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cycling bali- rice fields- north Bali

rice fields and mountains along north Bali coast


Singaraja City, smack in the middle of Bali’s stunning north coast, marks a clear dividing point in Bali’s climate, topography and scenery. West of Singaraja, all the way to Gilimanuk at Bali’s westernmost point, land is lush, fertile and bursting with vibrant green rice fields. The coast is dotted with fluffy sand beaches, all backed by the Bali Barat Mountain Range, running parallel to the calm blue Bali Sea.

Mt Agung- tulamben- Bali

Mt Agung seen from Tulamben- Bali’s north coast

In great contrast, the coastline east of Singaraja is dry, extremely rocky, full of stony ‘beaches,’ and almost entirely devoid of rice fields. Several dry river beds ‘flow’ down from the interior to the rocky coast, occassionally gushing water during the short rainy season, Dec-Feb. This arid region nestles under the volcanic peaks of Mt. Batur and Mt Agung, Bali’s sacred mountain.

Air Sanih- Bali- north coast

View from my bungalow at Air Sanih

Today I began my cycle trip at Air Sanih, about 20 km east of Singaraja, dry country. When I arose super early at 5am and stepped outside my lovely coast-side bungalow, I was greeted by a faint full moon still high in the sky, an absolutely calm sea, and happily chirping birds. I noticed gratefully that the entire coastline eastward was dotted with clouds.

Cafe Lotus- Ubud- Bali

Balinese garden with lily pond

Today I needed to start cycling at 6am. I had 55 km to ride, which would take 3-4 hours. I already knew that the north coast would be dangerously roasting hot by 9am. The friendly hotel owners had kindly agreed to wake up extra early to make my breakfast. They prepared my meal right on time. So at 5:59, after eating breakfast in a lush garden overlooking a blossoming lily pond, I was already on my bike a-pedaling down the highway eastwards.

cycling bali- road- north Bali

Clear empty road in north Bali

Making up for my painfully early rise, I discovered that 6 am was a fantastic time to cycle. The air was much cooler, the traffic much lighter. On the other hand, the road was swamped with children and teens racing on motorbikes to school. For an entire hour I was pummeled by the insistent screaming and barking of school children competing to catch my attention. “HELLO!!!!!”

Dodging masses of unpredictable and untrained young motorbike drivers darting around the roads while getting verbally assaulted was not exactly my idea of a relaxing, peaceful ride through the countryside. However, I did survive, and by 7am the kids were all in school. The roads were finally calm and traffic-free.

cycling bali- Air Sanih- Bali

Rocky coast east of Air Sanih, Bali

This particular stretch of coastline from Air Sanih for about 30 km east to Tejakula was one of the very few sections of  Bali’s coast that I’d never visited. I discovered that the road runs extremely close to the shore, providing stunning views of the sea and coastline. At some points the road lies literally a stone’s throw from the sea. I could actually stand on the road and throw a rock into the water. I also found out, quite unfortunately, that the first 10 km is hilly. On the other hand, this is the most beautiful stretch of coast, offering several viewpoints over Bali’s rocky black volcanic shoreline, open ocean and rocky outcroppings splashed by waves. It reminded me of a mini Great Coastal Road in Australia.

Balinese Hindu temple- Bali

Gilded Balinese Hindu temple entrance

Beyond this scenic coastal stretch, I pedaled through many well-established towns and villages. Several surprised me with their large ornate gilded Hindu temples. The entire area was well inhabited and apparently rather wealthy despite the unfertile land and lack of agriculture. I wondered where they derived their income? I also passed several small resorts trying to recruit western visitors with signs. That surprised me too. Eventhough I’d been living traveling around Bali for over 10 years, I did not know about this area.

dry riverbed-  Bali

Typical dry riverbed in Northeastern Bali

As I headed further eastward, I crossed several dry rocky riverbeds. Eventually volcanic Mt. Agung arose majestically inland, showcasing herself the rest of the day. By this point the road had departed slightly from the shore. It continued inland, gradually climbing and descending, with occasional glimpses of stony beaches lining the Bali Sea. I’d expected a dead flat road, so cycling was harder than anticipated, but by 9.30 I pulled into Tulamben, my morning destination.

LIberty Shipwreck- Bali - Tulamben

Wheel on LIberty Shipwreck

I knew Tulamben well. Very very well. I’d just spent 5 months teaching scuba diving in Amed, 20 km further down the coast. Since Tulamben is home to Bali’s most famous and popular dive site, the Liberty Shipwreck, I’d dived here 3-5 times/week. And this had been my 3rd dive season. So when I pulled into the Liberty parking lot I was quickly greeted by a slew of locals who hadn’t seen me for a while and had never seen me on a bicycle. “Pink!” “Lash!” “Hello Pink” went the rounds of greetings. A nice warm welcome.

scuba Diving - Amed- Bali - Tropical reef

In pink, as usual at Tulamben dive site

I returned the friendly greetings, grabbed a meal at my favorite local ‘shack,’ changed out of my stinky sweaty cycling clothes into my bikini, and happily marched out to the seaside to relax. I was tired. While fully-equiped divers descended and emerged from the sea, I promptly fell asleep to the sound of palms blowing in the breeze and waves lapping on the stony shore. When I awoke I realized that today was the absolutely calmest and clearest I’d ever experienced the ocean at Tulamben. Wow, crystal clear! The sea and reef were calling me. I slipped in for a cool dip and was astounded to see the coral reef and tropical fish clearly below me, without even a mask. Lucky day.

coral reef- Bali

colorful coral reef in north Bali

I spent the entire afternoon relaxing at the shore- sleeping, eating, swimming, sipping coffee and writing. I had considered spending the night in Tulamben then cycling over to Amed in the morning, but by 4 pm I was well-rested and ready to roll. I re-mounted my bike and pedaled the final hour over to Amed, my recent 5-month home, to stay with friends a few days before completing my circumnavigation of Bali.


 Cycling Bali Guidebook - Lash - LashWorldTour - travel book

my Cycling Bali Guidebook

If you’re inspired to cycle around Bali, check out my guidebook-

Cycling Bali: Guide to Circumnavigating Bali by Bicycle




3 pings

  1. Suzy

    What a ride! I would love to see that shipwreck. Sounds like something out of the Little Mermaid ha.

  2. LASH

    Hey Suzy,
    Yeah, that actually is an amazing dive site! I'm not crazy about wrecks overall, but that one is fantastic… My ride around Bali- 12 more days of it, and then the guidebook I'm writing to Cycle Bali. thanks for reading. cheers, Lash


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