If it’s a visual orgasm that you’re seeking involving crystal blue waters, lush green islands dotted haphazardly around and little fishing boats that look like they’re floating in thin air, then Indonesia must be one of your “bucket list” of destinations.
Like most we followed the herd to Phuket in Thailand when we were considering a low-cost beach type vacation. We were mildly disappointed in the party destination where visitors are distracted by tattoo parlors, cheap drinks, strip clubs and massages on offer at every corner. This made us a little apprehensive when considering Indonesia – Bali & Lombok, until we got there and were blown away. Bali is for the more discerning traveler looking for that WOW factor.
Landing in Denpasar the first thing that hits you is the humidity, but don’t worry because you’ll most likely spend the rest of your vacation in a swimsuit on the beach, in the water and sucking down Bintang beers to keep you hydrated. Your body will also soon acclimatize to the heat and humidity. The period from May to September are the driest months with the lowest humidity so consider booking your trip for then. Another tip – the taxis will scam you, so do yourself a favor and download the “Blue Bird” taxi app. Their prices are regulated, and you can use it like you would the UBER app. The Blue Bird taxis are not allowed in the arrivals section, so walk upstairs to departures/drop & go. You might just be lucky to catch one there.
The capital offers many bars, beaches, restaurants, and shopping opportunities. On our first day we booked a full day excursion that started very early and ended with dinner. The highlight of the day was Monkey Temple, a beautiful tree filled forest temple overrun by Balinese long-tailed macaque monkeys. The walkways meander through the forest with traditional temples and shrines around every corner. We were then taken to The Moringa Coffee plantation where you can not only taste various local coffees and teas, but also sample the signature cuppa of Kopi Luwak. For this, the coffee beans are passed through the digestive system of a Civet, the poops collected and the coffee beans processed. It’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world, so we did not opt to include it in the tasting line-up.…LOL. Their other attraction is a cliff swing for those who are not afraid of heights.
Our next stop was a traditional Indonesian performance, staged in a beautiful open-air amphitheater. The story line is explained in the brochure but all we were hearing was a lot of “Taka Taka”. The costumes were very flamboyant and there was much fire eating and smoke blowing, quite entertaining and taken very seriously by the cast. Our driver was somehow related to lead character, so we were ushered onto the stage at the end of the show to have our picture taken with the cast. That day we also spent a little time in Ubud. This is a destination worth visiting for Balinese furniture and if you are into Yoga as they have many retreats.
The hotel we had booked was not the greatest, yes it was on the beach, it had a pool and breakfast was ok and was a bit noisy. We felt that to spend another 6 nights there would be a real anti-climax to Bali. You sometimes get to the stage of your holiday where you wish you could just leave already, making the rest of the days a real drag! I remember the wise words of a work colleague who had been to Bali the year before. He said: “just because you’ve paid for your accommodation, doesn’t mean you have to stay there. Move on, find something better”. I’m usually very tight fisted with money, especially when you have already paid for accommodation, but with the price of accommodation in Bali being cheap as chips, we decided to leave our luggage in our room at the hotel in Denpasar and take a fast boat ferry to Nasu Lembongan Island.
Now it’s rare that I remember the name of an accommodation venue or that I would ever return to the same place, but Linda’s Beach Resort just blew us away. Very basic, it was the culmination of various factors that just made our holiday. I’ve liked their Facebook page and often get images on my feed that bring back fond memories, making me wish that I was still there…it’s the kind of place where you just want to throw your passport into the ocean and disappear from the world.
Our days were spent lounging around the pool, taking evening strolls along the beach deciding where to have dinner and zooming around the island on scooters (also dirt cheap to hire) visiting some of the amazing snorkel sites and viewpoints.
Mike was never one for the sun or into hot tropical holidays, but during that vacation I taught him how to worship the sun. He became such a devout follower that for the first time ever, we returned to the same country the following year on our annual vacation. This time we chose to go a little further east…to Lombock and The Gili Islands!
To get there you would fly to Denpasar and spend the night. The next day take a short 30 minute connecting flight to Lombok. We had heard about the Gili islands from a friend, it’s like that movie The Beach where someone told you about a private island you just HAD to go too.
Choose your Gili Island or do them all!
Gili Air – The “Chill” Island which offers the best of both. A great variety of restaurants and bars, the occasional seafood barbeque on the beach and generally a great place to make friends, dive, snorkel and have a good time.
Gili Meno – The romantic island that will make you feel like you own the island, great for a quiet getaway. There is very little to do on this island other than chill, dive/snorkel and with no roads so you’ll have to walk everywhere which is not a problem at all. It’s a small island with a few restaurants and mostly upmarket boutique hotels.
Gili Tanwangan (Gili T) – The party island or Indonesia’s version of Ibiza, is the most developed of the three islands and also offers great snorkeling/diving spots. With its friendly backpacker’s vibe you can always find a beach party on the go, or frequent the main strip of bars and restaurants. To escape the party vibe, just head inland for a little peace and quiet.
We stayed on Gili Air and after arriving there on a private water taxi from Lombock we boarded a horse drawn cart which took us to our accommodation on the north-eastern side of the island. We enjoyed the sunrise over the beach in the morning, but in hindsight would have preferred to stay on the western side to enjoy the magnificent sunsets. In the evening, people congregated on beach loungers and bean bags while listening to Buddha Bar music, drinking Aperol Spritz’s, eating canapés and watching the sun go down…BLISS. Why did it have to end?
The islands are best known for its clear waters offering great visibility, coral reefs, and a large variety of marine life including turtles. If you can’t dive, no problem, this is probably the best/cheapest place to learn. The islands are also very close to one another, you can even swim from Meno to Air or from Meno to Tanwangan…but locals are always on hand to take you to where you want to be by boat.
One of our BEST and most inexpensive holidays ever! So good we almost bought a burnt down house in need of renovations on the water’s edge. Luckily the euphoria of the island wore off after returning home and coming to our senses we withdrew our offer. Definitely one of our top 10 destinations and I’d go back again tomorrow.
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