The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

Amed, the salt slaves

#Bali # Indonesia

  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

I'll take you back to Baliin Indonesia. In Amed, exactly, on the northeast coast of the island. Despite the development of tourism in the region, there are still salt workers here.

The salt harvest

I couldn't stay at Amed's during this trip to Bali (July 2008)Without going to see more closely the work of the salt workers. It is the traditional activity of the region.

Under the hot sun, they harvest the sea salt. One can observe their hard work on the beaches at the entrance of the village, at the foot of the imposing Agung volcano.

Under the burning sun, two men evident the trunks of coconut trees where will be collected brackish water. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
Under the hot sun, two men are showing the trunks of coconut trees where the brackish water will be collected (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The salt workers collect the salt in hollow coconut trunks. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

A hard work, in the middle of the drought, on the black volcanic sand. The sea water is drawn on the backs of men, spread over large squares of sand.

After evaporation, this sand is collected and filtered in large funnels of braided bamboo.

The brackish water is collected in hollowed out coconut trunks and put to evaporate again. At the bottom of the trunks, salt crystals are formed.

There is terrible heat on the black sand beach. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
There is terrible heat on the black sand beach. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The gray-black sand absorbs the strong heat of the sun. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The gray-black sand absorbs the strong heat of the sun. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
"Salt marshes" in the gray-brown sand. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
Salt marshes" in the grey-brown sand (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
Salt crystallizes. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
In the hollow of the trunks, the salt crystallizes. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

A handful of garam

Salt is said garam in Indonesian. When I arrive on the beach, the local kids spot me and surround me. They all want to sell me small souvenir baskets, containing a handful of garam.

I'm resisting. And then I end up cracking up and giving a few thousand rupees to a little girl, a little older than the others, with whom I manage to exchange a few words in Bahasa Indonesiathe Indonesian language.

I ask her how old she is. She is 12 years old. She shakes all over as she hands me her little basket of salt. Fear, emotion? Very shy, she hardly dares to meet my eyes.

The others are jealous. When I walk away, she ends up giving me a nice warm smile and even gives me a little wave when I leave on my scooter.

I go a little further, on another part of the beach, to take pictures more quietly. There, only two kids, who escort me with curiosity. But they don't insist anymore when they understand that I won't buy salt.

The children persist in wanting to sell salt sachets to all the tourists who pass by. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
The children insist on selling bags of salt to every tourist who passes by (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

Two hostile dogs do not stop barking when I frame the trunks of coconut trees that two men are hollowing out. The two Balinese, with a sarcastic look in their eyes, kindly accept that I take a picture of them.

But I feel a little intruded upon, a little "out of place". Not a hair of shade on this grey-black volcanic sand. It is terribly hot.

What future for the Amed salt workers?

There are fewer and fewer salt workers in Amed. The work is hard, unprofitable. Those who harvest the garam are rare to own the land they work on. And the owners prefer to resell it to hotel group builders.

In the hollow trunks exposed in full sun, the water evaporates. (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)
In the hollowed trunks exposed to the sun, water evaporates (Amed, Bali, Indonesia, July 2008)

Sana's parents, the young guy who served as my guide in the backcountryThey used to work as salt workers, he told me. They stopped and now cultivate a piece of land, not far from the beaches.

In a few years, will there still be salt workers in Amed? The young people of the area have no desire to toil like their parents on the burning sand, to earn a pittance.

Everyone I asked wanted to study languages, work in hotels... Tourism is the golden goose here in Bali.

Updated (December 17, 2020). Arte broadcast a 14-minute report on the salt harvest in Bali, entitled The coconut-salty flavors of Balidirected by Fabien Berquez. I insert the video player below:

  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

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  1. Thank you very much for your article on the Amed salt marshes that I was unable to see last year and for all your magnificent, concise, warm texts and especially your wonderful photos.
    Thanks to you, I'm going to Sulawesi for a month next year!

  2. @ Bernard69:

    It always means a lot to me to know that I have given people the desire to travel, thanks to my stories or my photos. Thank you for your message!

    How lucky you are to go to Sulawesi! The island of Sulawesi remains one of my most vivid travel memories. I was going there for diving, and I was much more seduced by the "terrestrial" aspects: the welcome, the culture, the landscapes.

    As for Amed, I must say that the work of the salt workers impressed me a lot. It was a harsh contrast between their daily work and the tourist pleasures I had the chance to enjoy... It was time I dedicated an article to them in this blog.


  3. @ Funnyworld:

    Thanks Sam! 😀

    It's good to have fans... Well, in front of so much enthusiasm, I'm going to continue my vacation homework, between two days of on-call duty at the editor's office (where we're a bit short of coverage, in this hollow week of August)!


  4. good evening

    I was surfing the web, looking for fresh news about our next destination (take off from Paris next Thursday) and what a surprise !!!! I came across your site with many articles, I haven't read everything yet but the little I have seen makes me want to be there even more...

    So forgive me if you already answer my question on these pages but: what are the places you preferred?

    We leave for 2 weeks and a half and we will be lodged in a hotel on Kuta. We took the option of Flight+Hotel by managing for the visits on palce by ourselves...

    Thank you very much in advance and also for your work in updating these pages...

    (Rennais too... 😀 )

  5. @ Guillaume :

    Decidedly, the Rennais are on the move!

    As for your question (which place I liked best?), well, it's not so easy to answer. Especially since I don't know if you are a diver or not, but the "underwater" aspect also counts for a lot in my appreciation. During this trip, I limited my drop-off points to seaside destinations, near diving spots.

    I liked it a lot Pemuteran for the simple and warm welcome of the local people. I loved it Amed for the rugged beauty of the coast, with its coves of black sand. I really enjoyed myself Nusa Lembongan for the still authentic character of the island, with its seaweed farmers. These are the three places I preferred during this trip. With perhaps a little love for the quiet atmosphere of Lembongan.

    I did not like it very much Lovina. As for KutaI knew what to expect. It's not my favorite place, but I like to spend a day or two there anyway.

    Finally, during my previous stay in Bali, in July 2002 (you will find pictures here, on my other website), Ubud I liked it too. But apparently, it has become very touristy.

    You did well to take the flight+hotel option. It's very easy to explore the island and to get around from Kuta. Many small agencies (and probably at your hotel itself) offer transportation, tours and visits, for all tastes, throughout Bali.

    I wish you an excellent trip to Bali!

  6. Thank you for this interesting report, and more generally for your Balinese articles... another vision than what we usually know of Bali... and it is appreciable!

    As I told you, I was a bit disappointed with the first (very short) approach I had of the island, but I didn't have the leisure to push to the corners you are talking about... maybe next time!


  7. @ Thib:

    Yes, Bali is a very nice island, but in some places, the commercial-tourist pressure makes the visit difficult, even useless... Amed remained quite quiet, despite the influx of divers to see the wreck in Tulamben. There is a way to make very nice walks in the area.

    Finally, I highly recommend you to visit Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan (and especially for you who likes to go off the beaten track, Nusa Penida which looks even wilder). The more I think about it, the more Lembongan seems to me to be really the place that I preferred during this stay. I will publish soon a small article about the seaweed farmers, whose work you could also observe in the south of Bukit.


  8. Thank you Corinne to share a realistic vision of this region of Bali that many travelers may still ignore ... The inhabitants of Amed are courageous workers and did you know that there is a socio-cultural center in Amed created by the association Anak Aide Aux Enfants d'Indonésie in the village of Léan which works daily for the education of poor children of Amed and its hills? Yes, it is tempting for them to go into tourism, the hotel business in view of the development of tourism, but this is not a fatality nor a unique "dream". It is precisely here, where the NGO Anak Bali plays a key role in the orientation of these schoolchildren of Amed. Some of the Amed students are studying accounting and we have a young graduate teacher of sports education. Do not hesitate to meet these schoolchildren sponsored by the association, in the afternoon in Lean at the Center of Lila Cita, Yayasan Anak in LEAN / Amed (near the school and the beach), they will tell you their "dreams" ... thank you and good diving! Kenavo! 😀

  9. Hi Corinne,
    I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to read you! In all honesty, it's been years since I've been on your site... Hmmm...
    Anyway, I'm writing my articles about Bali (I went back last month for the second time) and it must be almost 2 hours that I'm hanging out on your blog (I don't even know how I got there but it doesn't matter).
    I loved Amed (I'm writing my article on it) and I'm going back to Bali in a few days (for the 3rd time) so maybe I'll go back to Amed (but it's a risk to stay there haha!).
    I thought I saw that you were in the Philippines recently so if you're ever in Bali in the next few days or weeks, let me know 🙂
    See you soon !