Trip Start Mar 05, 2012
58Trip End Ongoing
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As I sit here writing this entry, after having walked about 10km around the unbearably hot city of Can Tho in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam), I no longer feel guilty about that fact that our time in Kuta was not terribly productive.
Surprisingly, Kuta remains somewhat less developed than many of the beach areas in central Indonesia. As it turns out, Kuta has been on the radar for some major resort development for quite some time. A chapter in Lonely Planet informed us that a major real estate player from Dubai had bought a considerable chunk of land for said development. However, when the company begins construction on the land, the locals burn it to the ground.
I am not one to condone arson, but I don't blame the locals for wanting to keep what belongs to them, up to and most certainly including the money generated from the tourist industry.
Kuta beach is the main accommodation/restaurant/tourist area on South Lombok. Stretching East and West from here are pristine, white-sand beaches with no development except for a small fishing village here and there.
As I said, we did plan to surf, but we did not have surf racks on our bikes (if you read my last blog post from Senggigi then you can imagine what a nightmare that would have been). The only option for surfing in the Kuta area (without a surf rack) is to head to the nearest fishing village, rent a board there, and charter a boat out to the reef break. We had met a few people before reaching Kute, most of which had incurred injuries from falls over the coral reef. The cost of the board rental and boat was quite high as well, so we decided to give the surfing a pass until we got back to Kuta (Bali) or on the coast of Vietnam. By now I was about 3 or 4 weeks behind on my blog and decided to use the down time to get caught up, even if it meant using my mobile device to do the typing (an incredibly tedious and frustrating endeavor). Cody used the time to take a lot of naps.
In truth, we never actually set foot on Kuta beach. Instead, we hopped on our bikes to go find a beach that was more to our liking. 10 minutes down the road sat Tanjung An beach. Almost entirely deserted except for 3 restaurants that were spread along the lengthy shoreline, it was a good spot for hanging out. The beach sat in a bay, sheltered by the waves and was quite shallow offering a view of some of the bluest water I have ever seen. I negated the guilt of laying around by going for a run every time we went to the beach. The only downside of being on a beach with no one on it is the touts get bored. If you showed the slightest interest in their goods (t-shirts and sarongs) you would have a group of 10 or so surrounding your bamboo beach recliner within minutes. Fortunately Cody and I never had to deal with this. It was entertaining to watch the poor girl next to us go through the hassle though.
We decided to put some miles on our bikes and explore as much of the Lombok coast as we could. Heading East past our hangout beach, the roads went from not great, to almost non-existent. Yet another drawback of getting off the beaten path in an undeveloped area. Gravel was replaced with dirt and mud, cows with water buffalo, and pedestrian traffic with unpredictable animal life (chickens love to pretend like they can't hear a motorbike coming, then just as you get close they throw a fit and jump in front of your bike – if not chickens then dogs, or cats, or pigs and actually children too for that matter). The scariest of the lot is by far the water buffalo; they seem to know that size matters on the roads and wander across them without the slightest concern for oncoming traffic – they would win that fight.
Along the way a local befriended Cody and insisted on a long conversation as they drove down the road on their motorbikes side-by-side. Progress was slowed but he was kind enough to point us in the right direction as we parted ways. The East coast was nothing to write home about, we didn’t find the seaweed farms, and we didn’t see any of the lobsters that were marked all over the tourist map we had acquired. We did get a good view of the West coast Nusa Tenggara, leaving me with a feeling of regret that we would not be heading further on to Flores and Komodo islands to see the giant dragons. 6 months and $6000 would be sufficient to get a real feel for the majority of Indonesia and all that it has to offer.
A trip West from Kuta would offer up some more spectacular beaches that were well worth the steep up and down hill climbs along terrible roads on our bikes. I think we are both starting to feel like we could drive almost anywhere as long as we have to wheels under us.
Mawun beach was the kind of place that you dream about before you go on vacation or go traveling. Not a soul on the sand, the clearest of turquoise waters, surrounded by lush green vegetation and rolling hills, and a small fishing village nestled behind the beach at one end of the coastline. Being the idiots that we are, we had no food and no water. It had already taken us about an hour to get there and there was absolutely nothing nearby to provide us with any sustenance. Our trip was cut short and we reluctantly headed back to civilization.
Kuta itself reminded me of a trip I took to Siahnoukville, on the coast of Cambodia. Quiet, friendly, simple, beautiful, and full of little kids trying to sell you bracelets. On the first day Cody and I managed to lose each other on our bikes. I stopped at an intersection to wait for him and was immediately surrounded by 5 children trying to sell me their bracelets.
"You wun bracelet?"
“No, thanks kiddo.”
“Tomorrow?" (This is a trick where if you say "Yes" they find you the next day and really grill you if you don't buy anything)
“Cheap price.” (Puppy dog eyes)
Once they realize the game is up they usually let their curiosity get the best of them and start to ask questions (with their impressive English skills – Cody jokingly mentioned that all they need to do in Korea is have the kids go out and sell bracelets to tourists, then they would actually learn English), or in this case fiddle around with my bike. One girl turned my bike on and was about to rev the throttle before I killed the engine. Another knew my bike had the kickstand kill-switch (bike turns off when the kickstand goes down) and stopped me from being able to pull away a couple of times. Despite their being incredibly cute, they can be a huge pain in the ass. On the plus side, these kids were going to school, at least most of them. A local told us that the parents let the kids decide whether to go to school or to sell bracelets, or go to school and sell bracelets after. A nice change from Cambodia where I believe many of the children are forced to sell the bracelets and see little to nothing of the benefits.
I think by now we had both lost a bit of steam and were ready to move on to a new country. Things had become repetitive (mainly the touts, tourist operators, 'helpful’ people trying to take you places etc. and the lack of good food at a good price).
From Lombok we headed back to Bali for 2 nights where we managed to correct our surfing mistakes and I managed to actually ride a couple of proper waves. From Bali we headed to Jakarta where we screwed around for about 8 hours in the airport. Finally we made it to Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).