If you read my first post about Costa Rica, you might remember that I lost my ATM card at the airport, less than 15 minutes after arriving. So starting this trip in SE Asia, I’m sure you thought like me, there was no way that could happen again, right? Well…yes, I did it again (FYI, cards do not automatically get returned). Luckily this time there were people behind me and one of them ran to catch up to me to return my card. And so, my Indonesian adventure that included dragons and sharks, rays and reindeer, pink beaches, volcanos, and earthquakes, began.
My trip started on the Island of Bali in the town of Kuta. Kuta is a larger city and the most popular tourist town on Bali. The roads along the beach are lined with resorts, bars, and restaurants, catering to the many Australians and other tourists. But being a larger city catering to tourists, it has a grit and grime to it, relentless hawking to the tourists, and every street is packed with taxis, cars, and many, many scooters. There also seemed to be a very high number of pharmacists in town because I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without someone offering to sell me Viagra.
Most of my time in Kuta Bali was spent just wandering around the town, but I did try surfing again and with the help of an instructor, I once again rode the waves. Unfortunately, just not nearly as many as the number of times my body went flailing into the water. I realized pretty quickly where I was on Bali, was not the tropIcal paradise I imagined, but it was a good place to start my Indonesian trip since I met several travelers that provided me some good tips.
My next stop was also a town named Kuta, but this time on the Island of Lombok, which is one Island and a 2 hour fast boat ferry ride to the east. Kuta Lombok can best be described as a tourist surf town. Scooters are the dominant mode of transportation on Lombok, and around Kuta, half the scooters appeared to be rentals with western tourists driving. After I got settled into my hostel, several people were heading out to watch the sunset so of course after arriving just a few hours earlier, I became one of those western tourists on my own rented scooter, cruising around with my new scooter gang, on my way to see the sun go down.
However, Kuta Lombok was hot and humid with very little respite (i.e. no air conditioning), and had way too many surfers, so after a day at the beach and exploring on my scooter, I headed to Gili Air. Gili means Island in Indonesia and they have 3 small ones just north of Gili Lombok One is a party Island where the full moon party was about to take place, one is a quiet Island, and one is a mix between the other two (Gili Air), I chose that one and it was just right.
Gili Air is just a couple kilometers wide and long and does not allow motorized vehicles. Walking, bikes, and horse drawn carts are the only transportation on the island. It’s made up of beaches, local homes, small hostels/hotels and bungalows, small restaurants and beach bars, small shops, tourist travel agent kiosks, and scuba dive/snorkel shops. That’s it. Six foot wide paths criss-cross the island connecting everything together.
It certainly was still touristy but in a very different way, it was much more laid back and friendly. Locals greeted tourists with hellos and smiles and not requests to buy whatever they were selling. Each afternoon the manager of my hostel made me juice with mangos from her tree. I got offers of assistance if needed after I left the Island. I tasted local coffee roasted and hand ground (with ginger) by my dive master’s wife. I was in my happy place.
Believe it or not, on my first day on the island, I once again left my ATM card in the machine. After realizing it the next day, I spoke to the people at the restaurant next door to the ATM, they called the ATM guy and 30 minutes later, he showed up…with my card.
I was even happier later that day after seeing a small komodo dragon on the bike path. In my excited state I told everyone I saw. All the other tourists were jealous, and all the locals responded with the Indonesian version of yeah, who cares. While there I also scuba dived and highlights included a bunch of turtles and a couple sharks.
Evidently it was a quieter time on Gili Air than usual, I actually was the only person in my hostel (which is probably why I was getting my daily mango juice) but met some good people through the diving. I had initially booked just two nights on the Island but ended up staying for four. It was tough leaving but I moved on to Ubud, which is another very touristy town back on Bali, to hike a volcano.
Ubud is inland on the island surrounded by hills, lush green forests, hindu temples, and rice paddie fields. The town itself is full of character but also tourists like me looking to take advantage of more adventurous activities, or just get their zen back as yoga seems to be a popular activity there.
My interest was in finally being able to use my hiking shoes and hike up Mt Batar for the sunrise. The mountain is actually an active volcano about 5,600 feet high, but away from the walking paths that are a combination of dirt and volcanic rock, the mountain is covered in greenery. We started the hike in cloudy weather at 3am but soon walked above the clouds providing a spectacular view as the sun rose behind a coup!e other volcanoes.
While in Ubud we felt an earthquake and its aftershocks. The earthquake was moderate and approx 50 miles away in the ocean so no damage occurred in Ubud. After a few days and enjoying the company of new friends (one mentioned he too had forgotten his ATM card in the machine, twice), I bid adieu to Ubud, jumped on a plane and flew to Labuan Bajo.
My trip to Labuan Bajo was a quick trip for one purpose, to go to komodo island (a 45 minute boat ride) to see the big komodo dragons. Unfortunately we did not see as many as expected, only a few. But other things on that tour made up for it. I snorkled with manta rays, saw a beach that was pink, and saw a reindeer on a beach, let me repeat that, I saw a reindeer on a beach (Do They Know it’s Christmas?).
With that, my trip to Indonesia came to an end. The next morning (actually now as I write this), I flew out to Malaysia.
Life is good.