Propositioned on Penida

Trip Start Sep 24, 2009
Trip End Apr 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Made Homestay (Sampalan)
MM Dive (Toyapakeh)

Flag of Indonesia  ,
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Exploring Penida

Well, if I thought Nusa Lembongan was slightly disappointing on initial arrival, Nusa Penida, on first impression, was even worse! I am learning, however, that you have to ignore the first impression and just trust that all will be OK as you dig a bit deeper to discover what makes a place interesting.

I got up at around 4.30am to catch the early boat to Nusa Penida, the third island of this small group of islands off of Bali. Even though the largest, Penida is the least visited as it doesn't really provide much for tourists.  It is the administration centre for this region of Bali. 

The boat, a very basic wooden boat with seats running down the length of each side, took off as the sun was rising.  It took about an hour and at that time of morning, the water was pretty calm.  However, I also got an appreciation of the incredibly strong currents that run through this area as we approached Penida.  The boat, while motoring full speed, was literally travelling sideways as we moved across the channel into the bay.  I was beginning to wonder if the driver would be able to actually get across the channel and imagined being swept away to Australia!

I jumped off the boat in Toyapakeh, and had a quick look around the town, and couldn’t find anywhere to stay!  I was also being stared at like I had 3 heads – they don’t get a lot of tourists in this area.  There were no signs indicating where the homestays were, I didn’t even see a local restaurant where I could sit for a minute and gather my thoughts.  

Meanwhile, I was being 'stalked' by the local tourist guide, Roddie.  I really do need to learn to enlist the help of these guys rather than avoid them!  Being stubborn and determined to find my own way, I jump into a bemo (taxi van) to ride over to Sampalan, another area that someone had suggested I stay. Asking the driver how much for the bemo ride, he asked if I wanted a public bemo or special charter.  I was happy with 'public’ as it should have been cheaper.  He told me the price was 20,000rp – and we took off.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had somehow just chartered the whole bemo – and watched a few locals took advantage of having a free ride as they jumped off an on.  Grrrr!   Meanwhile, Roddie is still following me – and rode behind the bemo the 10kms from Toyapakeh to Sampalan.

On arrival in Sampalan, I gave in and let Roddie lead me to a homestay – one which belonged to his ‘uncle’.  It looked OK except for the 2 large dead cockroaches on the floor.  He also gave me his motor cycle (scooter) to hire for the two days that I was there - no paperwork, and I just paid at the end.  Very trusting! 

I was glad for the bike as there really wasn’t anything on offer in Sampalan – and it turns out I would have been better to have stayed in Toyapakeh, where I arrived.  Oh well – Sampalan gave me a great starting point to explore the island.

By 8am, I had jumped on the bike and was off on my little adventure!  I followed the coastline for awhile, and then travelled inland, up and over the large hills.  Everywhere I went, people would wave and call out to me.  On many occasions, I had people wave me down to stop – and thinking that they had noticed a problem with the bike, or that I was going somewhere that I shouldn’t be, I stopped.  But no, they just wanted to chat!   "What’s your name, where are you going,…" the usual sequence of questions….

I came across a large village, Tanglad, in the middle of the island, which is known for their special form of weaving.  They grow the cotton here, hand dye it and make a type of fabric that is unique to this area.  The fabric is used to make formal sarongs used in ceremonies such as funerals.  I had stopped in the middle of the village as I was an intersection and needed to check which way to go.  A guy saw me, came over to help – and kindly invited me for a tour through the village and to see the weaving.  I was taken into the homes of a couple of the weavers to have a look.  They offered to sell some to me of course, but it was nice that there was absolutely no pressure to buy.  Afterwards he took me to his family shop to have a drink – and he wouldn’t accept any money.  I was amazed!

I continued on, and several hours later made my way to Toyapakeh.  I jumped off the bike and had another wander through the town and was thrilled to see two ‘white faces’!  At this point, I hadn’t seen a single tourist from the moment I arrived and had been feeling somewhat isolated. 

Tenille and Chris, from Australia, were hanging out in Bali for 2 months and had made a trip over to Penida for a few days.  They also pointed out where their homestay was - and I found the homestay I had originally wanted (based on a recommendation) but couldn't find right next door. From the road, you wouldn't have know that it was there.  It’s only because they walked along the beach that they found them; I had walked along the road.

Later that evening, after a little afternoon snooze (I’m getting used to these nana naps!), I jumped on the bike to go for an evening ride.  I came across a ceremony at a beachside temple and stopped to listen to the gamelan (Indonesian-style orchestra) music and watch from a distance.  One of the guys saw me and invited me in.  Fortunately I had a sarong with me in my pack, so wrapped that around me (a sarong is mandatory to go into temples in Indonesia).  I thought I would be able to sneak in and watch from the back – but no!  The gamelan stopped playing, and all gamelan guys are waving at me to come in and to take their photo!  I was mortified that they had interrupted their practice!  I happily took a couple of photos of them, then sat down to watch.  The guy who invited me in explained what was happening along the way, and I was even blessed with holy water. 

Afterwards, my new friend invited me back to his house to meet his wife.  She was lovely, and brought out some water, apples and cake for me.  He installs satellite dishes so I suspect they were reasonably well off compared to many others on the island.

What a very cool evening!

Moving back to Toyapakeh

The next day, I packed up and moved across to the homestay that I discovered back in Toyapakeh.  On the way, a car had been following me, and then overtook me.  A few minutes later, it came back towards me and the guy waved me down. He stops literally in the middle of the road (which is only 1 car widths wide anyhow) and starts talking to me.  As he was in uniform, I thought at first he might be a policeman, but I think he just worked at one of the administrative offices in Sampalan.  He asked if I would be staying at Made’s Homestay again that night (how did he know?), but I explained that I checked out and would be staying in Toyapakeh

We continued talking for a few minutes (still blocking the street as other people were trying to get around us!), he mentioned the word ‘kasih’ which is ‘love’.  I thought I had heard wrong and ignored it.  Next thing he declares in English “I love you”.  I was a bit taken aback and thought maybe I had still somehow misheard so ignored it, and explained that I needed to continue on my journey.  He then said it again:  “I love you” and kissed me on the shoulder!!  Yikes!!!!  I jumped on my bike and was out of there!!  Good grief!

After checking in, I jumped on the bike and headed over the Crystal Bay to do some snorkeling.  This is an area that attracts lots of day trippers from Bali for diving. It was a gorgeous little bay and I pretty much spent the day there, exploring, snorkeling and just lying on the beach.  The snorkeling wasn’t too bad, but as the currents were incredibly strong here (even in the bay) I didn’t feel too comfortable going out very far. Unfortunately my little 'point and shoot' camera stopped working here when I got a bit of moisture in it when I snorkelling, so I didn't get any photos.. :-(

The puppy

That night, it was a beautiful sunset, and there was finally a good view of Gunung Agung, the massive volcanic mountain on Bali, so I wandered down to the beach to take photos.  As I was standing around, I noticed a guy coming towards me dragging something along the beach.  As he got closer, I realized it was a puppy, about 4 weeks old.  He had tied a string around the puppy’s stomach, and was dragging it backwards across the beach, and every so often would swing it out in front of him like a toy on a string, plopping to onto the beach.  I was horrified!  I called out to him but he ignored me, walked down towards the water line, tossed the puppy behind a boat and walked away.  I glared daggers at him as he walked away – and no one else was taking any notice.

I walked over to the little black puppy and he was lying there looking at me with the saddest eyes ever.  He was a big mangy looking but it looked so helpless. I reached down to untie the string from around the waist.  He wouldn’t move – I’m not sure if he was injured, too frightened, or has just given up.  He just laid his head down on his paws and looked at me.  I really didn’t know what to do.  He had been tossed below the high tide water line, so if he didn’t move he would drown – obviously that was the intention of the man who tossed him there.

I walked away a bit and kept calling him to move, but he just wouldn’t.  If I moved him, and if was injured or partially paralysed (which is what I suspected), he would just die a horrible death on the beach in the daytime heat.  If I left him where he was, he would drown in the incoming tide.  It wasn’t like there was going to be a vet on the island.  And of course, I don’t have it in me to kill it instantly to put it out of its misery.

In the end, I walked away, and a bit further up, sat on the beach and cried as the sun set.  Did I do the right thing, to not interfere and let ‘nature’ (as it may be) take its course?  Probably not.  But what else could I do?  What would YOU do?

I had the worse sleep that night.  I kept waking up thinking about that poor puppy.   I hope he found the energy and motivation to move.

This is a fairly spiritual island with lots of spirits lurking around apparently, and I could only hope that some evil spirit dished out a bit of karma on to the guy that tossed the puppy on the beach like a piece of rubbish.  

Onward to Gili Twanganan

The next morning I caught a boat back to Lembongan, from where I then caught a speedboat to Gili Twanganan, one of the small islands that makes up the Gili group off of Lombok.  I plan to have 6 days exploring Twanganan, Meno and Air before heading back to Bali to meet Alan.

All in all, Penida was a nice, friendly island.  Most people there were extremely friendly and inquisitive.  But it’s a fairly basic island in terms of tourist facilities, and I only ran into the two Australian tourists, and a Czech couple who ran the second homestay that I stayed at. 

Travelling on my own at this stage, I like having a few more tourists around me even if I’m not hanging out with them.  I didn’t always feel comfortable on Penida- not that I felt threatened in any way, but just a bit isolated.  The puppy episode obviously put a damper on things for me as well and I’m trying hard to keep things in perspective.  It’s a different culture and for many, it’s a very basic existential way to live, just trying to earn enough to put food on the table. 
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Sean on

Hi there:)

Love your stories about traveling through Indo....

I' off to climb Rinjani next week and then spend a week on Nusa Penida just hanging out and cruising around.
Your information here was really helpful

Thganks heaps

lisa_nz on

Hi Sean,

Thanks so much for the kind comments. My time in Penida was at the early stages of my big trip. In hindsite, I was possibly still a bit nervous and getting used to being a solo traveller at that point. I think I would have been much more relaxed if I had been further along into my adventure! I am very keen to go back to Penida - especially before too many others discover it. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on the island after your visit. There's also some excellent info on is you want to find out a bit more about logistics, accom, etc. (I post on there as busylizzy on the forum).

I will be heading back to Indonesia in August for another two months (the start of a 6-12 month trip again). This time I'm going to the Maluku Islands and Sulawesi before heading to Burma and Nepal. So now I'm gearing up for yet another big adventure - can't wait!

Enjoy your travels!


Sean on

Hey Lisa

Well, I made it to Penida and back in one piece and even got to the top of mount Rinjani, which was a herculean task, to say the least:)
I loved Penida, and ended up spending a week there, just chilling out and exploring. Luckily I met Agus, who runs the Nusa Penida Guest house, so I hung with him and traveled around doing not much!
It's a strange place though, as you no doubt know and I now get why travelling solo there as a woman may have been a little off putting early on. I got lost somewhere in the interior and it took my hours and hours to find my way home.
Overall though, I loved the quiet, the solitude and the complete lack of commercialism. I found people to be genuinely interested in where I was from and what I was doing there.....
Anyway, it's now August so you are probably on the road again, so happy trails:)

Stay safe


lisa_nz on

Thanks so much for reporting back - and glad you enjoyed it there. I'm now looking at heading back there later in November now, with a friend that has travelled Indo extentisively, but not yet to Penida - it will be interested to see what changes have occurred. Good on you for getting up Rinjani - I've read that is a fairly strenuous adventure!

I leave home tomorrow night so am just now going through my pack to figure out what I can take out. As usual - I've overpacked. So the process of elimination begins... will be happy to finally be on the plane. Enjoy the rest of your travels!

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