Well, it seems about time to face the music and quantify the bad news -- it looks like we're clocking in at over THREE WHOLE WEEKS since my last post. Disgraceful. In my defense, I would like to note that I departed Denpasar, Bali, at 6:50AM on Monday, September 28th, arrived in Jogja at 7:05AM (three cheers for the time difference), was in a taxi by 7:20AM and back at my house by 7:35AM, had a quick mandi, packed my backpack, and was out the door by 8:10AM, arriving at school at 8:30AM only half an hour late for my Indonesian language class, and proceeded to take, teach, and/or lesson plan for class for the next eleven hours, arriving back home at 8PM that evening. Needless to say, it's been a long two weeks of playing catch up.
The game of catch up was barely over, in fact, before it was preemptively begun again this week, as I stayed late at work on Friday to teach a make-up class for a class I'll miss at the end of next week when I dip out for Bali AGAIN (doing it right this time though) with my visiting father! Acknowledging the fact that it would be truly unforgivable if I took another vacation before blogging about my first one, I figure it's time to buckle down.
For those who have their maps ready and waiting, our general itinerary read as follows: we flew in to Denpasar, Bali (arriving only one and half hours late -- rock on, Mandala Air), and spent the first night in Legian. We spent the next day and night in and around Kuta, and then the next morning boarded a bus bound for the port town of Padangbai, on Bali's eastern coast. From there we took a ferry over to Lombok, docked in Lembar, then bussed up to the coastal town of Senggigi, where we proceeded to gorge on the delicious food and descend into emo-dom, contemplating the nature of our existence and the fate of Planet Earth over the course of the next few days (more on this later). Once Senggigi started cramping our style (also more on this later), we hopped a shuttle and then a motorboat to the Gili Islands off the northwestern coast of Lombok, stopping first on Gili Trawangan for three nights, and then hunkering down on Gili Meno for two nights. From Gili Meno, it was only one motorboat, one shuttle bus, one ferry, and one more shuttle bus back to Kuta, Bali, and the next morning I was up and at the Denpasar airport earlier than I care to recall, only one small island and a few short hours away from just another manic Monday.
For the sake of curbing the potentially epic proportions of this post, I've decided to scrap the conventions of narrative and do it highlight style, so that I might actually finish by the time my flight leaves for Bali next week. Because that would be nice.
THE ADVENTURES & MISADVENTURES OF F, B & A ON BALI, LOMBOK & THE GILIS, HIGHLIGHT STYLE:
TJ'S. A Mexican restaurant in Kuta with amazing seafood enchiladas and coconut margaritas. Do I have to say more? And before you start looking at me like that because I'm out rocking my tourist hat and eating Mexican food, keep in mind that it's been roughly two months since I've had tortillas, beans, or any cheese product that doesn't taste like grated Kraft singles. (Oh wait, that's because the cheese in Jogja IS grated Kraft singles. Right.)
ULU WATU. A Hindu temple on the southwestern tip of Bali (as in, basically built into the side of the cliffs), complete with sweeping ocean views and rascally monkeys that steal people's sunglasses off their heads and then try to eat them. Literally. Here we also got to see a traditional dance called kecak, in which 40-odd men in sarongs sat in concentric circles in the middle of an open-air, semicircular theater and chanted for an hour while dancers depicted scenes from the Ramayana story and we watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean in the background. Word.
GETTING TO SENGGIGI. Suffice it to say this ordeal lasted roughly ten hours, and included not one but TWO shuttle buses as well as a 5-hour ferry ride. One interesting aspect of this journey was meeting a couple Germans who are actually currently living in Jogja, who we would continue to see along our route for the rest of the week, and who would later pretend not to know Brittany when she ran into them in a restaurant here a few days ago. Another interesting aspect of this journey was the 5 hours on the ferry from Padangbai to Lembar, a few of which we spent playing hearts with the Germans on a vom-encrusted table, and a few of which Brittany spent by the railing on the lower deck having a heart-to-heart (stomach-to-heart?) with the Bali Sea. I am fortunate to be relatively immune to motion sickness, but even I was having a hard time with the violent rocking of what was basically a small ship carrying hundreds of people, dozens of motorbikes, and approximately three large tourist buses. (Note: the people on the tourists buses, we later learned, had sit INSIDE the bus, inside the lowest deck of the boat, the entire time. Ouchity-ouch and/or YUCK is all I have to say about that.)
BEING CONFUSED AND WET IN SENGGIGI. Unfortunately for us, our time spent in Senggigi, which apparently is usually a lively and sunny beach town, coincided with both the end-of-Ramadan Idul Fitri holiday as well as the onset of rainy season. Therefore, the town was not only TOTALLY deserted (except for a handful of other bewildered tourists wandering around) but it was also raining. (And in the tropics, when it rains, it actually does pour.) These effects combined to produce an eery, post-apocalyptic vibe for this phase of our vacation, during which we collectively bashed our Lonely Planet guide (which had falsely suggested that options for accommodation and eating came at approximately one-third of the price that they actually did,) discussed the probability that we might be the last humans on earth, and drank lots of Bintang. One of the days we rented motorbikes and tried to drive inland to visit Pura Suranadi, another sweet Hindu temple in the jungle, but we didn't get 15 minutes out of Senggigi before the clouds let loose and we commenced to look liked we'd just jumped in a lake -- which I guess we basically had, given the amount of water falling from the sky. We figured that since we were already soaking wet we may as well press on, but by the time we made it to the temple, my linen pants were completely see-through and Brittany's circulatory system was flirting heavily with hypothermia. The temple was truly gorgeous, constructed of black stone set against a background of deep jungle greens and purples, and though we tried really hard to enjoy it, the fourteen thousand cubic meters of water that were being dumped over our heads per second made it a little difficult. (It should also go without saying that since bringing our cameras out at this point would have been sure and sudden death-by-jungle-downpour for them, there exists no proof of our expedition to Pura Suranadi.) Scrapping our plans to visit another temple and some small villages in the area due to risk of drowning, we headed back to Senggigi -- and of course, in our hypothermic haze, accidentally took the long way. Back at our hotel, after putting on the warmest clothes we could find (no hot water, dontchaknow), we took ourselves out to celebrate with not one but TWO dinners, dessert at a restaurant with a kick-ass live band that played four James Taylor songs for me upon request, as well as tickets on the next boat to the Gilis. Maybe one day we'll be back to Senggigi. Maybe Noah's ark will be over by then.
GILI T. Three days of cloudless skies, spectacular white sand beaches, banana juice, pineapple juice, mango juice (oh my!), all the seafood we could eat, and technicolor sunsets over Bali's Gunung Agung, with some snorkeling and Italian-style gelato thrown in for kicks. I think they call that karma. Thanks, cosmos. It was about time.
GILI M. Gili Meno was actually the only pre-determined part of our trip, as Brittany had made reservations at the Sunset Gecko, an eco-friendly hostel of beachside bungalows (Lonely Planet's pick!), for the last two nights. We figured it would be nice to wrap up the Lombok vacation on the quietest of the three Gilis, which it certainly was -- we also figured there would be water at the Sunset Gecko (since accommodation normally comes with at least the option to shower), but there certainly wasn't. Apparently the water delivery boat didn't come in? We figured the eco-friendly place would have just had salt-water showers (after all, that's the kind of shower we were taking at our regular hostel on Gili T), but no cigar. Hence Brittany's and my decision, working on day five since our last freshwater shower and day two since our last shower period, to take the Sunset Gecko's communal bar of all-natural soap into the ocean. This had the general effect of commencing the process of dreading our hair, and most likely only made us stickier than we already were. Operation: GET CLEAN, sadly, failed -- but no biggie, since we only had ten hours of trekking back to Bali the next day. Gili Meno was gorgeous, to be sure, but needless to say we left the Sunset Gecko looking pretty lizard-like. That freshwater shower back in Kuta was probably the best cold hostel shower I've ever had in my life.
And since I've already related my epic journey back to Jogja, I think we can call that a wrap. In the meanwhile, it's just been a whirlwind of teaching, grading, studying Indonesian, and trying not to get BangJo every time I walk by. Next up: Fiona and her pops do Bali. Oh don't worry, you'll hear allllllll about it.