A Hot East Bali Road Trip: Padang Bai, Candi Dasa, Tirta Gangga, Amed

In Daiana’s taxi we headed east through the incredible crush of Bali traffic, along with thousands of other taxis, trucks, and, especially, motorbikes, some carrying as many as four family members, most without helmets. As in Fiji, the driving here consists of passing everything on the road, except that here there’s much more on the road, since seemingly Bali is a much wealthier place than Fiji and everyone has wheels. Motorcycles, like insects, dart here and there around the car, sometimes zooming up on the left, sometimes on the right, sometimes coming straight at the car the wrong way down the street. The traffic continued heavy the entire way from Ubud out to the east coast – I was really glad that neither of us had to drive.

Our first stop along the east coast was Padang Bai, a small town from which the fast and slow boats to Lombok and the Gili Islands depart. It, too, was very crowded, mostly with people heading over to the Gilis or diving.

This area is known for its scuba diving and snorkelling. We drove past the town beach, a small strip of sand next to the small harbour mostly given over to Indonesian fishing boats, and headed up the rough road around the point to the Blue Lagoon beach.

This black sand beach is small, with good size waves, and is quite clean and has two places from which to rent sunbeds and umbrellas. But was it ever screaming hot.

Parts of the landscape looked black, as if a fire had gone through, but it is just (!) that the area has had no rain for months and all the vegetation is barely clinging to life.

From Padang Bai we headed up the coast for a brief stop at Candi Dasa, another area of black sand, also furnace-like and dry, dry, dry. There’s hardly any beach here anymore – breakwaters have been built to try to stem the erosion but sand is only visible at low tide. Since all the hotels are built along the water, there’s nowhere to walk except on the very busy roadway – not very appealing.

All through this area are small temples and small villages, as well as roadside markets selling cheap food and souvenirs. Past Candi Dasa a ways, we pulled in to the Tirta Gangga Water Palace; although I did not know it was here, I realised once inside that I’d seen pictures of this place before. It is beautiful – I love water palaces, and this one was great. The name means “water from the Ganges” and it is a holy site for Hindu Balinese.

From Wikipedia, here is info about the site:

The primary draw in this area for visitors is the Tirta Gangga water palace, a maze of pools and fountains surrounded by a lush garden and stone carvings and statues. The one hectare complex was built in 1946 by the late King of Karangsem but was destroyed almost entirely by the eruption of nearby Mount Agung in 1963. It has been lovingly re-built and restored and has an air of authentic royal magnificence. The centrepiece of the palace is an eleven tiered fountain and there are many beautiful carvings and statues adorning the gardens.

Read more about Tirta Gangga here.

After our stop at the Water Palace, we drove up and then down on winding roads and switchbacks, through incredible brilliant green rice field terraces with a view of Mt Agung.

Coming down from the mountainous area the terrain becomes flatter and much drier heading out to Amed on the coast. Along this road everything looked very parched and areas of the fields were brown, with the green of palms interspersed. Reaching Amed, we drove through a series of small villages to the end of the line where we were deposited on a black sand and rock beach for snorkelling.

Amed is renowned for its diving and snorkelling, both of which can be done right off the beach. Unlike the south coast beaches, here one can actually swim at all times of day. The bay is quite deep, with many interesting coral formations just beneath the water. Ty saw a reef shark and there were quite a few largish colourful fish flitting about around us as we cruised along. Unfortunately, we left our Kodak camera behind so I don’t have any pictures of the fish … sigh.

After having a drink beachside at the Blue Star café and bungalows, and chatting to a couple who are staying there for two months, we decided that, after Ubud, we’d come up here for a week’s beach time R&R in the scorching heat. This place gets the most sun of any place in Bali so, for a full-on heat extravaganza, this is the place.

See more pictures here.

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