Say East Bali and you might as well say Wild West. Few have visited this remote part of the island, and even less know its secrets. Before setting off on a 4 day road trip to the far east, all I pictured was dirt roads and more chickens. Maybe something more primitive; that word I often hear, but rarely see. I take off by motorbike with my 7 yr old and a backpack, cutting through the belly of Denpasar for a straight shot up the coast.
We skip through the beach town of Candidasa and head to lesser-known Jasri Bay. Jasri is a hidden gem with a secluded swimming beach, bordered by the upbeat town of Amalupura. The bay is rocky and lonesome, and it feels lost outside of time. Aashaya Jasri Resort was home for the night, a sweet cluster of oceanfront cottages hosted by Barbara, who spent her life in fashion before taking over the resort. She and her husband Peter are true old-timers, having known the wild Bali of the 1970’s, when vintage Cadillac’s roamed around the island’s few hotels.
Aashaya Jasri is charming and intimate, featuring rice-barn style architecture with cathedral windows and a solitary boardwalk. Three temples surround the resort, and if the timing is right you can experience local ceremony in surround-sound. Local culture reigns here, and you can sense the balance has shifted…Canggu is a distant memory. Personal care stands out at Aashaya Jasri. Barbara orders us an off-menu curry, with fresh fish brought from the local water temple. Wayan, the manager, graciously carries my daughter to our room, having drifted off to sleep over dinner.
Jasri is surrounded by secret treasures. 6 kilometres away is Pantai Perasi, known as the Virgin Beach, the only place to take a dip on the east side amidst white sand and azure. There’s a fisherman at Aashaya Jasri that can take you on his boat for a swim and seaside lunch before rowing you back in the evening. If you’re craving a more spiritual swim, ask the locals about Ujung swimming hole, a sacred pool with underground water from Mt Agung.
The most enriching experience in Jasri is a visit to Bali Asli. Run by British-Australian Chef Penelope, her mountaintop restaurant is more than the majestic view of Mt. Agung and delicious menu. It’s the produce of passion. Penelope spent her first 2 years in Bali as head chef at Alila Manggis, but once she discovered the depth of Balinese flavours she went rogue, going intensive in local villages, attending ceremonies and asking locals to teach her to mix spices, skin pigs and serve food for the Gods. After plunging into the heart of Bali, Penelope’s path opened naturally, manifesting as Bali Asli, a sacred space to share Bali’s richness in meals and tradition.
It’s hard to leave Jasri, but we need to push further northeast. We take the winding road over the mountain ridge, where alternating hot and cold winds blast you in the rapid descent to sea level. Amed waits at the bottom, a rural village with a single road bordering the shore. We scoot past the main strip and up to the great heights of Blue Moon Villas, perched clifftop with a panoramic ocean view. This ocean vista view feels rare and precious at such a great height. Komang John runs Blue Moon and its cafe, and he greets us with the easygoing air that’s unique to surfers and sea-goers. His vibe is contagious and its clearly shared by all at Blue Moon. Putra, one of his charming staff, tells us that the best local salt can be found beside Cafe Garam; I pick up half a kilo for $5, remembering that Penelope had also called it the best in the world.
Three days into our trip, a bout of yoga is in need. Life in Amed was our answer, a series of charming villas that open onto a sandy beach. Tiffany is the in-house teacher, leading yoga classes twice daily. We took an excellent Yin-Yang 8am Sunday class on their open-air second story deck, to a killer soundtrack and ocean view. Sarah, the owner, is involved in the community and holds inspirational movie nights, as well as free yoga classes for the local children. Request their private cottage to experience one of the best designed stone pools this side of the island. This private pool is made of natural volcanic rock, exuding the ambience of a natural oasis that neon aqua pools can’t match. The beach lies 30 meters from the pool, where fishermen are ready to take you on a personal snorkel adventure at any of the nearby beaches.
We started our journey back south (after multiple meals at French-Indo fusion cafe Galanga), taking the longer coastal road, which could be referred to as the Pacific Coast Highway of Bali. 360 degree ocean views rise and fall as you dip in and out of lush jungle and miniature villages. We stopped in Tenun village at the Traditional Center of Textiles and Weaving, a tiny roadside family-run cooperative of local artisan weavers, where they sell their hand-loomed fabrics made from natural plant dyes.
Jasri Bay Hideway was the perfect choice for our last night. It’s a true hideaway, with 4 private cottages suddenly appearing oceanside though thick jungle. Each has floor to ceiling glass sliding doors and a full terrace, offering a private unspoiled view of the bay. We slept with the doors and windows flung open, feeling the ocean breeze and listening to the waves break on the shore throughout the night. There isn’t a spa treatment that can compare to this kind of renewal of spirit. The food felt lovingly prepared, and my ginger-steamed fish was eaten with gratitude as I contemplated the waves from our terrace. Dessert came from their on-site artisan organic chocolate factory, Sorga.
So what defines east Bali? Its earthiness and its simplicity. Trendy is replaced with real, slow and deep. The air and smiles are pure. The shift is on the inside, and less on the outside.
Aashaya Jasri – aashayajasri.com
Bali Asli – baliasli.com.au
Warung Mina Carik – Jl. A. Yani, Galiran, Karangasem
Blue Moon Villas – bluemoonvillas.com
Life in Amed – lifebali.com
Galanga – Bunutan Village, Amed
Jasri Bay Hideaway – jasribay.com