Enter Southern Hemisphere

Trip Start Nov 01, 2011
Trip End Apr 12, 2013

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Monday, January 30, 2012

It was time to hit the skies once again, as we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Bali, Indonesia, and country number six on our trip! For me, it was the first time I had been to the Southern Hemisphere.

We decided to stay in Kuta, a short ride away from the airport, and the most tourist friendly town on Bali apparently. It was a world away from the efficient modernity of KL. We had arrived in a bit of a shambolic town if I'm honest. Twisting, weaving alleys were chock full of bars, clubs, surf shops and restaurants. It was also a return to the abundant street stalls filled with hassling staff.

Kuta is to the Aussie partygoers as Magaluf is to our drunken tourists. Rather than letting it annoy us, we tried to embrace the boozy culture and raucous Aussie surfer douchers.

We were pleasantly surprised with the weather too, as we were braced for hellish tropical rains, but arrived to blistering equatorial heat. And so our first day was spent on Kuta beach, curiously watching the surfers, sometimes successfully conquering the waves, sometimes being completely wiped out. We found the beach and water there disgusting, with mounds of trash being washed in with every wave, amongst unintentionally ironic signs proclaiming 'Keep Kuta Clean!’. The one time we attempted a swim in the ocean, we had to constantly avoid floating detritus.

We also overestimated our accumulated resistance to the sun by this point, and got fairly badly burnt in just a few hours! Clearly the sun down here was far more powerful than we realised.

In short, our first few hours on Bali were less than ideal, and we were a little dismayed. We were well aware that we were seeing but a snapshot of the island, and were disappointed we didn't have the time to explore the more quiet spots.

Things picked up at night as we sampled a few Bintangs, the most famous beer in Indonesia, and one of my favourites so far, and tried a few local delicacies like Chicken Satay, Beef Rendang and Nasi Goreng, all very tasty. We ended up finishing the night in a preposterously decorated Reggae Bar, which had an excellent live band playing. The whole building was decked out in huge Bob Marley pictures, creating a shrine-like feel. We also tried the local alcohol, called Arak, which was truly awful, definitely never trying it again!

We spend another day in Bali, doing much of the same, and departed by ferry for the neighbouring island of Lombok the next day. We were glad to escape the cheap, inauthentic feel of Kuta, and head to somewhere a bit quieter and more traditional. We stayed two nights on the mainland of Lombok, in a tiny little town called Senggigi, which had one of the most idyllic beaches we’ve seen.

We then moved on to Gili Trawangan, one of three miniscule islands nestled off the North West coast of Lombok. Trawangan is the largest and furthest out to sea of the trio, and also the busiest. It was a blissful retreat after Bali. Motor vehicles are banned on the Gilis, confining the traffic to horse-and-cart or bicycle. Totally peaceful.

Our first day on Gili T was spent as prisoners, trapped in the shelter of our accommodation as a monstrous tropical downpour deluged the island all day and most of the night. We did manage to foray through the rain for one of our best meals so far however. We visited an Aussie restaurant called Skallywags, and ordered some proper western grub; chicken and leek pies with potato wedges and onion gravy. This was just the type of food we had been missing, and it was done perfectly. We were positively delighted by the meal, it’s funny how eating something so simple can give you such pleasure after dining on Asian food for so long!

The next day the clouds had dispersed and we had returned once more to beautiful blue skies and simmering sunshine. Time to have an explore! We hired bikes, and circumnavigated the island, searching out some quiet patches of beach. The island was almost totally flat, so we had a great cycle, taking around forty-five minutes to lap the whole island. We happend upon a tortoise sanctuary, where Abi gushed over the multitude of cute little animals which they housed there.

It turned out most of the island was covered with scenic wonder spots, and we spent lots of time on various beaches around the place, knowing our sun-worshipping days were coming to a close.

We made the short journey over to Gili Air a few days later, an even smaller island, which only took around ninety minutes to walk around. We reckoned there must have been less than one hundred tourists there, lending a real castaway feel to the place. We found a tremendous bungalow to stay in, which even had a roofless toilet area. Taking showers under the deep blue sky was a great experience. The peace was amazing, and we continued as we had on Trawangan, spending all day chilling on gobsmackingly good beaches, and taking in some awesome sunsets. We did get slightly lost one day trying to shortcut through the middle of the island on the way home, but it turned out to be quite an adventure, and we even came across a delicious local restaurant!

After almost a week spend lounging on the Gilis, it was time to bid farewell to such wonderful coasts for the time being, and we journeyed back to Bali for one more night. Our next destination was the far larger island of Java, and a trip to the spectacular lunar landscape of the volcano called Mount Bromo.

It was hard to believe we wouldn’t be seeing any more Asian beaches, but we had plenty more brilliant destinations in mind.
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