Bali, Lombok and The Gili’s, Indonesia

Landing at Denpasar Airport in Bali at around 5am was tiring enough without having to find the lockers where we could leave our ski clothes for the next two weeks (instead of lugging them around Indonesia). Without any clear signage we eventually found the lockers, right beside where the taxis queued to collect arriving passengers outside the terminal.

There were plenty of offers for taxis both from what seemed semi-official to complete randomers but the prices all started around 250,000 IDR before we bargained it down to 100,000 IDR. Our hotel was only about 5 minutes away but it was approach 7am and we needed some sleep at this stage so we accepted that offer and were on our way. Our first night/morning was only a stop-gap airport stop before our taxi picked us up and brought us to our home for Christmas, Ubud. This taxi cost 400,000 for one and half hours drive – a small bit of a difference in standard from the airport prices! When we arrived at the hotel in Ubud, it was quiet so they let us have a higher standard room for free and we were not disappointed, our room was like a temple, and the other rooms were similar but all unique in there own regard. It was Christmas eve on this day so we had some food and drink at the hotel and tested out the pool, which was like a private pool with its secluded location and lack of other guests.

The next morning was Christmas day, not your typical Christmas but interesting to experience something like this with the forest type views of Ubud. We started with eggs and bacon breakfast, with fruit and croissants as well as some added champagne – just because. Afterwards we all met up on the veranda of our friends room for Secret Santa. There was eight of us in total so there was plenty of presents and laughs to be had. We headed to the pool soon after for some beers and games. We all sported our Christmas colours for the day so it kept the theme going, in an unfamiliar setting.

That evening we had booked a table at the Dining Corner restaurant in Kayumanis. It did not disappoint. There was a set menu that included six courses and a couple of glasses of wine for 125,000 IDR per couple. We had seared tuna, prawn cocktail, seafood soup, sorbet, beef main and desert – The quality of food combined with the price would cost you probably three times as much at home. We were all delighted with the quality of food, as well as the views, possibly the best view I’ve ever had for dinner! That said, as dusk came so did the mammoth sized moths which were a bit annoying to the twitchy among us (me included!).

On St. Stephen’s Day, we made our way into the town of Ubud and the lads went for a wander down to Monkey Forest while the ladies went for some massages, facials etc. As we approached the forest we seen many monkeys on the street, crossing the streets on telephone wires, or trying to take stuff from shops. We were a bit apprehensive about how aggressive the monkeys could be so we didn’t actually go into the forest, at fear of losing some of our belongings, but we took plenty of pictures and videos in around the entrance where there were plenty of monkeys. Looking back, the monkeys didn’t seem like too much trouble so maybe we should have went in for a look. We rendezvoused with the ladies in Oops Bar which became a bit of a local to us as we were very fond of the happy our coco mojitos. We played cards and uno there, sipping on our cocktails until we moved to another restaurant for some dinner.

The next day was our last full day in Ubud so we organised a driver to take us out for the day to a few different places. First stop was the coffee plantation where you can sample some local coffees as well as the famous ‘poo coffee’, the civet cat eats coffee beans and the worlds most expensive coffee in the world is produced from its poo, basically! Our tour and tasting was free unless you ordered some poo coffee/Kopi Luwak, which we did, but even then it was only 50,000 per cup. I can’t say I thought the coffee was amazing or anything but then again I am not the biggest coffee fan in the world – It was still a bit of fun all the same. Next up were the rice fields, in truth it was bit of tourist trap, located right off the main road, with a little village thriving solely off the tourists coming to the area. Furthermore, after you had paid your entrance fee, along the route there were more people requesting payments/donations so you could go further. We got some nice pictures but it wasn’t exactly as we’d all hoped.

Next stop was after a 30 minute road trip up to view the volcano. Now, depending when you are reading this, you might be aware that Mount Agung in Bali was simmering around the time we were there so we wanted to get a good view of it at some point (obviously from a safe distance) but when we got to the view point, after a quick stop to pay a man on the side of the road 100,000 IDR for a ‘ticket’ (the driver said he haggled the man down from 240,000 IDR, who knows) even though the view was just from the side of the road, it turned out we were at the wrong volcano. The views were nice none the less, but I guess it was our fault for not being more clear when asking to see the volcano, in the country with more volcanoes than any other in the world.

After that wee made our way to a temple where people were getting wet in the water as a Hindu symbol of purification, we had to wear sarongs going in to be respectful and the grounds were nicely laid out although we had to walk through a village of tarnish (souvenirs) to get out at the end. We were getting a bit peckish at this stage so we stopped for some nasi goreng at a nearby restaurant before moving on. At this stage, we were all feeling a little underwhelmed with the quality of each attraction so we asked our driver to skip the elephant cave and go straight to the waterfall. Unfortunately the theme continued with the waterfall, it wasn’t that impressive and after paying entrance fees there were more people inside asking for more money to go further, much like the rice fields. I understand that the locals were just trying to make some money, and the price wasn’t much at all, but the theme was getting a bit irritating so with that we were content with what we had seen and turned back. We got the driver to drop us in the town of Ubud instead of the hotel as everyone wanted to get massages  anyway. We arranged for him to pick us up later so he kept our bags as well which was great. After the massages we congregated at the usual… Oops Bar, and had some more coco mojitos and food.

Mus, our driver in Bali collected us around midday to head to the airport the next day. We had enjoyed our temple like accommodation but it was time to check out some other islands. We were early for our flight (better early than late!) but the flight was delayed, again, and when we eventually did get going, the landing was delayed as we circled a few times before touching down in Lombok. On arrival we haggled taxis down from 350,000 to 200,000 IDR for about a 45 minute journey up to Sengiggi. Again, we had another stop-gap hotel stay here as we would get the ferry the next morning to the Gili’s. After we dropped our bags in the rooms we went in search of food we came across one busy bar, the Happy Cafe, and went in for food there as a busy place is always a good sign. I found it a bit too loud to hear each other though, I must be getting old. We retired to bed soon after food.

The next morning there were pancakes for breakfast, which were fine but the service was woeful. The hotel had literally the worst staff/service I’ve ever experienced in my life, from being rude and unhelpful to forgetting food orders and not even being able to hand out coffee at breakfast without screwing it up, it was Faulty Towers-esque! Anyway, after breakfast we walked about 100 metres down to the bay to catch our boat to Gili Trawangan. The confirmation email said that we should be there 45 minutes before scheduled departure to make sure there was no problems with tickets etc. and there were no problems, everything was relatively straight forward. About 10 minutes before we were scheduled to leave, we were loaded on to the boat and we were away early, presumably because everyone had showed up. Regardless, I was happy we were early and not late anyway! The boat was small but only took 15 or so minutes to reach Gili T. Landing right on to the beach, it was a flip flops off and job out situation. – couldn’t ask for a more direct arrival. We arrived on the east cost of the island, which was clearly the busiest area, and where it was all happening. As we walked about 500m west to the centre of the island where our hotel was it got quieter and quieter. I was delighted when I seen our hotel for the next few days (including new years), it was like a little paradise away from the hustle and bustle of the east side of the island, but still not too far away from it all. For the first day, we had probably the best weather of the holiday so far so we made the most of it before heading to the south side of the island to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, the clouds came in and we didn’t get to see much of the sun at all, but we had more days yet!

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Breakfast next day was great, it had chicken, pancakes, fruit and even samosas.  After breakfast we rented bicycles from the hotel and rode around the edge of the whole island (about 7Km). The north and south were particularly nice areas where the busy east tapers off but still some life and cafes existed. We went snorkeling at the ‘Turtle Snorkeling Spot’ to the north east of the island, and some people were more successful than others on day one… we spent a good while out looking for turtles but had no luck only for two of our group to outlast the rest of us and see one big turtle just before they came back in. The rest of us were left disappointed which meant we would have to search again tomorrow!

With little to no luck on day one we decided we’d go a bit further north to check out a new spot for turtles but had no joy there either plus the snorkels were much worse in that place, all ours let in water and made it hard to see. So we returned to the spot we were at the day before. I was a bit late to arrive, and as I did everyone was exiting the water having just seen a turtle, we missed it again! Now everyone had seen one except two of us. After a while snorkeling, out of nowhere we nearly swam straight into one without realising! We spent a while swimming with him, he didn’t seem to mind at all that we were there. It was a great experience.

That evening our hotel had a free new years eve barbecue for all the guests so we enjoyed that before going out to the east side of the island for the fireworks and to ring in the new year. The main strip was mental and every where you looked, up and down the island, as well as across to other islands, there were fireworks going off. To party the night away we went to an Irish bar called Tir Na Nog, before finishing with a late night burger and hitting the hay.

On New Year’s Day we headed over to the neighbouring, quieter, Gili Meno. We got a ‘fast boat’ over as the locals called, and it was a glass bottom boat too. I had always wondered what they were like – we didn’t see much beneath us but I was still glad I finally seen what it was like in one of those boats. It was a great little island, so tranquil and cool to walk around. It gave a bit of a glimpse into the local lives away from the busier Gili T. The lake in the middle of the island provided some great views as well as the pristine beaches on the east side. We grabbed lunch by the beach and went for a walk up the north east side. The more of the island I saw, the more I liked it. Some really cool villas/hotels there too. I thought I could easily have had a few days there too. but after some more snorkeling, swimming, and napping on the beach, we organised another boat back to Gili T to watch the sunset, and this time we could see it! We had the added bonus of  Mount Agung in the background too. Having passed a restaurant with a great seafood barbecue grill several times and also having heard great reviews, we decided it was time to check out Scallywags for dinner. I had a fish skewer, half a rib-eye steak and unlimited salad bar for less than 200,000 IDR – great food and great quality. I would highly recommend eating there if you visit Gili Trawangan.

The next morning we organised a boat back to Lombok and taxi to our hotel in Sengiggi for the final extravagant element of the holiday. Our last luxurious resort of the holiday did not disappoint with access straight onto the beach as well as a pool side bar. We didn’t have much to complain about. Once we got settled in it wasn’t long before we ventured to the pool bar and noticed that there was a happy hour special for beers and cocktails. Needless to say, we took advantage of it and got a bit drunk. Later that evening we got a taxi to a well recommended restaurant called Amara. The food was good and they provided a free taxi back to the hotel after so it was a good evening all around. We had planned on going for drinks after as it was the one of the last nights the whole group would be together but we were too full after dinner, I know I was anyway!

There was a lot of scooters on the island so a couple of us decided to rent some the next day and go for a wander. We had no real aim of where to go but I had a map of the island on my phone so we couldn’t get lost. As we ventured north, we took some random turns and went down some small roads through little villages and even ended up down by a river at one point. It was great to see real local areas as opposed to the usual touristy areas, the kids were often happy to see us too, waving as we drove by. Further on up the main road we saw a sign for a waterfall and turned to check it out. By the time we got to the end, we had to go off-road for about 50 metres before we came to a dead end and a local told us we could park in their driveway while we walked the rest of the way. In stark contrast to the waterfall in Bali, there were no tickets and no tourists so we were the only ones there which was really cool. Some of the views on our little day trip were fantastic, from the rice fields to the mountainous views to the beach, every turn we took seemed to bring something new. I had read online that there were some scams going on when renting scooters in terms of scooters not being good quality, or people robbing the scooters, but we were driving for about five hours and made it back safe and sound. We didn’t see anything like that and felt completely safe all day. Those of the group who stayed around the hotel for the day rented snorkels and surf boards to hit up the beach so they made the most of their day too.

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After hearing of our adventures, the following day three of the group joined me on another expedition on the scooters. We headed north again but this time took a turn for the monkey forest, as I was keen to explore an area I hadn’t seen the previous day. The road to the monkey forest was very busy and probably not ideal for three people to have there first taste of a proper day out on the scooters but they all did really well. There were loads of monkeys along the road as we drove through the forest, which really made it worthwhile. We did a full loop from our start point so when we exited the forest going south we took a turn on to some local roads and even stopped to take pictures. Just as we were about to get going again one of the group locked their key inside the scooter seat and a moment of panic set in as we tried to figure out what to do. Luckily, a local passed by and even though he had no English, he was able to produce a little bit of magic and pop the seat open. Away we went back to Sengiggi with everyone looking a natural on the bikes at this stage.

After our hard days scooting we all treated ourselves to some massages in Sengiggi – it was even cheaper here than in Ubud. A great way to wind down, the ladies then went for some salon treatment while the us lads grabbed a beer and found a restaurant that made homemade pasta which smelled great. We had some pizza while we waited for the ladies before eating pasta when they arrived, and it tasted as good as it smelled, I must say! We finished the evening with a few drinks in the Happy Cafe (the same place we were last before we set off for Gili Trawangan) and yes the music was just as loud but we sat a bit further away from the band this time.

For our last day we just chilled out by the pool, reading books and topping up the tan one last time before we got a taxi to the airport. We got to the Lombok airport early and it was quiet which made it quick to go through check-in and security. The security man was so relaxed he made a beep noise with his mouth as I walked through pretending the machine went off haha I’ve not seen that before!

Our flight was delayed, again, and then I realised that every flight on the holiday was delayed for us so far. Out of nowhere our names got called over the tannoy. We rushed to the gate, not sure if they put us on another flight or if the flight wasn’t delayed at all and we somehow made a mistake.  They rushed us on the plane, we were last people to board and the plane was pretty much full. By the time we landed, we were still not sure what happened but our bags arrived and so did we so we didn’t care to much and away we went. The price of taxis from the airport are based on area zones so u know if you are getting scammed or not. We paid 100,000 for a 120,000 area anyway so we still had room to barter a bit. We spent our last night in the area of Kuta. It reminded me of a Lanzarote or Tenerife type place, as you could see a lot of Australian families went there for a similar type holiday. We went for food in a bar called Bamboo Bar and Grill. The food was great and they had a beer called bamboo beer which may have been the nicest beer I tasted on the holiday – Not a bad way to finish. The next morning we were Hong Kong bound, and before you knew it we were back to square one.

Tips and Prices (Indonesian Rupiah):

-Bali

Airport Locker for two weeks – 650,000 IDR

Day trip in Ubud:

Coffee Plantation – Tour and tasting free + 50,000 IDR for cup of poo coffee if you wanted

Rice fields – 10,000 IDR per person

Volcano views – 100,000 IDR total for 8 people/van

Temple – 15,000 IDR per person

Waterfall – 15,000 IDR per person

Driver for day – 700,000 IDR total

Full body 1 hour Massage – 90,000 IDR (unbelievable value!)

Our hotel was about 10 minutes drive from the town, any taxi we got too or from the town cost 70,000 IDR each time.

While in Bali, we had a driver called Mus (pronounce moose). His prices and value were always better than anything else we had been offered. To contact him his number is:

+62 819 1640 0217

-Lombok

Taxi from/to airport to Sengiggi – 200,000 IDR

Scooter/moped rental – 75,000 IDR per day

Scooter/moped fuel – 8-10,000 IDR per litre

Traditional/Full body 1 hour Massage – 70,000 IDR

Surfboard rental – 50,000 IDR

Snorkel rental – 50,000 IDR

Boat to/from Gili Trawangan from/to Lombok – 450,000 IDR total

– Gili Trawangan

Bicycle rental – 50,000 IDR per day

Snorkel Rental – 50,000 IDR per day

Boat to/from Gili Meno 450,000 IDR each way – We probably could have tried bargaining but we didn’t.

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