Indonesia – Nusa Lembongan, the Gili Islands and last few days in Bali

On my two previous visits to Indonesia, I had never made it to Nusa Lembongan but I had heard good things about the place and I  wasn’t disappointed when we arrived.

The beaches were much cleaner than those on mainland Bali, the waters crystal clear and it had a chilled out vibe to it with a low hassle factor* which was all welcome after the carnage of Kuta. Mainland Bali also has a traffic problem so it was nice to escape from that. We originally booked in for 2 nights but ended up staying 4. During that time, we enjoyed a  3 spot snorkelling tour seeing some huge Manta Rays and some beautiful reefs. There was some surf there on a reef called Playgrounds with a boat taxi to take you out to it if you wish to avoid the long paddle.

  • hassle factor – the amount of hassle you experience from hawkers on a street to buy a product or service.

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Beers with a view! I loved this spot.
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I have never seen so many swings in a country. They seem to have a thing about swings here.
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Reef snorkelling spot.
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A beautiful beach on Nusa Penida.

On the next day we rented a few motorbikes and explored the island.

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Panorama Restaurant which looks out over Nusa Lembongan.

Also in Nusa Lembongan, I stole a motorbike.

Yes you heard that correctly. The key point I must quickly add here though is that I stole a motorbike by accident. I will try to explain the sequence of events as best I can although I am still fairly baffled about the whole situation myself………..

We took a ride around the island and ended up in a place called Mushroom Bay. We didn’t think much of the beach as it was crowded so we just went to a café nearby and had a nice cold drink. On the way back, I was chatting away to one of my brothers about the plans for the rest of the day. Deep in conversation, I sat on the bike next to him in autopilot without really thinking. I mean I did normally park it next one of my brothers bikes. Sitting on the bike, the conversation continued for another minute or so and in a state of distraction, I hadn’t realised that I had not even taken my own bike key of out my pocket. As fate would have it, the true owner of this bike I was now parking my behind on had left their key in the ignition so after my brother left on his bike I just reached down, pressed the ignition button and began to drive out of the car park getting as far as the road. Next thing I could hear frantic noise behind me and turned to see a local man shouting and waving his hands running towards me with two of his friends in tow. When he reached me, he asked “why I was stealing his bike” and the situation slowly dawned on me with a cocktail of emotions to accompany it – an odd combination of dismay, embarrassment and panic. Surrounded by the three locals, I then had some difficult questions to answer about why I had taken his bike and he even threatened to call the police in the first instance. I did, however, manage to convince him that it was an innocent error and they even started laughing but the drama didn’t end there of course……….when I mess up, I don’t do things in halves.

Even though I knew I was on the wrong bike, the conscious side of my brain still hadn’t correctly registered that I hadn’t used my own key to start the bike. In the past, I have seen certain models of bikes and even vans where the same key works on different bikes or maybe the stress of the situation distracted me further. I don’t know to be honest, this is the part that is most difficult to fathom. Anyway, when I put his bike back, I took his key out of the ignition, thinking it was mine and then for 2 – 3 minutes tried to start my bike with his key, obviously without success. The Indonesian guy realised what I was doing, came over, grabbed the key and held it up laughing for all of his friends to see and they were all in hysterics at this point. The whole car park was laughing and the Indonesian guys mood had now shifted from anger to amusement to concern in the space of a few minutes. He asked if I was ok or if I was drunk (for the record I was not). I finally took my own key out of my pocket and left on my own rental bike, still hearing the sounds of laughter ringing behind me – feeling more stressed and embarrassed then I can recall in a very, very, very long time.

I did worry about my own mental state for a few hours after but I just think it was a combination of too much sun, being distracted in conversation, too much alcohol the night before and not enough water or sleep!

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Having avoided arrest for the accidental theft of a moped, it was time to move onto the next phase of our trip to the Gili Islands. On the last night in Nusa Lembongan we had a very pleasant and relaxing evening which you can see from the above photo, however, this was followed by a somewhat stressful morning.

We had booked our transport through a nearby tour place which was also a restaurant we had been eating in a lot. Despite the guys English being fairly basic, all three of us were in agreement that he had said to meet at his offices at 9.00AM the next morning for the bus to take us to the harbour. We had told him where we were staying, very close by, and the next morning around 8.20AM shortly after I had pressed the snooze button on my alarm, we were awakened by a loud banging on our doors. Turns out the boat was leaving at 9.00AM but the bus pickup was at 8.15AM. After a mad rush to pack all our stuff and checkout of the hotel, we ran to the Tuk Tuk, packed full of tourists, that had waited nearly 15 minutes for us. The driver clearly appeared irritated and after we piled in he sped to the harbour where, despite the mad rush, we then waited 45 minutes in the blistering heat for our boat to arrive to take us to Gili Trawangan.

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Overall, we spent 2 nights in Gili Trawangan and 3 nights in Gili Air. Both islands are incredibly beautiful with crystal clear waters and excellent spots for snorkelling and diving. Gili Trawangan is a bit more developed with a nightlife that includes clubs and we had a good night out there even bumping into a girl I recognised from back home. Small world! She didn’t recognise me but that’s not the point.  We also took a hike around the island and up to a view-point.

Gili Air is more relaxed but still has a good variety of restaurants and bars. Both islands have no cars which adds to their charm and the only modes of transport are walking, bicycle or horse and cart. We went snorkelling, however, unfortunately on the last couple days in Gili Air, I fell sick and had a fever, sore throat and terrible cold which limited my last couple of days there (including a scuba dive I had to cancel) but overall I enjoyed our stay in the Gili’s. We just ate some good food, drank quite a lot of beer, played some cards, cycled around a lot and enjoyed the beach and snorkelling.

We also sat on the beach one night having a few drinks. It was a very starry night so we had the obligatory drunk conversation about the solar system, stars and where we come from, why we are here, if there is other life out there, the vast distances between galaxies, whether that was in fact Orion’s belt or a Saucepan with a long handle etc etc.  I love those sorts of conversations and seem to end up having them with someone nearly every holiday I go on and the stars come out.  I never really sit outside and look at the stars at home but I guess that is because it is either a) freezing b) raining or c) cloudy or d) there is something good on TV. I must do it more often in any case.

Gili Air was my favourite island, although Trawangan is good if you want a party.

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For some reason, we took the hike around the island in the midday sun, not recommended.

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Hill on top of Gili Trawangan. This is the only selfie I took in three weeks. I guess selfies are more when I am…..well more when I am by myself.

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Boat from Gili Trawangan to Gili Air.
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Gili Air looking towards Gili Meno and the hill on Gili Trawangan in the far distance.
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ANOTHER SWING! I have never seen so many swings.
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Flashpacking again. Oops!
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Our big night out in Gili Trawangan.

Our return to mainland Bali was a highly unpleasant experience.

Still feeling awful from the fever I had contracted, we boarded our packed boat and it soon became apparent once we had left the deceptively sheltered bay that it was going to be a very rough crossing. Small plastic bags were passed around and the vomiting began soon after departure, while the hot, crammed boat swayed violently from side to side for two and a half hours. Miraculously, I managed to stave off the sea sickness myself, however, one of my brothers joined the vomiting club. One lady was visibly distressed, pacing up and down the boat desperate to escape. When another lady told her she would feel better if she sat down, she snapped at her in  a torrent of Spanish words – words which I am sure they don’t teach in school. I just started fixedly at the seat in front of me praying for the journey to end which of course only made it last longer.

Once we finally arrived at the Padang Pai port, we were met with organised chaos. I say “organised” because this chaos was  indeed organised. Organised to confuse us and extract more cash from us despite having paid in full for the journey to Kuta. Surrounded by what must have been more than a hundred locals, shouting at us and presenting us with cards showing the name of our boat company, we spoke to a couple of them. Basically, they told us that the transport we had booked would take 4 hours to reach Kuta as it would stop at several towns, cities, airports etc on the way almost traversing the entire island. Instead to avoid that, if we wanted a private direct transfer to the hotel, that would just take 45 minutes then we could pay an extra 300,000 IDR (about £15). We had already paid for full transfer to Kuta so we refused this tempting offer, slightly dismayed at the prospect of a 4 hour bus journey but willing to put up with it nonetheless. Finally once we managed to fight our way through the hordes, we found the office for the boat company where we were directed to a bus. Curiously, the bus took us straight to Kuta in less than an hour, and the island wide trip we had been warned of did not materialise. Crafty scam going on there and I did see one other group fall for it agreeing to split the 300K cost for a private transfer.  The clever part of it are the cards they have showing the name of our boat company which won our trust so they could pitch their private transfer. I even believed them about the ultra-long all-day bus journey at first but fortunately wasn’t willing to fork out more cash.

We were back in Kuta ready for one of my brothers flights due to depart in a couple of days.

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This is the Bali bombing memorial situated in the main nightlife area of Central Kuta. Before 12th October 2002, a popular pub known as Paddy’s Bar stood here. On that day, terrorists came to Kuta armed with bombs in a backpack and a van and they destroyed that nightclub and another one nearby called the Sari Bar which is now just an empty lot used as a carpark.  They also destroyed 202 lives – people who were having a good time in those nightclubs or walking nearby on the street. The memorial has the names of all those killed inscribed on it and their nationalities.

Unfortunately, I was still very sick which was a bit of a downer for me on my brothers last couple of days as I wanted to go out and have a laugh and a few beers that night but I did manage to go out the next afternoon on his last day and we ate in a really nice restaurant called Tubes.

After he left, me and my younger brother went up to Canggu for a night, a little north of Kuta, which was a sort of surfer town with a lot of vegan restaurants. They had good surf there.

On his last day we headed to one of the best water parks I have ever been to called Waterbom. Some of the rides were truly epic including the Climax where you basically stand in a tube on a platform and wait until the platform falls away taking you on a near vertical drop, looping through tubes until you come crashing out into the water at the end. The Twin Racers was another favourite where you lie on mats head first going through tubes followed by a very long, steep drop at the end, it almost felt like flying. Word of advice for men if you do make it there – cross your legs while going down the slides! I was walking a little funny for at least 20 minutes after the Climax.

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Canggu,

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Waterbom, Bali

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This is the slide called Climax. If you look to the right you can see tubing which after the freefall you shoot through doing a full 360 degrees loop and come shooting out at the bottom. I have always been a sucker for a waterpark and have never grown out of them so I would highly recommend this one to anyone else who likes water parks.

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My mother isn’t going to be too happy about this. I did try to make sure he was certain it was what he wanted! I actually liked the end result.
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We liked the restaurant Tubes in Kuta so much that we returned for my second brothers leaving meal. This time we took photos.

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As you can see from the above photo, we ended the night at a popular Kuta nightclub called the “Bounty”. I had enjoyed some crazy, fun nights here on my first trip to Bali in 2009 so this was a very nostalgic experience for me. This time I stayed off the large vodka buckets – either a sign of maturity or that I just cannot hack it anymore.

Anyway, keeping with the true spirit of nostalgia, here is a picture of me hammered in 2009 drinking a vodka bucket in the exact same Kuta nightclub, nearly  a decade ago.

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My brothers have now both left so it is back to Solo Travel which will take some adjusting to so I am just going to spend the next few days relaxing before heading back to Thailand where my next plan is to explore the North of Thailand – a region where I have never been too before but have heard great things about and always wanted to visit. This will primarily include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai and any other interesting areas up there.

After that I have enrolled in a two week stay at a Muay Thai Training camp which will involve 4 hours training a day and private lessons. I know – I must be mental but I fancy a challenge. I used to do a bit of Muay Thai training in my twenties but didn’t really manage to keep it up into my thirties and I have never forgotten how much I loved the training and it has always been a goal of mine to experience a stay in a camp training in Thailand. If I make it out without collapsing from exhaustion I will write a post about it in my travel diary!

Next destination: North Thailand.

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