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tappers’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 25 Oct 2006

Location: Bali & Lombok, Indonesia

MapArrived in Bali last Saturday and headed straight to the touristic area of Kuta - which is a marvelous beach located just 10 minutes from the airport. We spent only one day in Kuta lounging on the beach and chilling out amongst the party atmosphere of this hip beachside town. The sunsets over the ocean were spectacular as the orange ball of the sun dissapears below the ocean waves! Kuta is a proper surfers paradise and represents what i imagine Hawaii to be like - when we return to Kuta i am going to invest in some surfing lessons which should be fun!! Despite the touristy side of Kuta it is possible to experience some of the 'real' Bali by taking a stroll down the narrow sidestreets of Kuta village - here you will witness temples, offerings placed in the street, and the fact that all of the architecture in Bali is so exquisite that all of the buildings could be palaces!

After just one day in Bali we took the ferry across the ocean to the next island of Lombok where we would spend four days - teh apparent four hour ferry trip ended up taking up the entire day which was more than a little frustrating - so i warn you all about the troubles of Indonesian ferry transport, especially waiting to disembark the boat whilst the vehicle deck fills with exaust fumes threatening to kill everyone in there path!

Eventually arrived in Sengiggi on the western coast of Lombok. It is such a beautiful beach flanked by the usual mountains and palm groves. Lombok is a lot more laid back from Bali and receives far less tourists so it is a really good place for lounging on deserted beaches and getting to know the local people and there culture. Lombok is predominantly Muslim and the bulbous green domes of the mosques fill the skyline whilst the sounds of teh receited koran fill the air - it feels more like being back in the Middle East than being in Indonesia. The futher that we explored Lombok the more intriguing and cultural it became - from the palm thatched villages, to the women carrying well water upon their heads, to the distinctly African flavour of the local markets.

We headed to the Gili islands which can only be described in one word - PERFECTION! These are Indonesia's answer to the Maldives and consist of three tiny islands in the middle of nowhere surrounded by coral reefs and tropical beaches - each of the islands is miniscule holding a local population of about three hundred people. The trip to the islands was most exciting as we were loaded onto a tiny boat full of chickens and sacks of rice, though carrying a heavy backpack and having to waid out to sea whilst clambouring onto a bobbing boat takes a lot of effort! Our first stop was Gili Trawangan which is the most developed of the islands - saying that there is little to do other than lounge on the beach and get drunk! You don't even need a snorkle here because you can stand in the shallows and observe all of the marine life beneath your feet! The water here is absolutely pure, take back everything i said about the perfection of Thailand's Ko Tao - this place is 1000 times better! The nicest thing about the Gilis was lying on the beach at night and looking up at the sky taking in the clarity of the atmosphere whilst gazing upon millions of stars! The second day on Trawangan was good for me. but the night before we had managed to consume copius amounts of the local Arak spirit and thus Lana spent the entire day vomitting - this event has now become known as Lana's Arak Attack!

From Trawangan we moved to the next island of Gili Meno - this is the most untouched of teh Gili islands with virtually no fascilities and no electricity - the shock of finding a scorpion in our ramshackled beach hut was enough for the both of us. During our time on Gili Meno we managed to check out the baby turtles for which the island is famous. We also walked around the entire island which took all of fourty minutes but was a nice excursion taking in the dry bushlands to the sounds of cicadas! We also ventured out onto the coral reef which was alive with sea urchins and star fish! We also visited the Meno birdpark where i got terrified of a huge hornbill dive bombing my face and also witnessed a collection of birds from all over Indonesia! The night held its own suprises as Ramadan celebrations are in full swing - we witnessed young children trying to shoot each other with fireworks, which was not only extremely dangerous but also set the thatch of the local houses on fire!

After four days in Lombok we travelled back to Bali - the ferry journey was worse this time and our whole journey took about 14 hours! We arrived in the heart of the island in the cultural town of Ubud. This place was amazing because it was the most traditional and cultural experience of our trip to Indonesia - Ubud is little more than a handicrafts village specialising in masks, paintings, and ceramics - which are all produced locally and sold off really cheaply! We spent our evenings viewing local dance perfromances such as extracts from the Hindu epic Ramayana and a trance dance in which men danced barefoot upon burning bonfires. Whilst in Ubud we visited many beautiful temples and the famous rice fields - an iconic image of Bali. Yet the highlight for me was viewing the volcanoes in all of heir glory - we viewed from the craters edge and could thus see the path of the molten lava which looks like a dark shadow cast across the land. Our hotel was sitauated on the edge of the famous monkey forest - and i have never seen anyone so scared in their lives as Lana was of these little critters.

Upon visiting the forest i went alone and witnessed these monkeys up close and personal - all i can say is that tey are vicious little bastards who will attack any tourists at a moments notice - thankfully i came away unscathed, but others were not so lucky! The forest itself contains many ancient temples and it is nice to see the monkeys roaming around in their natural habitat!

It is strange to think that i have only two days left in Bali, then its back to Bangkok for two days of last minute shopping, before heading to Sydney, Australia - it is all very exciting already!!