Archives for posts with tag: Lombok

The countdown has started. David and I have just 9 days left before we get on a flight back to the States. My best bud Eliza left a few days ago to head back to NYC after a fun week snorkeling on Gili Trawangan and swimming and celebrating my birthday in Kuta, Lombok. And now David and I are hunkering down with our last dollars and preparing ourselves for our next culture shock. Home.

Eliza and I on the boat to Gili Trawangan

It has been an amazing and unforgettable 5 months.

I’ve started to make a list of the things I will miss.

Dodging potholes on the motorbike. The drive at night on the motorbike back home from Yeye’s in Uluwatu, looking up at the starry sky. Sweat. Banana juice. The smell of incense. Being barefoot. Calling out “cow” or “monkey” while driving. The sound of flip-flops. Nightly rain showers. The friendliness of the Balinese. The deafening sounds of nature. The ease of starting conversations with other travelers. The smell of satay sizzling on the street. Vivid colors everywhere. Smiling and highfiving children. Ants in my food. Hearing Indonesians sing Justin Bieber. The feeling and sounds of life everywhere – plants enveloping you and thousands of bugs crawling and flying, geckos scurrying, chickens clucking and roosters crowing, rust-colored cows, algae and mud covered water buffalo, dogs barking or sleeping, leggy goats.

David and Eliza on Gili Trawangan

It’s going to be weird going home. Real life. Ugh.

David and I are in the Bukit peninsula of Bali – generally called Uluwatu, but more specifically staying at Bingin. The beaches and surf breaks here are legendary – Uluwatu and the fabled Padang Padang, along with Impossibles, Bingin, and Dreamland.

A view down the cliff to the surf break at Uluwatu (on a bad day)

We arrived here via Ubud after a terrifying ferry ride back to Bali from Lombok, the enormous boat violently swaying in the tremendous swells. We had left our new friends – the Webster brothers of Long Beach, CA – in Kuta, Lombok, with plans to meet up again in the next few days in Uluwatu. We had already formed ourselves into what we dubbed “Team America” with our adventures and antics beginning on Lombok and hopefully continuing in the southern surf haven of Bali.

David and I arrived to Uluwatu and set up camp at Susie’s Bungalows, a simple and friendly homestay run by a bunch of giggling women set on top of the cliffs above Bingin beach. We spent the days descending and climbing the impossibly steep and painful steps (work those buns!) that led down to the beach, visiting the shantytown woven into the cliffs of Uluwatu proper, and getting the lay of the land via our rickety red motorbike (which we eventually traded in for a newer, hot pink one). A couple of days later we met up again with our good friends from the West Coast and we all settled in at Susie’s along with our new acquaintances: Jay and Linda from an island off of southern France, Anya from mainland France, and Nikki from Brussels.

The boys and I became a pretty solid unit, searching for surf during the day or belly flopping into the nearby infinity pool or settling down for banana milkshake time and an endless series of jokes and stories.

The boys lounging by the pool. Bingin beach.

We spent one day outrunning the corrupt police on our motorbikes on the way to give a farewell to my mom in Nusa Dua. David and I barely escaped while the Webster brothers – having been pulled over for some made-up reason – ingeniously adopted the Spanish language and annoyed the frustrated policeman out of his monetary bribe.

Another day was spent at the surf spot Greenbol, where we all witnessed a Planet Earth– style moment of a large snake using its muscular body to climb the precipitous wall of a cave to strangle an unfortunate bat for its lunch, while waves crashed violently and a storm brewed around us.

A storm brews at Greenbol

Adventures and escapades during the day gave way to often boisterous and deboucherous nights. Whether we were out and about or lounging with our books or a stack of cards, David and I could hardly have been in better company and feel fortunate to have met these new friends on our trip. Often, a downside of traveling is that you lose the emotional connections you have with people, save for a traveling companion if you have one. People float in your lives, but the nature of traveling necessitates for them to quickly float out. However, we were lucky to have these guys in our current traveling lives for two weeks and we had a great time. Alas, they left to go back to real life and David and I are once again stuck with each other (love you buddy!).

A heartfelt “Namaste” and “claro que sí” go out to the brothers.

And thus, a chapter ends in the epic saga of Dav and Taz.

Kuta, a small beach town on the south end of Lombok, has perhaps become my favorite town in Indonesia over the years. I’ve spent a lot of time here – always staying longer than I anticipated.

The landscape differs from Bali almost completely. Relative to Bali, Lombok is full of rolling hills and mountains – lush green cascading down hillsides like a thick moss – and ribbons of white sand beaches at every turn. There are farms, cattle, winding roads, rice fields, and smiling children who slap you five as you zoom by on your motorbike.

a young girl comes to say 'Hi'.

A house set in the rice fields

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The air is much drier here than the rest of Lombok. The days are sunny and hot with the exception of an occasional rainstorm in the late afternoon. Dav and I often start the day by taking our motorbikes along the coast roads looking for a different hidden white sand beach. At many of the beaches, the waves gently lick the sand, leaving a soft layer of white foam before heading back to sea. We stop for a while when we find a good spot, take a dip and maybe a nap. We might stay there for a while, or we may cruise to the delicious vegetarian restaurant Ashtari, or the family run Sonya’s.

The view from Ashtari

Back at our hotel, I sometimes play volleyball with the staff of the Novotel, or challenge David to a ping pong game, or swim in the hotel pools, or take a yoga or cooking class. There never seems to be a dull moment here. Even if you don’t have a plan for the day you can just take your motorbike down one of the many potholed roads and find yourself on a deserted beach, a small fishing village, or at the steppes of a rice paddy. You might spot a tanned surfer cruising by with his surf board, and before long find yourself at Grupuk or another surfer’s haven. Bumping along a sandy beach path, you might be stopped by a grazing family of oxen, oblivious to your presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuta is paradise. The laid back atmosphere and the few tourists allow the area to feel as if it’s your own. It is a place I look forward to visiting many times to come and I hope this beautiful area stays as it is, although the encroaching resorts and new airport threaten the environment here.

We successfully arrived to Gili Air, the 2nd largest out of three famous beach islands off of Lombok, Indonesia. Much of the draw of these islands is their relatively undeveloped and unspoiled nature. There are few permanent residents – from Gili Meno, population 300, to Gili Air, population 1800. Only bungalows with thatched roofs provide shelter to the arriving tourists who come in search of some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, and you must walk along the dirt pathways as there are no motorbikes or cars on the islands. Your own two feet or a horse cart must do all of the work.


We arrived just a day before the New Year and were told by locals on Lombok that the islands were incredibly packed for the holiday – some even told us that people were camping on the beaches of Gili Trawangan, the social hub of the Gilis. However, arriving to Gili Air we easily found a large, cheap room although most places were in fact full.

David, mom, and I spent our days on the beach, and the days where the clouds rolled in or we had rain (the rainy season ends in February despite the fact that the islands of the Indonesian archipelago vary greatly in climate) were spent cross-legged under the covered, beachfront berugas while playing cards and backgammon and sipping our fresh fruit smoothies or an ice cold Bintang.

David spent most of his time at Manta Dive getting his Advanced Open Water certification while my mom and I explored Gili Air, and spent a day peddling around Gili Trawangan on rickety bicycles researching places to stay in March when my best friend Eliza comes to visit.

Each night we would go to the Chill Out Bar, owned by a beautiful Indonesian woman named Suzie, and get 2-for-1 mojitos or side cars for happy hour, followed by the best vegetarian curry I have ever had. Our last night on the island, after my usual time spent at the Chill Out Bar, I joined David and the German genius Carolina for drinks. Carolina headed home soon after, tired after a long day/night of diving with Dav, but David and I continued our tradition of staying out too late on our last night in a place, this time before an early morning boat and car ride the next day. We went to Zipp Bar and met up with Sean from North Carolina, a young pilot currently living in Tokyo who I had met that day on the boat back to Gili Air from Gili Trawangan. We drank Bintangs with him and another David, an expat from Perth, Australia who is the owner of Zipp Bar. Being the only ones at the bar at this hour, we filled the night with laughter, sing-a-longs to the Rolling Stones, and me dancing behind the bar with the 23-year old Indonesian bartender with a fro and a shirt that read, “Don’t be Naughty.” David left late in the night to head home and pack, but since the owner was buying us beers at this point I didn’t want to give up a good thing, and ended up getting back to the room at sunrise – just enough time to take a nap before strapping on my gigantic backpack and getting on the boat back to Lombok.

(Lizie – David and I both can’t wait for March. You will love it here. Miss you sistalady!)

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!).