There were tiny knots in my stomach as I watched Bali’s landscape morph from the concrete blocks of the urban jungle into green pastures and rice fields of the countryside. With every corner we turned I felt the ropes of comfort thin out and stretch, getting ready to snap at any moment.
I left my friends, my comfort blankets, behind in Seminyak as I headed to Amed, about to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a SCUBA diver. Just like every other time I ventured out into strange lands by myself, nerves and excitement balled up in my insides, tightening and tightening. I didn’t know what to expect; what personality to put on to make it easier to make new friends; what I’ll be doing on my downtime. There were a thousand and one thoughts whirring in my head.
When I arrived that evening, I found all my thoughts taken care of, as usual. I enrolled with Adventure Divers Bali for my certification, and one of the owners, Liselotte, took it upon herself to address everything I needed – even the ones I haven’t voiced out to her yet. She arranged my accommodations as well, she even introduced me to my dive buddy, Lishan, who would be my BFF for the duration of the trip. Thus, from the moment I arrived in a strange place where I didn’t know anyone, I already felt right at home.
My first home in Amed was Nyoman’s place. Nyoman worked at Adventure Divers Bali, and had just put up her own bungalows by the beach. Because Geria Giri Shanti, which was my dive resort’s official accommodations, was still full when I arrived. Liselotte arranged for me to stay with Nyoman first. After so many weeks of hostels, dorm rooms, and bunk beds, this little piece of luxury was heaven to me.
I had my own room that I didn’t share with anyone. I had my own bathroom where strangers didn’t take baths and whatever else as well. It was my space. My sanctuary. And it was amazing. It didn’t hurt either that it looked like this, and gave me a perfect view of Mt. Agung.
After two nights though I transferred to Geria Giri Shanti for the convenience of its proximity to the dive center (because it is the dive center haha). This way I can wake up a mere 5 minutes before diving starts for the day, and crash back into bed after, without having to walk a kilometer or so. Geria Giri Shanti was a different kind of pleasure because while it was more active than Nyoman’s quiet place, the vibe there was just so peaceful and happy.
It was palpable how happy everyone who set foot there is. It was like there was magic at the entryway which washes everyone from their woes. Maybe their amazing complementary iced coffee – and all other complementary drinks – was laced haha. Either way, hanging out at the common area alone or with fellow divers and guests was always one of the highlights of my day.
Thus Geria Giri Shanti became a sort of oasis within paradise, if there’s even such a thing. Thinking back on it, I can still feel the contentment I felt while I was there.
For the first couple of days during my solo week, the mornings and early afternoons were spent diving in the waters of Amed. It’s famous in Bali for diving, and rightly so. I had a lifelong dream of becoming a diver, and diving in Amed, Jemeluk, and Tulamben during the length of my course cemented my love for it. Nothing compares to the feeling of being completely immersed in cool water, feeling a gentle current sweeping you, and watching an exquisite, but unfamiliar world unfold before your eyes. It was the closest thing I could get to being weightless, and it felt wonderful.
The day after completing the diving course, Lishan and I finally got around to see Amed’s ground-level wonders as well. Liselotte arranged for a driver to show us around and we got to see some local culture.
Many said that Amed and the surrounding areas were like the Bali of the south before commercialism took over. Some even called it the “Real Bali”. They were made up of quiet little villages, dotting rice fields. The pace of everything was much slower, and everyone seemed to have smiles on their faces, not yet jaded by raucous tourism crowds. Apart from diving, there were barely any other travelers there apart from me and Lishan. I liked that it somehow made me feel like I got to the place first, cos I’m possessive like that haha.
Markets are always something I enjoy whenever I’m traveling. The wares and the people in markets are always so colorful and bright and busy. They give me a good sense of the pulse of the place. Not to mention there’s always photogenic about them. Unfortunately the market at Amed was closed when we left, which gave us an excuse to drive farther out to the market in Amlapura (or was it Culik?). Stunning views and other cultural sights were to be seen, so the drive was definitely worth it.
We didn’t get back til early afternoon, so upon Liselotte’s brilliant suggestion, we had late lunch at The Griya, a luxurious resort and spa, and helped ourselves to their facilities. I swam all night after stuffing myself with their food, while Lishan went to the spa. It was awesome.
The following day was my last day in Amed, and the last day of my epic Indochina journey. I spent it being lazy, just reading on the terrace of my room eating chips and soda. In the afternoon, I finally got some motivation so Lishan and I went for a walk by Amed Beach at sunset.
The day ended in a yummy Balinese dinner at Warung Pantai, which was coincidentally shared with our dive instructor herself, Yvonne.
It was amazing how the week flew by, and even more amazing how all my initial anxieties of being alone seemed like such a silly thought. I had one of the best times of my life in that leg of the journey.
Many people, especially here in the Philippines find the idea of traveling alone insane. I guess growing up in a culture where being alone automatically makes you a target for all the evil things mankind can think of instills nothing but fear and defensiveness. I have to admit I have that worry too sometimes. I’m a small girl; I don’t look like I can fight back. I can easily be mugged, robbed, or worst case scenario, abducted and sold into wife slavery haha.
But I also know that there are some things bigger than my fears. Adventure, for one. My thirst for adventure is always, always stronger than any other feeling or thought I have. Adventure is a calling for me almost, and it is always the last thing I will sacrifice when making a decision. Thus, despite nerves, despite worries, I can travel alone, because I know adventure is even bigger when I do.
The best part is, and what most people couldn’t understand let alone believe, is when you travel alone the Universe actually finds other means to take care of you. Usually it’s your friends or other travel companions. But when alone, it’s the kind stranger, or the nice driver, or the kind hotel proprietress, or the sweet dive buddy. Of course, I’ve only ever done it twice in my life, both of which were pretty short trips. But they’ve both been epic enough to assure me that worries can be brushed aside and that they can only get better from here.
So thank you, Amed, for affirming that once again. And for the perfect time you showed my lonesome self.