There are no large resorts in East Bali and the nightlife largely consists of listening to the frogs, or enjoying a meal and some music at a local, family-run establishment. This alone makes it an attractive place to visit and explore, but the area is also steeped in history, culture and spectacular scenery. Candi Dasa is a quiet coastal village without a lot going on but it makes a great base .
Transportation is best arranged in advance by negotiating a two day hire fee for car and driver, or securing a quote from one of the tour companies for a customised itinerary covering the two days. Begin with a visit to Klungkung, known officially as Semarapura, stopping briefly at Padang Bai on the way. Currently the administrative capital of the province of Klungkung, Semarapura is teeming with traditional art and culture, clear examples of which are found within the Semarapura Complex which embraces Kertha Gosa Pavilion, the Bale Kambang and the Semarajaya Museum.
Following a stroll around the town, head back towards Candi Dasa, stopping en route at the Pura Goa Lawah, or the Bat Temple, the derivative of which will become self-evident! Stop for lunch at Seasalt Restaurant at Alila Manggis to experience spectacular international and local cuisine, or one of the less expensive eateries in the main street of Candi Dasa. After lunch, have the driver take you to Tenganan Aga Village, the home of Bali’s earliest descendants.
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Like the tourist population, the expat community of East Bali is not large. However, few have embraced the essence or spirituality of the area more than Penny Williams, an Australian chef who turned a hotel posting into a lifelong dream.
The Bali Asli Experiences, which are undertaken beneath the watchful eye of Bali’s largest mountain (Mount Agung) and within an impressively scenic environment, are integral to a well rounded appreciation of East Bali, even for those whose relationship with food goes no further than the journey from plate to palate. This will require a fairly early start to the day and will end after lunch, giving time to visit two more “must see” destinations before returning to your hotel. One is Tirta Gangga, which translates as “Water of the Ganges”, a holy temple situated in a natural spring with spectacular views of rice fields and the sea beyond. The other is Taman Soekasada Ujung, a grand water palace and former residence of the Karangasem Royal Family, which can be covered on the way back to Candi Dasa.
If you’re coming to East Bali from the south or Ubud, an alternative would be to cover Klungkung, Pura Goa Lawah and Padang Bai en route to Manggis or Candi Dasa. After lunch, continue to Tenganan Aga Village before over-nighting in Candi Dasa or surrounds and following Day 2.
With more time, take advantage of the magnificent diving and snorkelling in the northeast.