It was around 10pm when we landed and then we picked up our rental car at Ngurah Rai Airport. This was six years ago in 2011, when mobile data service in Indonesia was in its infancy. It was also the time when Google Maps was competing against Garmin on whose product is better.
Within minutes of driving away from the airport, we realised we were in a completely different culture. The architecture and how the streets flow were new to us. As our navigation needs to be checked against hand-written notes, I was ticking off every city and big town we passed by. This was why we could not drive as fast as we wished.
Finally, at around 2am, we arrived in Amed but still had to find our hotel. The Garmin map did not have the features to assist us. We followed a road peppered with road signs that led to our hotel and suddenly we found ourselves before a river. In front of us, aside from our car headlights, it was total darkness and the road was going into a river! So, we turned around and stopped at the first hut dimly lit with a petroleum lamp. A couple of fishermen were preparing their jukung (boats). In almost-expert Bahasa Indonesia, I asked them for direction to our hotel. They looked at us and replied in Indonesian, "Follow the road." I translated this to my husband who looked at me with wide open eyes and screamed, "Wife, there is a river!" The fishermen, sensing some disbelief, immediately lamented in broken English, "No worry. Not deep. Just drive."
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Feeling a little adventurous, we took the car and very slowly dived into the river. If there was a GoPro at that time, it would have captured our faces which would be the same as Indiana Jones' when he walked over the invisible bridge (in the 3rd movie). The water was only 2 or 3 centimetres deep and under the surface was a hidden bridge! Just after we crossed the river, we found our hotel. Hurray! But hold on .... Is there anyone else in this corner of Bali besides the fishermen? I was wondering if we were in a spooky or dead place because the entire Lean village was very quiet and ultra dark.
Grabbing our luggage from the car, we walked towards our boutique hotel's reception area. And still, there was no one. There was only silence apart from the waves crashing on the beach. As I was clumsily balancing while scratching my ankle which was bitten by mosquitoes, I glanced up at the sky and almost went off-balance.
I was awe-struck. It was the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen. From where we stood, in total darkness, we could spot every star. I could not believe my eyes. Right above us were explosions of red, blue and green. We were looking right into the centre of the milky way!
And then, we heard footsteps. Finally, a sign of life. It was the hotel's security guard who was doing his rounds. We were ushered to our cottage but instead of going to bed, we lay down on the grass near the pool with our Nikon camera and tried to make pictures of the most gorgeous star dome we have seen in our entire lives.
Whether it's by car, scooter or a mini-bus, it's always more fun to explore new cities and places when you drive by your own self. But sometimes, it also makes sense to hire a driver if you're moving from one town to another coz of all the luggages etc or if you're not familiar with left-side driving (in Bali, Singapore, Japan and most other Asian countries except Taiwan and the Phillipines). Being chauffeured around is also great, provided you get awesome, experienced and safe drivers like d'Sawah's Pak Komang and his team of select drivers!
Pick up from airport (to Ubud/ Gianyar/ Karangasem) ranges from 600000 Rp and above, depending on your destination. Contact us for a quotation.