*Aside Title*The Conundrum: How do you put what you don’t know exists into your dream?
Bali is a small island: 3951 square miles. To put this in perspective Bali is only bigger than Rhode Island. You could almost put three Balis in Connecticut, so, it’s small. If you want to dive in Bali, the general consensus is plant yourself in a place and take a boat to all the sites because none of them are that far away. But this is not necessarily the best way to do things when you have plenty of time.
In the beginning we talked about following the diving around the island of Bali. My only significant personal goal on this trip (other than “travel in Asia”) was to go to Ubud, Bali.
*Aside* This became kind of a joke. People would ask us where we wanted to go and Tom would say “Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand,” and I would say, “Bali. I want to go to Bali.” Until Tom succumbed to the pressure and started leading with “Rebecca wants to go to Bali, but we also want to go to . . .”
Ubud is land-locked, virtually in the middle of the island with no diving in sight. Tom wanted to be sure I got to go to Ubud and, truth be told, I needed a little alone time in Ubud.
*Aside* We’ve been living together in one room for about three months since I returned from my 10 days in the United States and although Tom is my partner in life and adventure, I didn’t intend for him to become my cellmate as well.
Additionally Tom’s “gills” were drying out and he wanted to get in the water as soon as possible.
In hindsight I think we could have done it better: maybe a couple of days in Ubud together, then on to Padang Bai for Tom, after which I could join him there for a day or so. However we decided I would go to Ubud alone while Tom headed to his first diving choice: Padang Bai. He didn’t like his room much. Although the bed was comfortable enough, there was no WIFI except out on the non-air conditioned breezeway which didn’t actually have much breeze. Add in the joyous sounds of children screaming in the school yard across the street and his digs became less than stellar.
*Aside* There is something in Tom’s hearing that reacts to the sound of children screaming and squealing much the way a dog reacts to one of those high pitched whistles: it literally hurts his ears. As a mother it’s a sound I learned to completely tune out. More than once I’ve glanced up from my dinner to see a look of agony on Tom’s face and suddenly realized there is a small child nearby emitting a high-pitched squeal. Until that moment I didn’t even hear it, but Tom is dying. I can only imagine what the school yard did to him.
*Aside 2* Did I mention that the dogs barked all night long under Tom’s window in Padang Bai? Yeah. Not so good, huh?
On top of everything else, the diving in Padang Bai was good, but expensive, not by American standards, but by Balinese/Asian standards, costing him about $40 to $45 a dive.
At the end of my sojourn in Ubud, I took a car to Padang Bai where we reunited then proceeded to Amed together.
*Aside* No songbird driver this time.
The diving in Amed costs Tom more like $25 per dive. Part of the reason for the lower price is much of the diving is shore diving with no boat involved, but the boat dives are the same price. The shop transports the divers by car to a location then leads them on a guided dive from shore. One of the first dives right in front of our resort was to find a photographer’s “bucket list” fish, a Rynopia. There are actually two species of this rare fish in this area. When the divers located this elusive fish, one member of each species was hanging out side by side apparently waiting for them (“I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille.”)Until we arrived in Amed Tom had never heard of a ryniphyl, let alone known it was something special.
*Aside Rant* How do you wish for that?How do you ask for the thing that you don’t even know exist let alone that you would want? Is it putting yourself in situations where good stuff can happen? But what if the thing you would love is just down the street or in the next city or around the corner and you don’t even realize it so you can go fetch it? For Tom and me these gifts often just show up. It is because we listen better? Is it because we have a knack for being in the right place at the right time? Is it more than just coincidence? And what about the days when it doesn’t show up and connections are missed and things don’t go right? Tom will not be working at Shangri-La this winter. They have filled their quota of non-Filipino divers. Was it Tom? Was it something we did or didn’t do? Did our inner guide go on a day trip somewhere? Or are we just being held in place for the thing we didn’t know we want to catch up with us? Maybe the thing we thought we wanted is somehow not good for us and something better is coming our way? Why are some experiences just magical and others feel as though you pushed refrigerated dough through a cookie press? And what happens when the perfect thing shows up but it looks ugly and unappealing because a different shiny object is intoxicating you and you can’t let go?
Our stay at Jukung Dive Bali Resort was great. Our room had big sliding doors with full view side windows that overlooked the pool out to the ocean. Our room came with breakfast and every day Tom dived they gave him lunch as well. The surroundings were beautiful with flowering trees and plants everywhere our eyes fell. It was a great place to relax. Amed is relaxed but hot (80° to 90°) with what feels like 100% humidity.
*Aside* It’s not raining though. I guess for true 100% humidity, it would be raining. However it rained some, but mostly at night.
A walk down the road leaves us drenched with sweat.
*Aside* Ordinarily I don’t sweat. Tom will be mopping his face and I won’t feel the heat. But in Amed I feel the heat. When I return to the room after a long walk every piece of my clothing is soaked with sweat. I feel as though this is one of the hottest places I’ve ever been. Ubud was similar but there were times in the morning or just after the rain when I could open the door, turn on the fan and enjoy the circulation air. However, mostly, I was grateful for air conditioning. Amed is similar to other coastal towns in Bali (and Asia in general): the town is lined up mostly along one road. This liner structure means that any business or restaurant at one end of the town can actually be a long distance from the other end of the town. With the heat and humidity, I never had enough energy to walk to the extremes. Amed was quiet, and lovely, and peaceful but there is no way we could live there. It’s a great diving spot, but unfortunately not much else. The restaurant at Jukung was good andwe ate there most days (including an Indonesian tasting menu that was good but nothing to compare to Merah Putih). For variety we walked down the road to a restaurant called Warung Celagi.
*Aside* Lots of things are called “Warung” which seems to be a generic word of shop or store or stall or restaurant.
We had excellent curry and I had rice and fish steamed in a palm leaf. Warung Celagi’s Lok-Lok Dessert (coconut custard pudding cooked in a small egg cup and topped with toasted shredded coconut soaked in brown sugar syrup) was served warm and was delicious!
After a week of diving in Amed (thirteen dives for Tom - pictures below!) we headed back to southern Bali, this time to Sanur. On our way to Sanur our driver made a detour to Tenganan Village, the oldest village in Bali. We saw traditional weaving and carvings representing life and celebrations in the village. We saw bee hives made from bamboo and stone stairs to a temple that looked too challenging to climb.
So we are now (almost) back where we started in Bali, but our focus has changed. Tom doesn’t have a job in Cebu, Philippines. So now what? What should the next iteration of the dream be? I guess we’ll just enjoy our last week in Bali as much as possible and wait to see what turns up!! Enjoy the critters below!