Bali - Nusa Lembongan

January 20, 2012 - Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia

We flew to Bali via Kuala Lumpur, where we spent one night and just had time to check into a hotel, go see the Petronas Towers, have something to eat and then grab a few hours sleep before our flight on to Bali early the next morning.

We arrived at Bali airport and stepped outside into the heat and crowds of people.  We took a terrifying taxi ride to the port of Sanur where we left our bags at the boat company's office and went to change some money and relax in a beach side cafe for our first taste of Indonesian food.  Lunch was delicious and it felt so good to be somewhere warm, chilling out by the beach and not having to think about work or study for a while.  We took the fast ferry over to the island of Nusa Lembongan where we would spend the next week at the Secret Garden bungalows.

Our bungalow was simple and had an outoor bathroom - something I had mixed feelings about - on one hand I loved the idea of it and showering next to a little garden was really nice, but there were times, especially after the rain, when it seemed to be a mosquito magnet.  The bungalows were in a nice green garden, not too far from a beach - however it was a working beach rather than a swimming/sunbathing resort beach.  We spent what remained of our afternoon relaxing, Ed arranged scooter hire, I talked to the dive instructor and we finally went out to get some food.  I tink we walked in the wrong direction because there didn't seem to be that many restaurants along the beach front and the one we found said they were closing the kitchen soon so there were only a few choices that we could have from their menu.  What we had was delicious, though and I started to feel very positive about finding good vegetarian food in Bali.

The next day came (which was Christmas Day - but by then we'd already exchanged gifts, had Christmas champagne and snacks at home before leaving for Bali so it didn't really feel like Christmas) we went out on the scooter to explore a little bit.  Following the road west from the bungalows took us to an area where local people worked collecting and drying kelp to sell to the cosmetics industry and past that to an area with mangroves, a quiet and sandy beach and some small beachfront cafes and restaurants.  So we stopped to have a drink and some snacks, take in the view and enjoy being on the beach on Christmas Day.

We decided to continue on through the mangroves to the north of the island where we could cross a rickety old suspension bridge (on the scooter - it felt like something out of Indiana Jones!!) to a smaller island called Nusa Cenigan)  We enjoyed just being out and about with no time pressures or places to be and just seeing what there was to see.  We ended up at a restaurant with great views of the other island and of the surfers catching a break (one of the main attractions of the island).  Once again the food was great with plenty of vegetarian selection.

We took a deep breath and crossed the suspension bridge again and headed for Mushroom Beach, passing through the island's main village where there were some impressive and beautiful temples.  We stopped and some little girls wanted to have their photos taken and we asked a lady if we were allowed inside the temple.  She said yes, so we went in, but not that much later another lady came and asked us to leave because we weren't wearing sarongs.  We felt a bit confused as we hadn't mean to offend anyone and had asked permission before going in.

We went on to Mushroom Beach, which was nice with gentle waves, golden sand, but quite a lot of boats.  We had another drink at a cafe there (and so went most of our time on Nusa Lembongan - scooter, stop, drink/eat, scooter, stop, drink/eat...) and then sat on the sand for a while before deciding it was time to head back to have a shower before it got dark.  We went to a restaurant just along the beach from our bungalows for dinner that night and got an early night.

The next day I was meant to start my dive course but the instructor wasn't feeling well so he just spent the morning going through some of the theory stuff with me and looking at equipment together, and as I had plenty of time on the island we postponed the start of the course to the next day.  So I was free before midday.  Ed and I decided to visit a beach that we'd been told was beautiful but not so good for swimming called Dream Beach.  It was indeed a beautiful beach and we had a long lunch there.  It was also the first time (but certainly not the last) we saw rain on the island.  Just as we pulled up at the beach restaurant it started to spit and soon it was bucketing it down.  We watched the downpour, sheltered by the cafe roof and wondered how long it would last and whether we'd be stranded there all day.  Luckily it didn't last long at all and by the time we'd finished our lunch it was all over and done with and we could go down to the beach and relax on the sand for a while.  It was a very hot day with no shade on the beach, so we didn't spend the rest of the day there as planned.

We did a bit more scootering and exploring and ended up at Sunset Beach and a really great restaurant/bar called the Beach Club.  We had a couple of cocktails and some snack and then realised we didn't actually have enough money to pay for all this, so Ed ordered me another cocktail while he hopped on the scooter, sped back to the bungalows (forgetting the key in his haste - luckily one of the staff were able to open our room for him) to pick up some more cash and come back!  We really liked the place and the chilled out atmosphere there so we decided to book a table for later in the week and try their evening barbeque and sunset.

We finally headed to a place just round the corner where there were blowholes and nice sunset views.  Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy and the camera ran out of battery - but the blowholes were really impressive and we returned home feeling like we'd had a great day.

In the evening Ed insisted on taking the scooter even if we were only going somewhere close by for dinner, just in case it rained again.  We did end up somewhere closeby and at a restaurant which turned out to be our favourite on the island.  The food was really great with so much choice and everyone there was so friendly.  W had a really nice evening and decided we'd definitely go back to that restaurant again.

I woke up early the next day to start my dive course.  We headed to the pool of another hotel to practise the skills I needed to learn before being able to go out in open water.  I have to admit I found it tough and my nerves got the better of me several times.  I particularly struggled with clearing water from my mask.  It took me a bit longer but I finally got through it all and it was all over for the day, leaving me an afternoon free.  I was pretty hungry so we walked to a nearby restaurant, just up the beach, but the weather closed in on us again and we ended up staying there quite a while.  This time the rain didn't pass so quickly and we kept waiting for our chance to go but it didn't come.  It started to look as if the rain was easing so we started walking back, but the tide had come i and our route along the beah was blocked so we had to walk the long route round the road.  By this time of course it was raining again and we were drenched by the time we got back.

We didn't do much that day except lie about and read in the hammock and in the evening we went to a restaurant which we thought was called the Deck.  It turned out that the Deck was just a cafe and light snack bar, but there was a big restuarant above it with great views.  The prices were a bit higher than we were used to and the choice for me wasn't that great so I ended up with pizza - which was nice but at that point I was still enjoying trying new exotic Indonesian food, so pizza felt like a bit of a second choice option.  It was a nice meal though and it was fun to be somewhere a litte bit classy, despite the incredibly loud and not very classy Australians at the table next to ours...

The next day was my first day in the sea.  We went out on the boat, not that far from the island to a place where there was a kind of adventure platform for one of the larger hotels, with water slides and lots and lots of people on it.  Fortunately we weren't visiting this place, just going underneath it and seeing the many exotic fish and plants down there.  It was fantastic to finally do a proper dive and I was so excited to see at the fish.  I was still, however, pretty nervous and I had to prove that I could do the skills we'd practised in the pool again in open water.  We did this on the second dive of the day and I was fine until we got to the mask clearing bit when it seemed that I'd completely forgotten how to do it.  I got really stressed and made a bit of a fool of myself just sitting there in the water by the boat trying to psych myself up for it.  There were momenst when I wanted to quit but I really didn't want to give up on my dream of learning to scuba dive.

We ended up doing three dives that day with the final dive being all about mask clearing!  I finally got it and he told me that I'd need to do it just one more time the next day to prove to him that I could and then I'd be able to be qualified.  I came back feeling exhausted but pleased with myself for what I'd acheived.

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