Hiyang Nirarta).

But the ordinary Hindu folk fled to the Tengger Highlands, a spectacular mountainous region, surrounding the magnificent Mount Bromo volcano.

Undoubtably, this place is really worth a visit, and whatever you may have heard, you won’t be prepared for this ethereal, unforgettable spectacle. The caldera around Bromo is absolutely vast, and when you do the early morning walk up to the crater you really feel as if you are walking on the moon or something.

East Java's Mount BromoThe best approach to the volcano is from the village of Cemoro Lawang, only around 3kms from the crater, where there are plenty of cheap hotels, hostels and homestays.

Be warned though, it’s damn cold up there and if you arrive wearing only a T-shirt and jeans (like me), then you’re really gonna freeze.

Everyone else has booked horses for the 4.30am departure. But not me. I’m fit and have spent most evenings over the last five years in the gym. I’m gonna walk it.

So we get up at 4.00am, gulp down tons of hot coffee, and put blankets around us to keep warm.

The Tenggerese dudes and their horses are waiting as promised, and they lead the way.

They start off slowly, but soon start to pick up pace. The horses are practically running now. Well, I’m fit enough, and even with a 10kg rucksack on, am soon jogging too. At least I don’t feel cold any more. In fact, I’m starting to break into a sweat.

The sky is pitch black and the stars are as bright as I’ve ever seen them.

But after the flat sandy plain, the going starts to get tougher as we gain some elevation. But the Tenggerese guides don’t slow the pace: they continue to move briskly.

After about 15 minutes of this, I’m trailing way behind them, but they’ve now stopped.

Thank God: we’re at the foot of the crater!

As I catch up with the group, catching my breath, one of the Tenggerese guys is smiling at me, and to my amazement is puffing away on a fucking kretek cigarette! Bloody showoff!

A steep 256-step concrete staircase gets you up to the rim. But it’s now crumbling and, it seems to me, fairly dangerous.
Up on the rim, the volcano is belching out huge plumes of sulfuric gases. We follow the rim around a bit and sit down.

You’ve really got to be careful up here. Although touted as a tourist attraction, it’s actually pretty dangerous. One slip and you are dead – that is the reality. Only last year, two tourists from Switzerland and Aus fell into the crater never to be seen again. And there have been plenty more before them too.

In fact, the Tenggerese believe the volcano needs victims to appease the Gods. The sacred couple Joko Seger and Roro Ateng had to take their last child, Kusuma, to the crater, and chuck him in (the name "Tengger" derives from the last syllables of the sacred couple’s name ... AnTENG and SeGER).

The sunrise is simply awesome, by far the most beautiful I have ever seen.
Lovers at Mount Bromo volcano in East Java

Mount Bromo, a truly unforgettable experience.


Tanah Lot is merely a rock formation with a temple on top.

And some of the rock is not even original. In fact, around one third of it is artificial. It was placed there when restoration of the site was undertaken in the early 1980’s.

For the Balinese, the temple is undeniably of great importance – many come here to make a pilgrimage.

Even so, the Tanah Lot complex is also a prime example of how a religious site has been denigrated by commercial exploitation. To get to the site, for example, unhelpful and arrogant complex guards make sure you walk through a complex of carefully placed souvenir shops that cover either side of the path down to the sea. It doesn’t get much more crass than that.

But why do so many tourists come here though? After all, there are thousands of temples spread across Bali. And in many cases, they are much more aesthetically impressive than Tanah Lot. Well, perhaps it’s because of the incredible sunset views that can be seen here on the cliff ridge just behind the temple.
Tanah Lot sunset Bali Indonesia

So enjoy the sunset if you can. But just remember that you don’t have to pay an exorbitant price for a can of coke from one of the cafes that hog the cliff edge. Because you can always stand!


Lembongan Island is a small island located just off Bali’s southern tip to the south east.

How to get there?

a) by public boat
The cheapest way to get to Lembongan is by the public boat which leaves from Sanur beach at 8.30am every morning. A ticket will cost you about Rp60,000 if you buy it from the guy in the ticket locket (a small building near the end of at the end Jalan Hang Tua where the road meets the sea.). But be warned: guys will start to approach you as you near the locket and ask you if you are going to Lembongan. Don’t buy a ticket from them - they are touts!

The public boat to Lembongan isn’t called the public boat for nothing, of course. It can get really full. Because like most Indonesian boats, it has no capacity constraints and can carry as many people as want to go in it. Magic!

The boat to Lembongan

But the real fun starts after 10 minutes or so. Where the sea between Bali and the island is usually very choppy! It’s at this time that you wish you hadn’t had such a big breakfast. And don’t look at those Indonesian children sitting nearby – they are always the first to get seasick – and they don’t use plastic bags either!

But an hour and a half later you arrive - God willing - at Jungutbatu, the main strip where the budget hotels are located. Straight away, just as you are getting off the boat, scalpers will rapidly descend on you like flies to a cow crap, and offer you a “special price” hotel deal. To make them go, just say you already have a hotel booked – that usually keeps them away!

b) by speedboat
A much better – albeit more expensive – way to get to Lembongan is by speedboat. They used to be ridiculously expensive – and some still are – but there are some good operators which offer reasonable prices and don’t try to rip you off. The best operator in my view is rockyfastcruise. They seem to be a professional set-up, the ticket price is reasonable, the boat has life-jackets, and – always a good sign - the owner – whom I met in Lembongan - seems a decent chap.

Best of all, the speedboat is much faster than the public boat, taking only 30 minutes or so to reach Lembongan. One tip: make sure you know the speedboat’s destination in Lembongan. Not all of them go to Jungutbatu – our one went to Mushroom Beach (see below) and we had to walk an hour or so to reach our hotel in Jungutbatu!

Staying overnight in Sanur
If you need to spend the night in Sanur (to avoid a frantic hurry to the boat ticket locket in the morning for instance), there are a number of accommodations on Jalan Hang Tua. One of the cheap and popular places is the Watering Hole (Jalan Hang Tua No. 35-37). It’s not great and the service is pretty awful, but for one night, well it’s okay.

Places to stay in Jungutbatu, Lembongan Island
There are plenty of cheap places to stay in Jungutbatu (around Rp200,000++ a night). Some have gone “upmarket” in recent years and even added swimming pools, reflecting the island’s increasing popularity (it isn’t only the surfers who come here anymore).

The general rule is that the further you walk up the beach (to the north), the cheaper the accommodations are.

Many of the hotels tell you they only have one room left. But don’t be fooled by this ruse. It’s the oldest trick in the book and they are simply trying to get you committed to making a quick decision to stay at their hotel.

One of the best value places to stay in Lembongan is Agung’s shipwreck. They have smallish but nice rooms with AC and the food is pretty good too. Pay around Rp200,0000-Rp250,000/night. Bargain if off-season.

Next to Agung’s is a place called Linda’s. Some people like it but it does have a bit of a “clique” feel to it. Weird.

When you first arrive at Jungutbatu you might feel that Lembongan doesn’t live up to your expectations as a “perfect paradise island”.

This is because the whole of the bay at Jungutbatu is used by seaweed farmers as the tides go very far out, giving the place a sort of “aqua-farming” feel to it.

seaweed farming at Jungutbatu, Lembongan Island

But if you’re prepared to get off your backside, you’ll be able to see some very nice beaches in Lembongan.

You can walk, rent a bicycle (Rp25,000/day) and even rent a motorcycle (Rp50,000/day). Don’t worry about someone nicking your bike – there is no theft in Lembongan!

Places to go

Just go north from Jungut Batu until you reach the mangroves. Best to go by bicycle or motorcycle as it’s quite a way. It is possible to snorkel from the beach but it’s a very long way out!

Mushroom Bay

Mushroom Beach/Bay

The wonderful sandy beach at Mushroom Bay is a good 2kms (30 minutes) walk away (walk to the end of the Jungutbatu strip and follow the path around, go past two coves, and you’re there). A great place to relax and, if conditions are supportive, snorkel. But be careful though as Lembongan is known for its strong currents!

Dream Beach
Not so far away from Mushroom Bay, on the southern coast, is the very nice Dream Beach. Follow signs and/or ask people for directions. Don’t be tempted to jump in the sea for a swim though – the rips here can be very strong!

Sunset Beach (adjacent to Devil's Tear)
Another great place to relax. Same problem with Dream Beach though – it’s too dangerous to swim here. Indeed, that really is the biggest drawback in Lembongan – it’s no good at all for swimming. However, the spectacular waves crashing into rocks at one end of the beach – the ominously named “Devil's Tear” – are a sight to behold!

Devil's Tear

Ceningan Island
All in all, a rugged and thoroughly interesting island, well worth a visit.

Things to do
Surf, snorkel (caution advised!), sunbathe, dive (with dive operator), cliff dive (at Ceningan Island), walk, cycle, read, recuperate, collect shells, take photos etc.


Every society is based upon lies. Our society of today is based on conflicting lies. The man who lived in a simple, stable, single-lie society absorbed the single-lie system into a unified self and spouted it for the rest of his life, uncontradicted by his friends and neighbors and unaware that ninety-eight percent of his beliefs were illusions, his values artificial and arbitrary and most of his desires comically ill-aimed.

> Luke Rhinehart

One of the highlights of a recent trip to Bali was Lake Batur: a simply beautiful lake with an ethereal ambience at dawn when the mists slowly lift to reveal the lake’s incredible beauty and the high walls of a vast crater rim.

Lake Batur

While walking around the lake I came across a bunch of kids treating a stray and mangy dog in a manner which, well, would not exactly win commendations from the RSPCA.

The poor blighter was being used for target practice. Direct hits scored 25 points and a headshot counted double. So I picked up a stone to join in the fun. But as much as I tried, I simply couldn’t do it: the Western indoctrination and brainwashing that has afflicted me since early childhood seemed to kick in at the critical moment, rendering me completely impotent.

Westerners of course get highly agitated when it comes to the topic of animal rights. And more than 90% of pet owners in Canada even consider their pets to be an equal member of the family! (are we really that mad?) Some play the role of the Good Samaritan (like Bali's Street Dog Foundation) and save stray dogs, while others suffer months of torment as they mourn the loss of a pet moggy.

But such delusion is quite bizarre when you think about it. Because just imagine how many human lives could be saved in Africa if pet owners in the West spent less on pampering their cats and dogs and gave the money to charity instead. Trade a cat’s life for a human’s life. Sounds like a good idea to me!

Visiting Lake Batur
Lake Batur is incredibly beautiful but it’s not for everyone. For a start, the accommodations are pretty basic and a run-down Indonesian style motel is not to everyone’s taste – especially if you’ve just been staying in a swanky place in touristy Ubud or Kuta. There’s also pretty much nowhere to eat and when you can find a restaurant don’t be surprised if: 1) the cuisine doesn’t extend to much more than instant noodles or fried rice and 2) they overcharge you.

Lake Batur: the Still Lake

Where to stay
Hotels with the best views of Lake Batur are located on the main road in the Penelokan area (although most of them are pretty grotty and way overpriced). Adding to the negative vibe are some of the most aggressive handicraft vendors you are ever likely to encounter this side of the equator - they stick to you like fruit flies to cow dung! Far better to just pass through and drive down the windy road to the lake and stay instead in the quiet lakeside village of Kedisan or, a bit further up the road, at Toya Bungkah.

Hotels in Kedisan
Segara Bungalows. Cheapish. Five basic rooms from Rp150,000-Rp200,000. Awful restaurant.
Segara Homestay. 33 rooms. Rp300,000-Rp650,000. Clean, bathtubs, hot water. Not a bad restaurant and they serve margaritas and other mixed drinks!
Surya Homestay and Restaurant. 22 rooms. Good views of the lake. Rp200,000-Rp250,000 with cold water (freezing!); Rp400,000 with hot water.

Climbing Mount Batur
It is possible to climb Mount Batur but what could be a pleasurable experience has been transformed into an ordeal thanks to a policy which only allows tourists to do the climb if they are accompanied by a guide (at a ridiculous price of course!). If you try and bargain the price down, the guides get angry. Not nice at all. There are two types of climb:

Sunrise climb: 4am-8am; “fixed” price: Rp150,000/person
Main crater climb: 4am-10am; “fixed” price: Rp200,000/person.

The base for the climb is the lakeside village of Toya Bungkah. There are about 15 or so basic places to stay in Toya Bungkah. Here are some of them:

Darma Putra Homestay & Restaurant. 10 rooms.
Awangga. Small rooms. Quiet, enclosed courtyard.
Arlina's. Telp: (0362) 51165. Just past the Art Center. Hot water, breakfast.
Tirta Yatra. Very basic.
Nyoman Pangus Homestay & Warung.
Mawa Bungalows.
Asri Inn. Telp (0362) 753645.
Amertha's Accommodations.
The Art Center. More expensive, nicer. European toilet!!!!

Lake Batur Bali: Fishing at Toya Bungkah

Fishing at Toya Bungkah

From Toya Bungkah you can get a boat across the lake to a Bali Age village called Trunyan. This is home to Balinese “aborigines” and they are known for their bizarre mortuary traditions – rather than cremating or burying the dead they just leave the bodies lying around to decompose naturally! Yucks. Not a very pleasurable experience, the fee for the boat ride is a rip off and the people are unfriendly. Give it a miss.

The hot springs at Toya Bungkah are a better idea but most enjoyable of all is just driving around the lake and enjoying the ethereal ambience of the place. Remember this is a volcanic area and the last time Mount Batur blew its top was in 1917 when thousands of people were killed. Fingers crossed that it won’t erupt when you are there!

See the Lake Batur Map to help you plan your visit.


Note: this article was written a number of years ago when Gili Trawangan was still a hidden gem. But alas, that is not the case anymore. For info on what Gili Trawangan is now like – as of July 2010 – click here.

It is said that if you want to know what Bali was like 20 years ago then you should go to Lombok.

Much more laid back than its larger sister 45 km to the west, Lombok is a great antidote to the commercial excesses of Bali, where on some beaches at least, there now seem to be more hawkers than tourists and a moment’s peace is as rare as a reasonably priced can of coke.

Many travelers visiting Lombok for the first time head for the wonderful Gili islands – three coral ringed islands off the northwest coast of Lombok. Here you will find dazzling white sand beaches that kick the pants of those in Bali, with crystal clear aquamarine waters to boot.

The furthest of the islands from the mainland, Gili Trawangan, is also the largest of the three. Even so, it still takes less than three hours to walk around the whole island.

In a wise move, the authorities have taken the decision to ban cars and motorcycles from the islands, thus making for a much more relaxing stay. Instead there are cidomo – a sort of horse and carriage. Although quite inexpensive to get around in, make sure you bargain before you accept the ride else you may be overcharged. Bicycles are also available for rent at around Rp30,000 per day, but the going can get tough as the tracks around the island are very sandy in parts.

While Gili Trawangan has picked up the reputation of being something of a party island, you will be sorely disappointed if you come here expecting Goya style beach raves. In fact, despite a few low-key “parties” which are occasionally held by divers congregating at the Blue Marlin dive center, Gili Trawangan is so laid back it is virtually horizontal. And long may it remain that way.

There are plenty of inexpensive accommodations and eateries on Gili Trawangan, especially in the main strip toward the south of the island. Here you can find cozy bars and romantic candlelit restaurants, some of which have slightly raised dining areas where you can eat your meal at leisure as you stretch out your legs and rest on soft cushions. Besides the usual western fare, Indonesian dishes such as gado gado (vegetables covered in peanut sauce) and nasi goring (fried rice) are also on the menu. And for those who are unable to shut themselves off from the outside world, access to the World Wide Web is possible at the ubiquitous internet cafés that have now set up shop.

Most of the accommodations on the island are of the simple bamboo hut variety, but better quality places to stay are springing up all the time, complete with hot water, air conditioning and satellite TV. But be warned: if you have sensitive skin and do not relish the prospect of seawater showers (fresh water is a rare commodity here and has to be brought in from mainland Lombok), your only option may be to stay at the island’s upmarket resort hotel, Hotel Vila Ombak.

If it is solitude you are looking for, then head to the north of the island, where you are unlikely to be troubled by anyone. Days can pass by very quickly here as you relax in your hammock strung between two palm trees swaying in the gentle sea breeze…

The three Gili islands are still excellent for
snorkeling despite the devastation wreaked by the El Nino weather phenomenon in 1998. Some 90% of the hard corals around the islands down to 20 meters suffered badly at the time from bleaching and are still recovering. While you can snorkel directly from the beach, a good deal is to join the daily snorkeling tour at the very reasonable rate of Rp35,000 per person. As the boat has a glass bottom, those unable to snorkel, such as young kids, can also have the opportunity to see a wide array of beautiful multicolored tropical fish and, if lucky, even the odd turtle. A tip here: bring your own snorkeling gear as the quality of the stuff available for hire leaves much to be desired.

When you need a break from the snorkeling, the sugary white beaches are a perfect place for relaxation and sunbathing. The few hawkers that ply their trade here are much less aggressive than in Bali, and when they realize you don’t want what they are selling they quickly get the message. If the blazing tropical sun becomes too much to bear, shelter can be found under the palm trees that conveniently line the beaches.

If the weather is good – which it usually is - beautiful red sunsets can be seen, with the sun setting in the west over
Mount Agung, Bali. Either head for Gili Trawangan’s northern coast else climb the island’s 100-meter hill (going up here is the only time you are likely to venture into the island’s interior during your stay).

As for Gili Air and Gilo Meno, they are even quieter than Gili Trawangan. Accommodations and restaurants are basic, but then that's part of the charm. If you need more facilities, it’s more convenient to stay on Gili Trawangan and make day trips to these two islands.

Getting there
Although the Gili islands are wonderful themselves, many travelers have, unfortunately, had bad experiences in getting there. Going by ferry from Bali (which leaves from the sleepy town of Padangbai) is not recommended unless you have a perverse penchant for pain and suffering. The rust-bucket ferry takes about four and a half hours to reach Lombok’s Lembar Harbour, and with the seas between the two islands often choppy, you’d better have your sick-bag close at hand if you are susceptible to seasickness. And knowing that one of the ferries plying this route sank in September last year doesn’t exactly put one at ease. From Lembar, it is still about an hour and a half drive to Bangsal, the small harbour from where you can take a small motorized boat (prahu) to the Gili islands.

Far better is to fly directly to Lombok’s Mataram Selaparang Airport, and then take a taxi to Bangsal. From where you are dropped off at Bangsal, you will either have to walk the last 200 meters or take a ride on a cidomo to reach the harbor. Although various lowlifes will approach you and try to persuade you that the only way to reach the Gili islands is to charter a boat at great expense, tickets for the public boats to the islands can actually be bought at the official ticket office which is right by the sea. It’s also best to wear shorts and sandals/slippers, because your feet are likely to get wet as you climb on to the small boat. And make sure you retain your wits about you before boarding: many tourists have been caught off guard by undesirable characters who have forcibly taken their luggage onto the boat and then demanded a ridiculously large sum of money. But despite these problems, the journey to the Gili islands is definitely worth it: once there you won’t want to go back!

Don’t forget
As there are no banks on the Gili islands, make sure you take enough cash for your intended period of stay. Although there are a few moneychangers, they are unreliable and the rates very poor. But if you get into any difficulties, it is good to know that there are now some ATM machines at nearby Senggigi on the Lombok mainland.


Bali’s tourism industry is currently enjoying a strong resurgence as large numbers of foreign tourists are once again visiting Indonesia’s best-known holiday destination following a number of poor years in the wake of the devastating Kuta bombing back in October 2002. The beaches in the south of the island are again proving to be a strong magnet to the younger crowd who seek sun, sand and a variety of hedonistic pleasures, while the older and generally better-heeled tourists are heading for the cooler climes of central Bali where they are able to savor the island’s rich cultural traditions in places such as Ubud.

However, neither of these locations will appeal to those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But there is no reason to despair. Because one of Bali’s little known secrets will reveal itself to those willing to make the effort to get there: the magnificent northeast coast.

This area is thankfully free of the excessive commercialism and crass cultural tourism that plague much of Bali’s tourist industry. Noone here will try to sell you a mass produced low quality woodcarving or ‘original’ oil painting at a specially-for-you tourist price of 100 US dollars. Instead you will find superlative opportunities for snorkeling and diving, as well as unspoiled beaches and sleepy fishing hamlets, with magnificently rugged scenery and
Bali’s highest volcano Gunung Agung (3,142m) providing a spectacular backdrop.

Tulamben’s hidden wonders

No trip to the northeast coast of Bali would be complete without a visit to Tulamben. Although visitors may not be particularly impressed by its rather nondescript one-kilometer long pebble beach, there is actually far more to the place than meets the eye.

For close to the shore, hidden from sight, lies the wreck of an American Liberty Class merchant ship. Torpedoed in the Lombok Strait by the Japanese during the Second World War, Tulamben became the ship’s final resting place as she ran aground while being towed to the Balinese port of Singaraja. The vessel remained on the beach until it was pushed away from the shore and into deeper water by lava flows as a result of the eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963.

Today the 120 meter-long wreck is only about 30 meters offshore, making it easily accessible for divers and snorkellers alike. It lies in depths from nine to 30 meters, and the highest point of the stern is only about 4 meters below the surface. And although broken up, many of the ship’s original features – such as the guns, boilers and the anchor chain – are still clearly identifiable to divers. But best of all, being in extremely plankton-rich waters, the wreck has become a haven for a wonderful array of marine life. Schools of fusiliers and surgeonfish and over 400 other species of tropical fish have made it their home.

And even away from the wreck, and only meters from the shore, the
snorkeling is still superb as a shallow coral reef stretches along the bay. Expect to see many species of tropical fish including brightly colored butterflyfish, as well as angelfish and probably the most readily recognizable of all coral reef fishes, the wonderfully shaped moorish idol fish. There are even huge triggerfish. But be careful: this highly territorial fish might bite if you get too close!

brightly painted jukungThe coastal tranquility of Amed

From Tulamben, Amed is only a short half-an-hour drive away. Follow the road to the small town of Culik, and then take the signposted left-hand turn. Although this stretch of coastal road is often referred to as Amed by many tourists, it should be noted that Amed is actually just one of a number of small fishing hamlets in the vicinity.

Noticeably poorer than the rest of Bali, do not be surprised to see local villagers bathing by the side of the road as freshwater is a rare commodity here given the region’s very dry climate. Besides salt panning and subsistence farming, there are few job opportunities, and many locals earn a livelihood from fishing. The many brightly painted jukung (small traditional Balinese fishing boat) make for a picture postcard setting, especially at sunrise when they return to shore after a long night’s fishing.

Balinese kids enjoy a bathAbout eleven kilometers along the road from Culik is Lipah Bay, a wonderfully remote location. Close to the shore lies the wreck of a Japanese steel freighter in 6-12 meters of water. To find it, just go down the steps that are right outside the Eka Purnama cottages to the black stone beach. Although tiny in comparison to the Liberty wreck, this small wreck is nonetheless ideal for snorkeling. Being in such shallow water, the coral encrusted wreck is a mini ecosystem in itself, and snorkeling here is like being in a large aquarium. In this bay are also some of the most beautiful coral fields in Bali. The huge sea fans are a sight to behold.
the beautiful Amed coast
Getting there

The reason so few tourists make it to Bali’s northeast coast is its inaccessibility. Shuttle buses have long since stopped bringing tourists here, and given that it is a good two-and-a-half to three-hour drive from the south of Bali, a taxi ride would cost a small fortune. So if you really want to explore this region of Bali, then there is little option but to hire a car or go on a group tour. The best place to find a reputable car rental firm is at Bali’s Ngurah Rai international airport.

Much cheaper car rental options are available at places like Kuta and Ubud although the roadworthiness of some of the cars may be questionable, and it may be unclear whether the car is actually insured or not! Also remember that to hire a car in Bali you’ll have to have either an international driver’s license or an Indonesian driving license. Once on the road, exercise extreme caution when driving in Bali – oncoming vehicles have the infuriating tendency to drive on your side of the road! The coastal roads in Amed are also very twisty. So don’t be tempted to drink and drive or you may well end up in the sea!

Food and Accommodation
Given the remoteness of the northeast coast, some fresh food items have to be brought in from the nearest town, Amlapura. This may go some way to explaining why the food in this region of Bali is often very poor – and in some cases even inedible – as well as being very expensive by Indonesian standards. No chance of finding any wonderful Padang restaurants here! Be very careful then when choosing a place to eat. Some of the restaurants at the busier hotels are probably the best bet.

In regard to accommodation, there is plenty of choice, although many of the older hotels and cottages are rather rundown. However, like the food, the accommodation here is much more expensive in comparison to the rest of Bali. Check out possible places to stay by searching the excellent Bali tourism info site
Balitravelforum before you come.

One particular place I like to stay in Bali are the excellent Double One villas which have a great location, big rooms and friendly staff.

You also have to bear in mind that Amed is as dead as a dodo at night. There is very little chance of any entertainment at all, except perhaps a low-key Balinese dance at one of the local restaurants. But what the heck: this is a small price to pay. After all, you’ve come here to get away from it, haven’t you?

Amed (Bali) at Dusk
A serene Amed at dusk

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