Archives for posts with tag: Nusa Lembogan

Sorry for the brief sabbatical in blog entrying. I promise I’ll be better. Since arriving back to Bali from Thailand a month ago, David and I have been incredibly busy playing host and tour guide to friends who arrived from other parts of Southeast Asia as well as friends who flew all the way from the States to visit little ol’ Dav and Taz.

David and Eliza in Nusa Lembogan

Our first arrival was my best bud and home girl Eliza O. who flew from NYC and met David and I at our trusty home at Susie’s Beach Inn in Bingin Beach. I had been looking forward to her arrival for months, and was ecstatic that this lady friend had decided to stay for a month – long enough for us to show her around most of Bali, as well as do a side trip to Gili T. and Kuta, Lombok.

The first day Eliza arrived we met up with two friends that David had met while traveling down the Vietnam coast, Dain and Tesha from San Francisco. We spent the days between swimming at the pool at their Westin Resort in Nusa Dua, and swimming in the ocean at Uluwatu and pooling it on our turf of Bingin. Dain and Tesha left a few days after and flew to Australia and are currently spending the year living out of a van and working down the coast of Aussie.

After a few days in Bingin and getting sunned out on the Bukit peninsula, we three headed up north to Ubud where we spent a few days getting us$5 massages and facials, buying monkey masks, loving a little dog we named Boners, and making a second trip to the delicious Naughty Nuri’s for some more bacon cheeseburgers and the subsequently unavoidable food comas.

Shane, Jenna, and Eliza at Espresso Bar. Kuta, Bali.

We then made a stop in Kuta where David and I planned to extend our visas as well as show Eliza the not-so-great part of tourism in Bali. Surprisingly however, we spent two nights here discovering the most-delicious-and-best-for-your-money-restaurant I have been to in Bali, the Smiling Frog, and our late-night-live-music-bar, Espresso Bar. The Smiling Frog on Jl. Benesari is an unexpected breath of fresh air in the noisy and sense-assaulting streets of Kuta. Owned by the generous and personable Alex of Italy and his wife, David, Eliza, and I stumbled upon this restaurant one evening and never looked back – frequenting at least 5 more times and raving about it to our friends. The ingredients and preparation of the food make this restaurant stand out from what would appear to be similar establishments throughout Kuta. Everything from the welcome drink to the fettucine al funghi to the chicken curry hits the palate just right, and Alex hands-down has the best arak madus I’ve tried throughout my travels. Finished by a cup of Italian coffee and the best (and also complimentary) desert of a rich, fudgy, thinly sliced chocolate cake make the whole experience a decidedly good one.

Our favorite late-night hang out spot is the Espresso Bar, a hole-in-the-wall dive that has the best (Indonesian) cover band singing renditions of everything from Lady Gaga to Rage Against the Machine, always with their own hardcore rock twist. They are a blast to watch, and the whole vibe of the place is far cooler than the nearby clubs that make you want to Purell your body. Literally, 40 year-old prostitutes in police outfits and young Australian guys in tiki skirts and Mr. Miyagi headbands. Literally.

(Left to Right) Eliza, David, Arlene, Shane, and Aram. Breakfast at Villa Kresna, Seminyak.

After Kuta we took the boat to Nusa Lembogan to chill out in the cleaner sun and sand for a few days before my good friend Aram and his friends Shane and Arlene flew from L.A. to meet us for a fun-filled 5 days in Bali. Aram helped treat David, Eliza, and I to a 2-bedroom villa with a private pool at Villa Kresna, the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed at (and also the best breakfast). David’s friend whom he had met traveling in Vietnam – Jenna from San Francisco – also joined us for some time while we were in the Seminyak area. I had some of the best days of my trip hanging out and going on adventures throughout southern Bali with our gang. Thank you guys so much.

Aram and David walking on Uluwatu beach, Bali.

And now it’s back to David, Eliza, and I. Tomorrow we head to the Gili Islands and then to Kuta, Lombok to relax for a bit and show Eliza my favorite spots of Indonesia (so far). It has been a great experience and a fun time being the tour guide to both friends and acquaintances for the past month. Some people have already been traveling for months in Asia and are just on a stop in Indonesia; some are on a short work vacation from the States; some people have traveled a lot in their lives, and others not at all. Regardless, sharing my knowledge about traveling (especially if it is my favorite place in the world) – whether it is about the people, the food, the language, the environment, the religion – gives me a rush. Perhaps it’s an adequate reason for not noticing that I hadn’t posted a blog entry in a while. Too busy doing what I love.

Today David and I made a realization. We only have 3 weeks left of this epic adventure of ours. I don’t think either of us are ready to say good-bye quite yet.

….And my birthday is in 5 days!

dua Bintang besar dingin

Translation – two large, cold Bintangs (beers)

A boat near the mangrove forest, Nusa Lembogan

I write this in the morning as I sit on the beach on Nusa Lembogan, looking out at the blue-green ocean dotted with colorful boats, with a coffee and plate of fresh fruit on the table, and a brindle pup sleeping by my feet. Heaven? I think it could be.

David and I arrived here on a small boat that took a little over an hour from the beach of Sanur. The island is small and peaceful, bungalows perched along the beach, locals raking out their recent catch of seaweed to dry which they will eventually export around the world, and young boys dominating the surf breaks, showing up the foreigners who come to ride the waves. Nusa Lembogan and the surrounding islands are incredibly poor, but visiting here you might not think so. These are some of the nicest people I have ever met and their spirits are high.

Our first day on the island, David and I rented bicycles to check out the other side of the island where the beaches are located. Everyone told us to rent a motorbike, but no, we wanted push bike. Another rookie move, we left just before noon – the hottest time of day – and began peddling down the main road when we heard yelling and cheering coming from an enclosed courtyard. Getting off our bikes, already sweating profusely, we walked into our first cock-fight of the trip. There were men sitting, standing, and squatting. The entire courtyard was packed and full of energy. And not only was I the only caucasian there, but also the only female. As we tried to find a good place to watch with everyone’s eyes roaming from the ongoing fight to the foreigner who just came upon this obvious boys-only clubhouse, the first fight came to a close. We stayed a while longer watching a new group of men with their cocks (does that sound bad?) enter the ring and exchange bets and roosters, stroking their feathers and getting a feel for who would make a good match.

Leaving the fight we began peddling directly uphill (Oh! This is what they were talking about…). Both David and I had not rode a bike in years, and this was definitely a challenge to say the least. After walking the bikes for a while, we made the bumpy trip to Dream Beach – sore, sweaty, and out of breath.

Dream Beach, Nusa Lembogan

The beach was worth it, though. A small ribbon of sand enclosed by jutting cliffs and an ocean break calm enough to swim in. We came back here twice (this time on a motorbike) and explored the other small beaches and the large mangrove forest on the opposite side of the island.

Nusa Lembogan is a welcome haven from south Bali. Life slows down here considerably and we spend most evenings reading on the beach as the sun sets. This is more of the Indonesia we were looking for. We have little to do, and nowhere to be. Dav occasionally asks me what time it is, and I reply, “What does it matter?”

A sunset from our patio at the Pondok Baruna, Nusa Lembogan

We are here! Months of anticipation, and David and I are finally in our first week on Bali.

The palm offerings found in front of every house and establishment in Bali

It is HOT. Every day is around 85°F with 80% humidity, but after the initial few days you begin to get used to it.

After arriving at the airport, David and I humped our bags out of the airport to get a cheap(er) taxi to Kuta. Kuta is something that most people will never experience. It was Bali’s first beach resort and now it has turned into a tacky, overdeveloped tourist area that is completely disorienting. If I had ever been to Cabo or Cancun for spring break I might compare Kuta to those. A tourist trap, is swarms with hawkers selling anything from transport (taxis) and massages, to mushrooms and hashish. The streets are lined with restaurants and bars, many of them catering to the large population of Aussies that come here for holiday. There are also a plethora of big surf companies, and fast food chains like KFC, Starbucks, and Coffee Bean. And of course the hundreds – if not thousands – of family run tourist shops selling cheap “I Love Bali” t-shirts, coozies, bags, towels, boardshorts, you name it. In Kuta you can find it all.

During the day you walk the streets being bombarded by someone selling something, while at night the nightclubs open their doors to the many young Aussies who are back from a day of beaches and surf to party the night away to the rhythmic beats of American and British pop music, chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, ya, ya, ya!” as if their presence had gone unnoticed.

It gives you a headache.

David and I were only able to stand Kuta for 2 nights. I had booked a room in advance since Kuta is close to the airport, and it serves as a tourist hub – a good jumping off point to go to other places. It’s fun to pass through, or maybe go for a night on the town, but Dav and I were too exhausted after days of traveling to find more energy to live in this bustling façade of Bali.

This is my sixth time to Bali, but I usually frequent the same towns – Ubud, Nusa Dua, Uluwatu (and right next door at Padang Padang and Bingin beaches). Needing to get out of Kuta, David and I agreed to go to Sanur, a smaller beach community on the Southeast part of the island that is home to a large ex-pat population and is also the point of departure to Nusa Lembogan, a small island off of Bali known as a haven for those living on a shoestring budget where bungalows line the beach and the main tourist activities are snorkeling and diving in the reefs just offshore, and the handful of good surf breaks. These places sounded perfect to us.

We took a shuttle bus from Kuta to Sanur, and having no hotel reservations, we were initially turned down at the budget places we had in mind since it was the start of the weekend.  Not worried about finding a place (Bali IS tourism, and sometimes it seems that people here will rent out their own house before you are left without shelter), Dav and I began walking down the main drag of Sanur with our 40lb. backpacks and soon we were approached by an older Balinese man promising a free ride and a cheap room with air-conditioning. Debating for a few moments (so far the Lonely Planet had been our bible), we finally loaded our gear into the van and a few minutes later found ourselves walking down a small gang (an alley only wide enough for foot traffic and motorbikes) to Gustav’s Bed & Breakfast, a small, newly renovated, and family-run accommodation. It is the small hotels off of the main road where you tend to find the best deals and true hospitality.

Sanur was a nice break from Kuta. We walked down the main streets, doing a bit of shopping, visiting the local supermarket, walking along the beach, and going on our first swim in the ocean that felt like bathwater.

The other night at dinner, David and I met a Californian couple who were on an 8-month trip around Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific islands. They were spending 2 months in Bali and we immediately connected with them and started sharing stories and future plans. One night, sharing a meal with them they had gotten at a local market and washing it down with Bintangs (the local beer) and Arak (the local rice liquor), we made some loose plans to go to the outer islands together. But first we wanted to check out the beautiful island of Nusa Lembogan, which we planned on doing the following day. It’s funny to think that all we wanted to do when we got to Bali was relax for a bit after the long voyage here, and now it is as if we can’t see enough. Bali – and the greater Indonesia – is full of different environments, people, and cultures and David and I want to see as much as possible. Tomorrow we go to Nusa, but hopefully after we return to Bali we will slow our roll and saturate ourselves in a town of our choosing, and get the real Balinese experience.