Light and shade

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Sunday, January 16, 2011

Our next pit-stop after Kuta was a place called Sanur. After the craziness of Kuta we were quite happy to spend our days lounging around and resting; Sanur is much more chilled out than Kuta, although it is still a big tourist town and we were getting quite a lot of hassle off the touts still. We have both also been feeling really run down lately and have started to suffer with sniffles, aches and pains so we were both looking for somewhere to lay our heads in peace and quiet for a few days. Having wasted a few days away in Sanur we decided to take a little detour to one of the Balinese islands which is just off the coast called Nusa Lembongan. We had read about Lembongan before we arrived in Bali but never really intended to visit, however we decided on a whim to go for a few days and see what it was like. The reason we decided to go was mostly because of the description of it in our guidebook: "Lembongan is the Bali that many imagine but never find; simple rooms on the beach, cheap beers, with incredible sunsets". Feeling pretty disheartened and generally quite groggy lately we were cheered up at the thought that we might finally find the simple, peaceful, piece of solitude which we have been yearning for, so booked ourselves on the early morning boat from Sanur to Lembongan.

If only things were as simple as that though! A few days before we set sail for Lembongan our health really took a turn for the worse. I don't mean it lightly when I say I think we have both been suffering with culture shock since we arrived here; I think we have been dealing with the results of physical and mental shock since we arrived in Bali and our bodies just couldn't take it anymore. Anything which could hurt was hurting; between the two of us we had bad stomachs, sore throats, swollen glands, mouth ulcers, tooth-ache, bad skin, headaches, insomnia followed by nightmares, we were both covered in insect bites and.... I even started suffering with hives! So all in all we were both feeling awful and I was prone to bursting into tears at random points during the day. Looking back I see now that it was our bodies way of telling us it had had enough; we've been traveling for nearly 5 months now and we are starting to show the strain. So, not really sure whether or not it was a good idea, we packed ourselves off to Nusa Lembongan for a few days with the vow that we would take more vitamins to stop this happening again.
We ended up being really late for the boat and we had to grab a taxi to make sure we didn't miss it. We decided that, rather than go on one of the tourist boats we would travel on the public boat which ferries all the locals back and to from the island as it was cheaper and we thought it would be more of an authentic experience. I'm really glad that we did that because it turned out to be really memorable; we had to wade out to the boat at the beach and clamber on with our bags, then we were sat on wooden planks with all the locals and we got chatting to the guy sitting in front of us who was born on Nusa Lembongan and told us all about his childhood there. After a bit of a bumpy ride over we arrived on Nusa Lembongan and were pointed in the direction of our guest-house... which was basically on the beach! We checked into our room and then both flaked out on the bed, it had taken all of our energy to get us across on the boat and we both felt really ill. I actually slept away the whole of our first day on Lembongan; I fell asleep at 10am when we arrived and I didn't wake up until 7pm! While I snored the day away Tom went for a little look around the township and was quite shocked to realise how un-developed Lembongan was; there are no real roads to speak of, there are no shops only little stores that people run out of the front of their house, there are no cars, only 2 warungs (a warung is like an open-air roadside cafe), no street-lights, there are hardly any people here (the resident population is only 3000) and there are no prices on anything meaning that Tom had to negotiate for a bottle of water from a little old lady. That night we headed out for some food from one of the warungs and I have to admit that I was also quite surprised to see how basic the lifestyle was; rather than having roads with houses on them, there is one road which runs parallel to the beach and then people live in big open-air family compounds which are connected by tracks through the rainforest. Lembongan is certainly the most un-developed place we have ever been to and is kind of how we both imagine Bali must have been 40 years ago before all the tourist developments. The guest-house that we stayed in was right on the beach with our room looking out to the ocean and was situated literally 10 feet away from the beach; we were deliriously happy with our room especially considering that it was only 7 a night!

We ended up staying on Nusa Lembongan for 6 days, however we were both quite ill during the first 2 days. I don't think it would have made any difference where we were during those days because we both just felt so miserable and worn out, it was using up all our energy just pottering about and haggling for bottles of water off sweet old ladies. On the third day we both woke up feeling a little better so we ventured out for our first proper look around the island; we walked the length of the beach and followed one of the dirt tracks around the headland. It didn't take long before we were both exhausted but considering that we had been laid up in bed for almost a week beforehand we had a great day and it really picked our spirits up. From here our health improved dramatically and we were feeling better and better as the hours ticked by. On our final day we even went out snorkeling for two hours! An old man had approached us on the beach on our second day and offered to take us out snorkeling on his boat for a really cheap price so we took him up on his offer and we had a fantastic time. The water was crystal clear, even clearer than the water at the Great Barrier Reef, and we saw loads of new fish that we had never seen in Australia, like puffer fish and these long, silver stick-looking fish that darted upwards at their prey. It was a fantastic end to our time on Lembongan.

However, I think that Lembongan will always be special to us for a different reason... we had a real revelation while we were there. As our health improved we enjoyed each day more and more and one of the main reasons that we loved it so much was because we got chance to see a completely different side of Bali. In the evenings we would sit out on the beach and watch all the locals harvesting seaweed (which is the main crop over here), little kids would wave and say hello to us when we walked down the street, people would smile and say good morning to us, we got to see processions of beautiful Balinese ladies coming home from the evening temple ceremony balancing offerings on their heads, Balinese people would come and sit next to us while we ate our tea and teach us how to speak Balinese or tell us all about their Hindu beliefs. It was an incredible experience. One evening we were sitting at a warung eating our evening meal during a lightening storm when suddenly the whole island lost electrical power; we were sat in pitch darkness and silence, in the middle of the rainforest, with a mouth full of fried rice and all you could hear was the sound of the frogs in the trees. As the owner was riffling through the drawers looking for some candles, the whole rainforest would be instantly lit up by a strike of lightening and for that moment it was like sitting in the blazing sunshine... and then it would go back to blackness again and we would be sat waiting for a candle so we could finish eating our food. I truly believe that we turned a corner in Lembongan... we came feeling run down, tired, sick and miserable and we left 6 days later feeling positive, energetic and hopeful for the future. Lembongan has taught us many lessons; we realise now that in real life nowhere looks like it does in the holiday brochures, but that if you want to experience something as truthfully as possible than you have to take the bad with the good. We know now that Bali can be very beautiful but that it also has its downsides; behind every lovely photo there might be a big pile of rubbish or a couple of cockroaches. But that isn't a bad thing; one idea which we have come up against time and again since we got to Bali is the Hindu notion of equilibrium, everything exists in balance. For every positive there must be a negative; light and shade. It probably sounds really silly for me to be saying all of this but it really does feel like we have had a breakthrough lately; we are really starting to enjoy ourselves here in Bali. We are slowly beginning to realise the real joys of traveling in a place where every person you meet becomes a teacher and guide, every place you visit becomes a classroom and every experience becomes part of your learning curve. At the moment it feels like we are learning so much every day, about ourselves and the outside world. And for the moment at least we are going to try and enjoy our new-found sense of adventure and enthusiasm for as long as it lasts. Today feels like a great day to be traveling the world!
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rach on

hi ya , just got in after sarahs hen do , we had lots a laughs and my pudding was dedicated to you both (pics will be on facebook ) hope you are both safe and well lots a love as allways xx
ps it seems like forever since u went away but having read some of your blog again did you now you have been to 90 places in such a short amount of time ! god you will need a holiday after all this !! love u lots xx

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