Paradise. We found it on the island where the land meets the sea, and it's a whole different world from the craze of traffic and the never-ending rush of Denpasar with its adjacent cities. It must be the beaches around here that charm, enchant, captivate imagination, and keep folks coming back for more.
Beaches in Bali attract all sorts of people. Some of them come just to lay there motionlessly on rented sunbeds. Although the “sun” prefix is misleading, because they're all placed under umbrellas, shielding them from direct sunlight, and their tenants rarely seem willing to forsake the comfort of that setup. They tend to be the upper-middle-age crowd—in their forties or fifties but rarely beyond—with protruding bellies. The elderly, sixty plus seem to be the much more active types, choosing motion and sightseeing in places like Ubud.
Then there are the twenty-somethings, coming for the fun. A lot of them will cluster around Kuta, with its endless stream of clubs, pubs and places offering unlimited opportunities for getting wasted.
Many will choose surfing instead. Most of the time they just lay there and wait, looking out to sea. Nature certainly has its ways of teaching patience. They know the wave will come any moment—their wave—and it'll be glorious. All thirty seconds of it. Then it's paddling back to the start and idling again.
By necessity, surfers need to go somewhere where the wave is high. Kuta is one place, but it's far from surfing paradise. Shores of the southernmost parts of Bali are much more promising, with fewer tourists, taller waves, and lovingly named beaches: Blue Point, Dreamland or Balangan, squeezed between tall cliffs offering remarkable views on the sea below. Waves crash into the rocks, sending splashes of water several meters high into the air.
There's finally a significant, active crowd, often in their late twenties and thirties, opting to go underwater, diving. These are rarely seen around the beaches. They hop on boats early in the morning and off they go to sea or to one of the nearby lagoons and islands to explore.
Bali's beaches here are long, wide and sandy white. A lovely sight, at least where they're properly maintained. Because all shores here are facing open seas and oceans, water levels change dramatically throughout the day, leaving plenty of crap behind. Tree branches, seaweed, the occasional fish remains and trash. Lots of it, in fact. Mostly plastic items, bottles, strings, sheets of paper.
The Kuta beaches are getting combed cleaned regularly. So are the beach parts owned by major hotels. Other stretches get much less attention and we actually saw cleaners… bury piles of trash in the sand. Great idea, considering the next major wave will likely uncover all of it and dump it back into the sea.
All the usual seaside activities are on offer—whatever gets some money moving from the tourists’ pockets to the locals. Scooter and kayak rental, surfing lessons, wind- and kitesurfing. And, of course, masaaaage—if you dare.
Water is warm. Like a soup, really, so you're quickly disappointed the first time you jump in hoping to cool down from the heat of the island. Swimming is tricky in the western parts, due to strong winds and tall waves, where the undercurrents might easily pull an unsuspecting swimmer into the open sea. Therefore most beach parts in Kuta wave the red flag, forbidding swimming. In the east, in Sanur, there's a distant reef shielding the shore from the onslaught of the sea. Here the water's full of tall, thick seaweed though, benefiting from the lack of strong currents.
What definitively makes up for all the deficiencies of the seaside here are the views.
They're stunning. Just sitting on the soft sand, facing open water touching the horizon with its turquoise-blue surface, is a meditation in itself. Come to the western side of the island at the right time of day and you'll also be graced with a spectacular sunset. One that wipes away the whole world from your consciousness and for a moment in time, nobody and nothing else exists.