Lombok, Gili Air, Gili Trewangan and Bali – Indonesia 2012

Thursday 22nd March, 2012

 Sydney to Darwin to Bali

Yesterday Lauren and Abi drove us to Hamilton station at 4pm. Abi loved the trains but then cried her little heart out when Mark and I waved her goodbye – dear little dolly. Mark and I cried, too, to see her so upset. We’ll miss Lauren and Abi so much. Mark said, “I don’t want to go to Sri Lanka now”.

The trip to Sydney was fast and peaceful then a change of trains at Central to St James Station. We walked over to Jillian’s in Woolloomooloo then all had pizza at the backpackers across the road. I started getting stomach cramps again – both of us have just gotten over Bali belly and we haven’t even left home yet! I went to bed early while Mark and Jillian stayed up drinking wine and talking.

Now this morning, we hang out with Jillian till she goes to work. After showers and breakfast, Mark works through his emails while I relax – spoilt! At eleven o’clock we walk over to St James Station to catch a City Circle train to Central then on to the Domestic Airport. Because we have to fly to Darwin first we’re not departing from the International Terminal – a bummer because at least Sydney International is mildly exciting while now all we have to look at is a lot of fat feral Australians. So many repulsive people I just want to close my eyes so I don’t have to look at them.

After checking through our bags, we have something to eat then fly out on Jetstar on time at two o’clock. We have a window seat and one in the middle – fairly squashed with a fat lady sitting next to me, but good for a cheap flight. The trip to Darwin is just over four hours which is an hour and a half behind Sydney then Bali is an hour and a half behind Darwin. We’ve got a 3 hour stop-over here then a two and a half hour flight to Bali (confused?).

Unlike every other time we’ve been to Bali, we’ve got no idea what to expect when we arrive.  And we only know this much because we received an email from the people at Sorga Bungalows where we luckily booked a room for tonight. They warned us of what is happening tomorrow – it’s Nyepe Day.

Apparently this is like the Balinese New Year which means today is New Year’s Eve. And according to what we’ve read, it’s supposed to be totally full on – huge monster looking dolls called ogoh-ogohs are carried through the streets then burnt on the beaches with lots of noise to scare away the evil spirits.

But because we don’t fly in till 9pm we’ll probably miss all the fun. Hopefully some of it will be still happening then again maybe everything will be quiet in readiness for Nypee Day. By the way, Nypee Day is also called the Day of Silence – bloody hell – Bali is shut for 24 hours from 6am Friday morning till 6am Saturday morning – no planes in or out, no transport, no leaving your hotel, no lights at night and for the Balinese, no leaving the house, no cooking, no eating, no talking! Total silence, so that when the evil spirits come back after being chased away today, they’ll look down on Bali and think that there’s no-one there and go away for another year. Bloody stupid but it’s their thing, bless them.

Anyway, at Darwin’s small airport we’re outside in minutes and decide to get a taxi into town. We’ve got a three hour stopover and our bags are going straight onto the next plane so we’ll only have to be back here an hour before we fly out. Our super friendly driver takes us on a guided tour of Darwin – Fanny Bay, Mindil Beach, the waterfront, all the official buildings, the aboriginal area and eventually drops us off in Mitchell Street, the main street. We have a drink at one of the many open air bars packed with mainly men. So bloody expensive – $17 for a beer and a cooler! Get us to Bali, quick!

Another taxi and another super friendly driver gets us back to the airport at five o’clock in plenty of time for our six o’clock flight.  Again we’re squashed into an aisle and a middle seat till I spy three empty seats towards the back. Now we can stretch out and even get a quick nap before we start to get ready to land. Seeing the lights of beautiful Bali below us makes us as excited as always.

Doing a fast dash through the airport and with a fast line at immigration we’re outside in half an hour. Now it’s time for Mark to go to the ATM while I mind the bags. Bad news – the ATMs have already been shut down for Nypee Day – wtf? We’ve got no cash at all so we can’t even get money from a money changer. No money means no transport into town. The taxi drivers say, ‘not far, you walk’ – six kilometers with all our backpacks? Awesome!

Out of the blue, an Aussie guy starts talking to us and then hands over 30,000 Rp so we can get a taxi as well as some food for tomorrow in case the kitchen in our hotel is closed. His name is Barney and he’s waiting for his girlfriend to come in on a plane from Jakarta. This is amazingly kind and we promise to get the money back to him as soon as we can.

Now it’s a race to get into Kuta as soon as we can before the stores close – we really need to stock up on supplies for tomorrow. Grabbing a taxi we’re soon tearing through the streets but have to get out way over near Kuta Square – all the inner streets and laneways have been blocked off for the celebrations so we’ll have a long hot walk to the hotel. It’s weird to see everything closed – all the big stores but also the markets, bars and cafes. The only people around are Balinese following the ogoh-ogohs that are still being paraded through the streets. The huge monster heads sit on bamboo platforms that groups of local men carry on their shoulders. All this is accompanied by deafening drumming and clanging instruments.

We race pass one procession near the Matahari while a lot more people are down on Jalan Pantaii, cheering and dancing around a massive ogoh-ogoh. I want to stop and take photos but Mark is making me hurry up as it’s right on ten o’clock when the Circle K stores are supposed to shut. We’ve seen a couple but they’re closed already. At last we find one just shutting the door and spend about $10 on chips, water and biscuits.  

Now we can relax a bit except that it’s starting to sprinkle and we still have to walk along Beach Road and up Poppies I to get to Sorga. A few locals are hanging around near the beach but basically it’s eerily quiet especially in Poppies which is usually buzzing with life and music. We think that there must be somewhere still open so we can have a drink – after all, Nypee isn’t supposed to start till 6am tomorrow morning – bastards!

Finally at Sorga, Mark asks the guys on the desk if they can advance us some money till the banks open on Saturday. We want to meet up with Barney tonight and give him his money back. No luck, apparently ‘owner go home’ and has taken all the cash with him.

Good news, though, that we can get an air-conditioned room on the bottom floor facing the garden – it’s a bit more expensive (like $10, big deal) but worth it. After throwing our gear in our room, we head off in search of a bar and Barney’s hotel which he told us is in Poppies I.

 Within seconds the skies have opened up and we’re totally drenched – love it. Running up Poppies towards Jalan Legian we find the good old Secret Garden Bar open – it’s our favourite – thatched roof, coloured lights, bamboo furniture and daggy music. Firstly we try to find Barney’s hotel but no-one seems to have heard of it so we make another dash through the rain back to the Secret Garden. Dripping all over the place we sit at the bar and order Bintangs and margaritas. Luckily we’ve got enough of Barney’s money left for two drinks each. We’re soooooo happy sitting here on our first night.

After our money has run out we make another saturating sprint down Poppies to Sorga where Mark orders a beer and I get out our duty free Bacardi. Sitting in the open-sided café next to the pool, we stay up till 2am in the warm night air while the rain teems down around us and till we’re the only ones left. 

Friday 23rd March, 2012

Bali (Kuta)

Nypee day – yippee!! Not!!  The day of silence. Can’t hear a bloody thing anywhere – not even the familiar sounds of motor bikes in the lane way and no music which you can always hear coming from somewhere. Probably a good thing that we can’t leave the hotel because we’ve both got hangovers and it’s still raining anyway. Very strange to wake up to rain in Bali. Even in the wet season it typically pours down in the late afternoon for a couple of hours and then it’s all over till the next afternoon. We never mind it that much though because it’s always warm – rain or shine.

Mark won’t get out of bed but I’m hungry so I keep annoying him till he does. Breakfast comes free with the room – juice, fruit, nasi goring, scrambled eggs and tea or coffee. Lovely eating it in the little open-air restaurant next to the pool. The rain is teeming so we hang around the room reading and sleeping till two o’clock when the sun comes out. Before swims we have lunch of satay chicken.

The rest of the day is same, same – reading, sleeping, diary writing and smoking on the verandah. Meanwhile the rain is back and continues to pelt down around us while the path and gardens in front of our room are knee-deep in water. To get to the restaurant for dinner we wear plastic bags on our heads and throw bath towels around our shoulders – very attractive and ‘we think it hilarious’.

Dinner is good and later we talk to two young Australian girls from Melbourne who are trying to help an old hippie-looking French guy work out what’s wrong with his computer. Poor girls, they’re fed up with him but are too nice to tell him to fuck off.

Saturday 24th March, 2012

Bali to Lombok (Sengiggi)

Hallelujah!! Nypee Day is over, the rain has stopped and blue skies are above – now we can really start our holiday. After an early breakfast we head out to find an ATM. Outside Sorga, the laneway is flooded and a crowd of people are trying to keep the water from creeping into their homes – all smiles.  

Everything is supposed to be back to normal after 6am this morning and now it’s 8am but of course the ATM’s still haven’t been turned back on. We try a few in Poppies I and even walk over to Poppies II but then are told that we’ll have to wait till ten o’clock. Until we get money we can’t do anything but there’s nothing we can do about it.

In the meantime, we organize a fight to Lombok for this afternoon ($43 AUD each) at the tiniest travel agent ever – not much bigger than a cupboard but the little owner is very efficient and we soon have air tickets as well as hiring a motor bike till two o’clock.

While I wait for all this to happen, Mark races back to Poppies I  to see if the ATM’s are on and is finally in luck. We pay the little travel agent, then back at Sorga, we organize for a bemo to take us to the airport at 2pm. Now we head straight to Legian via Jalan Bensari – wonderful to be riding along these laneways again in the heat and sunshine. At French Leather we find Matt who works for Ivan who isn’t here today. I get measured up for a green leather jacket and hand over one of Lauren’s old ones to get copied in a soft mauve. Also order a mini-me one for Abi.

Very happy to have that out the way, so we have cold lime sodas at Billy’s Cafe in Legian. Here Mark gets a message on his mobile from Bali Barney to say that he’s in a café on the beach road near the entrance to Poppies I. We jump back on the bike but, because of all the one way streets, it takes ages and he’s gone by the time we get there.

Now we spend the next few hours riding around Kuta and Legian and are shocked at the number and the size of new hotels going up especially around Poppies II. Progress sucks!  Except for a monstrocity on the corner of the beach road, at least Poppies I is still much the same and we’re happy having lunch at the Secret Garden – prawn cocktails and mie goreng. Later we have a great one hour massage in Jalan Bensari for just $5.50 each then a snack of spring rolls and calamari. At two o’clock we drop the bike off with our little travel agent man who’s stressing that we’re running late to get to the airport. No problem as we’re back at Sorga in minutes where our van is already waiting.

The trip to the airport is an easy fifteen minutes. We’re shocked to see that a massive new airport terminal is being built next door to the present one. And no wonder really – there are literally thousands of people coming and going. We’ve never seen Bali so busy and probably why so many new hotels are going up. Even though tourists bring in the money, this really can’t be a good thing for such a tiny island. For a start, how are they going to get rid of all the poo?

Anyway, because of all the airport construction happening, we can’t get anywhere close to the domestic terminal so we have a very long walk to check in. Afterwards, we wander around the shops and Mark actually finds a couple of t-shirts that fit him.  Our plane is a bit late but we finally take off on Wings about six o’clock.

The trip is a quick thirty minutes flying eastwards and we can soon see the Lombok coastline. Now, though, we think it’s a bit weird to be flying over so much land considering the airport is just near the capital, Mataram, which is right on the west coast.

Finally coming in to land, we can see that the airport is remote and obviously not the Mataram airport which would have been much better being so close to Sengiggi where we plan to stay tonight. Apparently this is Bandara Internasional, only opened last year which is why it’s not in our old Lonely Planet. Inside the massive and modern terminal (ugly as well), we ask about transport to Sengiggi.  A one and a half hour taxi ride, no less! And $25AUD! We wonder why they would build an airport out here in the middle of bloody nowhere? The good thing is that we’re not in a hurry and at least we’ll be able to see some of Lombok on the way. 

In the meantime, while Mark waits for the bags to come off the carousel, I go outside to have a cigarette. But then they won’t let Mark take our packs out of the terminal without our baggage tickets which happen to be in my daypack. He finally convinces them to let him through and we’re soon speeding towards the west coast. 

Lombok is almost the same size as Bali – about 80km long and 80 km wide – with lots of similarities – flooded rice paddies, coconut palms, mountains in the distance and even a volcano. I love driving through the dusk with the sun setting in a purple sky.

The road passes through lots of small towns and villages then becomes congested with traffic as we reach Mattaram. Here we turn right heading north along the coast and arrive in Sengiggi about eight o’clock. We’ve picked a guesthouse out of the Lonely Planet as we usually do.

Raja’s Bungalows are situated up a dirt laneway where we see lots of local people gathered near the entrance.  I jump out of the van to look for Raja’s which ends up being a hundred metres at the end of a tiny track. It’s sooo beautiful out here in the dark with thick gardens overhanging the path. No luck with a room but we like the look of Ziva Queen Guesthouse nearby and end up with an okay room for $10 AUD – very basic but perfect for one night.

We ask Ronnie, the owner, about getting to the Gili Islands tomorrow and he arranges for a shuttle van to pick us up at eight o’clock in the morning – 75,000Rp  each for the van to Bengsal then a boat to Gili Air. Now we head down into town to get something to eat and drink. The people at the end of the laneway are still here so we watch the ladies preparing food under bamboo shelters and families eating on the floors of the houses opposite. Apparently there is to be a wedding tomorrow so there will be a feast that everyone helps to prepare. All the women are wearing headscarves so this will be a Muslim wedding and different to the Hindu weddings of Bali.

I’ve read that although Lombok is Islamic,Islam here is very unique compared to other countries and apparently even compared to other parts of Indonesia. It’s actually a mixture of traditional beliefs and Hinduism so it’s a lot more tolerant.

Whether it’ a Muslim thing or not, this place definitely lacks the vibe of Bali – especially considering that Sengiggi is supposed to be the travellers’ place to stay. There are only a few almost-empty restaurants and bars along the main road but we find one that has a nice tropical atmosphere and where we can sit up at the bar. I order a Margarita that’s probably the worst ever but then I order another one. We also order a quick meal of mie goreng and fish before heading back for an early night.

Sunday 25th March, 2012

Lombok (Sengiggi) to Gili Air

Very excited to wake to a perfect, sunny day. At 7.30am, the humidity hasn’t hit yet so we decide to go for a walk and look for somewhere to have breakfast before our shuttle bus arrives. In the daylight we can see how cute our little guesthouse is, with flowering pink frangipani and overhanging trees. The sun is just peeping over the field opposite where cows are grazing under coconut palms – very lovely.

At the end of the laneway, the same ladies are still preparing food for the wedding – have they been up all night? Out on the main road, we pass a mosque and a few shops not yet open. We can’t find a way to get down to the beach so we head back towards Ziva Queen. On the way we stop for breakfast at a small warung called Cicak Warung – beautiful noodle soup for a dollar each cooked and served by a sweet man in a tiny shack. 

Back in the laneway we watch the wedding preparations again then grab our packs to wait for our shuttle bus at 8.30am. It arrives on time with a friendly Asian couple and their little boy the only other passengers. The forty minute drive along the northwest coast is beautiful especially as the road follows the shoreline and we can see Bali’s volcano, Mount Agung, in the distance. A lot to see – crystal clear bays, coconut groves, rice paddies, small villages, fishing boats and outriggers, smoke from wood fires, pretty streams and the Gili Islands just off the coast.

The Gilis consist of three coral-fringed islands – Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. Today we’re heading for Gili Air and tomorrow we plan to go to Trewangan before heading back to the Lombok mainland. We’re looking forward to a slower pace of life than in Kuta but hope there’s still a few cafes and bars to keep us happy.

To get to Gili Air we need to catch a public boat from Bangsal where we arrive about 9.15am. It’s a small, interesting town and I wish we had more time to look around. But for now we’re dropped off at a café where lots of other travellers are hanging around with their backpacks – Israelis, Argentinians, French, Americans. The Gilis are obviously on the ‘cool places to go’ list so they should be good.

We need to wait for half an hour before we’re given the nod that we can either walk down to the water or catch a cidomo (pony cart). Besides not wanting to walk, I can’t wait to have a ride in one of these little horse-drawn carriages.

On the way we see farmers in conical hats working in flooded rice paddies while we pass other cidomos coming back and forth from the wharf. At the water there are many more cidomos waiting for passengers getting off the boats from the islands. Even though we’ve already paid for our boat, we have to go to an office to get a ticket which shows what number boat we’ll be on, depending on its colour.

Bad luck that we have a green one which means that the Asian family got the last white ticket for the first boat out. Our boat won’t leave until then are twelve passengers which could take five minutes or five hours. But we seriously couldn’t care less. It’s so nice here where we have to wait for the boat. Across a small stream we sit around under coconut trees while Mark reads and I talk to some of the locals. I give them my Australian coins and swap bracelets with one young guy. Later I walk over to a shade-covered stall selling fruit and drinks then watch men burning piles of dried leaves and rubbish.

The first boat leaving for Gili Air is being loaded with fruit, water and untold bags and boxes of provisions for the island. Obviously everything has to be brought over from Lombok so every passenger boat has to double as a supply boat as well.

After an hour, our boat is loaded and we have enough passengers so we wade out with packs above our heads to jump onto the back. The boat is actually a small outrigger with bench seats along the sides and all the goods in the middle and under our feet. I’m just about sitting on top of a basket of green bananas. I love watching the local ladies who are all wearing head scarves and the men wearing peci caps. Mark sits up on the gunwhale and we’re both loving this boat ride.

Gili Air looks wonderful as we approach the shore – thatched huts, white sand and coconut palms. By the way, ‘Gili’ means ‘little’ and Gili Air is the littlest of the three (just a baby) – apparently we can walk around it in two hours but that’s definitely not on my list of things to do.

As the boat pulls into the beach we jump off into the water then set off along the sandy path to look for somewhere to stay. The only way to get around the island is by cidomo or bicycle but we just want to walk so we can check out the accommodation.

We’re pleasantly surprised that there is plenty see here with lots of cafes, dive shops and guesthouses. And we’re also happy that, despite this, the island still has a lazy, rustic charm mainly because of the lack of cars and motorbikes. Another bonus is that there aren’t any hawkers here so we won’t get hassled to buy things every five seconds.

The Lonely Planet gives Sunrise Bungalows a good rap so we decide to go there first. We like the look of it straight away. The traditional bungalows look fantastic spread out through a thick tropical garden of coconut palms, bougainvillea, hibiscus, pandan, jasmine and frangipani.

At the open-air check-in counter we’re thrilled to find that we can get a gorgeous two-storey lumbung-style bungalow for only $28 AUD. It’s sooo beautiful with a big chill out area on the ground floor with hammocks and a day bed draped in a white mosquito net – no walls except for the bathroom at the back. Up a steeply scary set of stairs we have to climb up through a hatch to reach the top verandah and the bedroom – a very bizarre setup and we won’t be drinking too much in case we have to get down to the loo in the night. Mark says ‘no problem’ – he can just go over the side.

Now it’s time to explore and find a café for lunch.  Most of the cafes are open-air places right on the water so we find a chilled out place where we lie on huge pillows and eat from low bamboo tables. This is exactly what we’ve been after – Bintangs, lime sodas and sate chicken.

After lunch we swim in the shallows right in front of Sunrise. The water is crystal clear and the white sand scattered with pure white coral thrown up onto the shore from the reefs which surround the island. This would be perfect for Abi and we jealously watch a family with a little bubba about her age. One day we’ll bring all our darlings here.

Snorkelling and diving are the main things to do in the Gilis but we’ll just stick to snorkeling even though Mark did have diving lessons in the Philippines in 2010. All along the track are little places hiring flippers and snorkels so we’re soon swimming out over the reef. Haven‘t snorkelled since we were in Vanuatu last year and we love it as always.

Afterwards I meet an old man who asks me if I want a massage – yes please! We follow him to his house not far down the track where we have a one hour massage each lying on a raised bamboo platform with a thatched roof. We pay $15 each which is heaps more than Bali but then massages don’t seem to be the big thing here – probably because of the Islam religion.

Later we hang out on the bottom floor of our hut – Mark swinging in the hammock and me encased in a mosquito net on the daybed. Dozing off we’re jolted awake by the call to prayer – forgot about the bloody mosque!

At six o’clock we’re up and ready for a good night. The sun is setting and so lovely sitting on platforms over the water drinking beers and margaritas. We cross to a bar on the other side of the track to sit on bar stools and talk to the barman. He’s nice but very depressing and tells us all his problems. Sorry mate but we’re out of here.

Now we look for a new place – love moving around – while cidomos clip clop past us carrying tourist and locals. Directly across the water in front of us is the Lombok mainland with volcanic Mount Rinjani and a lower range of mountains rising up behind the palm fringed coastline. We love it here.

We soon find another cool place where we sit at the bar drinking margaritas and Mark orders the biggest shish kebab we’ve ever seen. For $4AUD he gets a foot long skewer jammed with huge hunks of fish, meat, chicken and vegetables as well as side salad and chips – enough for the two of us – although I’m pretty plastered by this stage and ‘have to go home now’.   

Monday 26th March, 2012

Gili Air to Gili Trewangan

Wake to a gorgeous day with the sun just rising over the trees outside our hut. We decide to have a swim before breakfast as we’ve got till eight o’clock when we need to walk down to the boat. We cross over to the beach opposite and have a lovely time floating around in the warm water. Breakfast comes with the room so we sit under trees next to the lane way for banana pancakes, pineapple shakes and tea and coffee – a typical island breakfast for us.

We wash ourselves in the outdoor shower before going back to our hut to pack. At eight o’clock we catch a cidomo down to the wharf.  It’s lovely here with shady trees, warungs and lots of people. A nearby boat is being loaded with a couple of cows! Soon our boat is called and we wade through the shallows to climb onto the back. There are about fifteen passengers, some tourists and some locals.

The trip is beautiful with the mountains of Lombok on one side and Bali’s Gunung Agung in front.  Amazing scenery. We stop first at the smaller island of Gili Mena to drop some people off then onto Gili Trewangan. Most of the accommodation is located on the south east of the island so again we’ll have the same magnificent view of Mount Rinjani.

Jumping off the boat into the water we’re right amongst all the guesthouses and cafes. Like on Gili Air, a dirt track runs along the water’s edge with all the accommodation on the opposite side to the water and lots of cafes sitting almost on the sand. The water is a clear turquoise blue with white soft sand scattered with coral. We look out for a guesthouse we’ve read about in the Lonely Planet but then find one we really love.

Flush is a colourful place set in overgrown gardens facing the water. Tall trees at the front shade a round, thatched platform with snorkeling gear for hire and a row of old pushbikes that we can use. We’re so lucky to get a hut here – another lumbung-style bungalow but this one single storied with an open-air bathroom at the back overhung with tall thick trees. We have a wooden verandah with bamboo furniture and a four poster bed again encased in a white mosquito net. The ceiling soars to a point in the traditional style.

 After booking in with a young guy who has learnt to say “how ya goin’ mate” to all the Aussies, we’re given a “welcome home” cup of coffee. 

After settling in, we check out the Turtle Hatchery, a local initiative set up to help the island’s turtle population. Once the eggs have hatched, the baby green and hawksbill turtles are placed in a tank and left to grow until they’re about six months old when they’re big enough to fend for themselves, then released into the sea. And they’re soooo cute. They come right up to the glass with their dear little faces.

From here we walk up and down the path for somewhere to buy a memory card for our video camera – no luck, so we’ll just have to do without till we get back to Lombok. Have lunch and drinks lying on big cushions at a beachside cafe then hire bicycles from our guesthouse – $2.50 each. We ride down to the far end where all the guesthouses stop.

 I see a sign for traditional massage and ask a man lying around on a raised bamboo platform. He calls out to his wife who is lying around on another platform – she drags herself up (too busy?) and I follow her to their little house opposite. She’s sweet and very pretty. Her name is Hilani and she points to her little tummy to tell me that she is pregnant – probably why she’s tired – now I feel mean.

Their hut is amazingly bare – just a mattress on the floor and a few clothes hanging from nails. There’s a little plastic box with a few pathetic toiletries and some makeup – very sad really. The massage is good as usual but a bit uncomfortable lying on the bare floor – poor me. 

Meanwhile Mark has gone for a long ride through the village and is now lounging around in a café opposite drinking bintangs. After a snack of seafood soup and soda waters we ride back home for a sleep.

Up at six o’clock looking for happy hour drinks. We order Margaritas and Caprioskas lying on mattresses down by the water. Soon the mossies attack so we take our drinks up into the cafe. Further down the laneway, we order fish and rice. Good music is playing all around us but not too loud – definitely not the dreaded ‘party island’ like we’d been warned about. Bed at nine o’clock.

Tuesday 27th March, 2012

Gili Trewangan

Wake at 5am to the call to prayer coming from the mosque. Very loud but not too long and we fall back to sleep. Mark gets up at six o’clock to watch the sun rise over Mount Rinjani and to go for a swim. I don’t wake till 7.30 and very happy to see that we have lots of photos of our Dolly come through on Mark’s phone. Breakfast is in our guesthouse on a raised platform overlooking the laneway – banana pancakes, fruit, pineapple shakes and tea.

Now we decide to go snorkelling – the water looks gorgeous. We hire the gear from the guys out front after Mark buys a packet of biscuits from the shop next door to feed the fish. This is a great move and we see hundreds of fish swimming around us to get their share – all amazing colours and large silver ones big enough to eat. I like the long skinny see-through ones that hover around the surface.

I hang around the shore for a while collecting coral while Mark goes back out. The strap on his goggles breaks so he swaps it for a new pair. Later we go out again together and see a huge puffer fish and more of the beautiful coloured ones that live on these coral reefs.

Back home for a shower then lunch in an upstairs cafe overlooking the lane way and the water beyond. I want to have a massage so we walk to a place we’d seen yesterday. A local guy rings the lady to come from her village but she doesn’t turn up. Further down near the turtle hatchery we see another massage sign. Now we have to wait for the massage man who’s apparently having lunch. Later we find him sleeping on the railing of the verandah – no-one seems to want to work around here. Anyway I have to have the massage in our room – good but $12 is expensive compared to Bali – while Mark swings in the hammock on our balcony.

Sleep and read with the call to prayer waking us at three o’clock. About six, we have drinks lying on lounges on the sand at the Extrablatt Café. Later a blackout leaves the whole island in darkness. We move for more drinks at the Fortuna Cafe further down towards the boat wharf. Dinner is baby chickens for Mark and tuna and egg salad for me. A Bob Marley type band is playing – good except that the electricity keeps going off. Next an excellent female singer. Bed about 10.30.

Wednesday 28th March, 2012

Gili Trewangan to Lombok to Bali (Padang Bai)

Woken at five again by the call to prayer then back to sleep till 6.30. We walk over to the beach to watch the sunrise then decide to go for a bicycle ride through the village. I love it in here. People are starting their day and kids are walking to school. Horseless buggies sit outside some houses while we can see the little horses being fed inside the yards.

Some of the lanes are roughly paved but most are rutted dirt which are actually easier to ride on. Besides family homes, the village is dotted with cheap homestays, little open-air shops and laundries. And all is beautifully overhung with flowering trees, palms and bougainvillea. 

Back at Flush to order breakfast while we have cold showers to cool us down after the ride. We pack then have our banana pancakes and tea and coffee next to the tiny kitchen. As we pay for the room the young guy tells us that the owner said we have to pay 200,000rp for the broken mask from yesterday. Mark says ‘no way’ but we end up giving him 100,000 rp anyway just to shut him up.

We need to walk quickly down to the boats now as our boat to Lombok is supposed to leave at eight o’clock. One pulls out just as we arrive but then we’re told that another boat will be leaving in five minutes. Of course this translates to thirty minutes and we finally pull out at 8.30am. The boat is an old tub with no perspex on the bow which means that we all get sprayed the whole way. The wind is up today and there’s quite a swell making it a slower ride – still really enjoy it anyway with the mountains of Lombok impressively shrouded with heavy dark clouds.

At Bangsal, Mark gets soaked when he jumps out of the boat into a deep bit then we’re whisked into a cidomo by two local men. We backtrack along the same road to the cafe that we left from three days ago. Here we wait with other travellers for a van to take us back to Sengiggi.

Mark and I grab the front seat for good views on the forty minute trip. In Sengiggi, we talk to a man in the street who says that he’ll drive us to Teluk Nara to catch the fast boat back to Bali at three o’clock. We agree to meet him at two. Now we walk down to the beach where lots of coloured fishing boats have been pulled up onto the sand and local women are selling freshly caught fish out of big cane baskets.

Not much else happening here so when we see the Santosa Resort we go in for some lunch. For only $10 we have excellent seafood pasta and pizza sitting by the pool. After a wander around the grounds, we head back out into the street that runs down to the beach. Here we have a massage for $7.50 each then hang out for an hour in a cafe on the main road while we wait for our driver to pick us up at two o’clock.

When he doesn’t turn up (must have found a better offer), we find another man who’ll take us for the same price. Teluk Nara is nearly as far as Bangsal, so it’s another forty minute drive. This is the third time we’ve done this trip in four days but we enjoy it each time – a perfect mix of coastline, islands, tropical vegetation and villages.

At Teluk Nara we find the ‘fast boat’ wharf – a short wooden pier in front of a thatched hut, open on three sides with toilets at one end. We sit on bamboo chairs to wait for our boat which will be leaving in fifteen minutes. Wrong! – not surprisingly, the boat is an hour and a quarter late. No-one seems to mind so we don’t either. By now the rain is pouring down but the air is calm and warm so we’re fine. Besides that, there are chickens running around on the sandy floor – perfect. Meanwhile, we’ve noticed a young German backpacker studying her Lonely Planet and now she asks us if we’ve been to Java as she’s going there next. It’s five years since we traveled to Java from Bali but I think we give her some good tips on transport and places to go.

At last the boat arrives at four fifteen. It’s come from Gili Trawangan so a few people are already on board – but even with us and the German girl, there’s still only about ten of us on the boat. The rain is still hammering down and we get drenched running from the hut to the boat. The wind is also up once we leave the coastline so the first hour is horrible – scary big waves and I’m feeling sick. We’re sitting on the side of the boat that’s copping all the wind and waves are hitting our window so I can’t open it to get some fresh air. Mark grabs a seat on the other side and I feel a bit better with the cool air on my face. Suddenly the wind drops and the rain is gone – all is calm and we can see sunshine over Bali – a good sign, of course. The next hour is lovely as we make our way along the Balinese coastline. We see outrigger fishing boats off the shore and we recognise Candi Dasa.

About six o’clock we pull into Padang Bai and make a quick decision to stay here tonight and get a driver to take us back to Kuta tomorrow. Once Padang Bai was just a transit point for travelers going to Lombok and back but it’s changed a lot from when we were here in 2003. Even with a lot more guesthouses and cafes, though, it’s still a laid back travellers’ scene that we love.

We walk along water then up small road leading uphill away from the beach to look for a cheap guesthouse. An old man called Nyoman stops on his bike and tells us he has a nice place with air-con and hot water. We follow him to his homestay called Bagus which means ‘good’ in Indonesian – very real, very Balinese and we love it. The entrance to his house is an elaborate gate carved out of black volcanic stone from Mount Agung that last erupted in 1963. The family compound has a number of separate buildings surrounded by pink and white frangipanis, ferns, palms, bougainvillea and orchids. Our room is lovely with an open-air bathroom, a big verandah with low cane chairs and table and all with views over the village – all for $10 as well as breakfast! He also tells us that he can take us back to Kuta at 8am in the morning. Everything is arranged in minutes!

Next door is the Ozone Bar – a trendy travellers’ place with raised ‘chill out’ areas covered with cushions. We order beers, mie goreng and fish satay. Next we make a dash across the car park in the rain to a tiny bar with a friendly barman. We stay for hours talking to him as well as to a Welsh expat and a man from Darwin. Drink too many Margaritas after a great time then to bed.

Thursday 29th March, 2012

Padang Bai to Legian

Wake at 6.30am to the sound of little voices coming from the school across the road. We watch them doing exercises to music that’s blaring through the whole village. After a bath in our little outdoor bathroom we wander down to the water.

Lots of colourful outriggers sit on the sandy shore while a big car ferry is being loaded at the pier at the other end of the bay. Despite being Bali’s main port, Padang Bai is still a tranquil fishing village that’s kept most of its traditional charm. Definitely coming back!

After the rain yesterday, we’re very happy to see a cloudless blue sky and a hot sun already burning us as we walk along the beachfront. Back at Bagus, Nyoman is eagerly waiting for us as he’s made our breakfast and set it up on our verandah – banana pancakes, fruit plates and tea and coffee.

With breakfast over he gives Mark a ride on the back of his motorbike to find an ATM. His brother, Made, arrives in a bemo soon after to drive us the one and a half hours to Kuta. The Beach Road is surprisingly busy especially as we reach the outskirts of Sanur.

Finally in Kuta, we get dropped off down near the beach and walk up Jalan Bensari to look for a place to stay. We love this area especially Un’s Hotel but think we might stay somewhere else for a change. We look at lots of hotels but end up back at Un’s where we’re lucky to get the last room. It just also happens to be a great room – right near the gate on the ground floor.

Before doing anything we must have a swim in the pool – so pretty here surrounded by tropical gardens and with flowering bougainvillea pouring over the top balconies. Our next job is to hire a motorbike from a guy just up the laneway so we can drive over to French Leather in Legian. Ivan is here with the jackets we ordered four days ago. They look great so I order two more – a dark purple one for me and a tan one for Lauren.

From here we drive around to the beach good surf then to Kopi Pot on Jalan Legion for lime sodas and chicken sate. Still hungry we drive over to Jalan Pentaii to another old favourie, Made’s Warung, for prawn cocktails. We come here every time we come to Bali and it’s always remained the same.

Down near the Art Market we’re very lucky to run into one of Bali’s religious festivals. Long lines of women in temple dress balancing baskets of offerings on their heads are followed by men playing gamelan instruments and wearing their own temple dress. Next is a tall gold tower decorated with coloured paper and carried on bamboo poles. The procession seems to be headed to the beach so maybe we’ll see some of it later.

Right now, though, we have shopping to do and spend ages buying clothes for our Dolly, shorts for Mark, pants for me and three batik sarong. Back to Un’s for a swim and a sleep.

On the bike about five o’clock, we ride down to beach which is crowded with feral westerners – probably Australians. We see Nicky and promise to come back when the sun gets lower, too hot now. Walking up past the temple near the art market, we eat at a traditional warung – noodle soup with chicken, coke and beer for $7.

From here we head along the beach towards Tuban – better here and much quieter. Here we also find where the procession ended up with lots of local people in temple dress hanging around. A gamelan band is playing on an elevated platform and a ceremony is happening down by the water. About fifty women and children in colourful temple clothes are sitting behind an old man dressed entirely in white who is tinkling a tiny bell. Yellow and white fringed Balinese umbrellas add to the pretty scene although we don’t have a clue what’s going on.

Now it’s back to Nicky and Sexy Hotdog – ‘still sexy’ she says but now she’s called Sexy Hotdog Big Bum. While we watch the sunset and drink beers and bacardis we have lots of fun with these old friends. I get a manicure and a pedicure – just nail painting really, with flowers, of course. Next I’m conned into a neck massage, buy bracelets and anklets for Dolly then Mark has to buy a bracelet from Nicky. ‘You need two’, she says shoving them into our bag – hilarious! Eight t-shirts and three dresses later for Lauren from Hotdog, this has cost us a fortune but we’ve loved every minute of it.

Up to Poppies I to Secret Garden for drinks then ride back to Un’s to dump the bike. From here we walk around the laneways nearby stopping at a little bar for a horrible Margarita then food at a cafe near Un’s. Bed.

Friday 30th March, 2012

Legian

Our last day in Bali and we’ve got lots to do. An early swim then off on the motor bike. We drive out past Jalan Legian where we find a local market partly outdoors and partly under cover. No tourists here which is always a bonus. Every stall has a little raised altar attached to a wooden pole. On top are little bowls of flowers and sticks of burning incense. We buy one for home as well as two pretty boxes that the Balinese use during religious festivals.

Now Mark decides he wants to have a surf before we leave so he hires a board in Jalan Bensari while I wander around the laneways doing some last minute shopping. He really enjoyed his surf just down off the beach with only him and a Balinese guy out.

Later, across from the Art Market I like the look of a lovely big open-air restaurant so we head over for lunch. Very posh sitting on cushioned lounges next to cool fountains but unbelievably cheap – a good find.

We have one more thing to do before we leave. Yesterday as soon as we got back to Kuta, we sent a text to Bali Barney about returning his $30. Unfortunately he’s back in Australia but he gave us the phone number of a Balinese friend and told us to give it to him. We couldn’t get hold of him yesterday and now today Mark’s phone won’t work. So Mark decides to give it to a little grandmother he’s seen in our laneway with a baby about the same age as our Abi.

We walk up to the market where he’d seen her earlier and Mark asks a guy in the stall if he knows her. It turns out that she is his mother and the baby is his own little girl. He calls out to her and she comes from the house behind. When Mark gives her the money she is sooo happy but doesn’t really understand what it’s all about. Soon we have other people bringing out their babies obviously hoping we’ll give them money as well. They don’t seem to mind that we don’t but we feel bad anyway.

Back at Un’s to start packing and get ready to leave. On dark we have our last frozen margaritas at Un’s Café overlooking the laneway. A lovely way to finish this wonderful holiday.

Get a bemo to the airport and eight o’clock and have a great flight home with three seats each.  

Saturday 31st March, 2012

Sydney

Jillian is going to Newcastle this morning and is picking us up from Central and will drive us home – very spoilt by our beautiful friend. We talk the whole way and the time flies. Thank you, Jillian.

Home to Lauren and Abi and my Daddy – yippee!

About virginiascott

I'm an interior decorator, travel writer and blogger
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