Padangbai, the sleepy bay in East Bali discovered by the hippies, is coming back to life. Padangbai used to be a busy little backpacker spot years ago. I first visited in 1993. Scuba diving, water sports and warungs were plentiful and it was the alternative the bemo bus driver gave you to Candi Dasa. A change in the tourism industry, compounded by the 2002 & 2005 terrorist bombs in Bali pretty much killed off tourism for a while in Padangbai. Returning in 2003, I was amazed to find the place deserted, local kids playing in the street outnumbering the tourists. Things have changed for the better though!
Back in 1993 I stayed at the A-frame place at the far end of the beach. It was a cool as the ground floor was a warung, with private rooms and a lounge on the second floor, a sprawling dorm on the top floor. The place was closed the last couple of time I have been to Padangbai, so I was surprised to see it back to life in June 2007. The original owners, Anton & Manon from Holland live in it, now called the Topi Inn (maybe it was always called that?). Impressive what some design, creativity and a coat of paint can do. The Topi Inn has simple bamboo / fan / cold water rooms for 60,000rp per night. Downstairs the knock out some decent food and its a cool atmosphere. If you are staying in Padangbai take a walk to the end of the main beach and check out the Topi Inn. Padangbai has 3 beaches.
Another cool place in Padangbai is Zen Inn, located next to the ferry terminal. Owned by Ronald from Holland, the place is a little bit of Amsterdam in Bali (minus the space cake). Ronald has a large screen a 1 terabyte of music / videos. In my opinion its a score to find a place in a sleepy seaside village to get a cold beer and something other than a warung environment. Zen Inn is an internet hotspot and Ronald let me use his machine to check my email. Lonely Planet recommends this backpackers and for those getting the ferry to Lombok, you couldn’t get much closer. I’m going to have to update my map again!