Amed, east Bali, a series of small villages hugging the coast line – we’re here at the Blue Star Bungalows on Jemeluk Bay for a week – not enough time! This area is very quiet and traditional, as well as quite poor; the villagers subsist on fishing and salt-making, in addition to giving massages on the beach to the odd tourist and trying to sell jewellery trinkets, small wooden replicas of the traditional fishing vessels, and baskets.
The Blue Star is very small, comprising one building with two rooms, one above the other, and a free-standing two-level bungalow right next door. Next to these is the restaurant, including a small terrace; directly on the beach in front, beneath an enormous shade tree, are eight beach loungers and beyond that, the ocean. We have the upstairs room, with a veranda overlooking the sea, and a view of the scrub covered hills that run behind the town.
Our journey from Ubud was rainy. Travelling through Candi Dasa we found ourselves in the middle of an enormous temple procession and at each temple along the way, hundreds of brightly-clad villagers had stacked baskets full to the brim of offerings.
The landscape was much greener than during our first visit, a result of the recent rains and beginning of the east Bali rainy season. The hills here are still quite brown, though; it will take much more rain to bring them alive with green.
Village excitement in the mornings consists of watching the fishermen bring in their catch of mackerel, which, at the moment, is running well. Huge fish catches are being made and, as a result, the price per fish has dropped from $3 to 30 cents. The fishermen head out in their traditional skinny wooden boats about five in the morning and return around eight, their boats loaded down with small silvery mackerel, an oily fish quite like a large sardine.
As the boats pull in to the shore, a crowd of young guys swim out to them, possibly attempting to grab some fish for themselves, because, as this crowd descended on each boat, the captain quickly picked up his oars and paddled out to sea again, seemingly to avoid the grasping hands.
Plastic garbage bins full of fish were distributed on the shore; apparently, the rest is destined for fish brokers and the local markets. One very old, bent granny, a large cloth wrapped around her head, comes down every morning and is given a fish. Her family has become alienated from her and she lives alone in a grass hut in the hills, but the community sees to it that she eats. From our veranda the host of fishing vessels out at sea, each with dual outriggers, look like small water nymphs nipping across the water. Some have brightly coloured sails up as well.
Periodically, small village boys wander down the black sand beach with their goodies for sale. I purchased a small shell-decorated basket containing local salt from one enterprising small guy with whose directive “You buy!” I complied. So far, I’ve had two beach-side massages from Wayan Sari and her friend Wayan Mari, each one hour for the equivalent of about $5.50. While massaging me, Wayan Sari explained that she was 35 and had 5 girls and hoped still to have a boy: “Girls no good in Bali. They go to husband’s family; only boys stay and look after mom and dad” …
Iluh, the owner of the Blue Star, a very busy woman who runs this operation, teaches English in the local high school, and has a family, showed me how she makes the small coconut leaf baskets that hold temple flower offerings. Each design, mandala-like, is similar but slightly different; she creates her own style of basket from young coconut leaves brought to her by staff members that live in the hills where the weather is cooler and, unlike here, conducive to coconut trees. Tomorrow there will be a celebration to commemorate her village temple’s “birthday” and so she was making quite a few of these baskets for that occasion.
The snorkelling here is great right off the beach in front of the bungalows. The water is clear with virtually no current and the fish are large and very colorful – electric blues and greens, yellow and black stripes, purples, black and orange are only a few of the varieties. Ty, attracted by a large crunching sound, saw two very large parrot fish suspended upside-down nibbling at the coral. We also saw two long thin silver tubular fish. None of these beasts are the least bit afraid of us and would likely take food from our hands if we had any to give them. Today we were delightfully surprised to find a sunken temple, and two scuba divers examining it, just a bit deeper out than we’ve swum in the past, in the centre of which is an area to place fish food – great!
Yesterday was sunny and hot, but last night we had a tremendous rain, thunder and lightning storm in the middle of the night, the crashing of which awoke us from sleep.
While we did like the Merthayasa Bungalows in Ubud quite a bit, and loved their pool, this place’s accommodation is superior. Let me count the ways:
We get a thermos of hot water, tea and coffee brought up to our veranda at six in the morning before we head down to breakfast (all included in the price).
Our room is big and clean! And has a gigantic king size four poster bed with mosquito screen (so we don’t have to erect our own). No parade of large and small ants strolls across the sheets. I was bitten alive by insects in Ubud; here, so far, nada.
The bathroom has decent toilet paper (a small thing, I know …) and is clean! We have daily room cleaning service here.
We love the beach and being able to swim any time of day – yippee! And our veranda has a great view out over the ocean.
Staying here as well as us are Barb and Tony, a former Vancouverite and Aussie from Brisbane, and Gerry from Coquitlam (also in the Greater Vancouver area) – very pleasant company.
See more pics here.