Leaving Yogyakarta in the morning with the first flight to Denpasar, Bali. Apparently I was still asleep otherwise I would have taken pics of the majestic Merapi volcano as soon as our plane took off. It was beautiful to see it. After arrival we were picked up by a van we hired during our stay in Bali. It took us 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Candidasa from Ngurah Rai airport.
Planning the itinerary for this trip the group wanted to go overland from Yogyakarta to Bali including an initial stop at Malang for a visit to Bromo. Due to the short time available we decided to depart for Candidasa instead. So, there we were, at the side of Bali where not many tourists come (anymore). I put the word anymore in the brackets because Candidasa was once a diving paradise in the early 90-es. Somehow the crowd prefers to stay neighbouring in Amed or Tulamben now.
Candidasa itself is a little village. The main street stretches for approximately 3 – 4 km. It is actually a perfect base to explore East – Bali. The Padang Bai haven for ferries to Lombok is only 30 minutes away.
Candidasa, together with Amed and Tulamben, is a paradise for those who love to snorkel or dive. Local fishermen would love to bring you to Blue Lagoon for an unforgettable diving experience. The price is including the petrol for the boat and snorkeling gear. My daughter was really impressed by the fauna she saw at Blue Lagoon. She told me as if she was in Finding Nemo the movie during snorkeling.
What to see?
Candidasa is part of Karangasem district. The town Karangasem itself is 40 minutes ride through mountains and rice fields. Goa Lawah is also not far from Candidasa. The Tenganan village is also a must when you are in the neighbourhood. The indigenous people of Bali, known as Bali Aga, live in this serene village. They make beautiful fabric called Geringsing.
One day we went to Tirtagangga Water Palace. It was very beautiful there. 10 minutes ride further there was Lempuyang village and mountain. The rice was ready for harvest that’s why you see those colourful plastic bags to scary the birds.
One thing the group won’t forget is the experience of climbing the Gumang hill. The fisherman who brought us to Blue Lagoon, Nyoman, offered to guide us trekking along the village. He showed us Gumang temple on top of a hill with the same name. When I asked whether the route was suitable for kids he answered yes. So we started to climb the hill, accompanied by 3 monkeys and a cow. The hill was steep. It took us almost 1 hour to get there due to the heat and the steeply route. Once we were on top, we were awarded by the view of Bali sea with Lombok at the background. It was worth it.
Where to stay?
The hotels, homestays and villa’s are located along the Candidasa street. The prices vary though. We stayed at a hotel nearby the Lotus Lagoon. The hotel was comfy but failed to wow me however.
Where to eat?
There are not many variations in restaurants and cafés there. One thing they have in common is the free WiFi. I found some restaurants served bland food. They were not worth the money. For the same price I could get tastier food in touristy Ubud or Seminyak. Anyway, the culinary highlight of the trip was when we bought 8 kg weighed Mahi Mahi fish, freshly caught by the fishermen one morning. I asked our guide, Nyoman, to prepare the fish. He made Sate Lilit (minced fish satay with spicy condiment and grated coconut, a Karangasem specialty) and Tum Ikan (chopped fish strongly seasoned and steamed in coconut leaves). It was a very tasty lunch the group had.
It was sad to see the once flourishing place deteriorating. The beach which was beautiful is now an average one with the ugly dam. Some locals told me the government built the dam with the intention to fight erosion. The fact is the dam has shortened the coast line. The locals do their best to attract visitors to stay. At some restaurants we did not have to pay the 16 %tourist tax when we dined there. One thing intrigued me: I did not see any domestic tourists during my 4 days stay, I only saw mostly Europeans there (Dutch, German, French, Italian and surprise, Russian) and a bunch of Australians.
I believe with better promotion and good management skill at some hotels and restaurants, Candidasa will shine again. This little village has a lot of potentials. It can sell the real Bali feeling to those who look for a quiet alternative of Ubud and South Bali areas.
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