Famous for wreck diving, and more importantly, for exceptionally quiet ambiance, East Bali is, in a way, Bali for the savvy. Not much of a secret, admittedly, it still stays under the radar of tour groups and common vacation packages. The island of Lombok, perfectly visible from most beaches, protects the shoreline from large waves even in the rainy season. The village of Amed is popular among young artists, yogis and meditation fans. Tulamben features the underwater attraction of a sunk WWII transport ship, Lempuyang temple, which is where tourists come for the soaring-in-the-sky selfies, and the mighty Agung volcano towers above all of this dominating the panorama. This is not a place for wild beach parties – this is a place to kick your shoes off and lean back in a rattan chair of a ramshackle beach café sipping coffee and reading a book while the tide swirls black sand around your toes. Exploration is possible, but there are few actual sights, and the general views are equally lovely everywhere. One exception is if Agung decides to erupt: Amed, the nearby village of Culik, and the top of Mt. Seraya make the best observation points, relatively safe and quite comfortable – a rare luxury for a wannabe volcanologist. The only downside is the scarcity of public transport: a motorbike is a must.
The fishing village of Amed has long switched to tourism as its main source of income, but the vibe of forsaken backwaters in the middle of nowhere still persists. Except for the junction where the access road hits the sea, there is no center, just a 5 km long stretch of beach lined with cafes and guesthouses, and fishing boats, of course. Similarly, there are no attractions as such, but the relaxed lifestyle, rooms with glass doors opening right onto the beach, and the greenery on the opposite side make it one of the best locations in Bali to chill out and do nothing much. The sea is calm, thanks to the protecting bulk of Lombok to the east, and good for swimming. Snorkeling and diving trips can be arranged. Yoga and meditation retreats are also usually on offer, but most visitors seem too lazy even to meditate. The only destinations of note in the vicinity are a few viewpoints higher up on the slopes of Mt. Seraya, promoted for Agung volcano views, but in fact, the volcano can be seen from pretty much anywhere - it is huge.
The key reason to visit Tulamben is wreck diving. During WWII, a Japanese submarine used to haunt this area, torpedoing any US vessel in range. Two wrecked ships are within reach of SCUBA diving: Liberty, a military transport, and Boga, a cargo ship. Suci Place, an underwater sculpture garden, has been built near the shore to augment history with modern art. Resembling perhaps the courtyard of the Thai temple, it is full of Buddha images and stupas, except coral here replaces flowers and trees, and fish flutter around instead of birds. For those who prefer to stay on the firmament, the area between Amed and Tulamben has one cultural attraction: traditional salt manufacture. Seawater is collected, poured into bamboo tubes, and evaporated to make natural salt in simple shacks along the coast. The ready product is available in Amed year-round, but the process can only be observed during the dry months (May-September).
This is a notorious cliché of Bali tours: a selfie jumping up between the two halves of a traditional Balinese temple's gate, with clear blue skies above - and below. People regularly ask across all the Bali-related web forums: where is that temple, and what kind of pool creates this perfect reflection. The answer is, it is Pura Lempuyang in East Bali, and there is no pool. Some enterprising photographer brought a mirror with him and placed it under the lens; the resulting shot got popular, and the idea went viral. Now, there are actually photographers on the spot armed with mirrors, offering to snap you with it in case you forgot to bring your own. Otherwise, Pura Lempuyang is an ordinary place of worship, hardly worth braving the long road here from Amed and the somewhat crooked ambiance caused by excessive tourism. The views from here are good, but again, they are good everywhere in the region. One exception would be coming here one day after Galungan - there is a massive festival here on that date.
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