Skip to content

East Bali: Tirta Gangga, Keep Left, Amed Coast

January 22, 2013

Arranged a taxi for $35 from Ubud to the Amed coast via Tirta Gangga yesterday. Left just after 11am, Tirta Ganga (Water of the Ganges) was the elaborate yard of gardens, bridges, statues, fountains and pools of the ‘Amlapura’s water-loving rajah’ built in 1948. Not sure it’s the ‘aquatic fantasyland’ the Lonely Planet describes, but it really induces a feeling of serenity. Low season, the two main touts (one selling sunglasses for $5, “Gucci, Ray Ban!” and the other selling hand painted wall hangings that had $35 on the back but his first offer was $15) were hungry for business and persistent. Came across two young couples who were dressed up in fancy traditional garb, I think they were newlyweds. Gorgeous terraced countryside most of the way and we first got close to the ocean around Candi Dasa. The rain started just after 2pm and didn’t really stop until 8pm.

Tirta GanggaTirtaa Gangga statuesTirta Gangga bridgemarriage

“It seems more developed here,” I thought aloud, and laughed when he agreed, “Yeah – there are lights. I don’t know what they do.” The infrastructure is questionable. I wondered what percentage of people drive on the right side of the road versus the left side. “They should do a list, red and blue, for who drives on the left and who drives on the right… like America,” Ian suggested. “Like America,” I refuted, “I doubt the U.S. was the first country to drive on the right,” Ian continued, “When they used to pass, if you were right-handed, you had your lancet, you would joust… so… America [drove on the right side] so you didn’t fight.” “Nice hypothesis,” I groaned, “you non-fighting Americans.”

Of course I had to look up the facts:
“During the middle ages the roads weren’t always very safe for travellers; meeting people coming the other way on the road was something best done defensively. Historians believe the keep-left rule was adopted because, on a horse, if you were right handed and you met some unsavory company on the road, you could draw your weapon, typically attached to your left side, with your right hand and bring it to bear quickly against the person who is going the opposite way of you on your right; all the while, controlling the reigns with your left hand. Then of course, if you happened to meet a friend on the road, you could more easily offer your right hand in greeting without needing to reach across your body when on horseback. People on horseback then typically ruled the road, so everybody else followed suit.
In 1300 AD, Pope Boniface VIII decreed that all pilgrims headed to Rome should abide by the keep-left rule. This held across most of the Western World until the late 1700s.

What ended up happening to force the switch in the 18th century were teamsters in the United States, who would drive large wagons with a team of horses. These wagons tended to dominate the road and force everybody else to abide by the rule of the road they were using. The driver typically sat on the rear left most horse, when the driver was right handed. This then forced the issue of having oncoming traffic on the left, as visibility and making sure you didn’t collide with oncoming traffic worked best using a keep-right rule. Gradually, this system spread and in 1792, Pennsylvania officially had a keep-right rule. This quickly spread throughout the United States and Canada.” (dang, mostly Ian was right!)


Our driver pointed out Bamboo Bali in Jemeluk Bay and we stayed there for 2 nights. Clean, good fan, separate beds, nice porch with hammock, couch and table, towels, mosquito nets. Lots of mosquitoes and flies and flanked by young french couples on each side. Another day starts around 7am. With the backdrop of waves sounding against the black sand and coral beach, heavy bass beats from somewhere just south of here, motorbikes roaring along the road below, loud roosters crowing and lots of flies. But I see some sunshine poking through and fishing boats that look like big crabs dispersed in the bay. It is very lush here, and at Bamboo Bali they have manicured stone steps, bamboo and brick huts, outdoor showers and a view to the black stones and off-white coral beach. Most of the north and east oceanside is black due to the proximity of Gunung Agung – a volcano that last erupted in the 1960’s I think.

bamboo Bali bathroomhammock

Throughout the day, roosters competed with electric saws, overworked fans, the ratatat of hammers, the call to Mosque and the loud, bassy Arabic beats coming from just up the mountain.

Turns out it rains a whole lot on the Amed coast time of year. About 9hrs a day. Mornings are lovely, humid, worth a snorkel and scooter into the mountains, maybe a healthy cookie from Aiona Garden but back by 1pm if you want to beat the rain. We did exactly this after breakfast. It was nice to get in the ocean but it was the murkiest snorkelling I’ve ever experienced. It was hard to see a few feet in front of yourself. “This is bull shit,” Ian muttered through his mask. Our untrained eyes nearly missed seeing the Japanese wreck we were swimming around, but eventually there it was, right beneath us. On our return, we scooted left off the main road to check out some of the local mountainous terrain. Stellar mountainside, super crumbly, patchy, broken up roads, ups and downs and numerous areas that were washed out by rain and river. At one point we stopped to take a few photos and my feet and ankles got instantly, mercilessly assaulted by biting minute black bugs – hard to forget we’re in the jungle!

fishing boatsjungle

While playing guitar in the hammock later, i heard that familiar “ee-errr, ee-errr.” I don’t doubt he snuck into either Ian’s or my backpack for a trip to the east coast. I looked up to see the little scoundrel – a very short-lived grand mystery surrounding the elusive Indonesian bird-gecko: Ian was right – it was a small gecko! Cute little dude, hanging out directly in our roof, he sure can project, this one. He wheezily called out to the air, as he does, and in the same way a bear would move, he climbed up back into the roof. Didn’t get a close look at him, but the most adorable award went to an irresistible kitten that befriended me. Tell me you wouldn’t want to have and to hold this one forever?


We dipped into the Bali Sea, Ian first. Just after I got in he asked, “What is that? Are you getting little bites?” Yes, I experience three little burning sea bug nips. “Do you think they are little jellyfish?” I wasn’t sure. Ian came out of the ocean with a red rash on his abdomen and what looked like four little white bites. Turns out it was teeny little jellyfish nipping away at our flesh. Nice send off, Amed coast, it was if the east coast was bidding us, “Go now, it is time. No really – scat!”


From → Bali

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: