After nearly three weeks in Ubud, Dav and I have freed ourselves from Ubud’s strong grasp. Our last night in Ubud started with Dav, mom, and I attending a happy hour of Mojitos, and then going to Dewa, our local cheap warung for a dinner of soto ayam (a spicy chicken soup with noodles), nasi campur (a dish of vegetables, chicken, tempe, and rice), and tamie goreng (crispy fried noodles with vegetables). Sitting back with a couple Bintangs at Dewa, we started up conversations with a French couple who had bought a one-way ticket to Bali and whom we plan on meeting up with again in Lombok or Bali, and Roberto and Filipe, two Brazilians who have been living and working in Bali for the past few years. Our table got pretty wild thanks in a large part to Roberto who was on a liquid diet of Bintangs that day and making jokes about his scruffy Taliban appearance. (It’s funny that the best and easiest way to meet other travelers is in restaurants and bars, where everyone seems to congregate.) Initially not too keen on us Americans, Roberto definitely warmed up to us, at the end of the night giving Dav hugs and saying “You, I like you. (Then looking at me, jokingly) But you, I kick your ass.” After departing from Dewa and the French couple, Dav and I caught a ride with the Brazilians to a nearby locals-only bar where Dav and I (the only girl in the establishment…) sat with a large group of Indonesian guys and shared their pitcher of “blue eyes” – an arak concoction that certainly did the trick – while Filipe floated to and from the car checking on Roberto, who had initially joined us in the bar but then promptly made his way back to the car to sleep.

Early this morning, tired and a bit hungover, with mom in tow, we took a taxi to Padangbai and caught the 4-hour ferry to Lombok, the island to the east of Bali. I’ve been to Lombok almost as many times as I’ve been to Bali, and no offense to Bali but I think I like it better. Quieter, the most pristine beaches I’ve seen, awesome seafood, less tourists, small villages. Boom. Because a lot of tourists seem to like making the trip to Lombok for the holidays (not just Westerners, but also Indonesians especially from Java), we were told that the places to stay on Lombok and the Gilis – a group of three small islands off of Lombok that are tourist magnets – were pretty much packed full. However we lucked out in finding a small hotel for the night just outside of Senggigi, Lombok, run by Eka and Wayan, an extremely friendly and knowledgeable couple who – by coincidence – also serve up the best damn meal of grilled jimbaran snapper, fresh and spicy sautéd vegetables, and nasi goreng.

Tomorrow morning we head to Gili Air, the small white-sand-turquoise-water island, that is a mix between the social Gili Trawangan and the quiet and romantic Gili Meno. We hope to spend nearly a week here (hoping that not everything is booked up) including the New Year – relaxing, snorkeling, reading, eating, and allowing Dav to complete an advanced open-water dive certification. From there we head to Kuta, Lombok, my old stomping grounds on this island that is home to some of the best beaches I’ve seen, as well as the Novotel, a beach resort that I usually stay at and that mom may be treating us to (fingers crossed!).