Mar 26 2011
We’re starting our trip around Bali from Sanur just because that is where we happen to live, and we’re aiming for Candi Dasa, a somewhat aging resort town to the northeast of Sanur. It’s an easy 90-minute drive if you take the direct route, but we’re not going to do that.
The most direct route is along the coastal Prof Dr Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass (we just call it the “Kusamba Road”) — an Australian aid-funded road that is currently running about six millennium behind schedule. It’s been in a half-built state ever since we moved to Bali three years ago but these days, the road heading toward Candi Dasa seems to be a lot closer to completion. The other direction is still a long way off being finished so for now there are still innumerable roadworks to dodge, along with plenty of trucks and other traffic.
An alternative inland route winds via Sukawati, Gianyar and Klung Kung to Padang Bai and Candi Dasa, but the first portion of that is also crowded with Ubud-bound traffic, so instead we opted to take the Kusamba Road as far as Ketewel, then take a left up to Sukawati, then dog leg our way left and right up through this rice-growing region till we eventually hit the south side of Gianyar.
There are no signposts at all along this route so have a map and be prepared to get lost. Roughly speaking the route takes you through the villages of Giwang, Sukawati, Saba, Belege and Bona to Gianyar. The scenery is pretty with a couple of low slung bridges and ample rural scenery. Best of all there is no traffic at all.
Eventually, after much to-ing and fro-ing, you’ll reach the south side of Gianyar. From here, unless you’ve got the time (and navigational skills) to go well out of your way to the north, it is a better idea to stick on the main road through to Klung Kung — the traffic will have dropped off anyway. On the east side of Klung Kung you’ll pass an impressive weir, climb out of town and then it is a straightforward run down to Kusamba and, after that, our first rest stop, Goa Lawah (the Bat Cave temple).
The black sand beach at Goa Lawah is dotted with beachside warungs where you can pick up a bakso and a cold drink for a reasonable price. Once you’re fed and watered, pop over and hire a sarong for a visit to Goa Lawah, one of Bali’s cardinal temples. Allow an hour or so for lunch and a visit to the temple.
From here it’s about 30 minutes to the turn-off to the port town of Padang Bai and another 30 to Candi Dasa. Padang Bai is well regarded for Blue Lagoon — an excellent snorkelling spot — and the town also has some quite good seafood restaurants. Being a port town (this is the main ferry point to Lombok) there are plenty of places to stay in Padang Bai, from cheapie flophouses to quite luxurious digs, but overall we’d say it probably isn’t our favourite spot in Bali.
If you do decide to stay here rather than Candi Dasa, note there is a third beach (beside Blue Lagoon and the main town beach) — it’s just to the south over a rise. Plenty of warungs and good swimming is to be found at Pantai Kecil.
So after you’ve had your lunch, head back to the main road and it is another 30 minutes to Candi Dasa town. Candi Dasa is worth at a minimum an overnight stay, but you could easily justify a three-night stay here with one day spent snorkelling at the offshore islands followed by an afternoon jaunt to the Bali Aga village of Tenganan, one day at White Sand Beach (Pantai Putih) and one day on a full-day trip to Tirta Gangga.
Both Padang Bai and Candi Dasa have plenty of places to choose from across all budgets.
In Padang Bai, backpackers on a budget should head to Pondok Wisata Tirta Yoga Inn while those looking for a few more creature comforts should opt for Hotel Puri Rai. While not great value, Bloo Lagoon takes the cake for the upper end.
In Candi Dasa, budget travellers will do well at Ari Homestay, flashpackers, especially those with kids should have Kelapa Mas on their shortlist (while the lack of hot water is a bit of an oversight, the beach terrace area swings the deal). At the upper end, we were impressed with the private pool villas at Villa Sasoon, while the resort offerings at Alila Maggis were seductive and especially impressive given the age of the property.
Next leg takes us from Candi Dasa through a remarkably scenic stretch along the coast road to Amed.
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