Bali & Lombok, Indonesia

Arriving in Kota late at night, we could hear the deep basslines and throbbing pulsating beats of the various clubs. This is the party town of Indonesia and we were going to party! 🙂 When in Rome – nae problems! 4 days here and our livers were going to have to be soaked in bleach in a bucket under the sink. Things got even better for us, as our next door neighbours were a Slovakian group of friends who were on holiday. Uri, Elzabeta and Dagi, must have Celtic genes, as they were up for partying every night, absolutely great fun, lasting on the Beer Bintang until about 5am. Each day was filled with the mother of all hangovers, but hey, it’s always worth it – right? 🙂

Rather than stay and trip around Bali, we decided to get away altogether. Lombok is supposedly beautiful, and in particular the Gili Islands. These are 3 islands just off the Lombok mainland, with turquoise tropical water, white sandy beaches, and thatched beach huts all along the shores. This was a hard days travelling under a beating sun, with 2 bus journeys, a 5 hour ferryboat crossing, and a local boat to Gili Trawangan. It is abolutely stunning, and we are staying in a little cottage with a thatched roof not far from the beach. We are just enjoying the calm and the odd Bintang or 3. It is really hot here, so hot we have all had a bit of sunburn.

Really, we are not sure where we are going next. Our extended visas expire on the 4th of November which gives us roughly 2 weeks. But after 2 months in Indonesia, and having fallen in love with the place, there is just not enough time to cover everything unless you are constantly on the move. Maybe we will come back some time in the future.

The other good news for us, is that our friends from Slovakia are now also here. We bumped into them the other night while walking along the beach – time for a Beer ! 🙂

It’s been a strange couple of weeks really. I’m not sure if we were really enjoying or wholly appreciating where we were at. We couldn’t put our finger on what it was, but I suppose it just didn’t feel like an adventure anymore. It was more like we were on our summer hols, things had become too easy and we were in a comfort zone.

Bali & Lombok are extremely touristy. You can have anything you want in terms of food and nightlife. Countless stalls sell all the usual tourist tat, cheap sunglasses, fake designer clothes, watches and bags. Restaurants range from middle to top end in terms of price and quality. Beautiful Islands though they are, these are overly commercialised holiday resorts, completely geared for the tourist, and with tourist prices into the bargain. There is no need for our Bahasa Indonesian here, as everyone talks fluent English. Tourists lie sunbathing on the beach all day, pack up and leave around 4pm and then reappear en masse, filling the restaurants and bars from about 6pm onwards. It’s a long way to come for some sun, a beach, and pizza and chips. It’s just not our type of thing.

Having said all that, we decided to make the most of it, and we had some great nights in the Gili Islands just off Lombok, mainly in the Tir Na Nog “Irish” bar. There was one night that we could hold out no longer, the temptation was just too much, so we dropped all pretence, we were going to splash out bigtime and eat Western food for the first time in 8 weeks. Michelle just kept repeating “They’ve got crusty bread and real butter!” and Lyndon was practically skipping gayly down the road with excitement. Really Gayly 🙂 You’d have thought we had been starved for weeks, and the funny thing was, we had managed to get over all our cravings weeks ago. But the thought of another plate of rice or noodles just wasn’t doing it for anyone, we had been eating this stuff for 2 months.

As we loosened the top buttons of our breeks to allow for the increased girth from the feast, we discussed our plans. We had one of our famous committee meetings, realising this could be our last night together. Lyndon was enjoying himself, and was happy to stay for a few more days knowing that his next move would be quite a tough slog throughout Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos – and all within a month. We on the other hand had become bored with the beach, and on top of that felt we hadn’t really seen enough of Bali. The other thing that was getting to us, was that all the water for showering and washing your clothes was salty seawater. After a few days, you just get to the stage where you just don’t feel clean, and we also had a huge pile of washing to get done. I’d been wearing the same pants for over a month now, and it felt about the right time for a change 🙂

Michelle had decided she would like to head to the bohemian and cultural village of Ubud. Lyndon didn’t really fancy Ubud, but then suddenly decided he hadn’t seen enough of Bali either and announced he was coming too. I think he couldn’t bear the thought of having to live without us – right Lyndy ? Brilliant, we were going to miss Lyndon, so now we would get a few more nights together before parting ways and catching our flights out of Indonesia.

Travelling all the way back to Bali by large slow ferryboat would be an agonising drag , but somehow we managed to negotiate a really good price for one of those Miami Vice superfast power boats that could take us to Bali in just over an hour. So that was the plan, time for a Bintang or 3, and we had another cracking night reminiscing about the places we had been and the things that had happened over the course of our journey throughout Indonesia.

We all agreed that we’d had a great time together and have had some great laughs along the way. The time had just flown by, and the beers on rooftop bar of the bagpackers hostel in KL, where we had all met for the first time, just seemed liked years ago.

The fastboat was great fun for at least the first 15 minutes, but once we hit the high seas, it all got a little bit hairy. You could see these huge waves swelling up, and the boat was thrashed about all over the place. We both felt sick, one lady was sick, and we have never been so happy to get back on dry land.

Ubud was really nice. Small and compact with lots of things to do and see. There are ancient temples, museums, boutique shops, a market etc and the village trails out into the countryside where you can see mile upon mile of vivid bright green rice fields. The hotel was a little pension, with a 4 poster bed and drum roll! … a hot shower !! After spending 7 days in the hot shower, we decided to see a bit of the place, our dirty smelly clothes were handed into the unsuspecting victims at the local laundry, and we were off to wander about and get our bearings. We were only out the door a minute or so, when we offered “Massage Sir ?”. A few seconds later “Taxi Sir ? Transport?”, then another massage, then another taxi, then transport, then a massage, then a taxi …. This became quite draining after about 20 minutes. It was just relentless. The funny thing is, Ubud is a tiny village, where did all these taxi drivers get any business, and where would anyone go apart from the end of the street ? As for the massage’s, why would anyone need one if your spending all your time in taxi’s? These people should maybe think about that. Even funnier was the fact that when you left a bar or restaurant late at night and could probably do with a wee lift home, there were no bloody taxi’s to be seen anywhere.

Food prices were on the tourist level again. I still laugh when I hear Lyndon complaining to the doorstaff and telling them he could feed a family of Sumatrans for 6 months on these bloody prices. We sniffed out the best deals again, not caring what was on the menu, as long as a Beer Bintang was under 30,000 Rupiahs !

We spent some time haggling over taxi prices, Lyndon is exceptional at this, and it’s really funny for everyone, including the taxi drivers. Not so funny for their wallets mind, but definately good for ours. We were driven to a couple of temples and local sights in air conditioned luxury, and had a good day out. Finally Lyndon decided he was going to splash the rest of his Rupiah on some gifts for taking home. He had the market in stitches with his “Look, when I was in Sumatra…” routine, and everyone in awe at his sheer audacity. It always works though, make them laugh, hold yer own, and the prices just topple to less than a third of the original asking price. The locals actually like the challenge believe it or not. We headed for some food, the last supper ha ha ! and a couple of afternoon beers (which is something of a rarity for us), played our last game of cards to determine the overall Indonesian Loser ( which was me, but I had to let Lyndon win so he would be in a good mood when he left us !) … after that, we headed for the pick-up point and the bus turned up. We said our goodbyes and all got a wee bit emotional, Lyndon jumped on the bus, rolled the window down, poked his head out and was shouting goodbye to everyone in the street. We stayed and watched as we all waved to each other, Lyndon’s voice fading in the distance, and within a minute or so, our travel buddy was gone. We have had a blast over the past couple of months, and it was really brilliant that we all got on so well and enjoyed each other’s company so much.

So that was that, the end of one great chapter, and onto the next. I’m quite looking forward to getting back to that rooftop bar in KL where we all first met, having a beer, and thinking about the past couple of months. I can remember that first night, sitting with Michelle, and saying “I wonder what the next couple of months are going to be like?”. We really had no idea what was ahead of us, it was all new and we were so excited, although a little bit anxious. It will be more than a bit strange sitting there, and asking that very same question again.

Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia next – in what order, we just don’t know yet.  But for now, the West Coast of Malaysia.

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