Bali Hai – Amed

31 March…wherein we decide to skip the detour to Tirtagangga because the kiddos are restless, crammed into the SUV along with us four adults and ALL our luggage, as our driver insisted this would be no big deal. We are not averse to overloading vehicles by any means, having fit nine adults into our homely gypsy Maruti at one point, but we were at close quarters with knees and elbows most of the way. The four-wheeled vehicles thin out, leaving us only with noisy motos on the windy palm-shaded Tarmac. We glimpse the blue ocean from time to time, and we descend towards Amed from the jungley pass through which we came. 20 minutes out, Eleanor gives us decent warning before she loses her cookies, but that doesn’t keep a fair bit of warm yogurt from accumulating on the floor. A short roadside stop and cleanup later, we’re all watching the signs in anticipation of our hotel, Hidden Paradise Cottages. 5km. 4km. 4km. 3km. 2km. 1km. 2km? 1km. 500m. Aaaaand we’re there.
Oh my goodness how we’re there. I have to give props to our friend, Alder, who recommended this place to us. After checking in we’re led over round paving stone lily pad-like steps through a koi pond into the grounds. Cute little cottages are lined up in two neat rows, leading down to a common area with a tree shaded pool, gift and snorkel equipment rental shop, and restaurant. Straight ahead, a gateway with head-high pillars beckon us to the narrow beach and the cerulean ocean. Breathe, Ed, Breathe. Ocean, check. Family, check. Luggage, check. Oh yeah, food and shelter too.

We check out our abode, which has a front porch, small yard, porch light (with outside light switch!). The door unlocks with a satisfyingly non-Asian manufactured “click” and swings open. We have not one, but TWO AC units, a real honest-to-goodness King sized bed for us and beds for the kids. The are no open air holes for geckos or mosquitos, so I’ll sleep well. A rear door leads to an outside bathroom, pomace-framed mirror over a stone wash basin, mounted on a sheer slab of wood. The bath is lined floor to ceiling with natural stone and a massive stone tub sits a short distance away on a bed of round white stones.

After we tossed our stuff down, we immediately set to snorkeling with Lucas while Mom and Dad spent time with the kids at the pool. We swam in the direction of the little black dot of a buoy some 1km away, the exhalation from our snorkels and splash of our fins the only sounds over the wash of the ocean. The shallows gave way to a drop-off and the ocean floor disappeared, transforming from a pallid green into a deep blue. As we neared the reef, the floor came closer and large coral formations came into view, surrounded by schools of brilliantly colored fish. The once quiet depths were replaced by a persistent crackling, perhaps of tiny fish mouths feeding, perhaps of rolling bits of fragmented coral, I know not. We dove and surfaced over and over again. Lucas worked to get the hang of the snorkel and mask combo, and managed it a bit. After a time we swam back and rejoined everyone, in time for dinner at the restaurant.

The next few days are much the same, with our routine not varying much; breakfast, pool, snorkeling, pool, lunch, pool, snorkeling, dinner…the one exception being the day when Jean and I left the kids with Mom and Dad, and did a SCUBA refresher course, diving the wreck of the SS Liberty. It was amazing, not quite as azure as the Caribbean, but with just as much sea life.

We finally had to say good-bye to Bali and Amed, driving back across the island to the airport the last day, and taking off to Bangkok…