Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
Sana, one of the young guys who work at the small hotel Wawa Wewe IIA friend of mine, proposed me to go for a motorcycle ride in the interior of the Amed region (north-east of Bali). On the program of this ride: rice fields, temples, markets and... cockfighting (yes, I went back to an arena of gallinaceous, as in the Phillippines!).
Rice fields and market
Here we are, under a grey sky, towards the heights. For the first time since my arrival, the weather is a little less nice. But it's not bad to ride.
It's amazing, you just have to go a few kilometers inland to find yourself in a greener, more humid area. With pretty rice fields, bits of fresh and luxuriant forest.
First small stop and detour, to start with, on the road to Tulamben, to fill up at the gas station (the liter of gasoline here is currently at 6 000 IDR, or about 0.42 cents of euro, which is huge for Indonesians; they too have seen the prices at the pump soar, there were even big demonstrations in Jakarta because of the price of oil, in short...).
Second little stop at the Culik (pronounced "Tchoulik") market where I buy a scarf belt, to go with the sarong I will have to wear to the temple. The people are as always very nice and laugh well when I take my camera to point it on their stalls.
Prayer at Pura Lempuyang
We first stop at the Pura LempuyangIt consists of two temples, a small one with just a sacred pool and a big one with huge stairs decorated with dragons.
On a clear day, the view must be spectacular. Unfortunately, with all these clouds, it is difficult to appreciate the panorama at its true value.
We tie the sarongs. Then I imitate Sana, who has bought offerings, and light the incense sticks.
Once seated cross-legged in front of the altar, hands turned towards the sky, we must take three times a flower from another small basket of offerings at our feet, make a small circular gesture, then put the petals in the hair, then behind the two ears. After that, time to pause, hands joined, for a prayer. Then we are sprinkled with holy water, by the priest in faction, all dressed in white.
The prayer ends with water being poured over the hands, which must be drunk or pretended to be drunk, three times, and then grains of rice being stuck to the forehead and temples.
Even if it does not have much meaning for me, I really enjoyed this little time of prayer in this large temple almost deserted. On the way, we only met Balinese people in sarong, with their offerings. Not a single pale face.
Lunch and shopping in Amlapura
Lunch break at the market ofAmlapura (26 000 Indonesian rupiahs for two, less than 2 €!). I also take the opportunity to change my euros at a better rate here, because it is the big city of the region. Here I am again a millionaire in rupiahs!
Small shopping stop at the market, then the big supermarket of the corner, Harry'swhere I'll spend a few tens of thousands of rupees (actually, 5 €) for a jacket and a pair of new flip-flops...
Sana takes the opportunity to pick up girls in the car park, with an unstoppable tactic: direct exchange of mobile phone numbers with the promise of SMS.
At the age of 21, my young guide explains me in his approximate English that his friends make fun of him, because he was dumped by his previous girlfriend... So he has to find another one, quickly !
The palace of Tirta Gangga
We hit the road again and then, a few kilometres away, visit the water palace of Ujung, built around 1920 by the last king of Karangasem.
There are few people, just some Asian tourists and locals. It's an amazing building on the waterfront, in the middle of a big park with nice lotus ponds, very soothing.
Then we stop at this other palace, not far from there, built by the same king, much more frequented and better known, the palace of Tirta Gangga (photo opposite).
I already knew it, having visited it during a previous stay in Bali. It's a bit of a must-see in the area.
The place, certainly very touristy, is really pretty and rather pleasant. I am delighted to rediscover it. I particularly like the big pool filled with huge fishes, that we cross by jumping from slab to slab.
A little cockfighting?
Finally, Sana can hardly believe me when I tell her that Filipinos, like Balinese, really appreciate cockfights and organize lots of them. And they bet too? Yes, yes, yes!
Same scenario as in Siquijor, Philippines (read : The roosters are fighting on Sundayarticle from February 2008). Only men around the small clay arena and everyone getting excited at betting time.
Sana bets a few thousand rupees, which he will obviously lose... He is disappointed. He thought that my presence would bring him luck.
Stroll along the coastal road
The next day, I go exploring alone on my motorcycle (I say "motorcycle" because everyone calls it "motorcycle" here, but it is in fact the equivalent of a scooter) the magnificent small coastal road towards the south. At each turn, from the top of a promontory, we discover a new black sandy cove, with its little boats lined up, and the sea, as far as the eye can see... It's beautiful, it's beautiful!
I then wander far beyond the village of Aas, well past the scrap lighthouse, far down the road, somewhere between Seraya and Ujung.
Everywhere I go, I'm still the Queen of England, greeted and called out enthusiastically by the locals. "Hello, mister! Hello, mister!" (In Indonesia, we give "mister" to all foreigners, whether they are men or women). I hand out small hand gestures to the right and left, as I know so well how to do, and continue on my way.
Just before a rickety bridge, a vague imitation of the one on the River Kwai, I opt for the small road on the left: it goes down to the "pantai"The beach, says a guy to whom I ask my way. And there I discover, below a tiny village full of goats, cows and children, a village where nobody speaks English, a magnificent beach, perfect. An arc of black sand, real sand, without any stones in it, surrounded by small cliffs.
There are fishermen's boats there, and a family busy emptying the nets which looks at me approaching with curiosity. The exchange will be limited, considering the meager extent of my Bahasa Indonesiathe Indonesian language. The teenager who puts the net in the big bag held by two small children speaks as bad English as I do Indonesian.
Batteries dead... no pictures!
I take a long break on this beautiful beach, which is called Pantai Soan or Sohang, I do not know. I transcribe approximately the name given to me by the teenager of the family of fishermen... This magnificent beach, from where we see both the islands of Lombok and the two Nusa (Lembongan and Penida), well, I can not even show it to you! I ran out of batteries!
The spare batteries I had taken were dead. And in the area, not a warung (small store) had no other batteries than those damned local ABC batteries, not powerful enough for my camera.
Too bad. If one day you follow this splendid small coastal road as I do, turn off at the yellow iron bridge, follow at low speed the bad road full of holes, wave to the children, don't run over the chickens and stop at a flight of stairs on your right. There it is.
Updated on August 19, 2009 : discover pictures of this beautiful beach (Pantai Songean, his real name) in this article, posted one year later:
→ Bali: they found "my" beach