After spending ten days in northern Bali we met up with our friend Carrie whom we had met as teachers in Seoul and decided to head further east. Lombok bound.
From Padang Bai in East Bali we took the fast boat to Gili Trawangan, legendary party island and (what we thought would be) a fun place to spend a few nights. The fast boat, while only two hours, was pretty rough, with a number of people on board becoming sea sick. Later on we heard horror stories from people who had spent upwards of four hours on the boat trying to navigate the treacherous waters. The islands look so close from Bali, but that strait of water can be pretty brutal. While we had a great time on Gili T, after three nights it was getting to be a bit much for me and we decided to move onwards to Gili Air, which has a reputation for being a bit more relaxing. The highlight of Gili T for me was actually snorkelling right off the beach, where you have a very high likelihood of seeing sea turtles munching on corals.
All three of the Gili Islands (Trawangan, Meno (which we didn’t visit) and Air) can easily be reached by the public boats that connect the islands. Immediately I had a good feeling about Gili Air. The pace was bit slower, the people (I found) a bit friendlier, just more our type of place. We had a wonderful time there enjoying the beach and (finally) some sun before it was off on the next public boat (30 cents) to Lombok.
Lombok is a massive island, and while tourism infrastructure has certainly improved over the past few years, transportation options are still somewhat limited, with most people traversing the north-south roads that connect the western part of the island. The first thing you see on Lombok is Mount Rinjani, towering at 3,726 metres as the second highest volcano in Indonesia. The landscape of the island is very primal, filled with mountains adorned with dense green jungle foliage. Because of the rains the entire landscape was bathed in a vibrant green that I couldn’t peel my eyes off. I fell in love right away.
Our first stop in Lombok was Kuta, not to be confused with the notorious party capital in Bali. We found a great spot called Aldi’s Bungalow which had only opened a few months ago and featured a gigantic guitar shaped swimming pool. Kuta Lombok is a surfer town known for its big breaks and relaxed vibe. We had only intended to stay a few nights, but each morning the sun was shining and we kept extending our stay, totalling seven nights in the end.
Two things stood out in Kuta Lombok for me. The first was the food. Lombok is known for its spicy dishes and we took advantage, eating at local warungs (restaurants) every day. Two of my favourite dishes in Lombok were Ayam Taliwang (grilled chicken marinated in a sweet and spicy sambal (chili paste)) and Plecing Kangkung (water spinach served cold with sambal, vegetables, and grated coconut). I’m not normally one for taking photos of food but these two dishes deserved the treatment. I’ve definitely realized as I’ve grown older how important food is for me in my travels, and the food in Indonesia is absolutely amazing.
The second highlight was finally getting back on a motorbike (for those that don’t know, we had a pretty bad motorbike accident in Thailand in early 2015 where I tore up all of the skin on my right arm) and cruising around the beaches of Lombok. Kuta itself is okay, but ridden with development and trash (an unfortunate reality in most of the touristy beaches in Indonesia with plastics being the biggest culprit). The best beach we saw was Tanjung Aan, actually one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a lot). I didn’t bring my camera but the image below is a no filtered iPhone image shot by J.
For dinner we took the bike up to a viewpoint west of the town overlooking the entire bay. The colours in the sky at night were pretty amazing.
For our last few days in Lombok I wanted to head up north to visit Senaru. Most people visit Senaru as a gateway to climb Rinjani, but since the trail is closed for rainy season (and frankly, the hike is supposed to be very difficult anyways) the town was virtually shut down. That suited us fine as I wanted to check out the two famous waterfalls there, Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep. Both of these falls are walkable, but while Sendang Gile was easy to find, Tiu Kelep was a bit trickier as you have to cross a river twice (since it’s rainy season the current is pretty strong) and there is no signage at all. Because we were the first ones there (as usual) I wasn’t sure we were going the right way. Along came a 12 year old boy named (allegedly) Ali Baba, who offered to show us the way for $1. Money well spent. Here’s a behind the scenes photo of us with Ali Baba, then a few photos of the falls in a bit higher resolution.
The guesthouse we stayed in cost us a whopping $10 per night (private double room with bathroom and breakfast included. Honestly Indonesia), and while simple, treated us to an amazing view of Rinjani on our last morning.
With that, it was off to the airport for our flight we randomly decided to book to Flores and keep the journey moving east. I’ll write about that soon. I hope you’re enjoying the more candid format I’m attempting to post with here, let me know if there’s anything more you’d like to know.