Travel

Articles about my thoughts and experiences when travelling around the globe

Head in the clouds

Ye gods, I knew I did a lot of flying around last year but actually just added it all up and it surprised the hell out of me. All up I caught 30 individual flights to various places around the world and covered enough kilometers to circumnavigate the planet no less than 3 times.

Perth – Dubai 9,050km
Dubai – London 5,476km
London – Dubai 5,476km
Dubai – Perth 9,050km
Perth – Guangzhou 6,138km
Guangzhou – Los Angeles 11,659km
San Diego – Washington DC 3,657km
Washington DC – Providence 577km
Providence – Newark 260km
Newark – Los Angeles 3,926km
Los Angeles – Guangzhou 11,659km
Guangzhou – Perth 6,138km
Perth – Melbourne 2,725km
Melbourne – Sydney 714km
Sydney – Los Angeles 12,087km
Los Angeles – Washington DC 3,696km
Washington DC – Providence 577km
Providence – Newark 260km
Newark – Los Angeles 3,926km
Los Angeles – Sydney 12,087km
Sydney – Melbourne 714km
Melbourne – Perth 2,725km
Perth – Kuala Lumpor 2,259km
Kuala Lumpor – Kathmandu 3,240km
Kathmandu – Kathmandu (Flight around the mountains) 100km
Kathmandu – Pokhara 144km
Kathmandu – Kuala Lumpor 3,240km
Kuala Lumpor – Perth 2,259km
Perth – Lombok 2,595km
Lombok – Perth 2,595km

Total Distance 129,009km

I think I may have to keep my feet on the ground a bit more this year!

Lombok – Final Thoughts

Like everything in life there is the wheel, where there is a beginning the wheel turns to come to an end and a new beginning.

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I went to Lombok without knowing what to expect, and I guess without expectations you can never be disappointed but Lombok definitely was a pleasant surprise. Given that there are now direct flights over there from here and you can pick them up on sale for next to nothing I may have found a new weekend getaway location for relaxation and unwinding. After spending almost a week there I can certainly understand why so many of the expats that I met have been or are in the process of relocating their base in Indonesia over from Bali to Lombok as it is a very different pace.

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The island may not have the same underlying sense of power that Bali can have that isles name the Isle of the Gods is certainly well earned but it has been becoming increasingly more and more diluted as more and more people head over there to see and experience it it is very sad to see. It is a completely different pace over there and if you are a party animal Ubud/Legian and Kuta over in Bali are definitely the place for you to be however if you want to see some different sights and sounds as well as just relax in a mostly untouched tropical Island I would highly recommend going over there.

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I am not sure what it is like in the peak tourist season as we were only just out of it and there was so little people around in Sengiggi at least however the Gili’s are likely to have people the bulk of the time but even there was not what I would consider crowded. Next time I definitely have to get over to the east side of the island apparently Lomboks’ Kuta has a beach just like on Gili T and great water as well and from everything I have heard the eastern side of the island is considerably less developed than the west where we were based.

Highlights:

– Not being hassled
– Mostly untouched natural surroundings
– Snorkeling in the Gili Islands
– Good value

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Lowlights (or potential):

– Shopping (Mataram city may be different but Sengiggi didn’t have a great deal of shopping opportunities which is no issue for me)
– 1 Visa on Arrival desk, recommend getting a seat towards the front of the plane

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I was very glad that I ended up deciding to go right along the road from our hotel when dad suggested it for our last morning there, walked for about an hour or so all up before breakfast and it made for some fantastic views, next time I will definitely use the DSLR. I am definitely looking forward to going back and exploring other areas of the island, however if you are not a party animal I do recommend staying on Gili T or Air but make sure you are not on the main strip as apparently they do like to party.

Monday – Marge the Rains are Ere’

We had small splattering of rain that were relatively short lived for the most part on a few of our days here however they never really interfered with doing anything; Today however would prove to be the exemption to that with a tropical downpour settling in just after breakfast and lasting the entire day.

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There was a decent amount of rain to be had over the course of today which kept us mostly indoors, well in my case mostly on the balcony watching it pour down as I have always loved storms. Had some reasonable thunder however nothing really earth shattering which was somewhat disappointed to me as there is nothing like listening to the crackle of lightning, rolling thunder as the rain falls all around you and lightning was not present at least within my field of view however it did not detract from enjoying the rain. As the day dragged on and we were getting a little peckish as we only had a light breakfast I remembered we had room service.

Club sandwich for me with a banana milkshake and fish and chips for dad nicely delivered to our room by 2 guys. 1 to carry the tray and 1 to carry the umbrellas certainly can’t ask for much more than that. I was hoping to do some writing during this time however I was enjoying watching the storm too much however I did at least pencil out around 2 chapters for a short story idea I have in my head during it so it wasn’t a total waste in that regard.

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Thankfully as it entered the evening the rain disappeared as quickly as it set in and as dad wasn’t interested in dinner I decided to head out for a massage and some dinner; I was looking forward to a full body massage to continue to work on my shoulders and neck but given that that entire region of my body was rather charbroiled and even the rubbing of my shirt was somewhat uncomfortable I went with a foot and calf reflexology massage for an hour which was incredibly relaxing and well worth it. Acceptable as a consolation prize ūüôā

After the massage I was just around the corner from Mario’s and was in the mood for something light for dinner so decided to spend my last evening in the tropical paradise in there and was planning on having something local again but as the owner was Austrian (or German) there was a selection of European dishes on offer and when I spotted Goulash I had to go for it and was really glad that I did. I have had the privilege of eating a lot of amazing goulash, fried potatoes and caramelized onions but that absolutely took the cake. After dinner I spent some time¬†chatting with the regulars that I had met over the previous few nights had learnt a great deal off them, for example rent for a house locally is between 400,000 – 700,000 ($40 – $70) a month and prostitution does exist here it just took awhile to be found and unlike their cousins over in Bali they are not what I would consider working girls, the couple I met and chatted with as it was quiet weren’t really done up in nice clothes with jewelry or makeup and I even saw an old nokia, they simply do it occasionally to pay their rent. Personally whilst I understand the economics of the situation I still cannot help but feel saddened that it has to come to that for people. The one that I was chatting with was literally brand new the friend of one of the guys I was drinking with hadn’t seen her or the woman she came in with before and all she knew of her was she had a couple of young kids.

The guy I was drinking with ended up leaving with the older one that I wasn’t chatting with and I had made perfectly clear when she chose to start talking with me that she had one chance to leave there with me and that was none. The friend of the guy I was drinking with was rather surprised probably given my age but called me a good man and I spent the evening chatting away with the younger one who didn’t seem to mind that I wouldn’t be leaving with her and seemed to just like the conversation. She had 2 daughters and was currently between jobs as the 9 month old had been sick which was what prompted her to be out that evening and her husband had run off back to Bali a few months previously leaving her with the kids, not the easiest of lives for a 23 year old. Sometimes you know when you are being bullshitted to but I didn’t get that feeling from her for the most part and had a fairly reasonable level of of confidence based on my conversation with the others before they left that she was above board.

As I was flying in the morning I wanted to stop at a few of drinks so I paid my bill and went to leave for the evening when she begged me to take her back for the evening as she didn’t have a choice as she needed the money, I told her that I understood but I was sorry I wouldn’t do it and she apologized for asking. I did however look in my wallet around how much I had left as I had to pay for the taxi and departure taxes in the morning to leave Indonesia and given I still had a reasonable amount left I ended up just giving her $50 which would cover her rent for a month. Whilst I don’t consider $50 pocket change and it is still a reasonable amount of money to me it however only represents 1 taxi ride home from the city which is rather pale in comparison and even if I was being had on a little it still represented either rent or food for her kids as based on her appearance she didn’t exactly spend a lot on herself.

She did surprise me though, she gave me her number as she wants to pay me back when I am next in Lombok. In the end I made my choice, I could have easily and somewhat justifiably taken her for the evening but that is not who I wish to be, I would rather just part ways with the cash if it is going to be used for something and get nothing out of it.

Sunday – A trip to Gili!

After the events of the previous evening it was time to part ways with Heemi this morning, we had sat down to breakfast together and dad and I had to work out what we were going to do with the day when we were presented with an offer. A couple we had met at the hotel had hired a boat and captain to head out to do some snorkeling over at the Gili islands and as much as neither of us were a big fan of boats we decided to take advantage of the offer as it gave us something different to do and they were good company (they seemed to deal ok with dad never shutting up) they were heading off just after breakfast so we parted ways with Heemi and headed off for a day of boating and swimming definitely not something you hear me say every day.

The day was looking slightly overcast but very nice out and the ocean was nice and calm, which was good as dad was worried about getting seasick and I am not a huge fan of boats to begin with but we were both comfortable on the way over. There are some huge sea turtles in that area and it was one of the attractions that they had wanted to see, on the way out we were keeping an eye on the water however for the most part they were not forthcoming however at one point I was wondering what they heck that was in the water as it was rather large, then it surfaced for a moment but was quickly gone so I only saw the one turtle hopefully next time around we can get a swarm of them and actually get some photos. ūüôā

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We took the one on the left over to the islands, the Marlin a nice blue the captain was a rather nice older Indonesian guy. I think he definitely thought dad was crazy he was shaking his head and smiling at many points

The ride over from Sengiggi beach took about an hour and was pretty smooth sailing, over in the distance though there was storm clouds and a lot of mist indicating pretty much a wall of water however at least for now it was a fairly clear and sunny day. Our first stop was Gili Trawangan referred mostly as Gili T (much easier to say) where we had an hour to do some exploration. Didn’t do much island exploration here however did do a lot of ocean exploring. It was also the first place that I had seen more than a small amount of people at once; The beach however wasn’t what I would consider crowded and there was still plenty of space on the sands as well as the water for considerably more people. We rented flippers and a mask/snorkel for $4 and set about swimming and the water here was absolutely amazing!

The sands here is actually mostly pieces of coral ¬†broken up which is kind of sad as it is probably due to how the boats come in, they don’t come all the way into shore they come up to about waist high and you jump off and walk the remaining distance to the shore and I believe that is what dregs up most of the broken fragments of coral. The ground up sections don’t have the same consistency as sand and I found it a little different getting used to walking on, thankfully there is also a reasonable amount of larger rocks to help with the footing as you move back into shore. Visibility with a mask was considerably better you can pretty much almost see forever and the sheer amount of varying fish swimming about you even close into shore was really something else especially considering I have never really had that before. From the shore it drops off at a reasonable rate but then there are 2 considerably sharper drop offs; The first one was just over my ability to stand but not by much it took me a bit longer to move deeper out however as I had never swum with fins before and they took me a bit of getting used to not using knees. Once I found my sea legs however I headed out deeper and spent most of my time hanging out near the second drop off.

The second dropoff pretty much was a huge drop off it quickly disappeared to considerably deeper however the sight here was phenomenal just after the drop off it was like watching a wall of tropical fish just happily swimming along. Dad stayed in close to the shore and both Kendall and I offered to bring him out to see it but he wouldn’t have a bar of it. At least there were lots of colourful little fishies swimming around where he was to keep him entertained and I believe it was a groper that he spent a good half an hour trying to catch, thankfully it was toying with him and he was to slow for it. It was also the first time I saw an actual use for an underwater camera as I would have loved to be able to take some snaps of the sights of the depths, I am so used to the beauty of the world above that I am feeling somewhat sheepish in not considering the beauty that can be seen below. I believe it was also the first time I had gone shirtless since I was a kid at the beach as I have always been rather self conscious in that regard.

From the people I saw on the beach everyone was rather right that I had nothing to worry about in that regard as there were plenty of people in far worse shape than me without their shirt on and I guess my constant thought that no one wants to see me without a shirt also needs to be re-evaluated as I did get many smiles from the opposite sex. However it was time to pack the fins and snorkel in and head off to the next island on the chain Gili Mono where we would be having lunch.

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The storm brewing in the distance

The storm was well and truly over the main island of Lombok on our way out to Mono and it was obvious that we would not be escaping it a bit later on however for the ride over to Gili Mono it was still smooth sailing aside from a couple of small bumps mostly caused by the wake of larger vessels. The water however at our next location was fundamentally different; When we were heading into shore we stopped much further out however it seems to be considerably shallower compared to the water around Gili T and as dad went to jump off the captain stopped him and told him to put on his thongs and after I did the same I could see why. Like Gili T there was a lot of underwater coral here however the bulk of it was rather pointy and sharp and just jumping off unprotected would have likely led to a stabbed foot something to definitely remember for the next time as you will definitely want feet protection.

Was a bit of a walk into shore which got sandier as we got closer but the water was really really odd. It wasn’t as clear as Gili T and it didn’t have anywhere near a consistent temperature with some sections normal, others warm, and others still almost boiling on the skin in small patches as we got in which continued all the way to shore; No idea what caused it but it was certainly unique. After lunch dad swam there and he said it was considerably more salty and actually burnt his eyes a little.

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Gili Mono

We came ashore at a small restaurant which was to be where we had lunch, ordered dad a club sandwich and I had a chicken noodle dish. Had been making a point of trying out different fruit drinks and we had a papaya milkshake followed by a mango milkshake which was delicious; I went a tad different and had a Singapore Sling it was nowhere near as good as the one I remember in Singapore but it was still a refreshing drink. The food here is a bit more expensive compared to the mainland but was still reasonably priced overall. As we finished our lunch however the rains set in and the captain said we would wait it out; thankfully it was not too heavy as it looked like we were just getting the tail edge of the storm so we were only delayed about half an hour before we continued on to our final stop before heading back the small island of Gili Air.

The water was slightly more choppier than earlier in the day but the design of the boat handles it well and it was still fairly smooth sailing, it is only about 1.5km between islands so we were over there pretty quick however given the time waiting out the rain on Mono we only had about 20 minutes before we had to head back over to Sengiggi so we just walked along the edge of the island. It seems that beach side is small cafes and bars and the other side of the street is hotels, dive schools and bungalows for accommodation. Of all the islands this felt the most laid back overall and there would still be plenty of choice for what you wanted to do both during the day and in the evenings. Unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to test out the water here so not sure what it is like or if there is good snorkeling, but there is always next time.

One thing I loved about the islands is there is no motorized transportation over there it is all by foot, bicycle or horse drawn cart making the air very clean and crisp coming in off the ocean. From what I can gather they are also the party islands (first place I had seen drugs talked about so far in Lombok and it escalated quickly from weed to crystal meth) which is definitely not my thing, however I would go back to either Gili T or Gili Air to stay but would choose a place back from the party areas and spend my days snorkeling and walking around the island, I reckon a couple of laps a day would be awesome for fitness. Overall if you like beaches I think it is an awesome place and highly recommend it even if going shirtless for the first time in years left only the area covered with shorts unburnt, my back and shoulders were the worst casualties and are still peeling now at least they don’t hurt any more though aside from occasional itching.

Still well worth it!

Saturday – A Bad Day Internally

One thing I have noticed during my time in Lombok, I didn’t really get a lot of sleep there. My bed times were highly variable granted but I never really slept through to a morning after heading off to bed typically only a few hour long stints and occasionally another one earlier in the morning before sunrise however overall my periods of sleep were somewhat limited however thankfully they did not leave me feeling tired and I could get through whatever the days were bringing without any issues. The room has coffee making facilities so I made a drink and sat outside to enjoy the beginning of the morning before breakfast started and we headed down there.

It was quiet with just the sounds of nature around at the time and I felt completely relaxed and content just basking in the beauty of the sunrise and the island greeting the new day looking forward to what the day would bring and as I sat there gazing up the jungle covered hill next to where we were staying a thought popped into my head which unfortunately proved to set my mood for the remainder of the day and sadly it was not a pleasant one; *sighs* man, I think she would really love it here.

That one simple little thought left me feeling brooding and miserable for the entire day.

But as everyone was starting to get up and the day began for the world anew, those thoughts and feelings had to be buried lest I get no enjoyment out of the day. The day followed much the same pattern as the previous days; We had breakfast together kicking back and chatting about the differences between Lombok and Bali before setting out for a wander around. In some ways it was kind of pointless as we covered the same ground each day and not a great deal changes but it was good to get out of the hotel and wander around the tropical clean air and stretch the legs.

After about an hour and a half we dropped dad back off at the hotel and Heemi and I then wandered off to get a massage. We ended up deciding on a salon behind a warung (local eatery) called Orchid spa. Was a reasonable large setup with a lot of reflexology stations at the front to sit down and have your feet and legs worked on, some rooms at the back for the cream baths and such and a mezzanine above with the massage tables. We ended up deciding on a 2 hour full body massage and headed upstairs to the massage tables. I got my legs bent into various positions that they really were not used to, and that would be an understatement to say the least. When the massage began the small girl asked what strength so I figured I would go for strong… Throughout the entire experience the predominant thought that occupied my mind was “Sweet mother of god, how can a woman that small have hands with a grip that strong”?! At points it did hurt a reasonable amount; But as they say no pain no gain. Left there feeling considerably more relaxed with the ache in my calves worked out nicely.

Settled the bill for the massage 60,000 for 2 hours at a place that well equipped was amazing and the masseuses they hire are definitely well trained, although I will admit I am still yet to find a massage technique that is able to completely loosen my shoulders and neck typically only those who can work with their/my own energy tend to have much luck and it has only been a couple of points in my life that I have ever been completed de-knotted but I was certainly feeling more relaxed in that department than when I went in and my calves were in awesome shape. Another thing I like about massage places here compared to Bali, you walk in and ask for a massage you know what you are getting and don’t have to turn down additional services, however I am certain that such places do exist for those who go looking but when I go to a place it is not that muscle I am seeking having work done on.

 

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When we finished up with our massage it was raining outside, whilst not a massive downpour it was coming down at a reasonable rate. Thankfully right outside was the little warung that we walked past so we ducked straight in there and decided to have some lunch. They did freshly made fruit drinks for less than $2 and had a reasonable menu of basic western food and the local fare which I tend to eat whilst overseas so I ordered a nasi goreng which seems to be my staple dish having it at least one meal a day most days. ¬†The food took a little while to prepare but was of good quality and serving sides, the nasi goreng was decent at $2.50 definitely not the best that I have had during my stay here it certainly wasn’t crap either!

 

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After about an hour it had died down to a small drizzle so we wandered back to the hotel to meet up with dad. I then spent about an hour or so getting him up to date on the ongoing cricket game and getting the stats for him to enter into his book which saw us into late afternoon. As dad had skipped lunch due to the rain we decided on having an early dinner so it was out for a light dinner, we were originally planning on going to The Office again however ended up going to the place pretty much next door at the back of the Art Market called De Quake. The food here was slightly more expensive ($5 – $8) but they had a reasonable menu even if I did have to change my order as they no longer had salad. Seems like a slightly more upmarket place with an upstairs area, place for live music and cushions on the ground in some sections for a relaxed and intimate dining experience, and from Heemi’s report they know how to cook steak.

We chose a table at the back that looked out over the water and quietly sipped on fruit milkshakes and juices whilst we waited for our dinner. Took a bit but overall I think it was worth the wait and for a group I think this is definitely a good place to kick back and watch the sunset over a good meal. As it was his last evening here Heemi and I decided to head out for a few celebratory drinks so we parted ways with dad at the entrance to the Art Market a walk he was now rather familiar with and that I didn’t feel bad leaving him to do as the hotel was just around the corner. In the end we ended up back at the bar we had tried out the previous night, reasonably quiet with a pool table on one side at the back and a small dance floor which did not seem to get a great deal of use during our time there. In the end though you can’t keep something buried forever.

I am sorry that my slightly dour mood was a bit of a let down for your final night there my friend. I can say however that upon reflection my choice to remain alone is definitely not one of penance. Do I wish things turned out differently, of course I do. I however am not totally responsible for how they turned out a lot of the time I never felt like an important part or someone she wanted in her life and her actions certainly never helped in that regard and in the end I think she was scared.

I can say however that it is hard to want something for nearly half of your life, have it and find that it is absolutely amazing and then just walk away feeling you can do it again with another. Once upon a time I would have thought that I deserved what I got, or deserved to be alone but I have not been that person for some time now. I deserve a lot better, I also know that I can get a lot better however I also know that for that level of a relationship you have to be able to give yourself to another completely and I know right now it is not something that I can do, part of me doesn’t ever want to either which doesn’t help.

I had made the choice 4 years ago to wait and see what happened and didn’t date throughout that period, I have my answer now and for that I am happy that I do have closure in a sense even if the outcome does hurt and right now the choice I make is to be alone. There is a small part of me that wonders if it is the old you deserve it side showing it’s ugly head again but I can say I am not wallowing in the darkness that ruled me the last time around, nor do I actually think I deserve it; I think it is rational and logical as right now even if I wanted to looking at getting into a relationship with anyone would be a fundamentally bad idea and I have never really been one for casual dating.

I am sorry we called the night early on the back of that, but I did appreciate your conversation and my apologies for my mood on your last evening in the tropical island paradise.

Friday – A Lazy Day

Friday was a very lazy day, not that there is nothing wrong with that we were on holiday after all and that was the purpose of this trip as well as to unwind. Had breakfast down at the buffet in the morning whilst we were working out what we wanted to do for the day which ended up being not a great deal. After breakfast we headed down for a walk along the beach to see how the day changes it and the answer to that was a lot apparently.¬†Walked down to the Art Market to gain access to the beach and was once again struck with the distinct lack of people here, for Indonesia it is simply mind boggling. A few horse and cart drivers got our attention on the walk down but were no trouble saying no with a smile was enough and they wished us a good day and we continued on our way to the beach.¬†Talk about a fundamental difference! I think the rubbish that is brought in is mostly tidal based brought in from the other islands as this morning the beach was nice and clean and the waters for the most part clear a big difference compared to yesterday afternoon that’s for sure.
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Another thing that is a massive contrast is the overall lack of development beach side which I ¬†personally think is a good thing. A lot of the beaches in Bali for example are swarming with people and stalls of varying descriptions; You have the older massage ladies for a beach side massage, the ice cream and drink mobile vendors, ¬†the vendors selling varying handicrafts, children selling bracelets and nick knacks, small stalls/food carts and the beggars. It’s pretty much impossible to go more than 10-20m and not get asked for something. Nothing like that here which is a great change.¬†Near the entrance there is a tour booming place with a couple of people around it with necklaces and such and to the left there are a couple of tables set up selling drinks and fruit/small snacks and such but for the most part that is it, you can walk along the beach without anyone bothering you; On the path you can go hundreds of meters without anyone and then the occasional necklace vendor but it is all stress and hassle free. This time we went all the way to the point of the bay which appears to be the back of a resort much like the other end, at the exit the is a couple of guys selling shirts and jewelry and a couple massage women but no hassle and certainly not crowded.
After that it was time to circle back and see what the main street side has to offer, we found a lane leading back up to the main street and headed up it. The beginning section seemed to be more of a local market sort of deal which understandably had more people bit overall was still rather quiet. ¬†After that is the resort on the point to the right and a bunch of open space before some massage places and what looked like places that were once night clubs but did not really take off. At the main street corner it looked like we were in the main night entertainment section of town worth a few bars and more up market places to eat and kick back but still not what I would consider shopping, is not really a great deal of that in Sengiggi but we did pass a surf and another clothing “normal” store on the way back to the hotel.¬†Dad was ready to read and have a nap by this point as we had been out for a few hours and it was heading into the hottest part of the day so I left him back at the hotel and headed back out to follow the same route to try out a massage.
Picked a place on the lane leading up from the beach and went in for a full body massage for 2 hours for 120,000 which was reasonable, whilst not the first massage I have had to get completely naked for it still does leave me feeling somewhat awkward but did not prove to be an issue.¬†The massage wasn’t bad but not really good enough to resolve the tension in my shoulders. ¬†There was a little place next door, that was an art gallery, bar and restaurant all in one and I still had time before we had scheduled to meet up so I decided to stop in for a few beers. 30,000 ($3) for a large bottle of Bintang and a glass is a good deal in my book so I ended up staying for a couple and got chatting with a woman who had just moved over from Bali. Of all the expats I am meeting over here a lot of them seem to be long term residents to Indonesia but are changing their locale from Bali over to Lombok and seeing myself how Bali has been changing over the last few years personally I can’t blame them. The special Nasi Goreng that she had looked absolutely amazing so I had decided that I would bring the others back here for dinner and after 3 big beers it was getting close to the meetup time so it was time to meet up with the others. No disrespect to the old boy but he isn’t as fit as he pumps himself up to be and the walk back certainly went by a lot quicker.
Met up with the others and told them about the little place that I had found on the lane and they seemed keen so we headed back on down that way; One thing I do love when I travel I definitely get a lot of walking in, whilst I was stateside I lost a reasonable amount of weight on both of my trips there this year. My last 2 even with the crazy amount I did in Nepal and the reasonable amount in Lombok I stayed exactly the same weight before and after trouble with losing a large amount it gets harder as you move forever downwards towards your goal the plus side is even with all the foods I was trying I didn’t put on anything so that is a positive. We got back there and the others present when I first left were no longer there so it was just us. The place is owned by Bang Bang a local, he does all the cooking as well as all the painting and there must have been hundreds of works in there from landscapes, features and portraits and all were amazingly well done and very beautiful in my limited understanding and appreciation of art; From discussions with him his works are displayed in galleries in Bali, Jakarta and as far away as Singapore which was great to hear as it was well deserved. Had a flashback to Nepal whilst here with a power cut their generator had died a couple of days earlier and someone still had not come to repair it so we had our dinner and drinks by torch and candlelight making it a somewhat unique experience. The special Nasi Goreng that I had seen earlier met, exceeded and pretty much blew my expectations out of the water it was the most amazing that I have ever tasted and would go back again if just for that. Have to be careful with ordering for dad so I chose a chicken and vegetable soup thinking it was the safest bet unfortunately it came with half a chili used in its preparation so he couldn’t eat it. Bang Bang was devastated and you can really tell that he cares about what he makes and the effort he puts in based on the reaction he had; Dad wasn’t overly hungry though so he skipped on having it remade and as I was absolutely full from my meal Heemi demolished it and it was apparently rather good.
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We had great conversation on a variety of topics that night in a relaxed and laid back atmosphere and I am glad that I can easily remember where to find this place as it is one that I will be going back to again for sure. But as it was getting late for the old boy it was time to head back to the hotel for him and as the night for us was still young it was time to check out a bar, we got back to the main street and walked down as far as the Art Market being just around the corner from the hotel we parted ways and then headed back up the way that we were to find a place for a quiet drink. Just past where we were was a few restaurants and pubs and after one really packed one Happy Cafe about 2 doors down we found Mario’s which was to become a bar I would spend the next few evenings in. I will write further on Mario’s later as I spent a lot of time there myself but we spent the remainder of the night there pretty much until they closed quietly sipping on bourbon and cokes and left with a bar bill the equivalent of only a couple of drinks in Perth.
All in all the day was rather lazy, but hey we were on holiday afterall and I thought it was a great day!

Wandering About Sengiggi

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Sengiggi beach behind the art market, the ship in the distance is driving piles down into the ocean floor to lay a new wharf for fast boats to travel between Sengiggi and Bali

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Sengiggi Beach just behind the Art Market, first day there the water did not look good and there was a lot of trash along the beach that appeared to be brought in by the current, however the remainder of the stay the beach was considerably cleaner and the water more inviting.

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¬†A busy Sengiggi street… Seriously it was rare to see more than a couple of vehicles on the road a time there, on the left is the Art Market where you can do your usual shopping with some more up market shops for pearls and jewelry

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 A place to relax while waiting to have a massage if they were busy (which they never seemed to be)

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 A much nicer and more inviting view of Sengiggi beach. The boats along the shore can be hired for trips out to the Gilli Islands

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 Sunset over Sengiggi beach

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 Improving international relations

Overall the walking around Sengiggi is relatively comfortable, there is reasonable condition footpaths for the most part throughout the area however as typical for areas that get a lot of rain there is step ups and downs at curbs and crossings, it is like your own personal stepper whilst walking and makes for some decent exercise. Compared with other areas of Indonesia there is considerably less hawkers around you can go for extended stretches without seeing any and when you do they are considerably more friendly with you only having to tell them you are not interested and they will then wish you a good day/evening whichever the case may be and are also happy to just chat away with you about things as well, it is considerably more laid back and relaxed than other areas and to be honest felt like it was deserted.

The Art Market was a prime example of this, some shops set up with a couple of restaurants and stores around in a nice square area leading out to the beach with only a couple of people in it, the impression that I got is it was built ready for a tourist boom which did not appear to happen thanks to the bombings that took place in Bali in 2002, with the new international airport and some direct flights going there now this may change but I hope it doesn’t go the path of areas of Bali with development taking place absolutely everywhere as it is refreshing to walk past stretches which have not been developed yet.

Kebun Villas & Resort Sengiggi

After the ride from the airport it was up a gently sloping driveway leading up a decent sized hill nestled in behind some trees to the lobby of the hotel that we had booked at near the heart of Sengiggi. There is not a great deal of traffic in this area but what little noise is generated is nicely blocked by the reasonable amount of foliage between the rooms and the roadside leaving you pretty much surrounded with the chirps, croaks and whistles that is nature within the fairly deep jungle all around you and up the large hill behind the complex.

I had booked my accommodation via Asia Rooms where you provide your credit card to secure the booking but do not actually pay for it until the hotel, in the case of this one it proved to be somewhat of a mistake. There is no credit card facility at the hotel so you have to pay in cash (Indoneisan Rupiah) which I did not have sufficient on me. This however was no problem and they told me to simply come and pay whenever I had withdrawn or converted enough local currency which was a hassle and stress free arrangement. Check-In was nice and easy and it was off to check out our digs for the next six days.

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First pool and restaurant past the lobby heading up to the rooms

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Entrance into the Serjoa Twin Room

The room itself was reasonably spacious with a Samsung flatscreen LCD television on the wall with cable tv, a desk and chair for sitting and working as well as 4 bottles of water daily, a kettle and tea/coffee/sugar for making drinks and a wardrobe with a small safe for valuables.

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The twin beds in our room with ample space on either side for getting in and out of

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 DVD player for entertainment and reasonable area for storage of luggage

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 Fully tiled bathroom with a neatly presented sink and ample space for getting about, the best thing was really good water pressure and it could go as hot or as cool as you liked

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View to the right from the balcony chairs, that tiny bit of blue between the trees is the ocean from the floor above chances are you would be able to look out over the trees to see the ocean itself, and if the day was very clear chances are Bali as well in the distance

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 View to the left from the room, a beautiful and inviting 75m long pool is right in front of our room

Overall the hotel is your standard four star fare; Room service available, buffet breakfast each morning with a rotating selection of reasonable quality and prices whilst not expensive are almost double what you can get down the road however the few meals we did have at the restaurant there the portion sizes were fairly respectable not too small but not overly big either and they were all delicious. There is a selection of room types available (Standard, Twin, Family) as well as private villas with their own pools for you to choose from and the price is fairly reasonable for the location as well as the facilities and service that you receive there. I paid AU$55 per night for the room.

It is a bit away from the main strip of Sengiggi however it is no more than a 10 minute walk away from it, the Art market with its small selection of stalls and shops is right around the corner and provides thoroughfare access to the beach so the location is fairly decent and I would quite happily stay there again.

Lombok – First Impressions

The flight over to Lombok was relatively uneventful much the same as my frequent trips over to Bali in previous years however it was over a year since my last trip to Indonesia and my first time flying into Lombok itself. About 3.5 hours from departing Perth we were setting down at Lombok international airport which is roughly in the middle of the island at the southern end. As far as airports go it was relatively simple however reasonably well presented which is unsurprising as it is only a couple of years old. You however can tell that it doesn’t take a great quantity of international flights and if you have the ability to select or purchase seats for your flight I would highly recommend getting a seat to the front of the aircraft as there is only one visa on arrival counter and when you are in the last few rows of the plane you will be waiting awhile to get your visa.

Took roughly 30-45 minutes to get to the front of the line however the visa purchase itself was painless and it was then straight into the queue for immigration and by virtue of the trickle of people going from the VOA counter you pretty much go straight to the front of the line and there is only a couple of counters but they can easily handle the pace at which passenger get through to it and if they like the look of you, which in my case is always a simple matter it is a very quick affair straight through to baggage collection and customs which as is typical for Indonesia is a simple affair 99% of the time just handing your form to an officer and walking out the door. This time however was a 1% occurance for me, though not in a bad way. When looking at my customs declaration form he got a rather confused look and asked What is analyst? After 3 unsuccessful attempts at relating what I do for employment in differing ways I fell back on the old I work with computers. Big smile Ahh okay and points to the door and it was straight out.

The foyer area to the exit is actually relatively small however there is one point to note if you plan on taking a taxi unlike Bali there is no fixed price counter for taxis but on the right before the door is the airport taxi counter at which you need to buy a voucher which covers the surcharge applied to taxis servicing the airport and it is only available before you exit the arrivals terminal however this is only 10,000 – 17,500 rupiah depending on where you are heading. Once you have this you can then head out and grab one of the plentiful taxi’s outside but the typical don’t go for touts applies and getting the meters seem reliable in them, the voucher only gets you out of the airport so you will still need to pay the metered fare at your destination so make sure you have sufficient rupiah on you for the district of Sengiggi it is 150,000 – 175,000 dependant on route and traffic (which for Indonesia is actually relatively non-existant).

There is still another 2 options available to depart the airport, as is common throughout Asia there are plenty of drivers from tour companies that have their own cars more often somewhat more roomy than your standard run of the mill taxi sedan and as there was three of us we used this option, unusually for me I did not haggle from the first price which was offered at 250,000 being 57,500 – 77,500 higher than the taxi option which I figured given I knew the drive was 60 – 90 minutes to Sengiggi wasn’t that bad of a deal however you can likely get this down to around 200,000 easy enough making it a reasonable option especially if you are travelling with more people or a reasonable amount of luggage.

The third option is a good one if you are staying in Sengiggi and travelling light is the airport bus costing 25,000. This drops you off accross from the Art Market near the center of the strip and provides convenient access to many of the accomodation options in that area. The busses are the large modern tourist bus varieties air conditioned and standard reasonably comfortable seats and from reports of the people I chatted with whilst over there the trip time is pretty close to being in a car as well so you do not lose out much by taking them, I think it is definitely a convenient option if you are not travelling with a large amount of luggage.

Once transportation was organised it was time to head off to Sengiggi where we were staying and the first impression leaving the airport was “Umm, where is everybody?”. Having travelled a portion of Indonesia in the past and it having been cities for the most part, and even getting out of them a bit there still usually tended to be a lot of people, traffic and things about; Lombok however has proven to be an exception to this. The airport is relatively new and is located towards the south of the island surrounded by rice fields and not a whole lot else until you get considerably closer into Mataram. The roads however throughout the island have been the best that I have experienced in Indonesia with the exception of some of the main highways in Jakarta. They are bitumen and well maintained and slightly wider than what you see in Bali and the traffic the least crazy out of all of Indonesia I have seen. There was not a great deal of traffic on the road, some areas pretty much completely deserted, some were light and even in the heart of Mataram as we passed through it to head to the costal road and there was more traffic around I would describe it more like a standard Perth street not even in peak hour.

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The drive out to our hotel was uneventful and took just over an hour the bulk of which was through areas which are really undeveloped, lots of rice paddies and open spaces with the occasional sprouts of “civilization” but it was actually a beautiful and relaxing start to the trip no stress or craziness or wondering are we going to hit the vehicle hurtling straight at as as we overtake which seems somewhat common in Indonesia. Mataram although we did not drive through the absolute heart of it we did go through some sections and it was considerably more built up than the rest of the island which is to be exepected however I would not term it as over developed and the buildings and level of people around I would describe as more getting out of the heart of Bali and into the more rural areas which is actually a nice feel compared to how busy Bali has become in the last few years.

As we got to Sengiggi knowing it was a main tourist area I expected to see more development and considerably more people there as although it is the beginning of the off season this typically still does see a reasonable amount of traffic in the rest of Indonesia before the rains really set in however it felt kind of like driving through a ghost town. There was minimal to light traffic on the roads, none of the typical stores, shops, and little sprout ups that you see elsewhere in Indonesia and there is actually reasonable spacing between each section along the main strip it was actually rather surprising. And given on the right of the main strip where we were staying is a huge hill it is all pretty much undeveloped so you are set with the coast dead ahead and a beautiful jungled hill behind you it is really a beautiful and relaxing end to a reasonable drive.

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But as we were now at the hotel it was time to check in.

First impressions:

– Where are all the people
– Mostly unspoilt natural beauty everywhere
– Laid back, quiet and relaxing

Nepal – Tharu Dance