Thursday, November 26, 2009


1. Nov 24, Day 41: Left Melia Hotel at Nusa Dua at about 12 pm for Padangbai. Was prepared to stay the night at Padangbai and take ferry the next morning to Lombok. Along the way to Padangbai, we saw a hive of activities at one of the beaches opposite a temple. They were all dressed up for the occasion, kids included. Speaking to one of the local ladies, we had the impression it was related to a wedding ceremony.

2. Reached there at 4 pm and Li Hoon and I unanimously decided to take next ferry which was leaving at 5 pm as there was no reason to loiter at Padangbai. Other than the ferry facilities (to Lombok and the small island SE of Bali, Nusa Penida), there was a short street next to it, fronting the beach which was littered with boats, with small shops and restaurants and some small hotels nearby; really nothing much to see and do. We could see that the ferry facilities were been expanded. Also, a view of Padangbai from the departing ferry.

3. Taking the ferry was really quite easy. At the vehicle gate to the ferry area, we paid 550 000 rps (about US$60) and was waved to park the car along the road to wait for the 5 pm ferry. It arrived on time and at 5.15 we were on the way.
The vehicle deck was a quarter full and there were not many passengers. We played scrabble, read our books and dozed off a little, while the TV played loudly. We reached Lombok's Lembar port at about 9.30 pm but did not berth until about 10 pm.

4. It didnt seem that long to reach Lombok. The 5 hours passed quite quickly. Other than the half an hour or so when the ship was rolling side to side, it was a fairly smooth ride all the way.

5. We set the GPS for Sengigi beach. It was darkness most of the way and traffic was light. After passing through the sleeping Mataram, we reached Sengigi at 11pm+. We first checked Jayakarta, but it was full; apparently there was a government meeting there. Driving further north, we were happy to check into Sengigi Beach Hotel for US70 a night. We were happy to eat a packet of instant noodles, wash up and go to bed.

6. Sengigi Beach Hotel was a sprawling complex, with an adjoining villa enclave, a small but charming blue pool next to the restaurant and a fairly long beach front located in a bay. After breakfast, we strolled along the beach; beach was so so. It was early morning and there were few people on the beach. A group of young boys were playing in the water, naked. They were happy to pose for picture when we passed them again on the way back. We were followed by peddlers selling T-shirts and pushing boat services to Gili islands.

7. Behind the beach, I took over his Dad's position and played a game of table tennis with this boy.

8. We were tempted to take a boat ride to one of the Gilli islands and stay there for a night or two but decided against it. With the time saved, we reckoned we could see more of Lombok and take a ferry over and see Sumbawa. For the day, we decided to have lunch in Mataram, see the water palace and stay the night at Kuta Beach, before heading towards the ferry point to Sumbawa.

9. Near Mataram, we had our car washed by this bunch of very jovial boys for 25 000 rps (US$2.5).

10. At Mataram, we had our cheapest lunch to date, at a stall near Mataram Mall, for 16 000 rps (less than US$2) before we went looking for the Mayura Water Palace. After some circling around, we found the Palace, actually not far from Mataram Mall, along the same road. We entered through a side gate and were immediately stopped by 2 suspicious persons, one of them carrying a book asking for donation before we could enter the Palace. The book showed donations in amounts up to hundreds of thousands of rupiahs. I put down 50 000 rps (I presume they can easily add another zero later) after ascertaining that that was all that we had to pay, including guide services. The other person claimed he was a tour guide, wearing a black T-shirt with Singapore Commando logo which he said he bought in Singapore while working there a few years ago. In showing us around the palace and the Pura Meru temple next to the palace, he said that the donation would go to the renovation of the palace and temple. Lonely Planet said if pressed for entrance fee, one should only pay 1000 rps. So, I suppose we spoiled the market.

11. Built in 1744 when Lombok was part of the Balinese sultanate, there was little left of the palace, other than a big rectangular lake in a walled compound, with a floating pavilion in the middle. Apparently, this was site of a bloody battle between the Dutch and the Balinese in 1894. There were many people fishing in the artificial lake. Around the floating pavilion were interesting statues at the water edge were interesting life size statues, showing officials from various places, including Arabic and Chinese. At one end of the lake was the Pura Mera temple which was in better condition.

12. Drive to Kuta Beach in southern Lombok was fairly straightforward, passing through Praya, good road, mostly one lane either way until we were near to Kuta when the road widened to a short work-in-progress dual carriage-way. Mostly plantations and rice fields most of the way. We decided to check out Novotel Lombok Mandalika Resort.

13. Kuta is a really really small seaside town. It is known for its great white sand beaches, a surfers paradise. Passed a number of budget hotels, shops selling the usual tourists stuff and makan stalls. We saw few tourists, a couple of them on motorbikes carrying surfing boards; probably its the low season.

14. The road to Novotel led us to outside the small town, to vast expanse of mudflats on both sides with coconut trees sprouting out, and concrete stumps lining the road, cleverly raising the level of anticipation of the arriving guests. The journey was well worth it. It is a beautiful beautiful resort, with characteristic straw roofs, in warm orange colours, a clean white beach, with hills and rock structures flanking the small bay. We checked into the resort for US70 a night.

15. Sunset was sheer beauty. We watched sunset at the beach and the pool, took pictures and were just mesmerized by the views. With every passing minute, the picture changed. There and then, we decided to stay another night here.

16. Buffet dinner at the resort was accompanied by a 4 man band, playing the many popular songs that we all could relate. Cocktail party preceded dinner and it was free; a good way to get the guests to the beach. It was good party atmosphere. While dinner was still on-going, a movie screen was set up nearby, along the beach, screening a French movie.

17. Next morning, we watch 2 buffaloes, named Good and Morning, "plowing" the sand, to smooth out the many footsteps left the day before.

18. After breakfast, we took a drive eastwards towards Tanjong Aan, to see the beaches and the country side. As we traveled along, the road got from bad to worse, with more potholes, and crossed 2 wooden bridges with their doubtful conditions. After talking to a couple of locals in our broken Bahasa, we decided to keep traveling along the road to Mujur, as against backtracking, back to Kuta. After Mujur, road improved considerably. We stopped to buy a batik painting of Lombok scenery at Rembitan before reaching Kuta for lunch at Bong Cafe.

19. We didnt get to see all the beaches at and around Kuta. Other than Novotel, the area is still virgin territory; very unlike the Kuta Beach of Bali, or for that matter even when compared to Sengigi beach here in Lombok. With the new airport been built nearby, about 20 mins from Kuta we were told, and the widening of roads towards it, I would expect development would accelerate in the coming years. For those who love a quiet retreat, it is a good time to visit the Novotel resort before Kuta becomes too crowded, and its good value for money during low season.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


1. Nov 20, Day 37: We left Jamahal Resort at 12 pm+ for Munduk, a small town in north Bali, in the mountains, on the slope of the mountain ridge that comprises Gunung Batukaru, Sangiang, Lesong and Pohen. We expected nice cool weather, great view, especially when we would be passing Lake Buyan and Temblingan and a chance to trek through plantations and rice fields. We expected about 3 hours of driving, traveling northwards from Jimbaran.

2. Around Denpasar, traffic was heavy; otherwise it was generally easy driving; sealed road, one lane either way. Saw this spiky Caucasian on his motorbike, with a kid in between. He had a good sense of humour; safety wise, we were not sure. In Bali, many Caucasians, including females, moved around in hired motorbikes or scooters. Looked a good way to see Bali.

3. It was drizzling. At 3+ we stopped for lunch at Pacung, at a resort next to the main road. We had great view from the restaurant. The resort was down the slope, with straw roof wooden accommodation built next to the tiered paddy fields. Another restaurant was built cantilevered out, serving as a lookout point, affording a great view.

4. North of Lake Buyan, we started to travel westwards along a narrow ridge; to the left are the 2 beautiful lakes and to the right sloping down to a valley, with occasional houses on both sides, and then twisting and turning downhill towards Munduk.

5. Just before Munduk town, we checked out Lumbung Cottages and Puri Lumbung Cottages and decided to check into Puri Lumbung Cottages for the night for 550 000 rps. Both were in real need to improve their state of maintenance, though Puri had an edge. Based on the pictures we saw in the internet and what we saw on the ground, we could imagine Puri must have looked great when it was newer. From the balcony of our stilt cottage, we could see the paddy field a stone throw away and fascinating view of the mountains and valley.

6. It had plaques showing it had received assistance from Swiss and Australian individuals and organisations in developing the resort. It had another plaque that showed that David Bowie stayed there in 1996. The plaque was put up in 2009, more than 10 years after the event.

7. After a drive to Munduk town, we quickly concluded that the only option for dinner was at the resort itself. I had nasi goreng for dinner, while listening to a 3 man musician group playing Balinese music. Must admit that I still have difficulties discerning the tunes. Breakfast at 7.30 am brightened the day, with sun rising over the Gunungs.

8. At 8 am, we had booked ourselves trekking with Arya, a staff with the resort. The previous evening, he offered to take us trekking, saying that there were very few tour guides who could speak English here. He looked a motivated staff, performing various tasks in the resort and spoke reasonably good English. We accepted his offer at US$7 per hour. At breakfast, we offered Elliot Fein, a hotel guest like us, from New York, to join us for trekking too.

9. It was a 2.5 hour of trekking; first down the slope from we stayed to the valley, then up the slope to other side of the valley from where we could see our resort on the other side, and then up the slope back to the resort; through plantations of cloves, nutmegs, cocoa, coffee, vanilla seeds, and rice fields; along very narrow pedestrian paths used by plantation workers; and passing houses and small villages from time to time. Here, you could see Arya showing us the cocoa pod and the seeds inside. The cocoa seeds tasted sweet.

10. Passing a elderly man picking coconuts from very tall trees, Arya arranged for the man to pick a coconut each for us. On the spot, he sliced open a hole in the coconuts. It was marvelous, real thirst quenching. We gave him 30 000 rps.

11. Along the way, 2 buffaloes posed for our pictures, stopping briefly from its plowing task. An artistically erected scarecrow also made a pretty scene.

12. In Bali, it is fairly common to see women carrying things on their heads; strangely not man. They could balance tall or bulky objects, walking gracefully. We were also surprised that they could also carry heavy loads. On the way back to the resort, we saw these 3 women carrying sand from the road-side to the construction site behind the road. Was told that each bucket could easily weigh 15 kg. They must have strong necks.

13. After checking out at about 11 am, we backtracked our route up the hills. Our destination was Ubud, to see Fangping and have dinner with her. We had lunch on the ridge overlooking the Lake Buyan.

14. We reached Ubud about 3 pm. After picking up Fangping, we had a 2 hour massage at Ubud Wellness before dinner. It was the best massage I had in my trip so far. Located behind the main road, it was not easy to find. Its a small outfit, good ambience, and wonderful massage. The masseurs were very professional, certainly well trained. At about 200 000+ rps for 2 hours (about US$20+), it was very good value for money. I would add to the must-do list for visitors to Ubud.

15. Fangping had booked Mosaic for dinner. Mosaic is located in a beautiful building, with a spacious garden behind for outdoor dining. It had 4 menus to choose from, one of them vegetarian. Good ambience, good food, good service, but huge bill. Overall, damage was about 2.5 million rps (about US200), really international pricing; bust my budget.

16. Stayed the night at Puri Padi, at US$40 a night. The next day was really lazing around and clearing some emails. In the afternoon, we drove to Nusa Dua and checked into Melia Villas and Spa Resort, where Yeow Pheng and his family was staying. That evening, we had seafood dinner at Jimbaran's Menega Cafe, on the beach.

17. At dinner, Yeow Pheng and I discussed our plans going forward. With her granddaughter just recovering from her sickness in Solo, they were not comfortable to proceed to Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores while leaving her behind. The trip across the islands could be too tough for her. On Java, we felt that it was not crucial for us to see it again as we had already seen the key places; especially during my army days, in my case; more so when we had earlier decided to skip Sumatra given the uncertainties and concerns after the Padang earthquake. Given that we have to be back before Christmas, timing was also getting a little stretched. On balance, we decided that cut short our journey and end it at Bali.

18. At my end, Li Hoon and I decided to proceed with the visit to Lombok with the Pajero and return to Bali to join Fangping until the end of her yoga course in early December. I will now have to arrange to ship the car back from Bali, or at worse from Surabaya. I should be back in Singapore by the first week of December.