The Ghost Village
Lipah beach, the bay of Bunutan where we live, is comprised of two parts: the upper part at the slope of the steep hill and the lower part, down, near the beach. The upper part is, irrespective of season, more or less free of tourists as, despite the view getting more beautiful with every meter elevation gain, the area is not yet fully developed: There is a lack of appropriate roads (preferably some with an inclination of less than 30%), and water supply and electricity are still a problem. Not really inviting for potential guests. In the lower part of Lipah the situation is quite different. All the resorts, hotels and homstays are located here, as close to the beach as possible, as can be expected of a visitor-friendly tourist destination. At the main road one warung (a small, simple restaurant) follows the next, complemented by small boutiques, dive centers and money changers. During high season, from June to October and around Christmas, things are exactly like the balinese like them to be: very lively, not to say bustling. Tourists are strolling along the streets (or rather the street), taxis are driving the mostly short-term visitors hither and thither and the unavoidable motor bikes are weaving through the gaps. There is quite some honking, because that is considered a sign of good breeding in Bali, and the soundscape is completed by the traditional domestic animals like dogs and chickens. They even have a word which describes exactly this condition: ramai. In our hometown in Zurich on the Bahnhofstrasse it is equally ramai shortly before Christmas or at the annual sale in summer. Just without the chickens.
Of course, in our small village it is not as ramai as in the traditional tourist areas in the south of Bali, not even close! But it is sufficiently bustling for us to kind of long for the quieter low season. Oh, of course, we have a suitable bad conscience every time as, after all, more bustle also means more earnings for the locals. But even they enjoy the more relaxed times of the year, when they have got more time for the family, when their children can reclaim the beach for themselves and when their rhythm of life is once more dominated by hindu ceremonies.
However, nobody has wished for, or even could have imagined, what is happening now in our beloved Lipah. Only half of the bigger hotels and resorts are still open for guests. The same with warungs, dive centers and little shops along the main road. There is as good as no traffic. Why should there be: there are nearly no tourists left, who would like a ride, and only few locals can still afford the money for fun drives. The street is close to lifeless, the beach belongs again one hundred percent to the fishermen and the kids. Especially in the evening the difference is striking. Where in other times it was no problem to walk the street in the lamp shine of shops and warung, there you need a torch now. The lights are switched off in Lipah, in the truest sense of the word. Even the breathtaking sight of the erupting volcano bathed in a pink glow from sun set is only of little consolation.