A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: markg22

Beaches, mopeds and boats

..over to Lombok and back again..

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We have moved about a bit since the last blog, so thought we'd start with the map...

From Ubud we headed back to the coast and the public ferry from Padangbai to Lembar in Lombok (the next island in the archipelago). The boat was VERY slow and took almost 5 hours to make the crossing, something our guidebook failed to mention, leaving us hungry and devoid of snacks but glad to be on the high sea for the first time.

After a brief stopover in the Lombok capital, Mataram (Not Matalan, but almost as exciting) we headed south for the sleepy surfer town of Kuta. This was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle we had seen pretty much everywhere in Bali, with literally just one short street of hostels, vagrant chickens, stray dogs and warungs (roadside restaurants) facing onto a vast, deserted beach. Here we enjoyed simply losing a couple of days finding our own secluded private beaches to laze on in the day before tucking into comfort food over pirate DVDs with all the spaced out surfers after dark.

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We did, however, manage to rouse ourselves eventually and hire a moped for a bit of exploration. Everyone here does it but until now we had been pretty wary of the Indonesian roads. Lombok's roads seemed much wider and quieter though so we decided to take the plunge, but not without ensuring we also received helmets with our rental. At such an apparently odd request (we were the only people on the road even with shirts on a lot of the time), the proprietor managed to blow the dust off a couple of ancient circa 1985 specials that left us looking like extras from Top Gun (and loving it i might add, though the matching outfits were purely coincidence!).

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Once we got the hang of it we were soon zipping around and having great fun. We made it to an industrious fishing village to the east, pausing to watch the fisherman fixing their nets, before heading north and climbing for lunch at a hilltop restaurant with amazing views fo the bay below.

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Finally, in the afternoon we made it up to a traditional Sasak Village (indiginous Lombok tribes), where one of the village youths gave us a guided tour for a small tip.

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Leaving Kuta behind we again hit the road north to Sengiggi and the boat to the Gili Islands. These small palm-fringed islands off the coast of Lombok sit amongst coral reefs and turquoise waters, with simply the most stunning beaches either of us have ever seen (and we have seen a few!). We chose to settle on the largest island, Gili Trawangan, with the intention of staying as long as we could with the cash we had remaining (there are no ATMs, and no motorised transport of any kind).

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We did splash out a little amongst the plethora of 'luxury' traditional bungalow-style accommodation, determined to make the most of it. The result was 5 glorious days, taking every meal on the beach, from enormous banana pancake breakfasts to fresh BBQ'd Snapper and King Prawns for dinner. We watched yet more DVDs and drank icey cold Bintang Beers in the many 'DVD booths' attached to many of the bars, before strolling over to the west side of the island to catch a spectacular sunset without another soul in sight.

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All good things, as they say, have to come to an end though and reluctantly we hopped on the (much faster and much more stomach churning) speed boat back to Bali before our flight over to Kota Kinabalu and East Malaysia on Thursday.

Posted by markg22 04:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Ubud, Bali

City of culture, art, monkeys.. and pigs!

sunny 26 °C

After negotiating a nice, first floor room in a Homestay amongst the locals of East Ubud and catching up on some reading on our private veranda with palm top views, we were woken at dawn by the raucous crows of all the local Cockrells. A breakfast of strong coffee and banana pancakes later, we were ready for our self-guided walk around the local villages ( Bandy navigating with the guidebook and Gregory carrying everything!)

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First stop was the Monkey Forest Sanctuary (officially called Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana), a fairly substantial, designated section of jungle filled with playful yet mischievous monkeys (i have to admit to recognising a certain family resemblance!). All this amidst an Indiana Jones-esque setting of ruined and overgrown temples, rickety bridges and damp rainforest (i just wish i had brought a brown leather Fedora). The scenery was amazing, and we were up well before all the other westerners so it was just us and the wildlife which made us feel even more privileged.

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Eventually we broke out of the jungle into the surrounding villages of Nyuhkuning, Dagin Lebak and Katik Lantang, strolling through as the locals smilingly set about their daily work. The back-drop was equally mouth-watering, rice with little thatched houses and crumbling temples set amongst the incredibly green and verdent landscape of rice paddies and coconut palms.

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After such an epic walk we had understandably worked up quite an appetite, and luckily (deliberately) our self-guided 'tour' finished up right outside a restaurant that sell only the fabled Babi Guling, a spit roasted, suckling pig stuffed with a Balinese spice paste and basted for hours in coconut water. This is usually a ceremonial dish, only eaten at weddings and big events, and this place in Ubud is only one of a few in Bali to sell it. Not to say that we invest a lot of time thinking about our stomachs on this trip, but we had been salivating about this particular dish since reading about it in the guide book on the flight out of London... My god it was good, and so good in fact we ate the exact same lunch again the next day!

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Heading back for our final night at the homestay we came across the local villages plucking and preparing numerous ducks over the fast running stream alongside the path. It turned out that there was to be a wedding the next day and everyone was pitching in with the preparations, culminating in us being ironically awoken the next morning by the pained squeals of a LARGE pig being slaughtered for the Babui Guling. It was then shaved and butchered beside the same stream as we left to catch our bus to Padangbai for the ferry to Lombok, literally sidestepping the puddles of blood as we waved farewell.

Posted by markg22 20:54 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Balmy Bandy does Bali

Travels around an island paradise.. so far

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Having landed at Denpasar airport in Bali, we made the short trip to Kuta Beach, party capitol of Bali. However, we had not anticipated how busy it was going to be and as a result spent the next two hours hiking our rucksacks round looking for a bed. By the time we found somewhere to stop, we were tired, sweaty, insect bitten and had already missed the first half of the Manchester derby!

Luckily there is no shortage of hostelries in Kuta and a welcome meal and a couple of cold Bintang Beers later and things were feeling a lot more rosey. The night was warm and there was still time to catch the second half (shame about the result though).

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Kuta does seem, however, to be filled with noisey drunk aussies crashing thier scooters into one anther and we only stayed two nights before hopping on the bone-shaking 'tourist bus' over the mountains to Lovina in northern Bali. We did have time though to take in the Memorial Wall opposite the site of the 2002 Bali bombings (the actual site is now used for parking motorbikes!), which was actually quite a moving reminder of all the lives lost, made all the more poignant amongst such brash surroundings.

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Lovina was much more chilled out and relaxed and we settled down to some hot sunny weather, good food and relaxation by the beach without the noise and hassle of Kuta (we must be gettting old!). Here we stayed in a traditional Lomen homestay, which is basically a series of low bungalow type buildings within the compound of a Balinese family home. This was really good fun as you get to know and talk to all the family and thier (many) guests throughout the day while taking breakfast or catching up on some reading on the sunny verandah. The owner was a wiry, grey-haired old Indonesian called Harris, a real character and proclaimed reformed 'player' now living with his chain-smoking German wife.

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Amongst the relaxation we also took a side trip to a nearby hill-top buddhist temple (this is rare in Bali as the island is predominantly Hindu) followed by Air Penas Banjar natural hot springs that pour from the hillside into a series of intricately carved stone pools. It was an amazing setting, filled with chattering and playful Balinese families relaxing under the massaging water-fountains and hot water as the sun set. Indeed the trip to the springs and back was almost as entertaining as we zipped down the hill-top country roads clinging on for dear life on the back of one of the local's scooters (We left the arrangements to Harris!).

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On our last night in Lovina, Harris took us to a local Kanteen (open air bar by the side of the road), where his friend was celebrating his 50th birthday by playing guitar, drinking Arak (a potent local spirit distilled from palm Sap) and generally having a raucous time at such a grand old age. He turned out to be an incredibly good guitarist, famously know across all of Bali (and much of Indonesia) as Luppo Santana. We ended up sitting drinking with him and all the band until fairly late and generally appreciating how friendly and welcoming all the Balinese people have been in Lovina

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The next day was an early start and another, albeit more confortable, bus ride to where are now Ubud. We are high up in the mountains in the cultural centre of Bali, famed for the Balinese Dancers, Picturesque Rice Paddies and Relaxing Spas.

Posted by markg22 05:19 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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