Our post-Christmas vacation started on the 26th, when we packed up our Christmas decorations, cleaned the apartment we had rented for the holiday and headed toward the airport to fly to Lombok. Lombok is the next island east of Bali, and is much different than its neighbor. We spent four days in Kuta, Lombok which could not be further from it’s name twin Kuta, Bali. Kuta, Lombok is quiet, natural and rough. There are lots of cheap hotels, a few nice ones and one luxury resort. There are cliffs by the sea. There is blue water. There is fresh fish. Half of the restaurants are also real estate offices, which tells you that this place is on the verge of change.
We spent four days laying by the pool, reading and relaxing at the Family House Hotel and Cafe. The most productive thing we did most days was figure out where to eat lunch and dinner. Despite being a tiny, sleepy town on the map, the food in Kuta was outstanding. The restaurants were sometimes small shacks and the meal usually included a conversation with the chef/owner. The prices in Kuta, Lombok were also pretty similar to regular Indonesian prices, instead of the tourist price you’ll find in Bali. A dish of grilled mahi-mahi that was caught earlier that day for $3.00? Yes, please!
On the last day we finally peeled ourselves away from laziness and got a driver to take us to Mawun Beach, which is a deserted beach. To get there you have to navigate a really bad mountainous road. It was beautiful. On the way back we stopped at a restaurant on top of the mountain for lunch.
After four days of laying around (which we really needed) we were driven to Bangsil Harbor on the northern side of Lombok to catch a boat to Gili Trawangan, better known as Gili T. The Gili islands (Gili means small island in Lombok language) are a string of three islands off of Lombok. The largest is Gili T (though you can walk around the entire thing in a couple of hours) and it’s also the most rowdy. It took our boat about 20 minutes to get there. We joined 17 other Peace Corps Volunteers who were spread out over the island to celebrate the New Year. The setting was beautiful. White sand, with green and blue water and palm trees. The food in Gili T was amazing, too. We could choose from Mexican, Italian, Indian, burgers, fresh salads, sandwiches, grilled fresh fish, vegetables and fantastic ice cream. The service was terrible, but where did we have to be anyway?
Our activities on the island (outside of eating) included riding bikes around the island (the west side of the island is almost deserted with a few hotels here and there), and taking a pretty subpar snorkeling trip. Snorkeling during rainy season means murky water, debris and some trash, too. Our boat, with over 30 people in it, also left me in the water with another group (which I had accidentally started swimming with as I couldn’t keep track of who was in the water). I looked up at one point and all my friends and my boat were gone. Luckily, Will noticed I wasn’t on the boat and convinced the driver to go back and get me before heading to the next location. Two stops later we had docked and gotten off onto another island called Gili Air and I had one of the best cheeseburgers of my life at a restaurant called Scallywags. It was so good that I temporarily forgot that I had been nearly left behind. The return trip to Gili T was ridiculous as a huge rain storm came and we were completely soaked with both ocean and rain water. Thank goodness I zipped everything up into a ziplock before the trip started.
When our time in Gili T came to a close, we hopped on another boat, this time toward Bali. One note about our hotel in Gili T: GoodHeart Resort was wonderful and all the staff were happy and friendly the entire time.
When we arrived on Bali a few hours later we headed to the airport to meet up with our friend Mitch, who Will met while studying at the College of Charleston. Mitch is the kind of friend who would always accept an invitation when we were living in DC. Want to go to Puerto Rico? Sure! Want to come to my birthday party? You bet! Want to come watch a Wizard’s game? I’ll be there! Want to get together to watch March Madness? Of course, we do every year! Oh yeah…Mitch lives in Madison, Wisconsin. So it’s no surprise that Mitch was our first friend to come visit us in Indonesia.
We had a great time with Mitch in Seminyak, Bali at a small villa. One day we hired a driver and went on a tour of the island. We saw a volcano, the Monkey Forest in Ubud (which you know from Eat, Pray, Love), a traditional Balinese dance and a coffee farm. The day ended with an incredible meal on the beach in Jimbaran, Bali, where you pick out the fresh fish to be grilled (or prawns, or squid, or lobster, or….) before you sit down at your table.
Our vacation finally came to an end, and we flew back to Surabaya and returned to site. It was kind of good to be back at site where we are not tourists, though it wasn’t fun finding many of our things waiting for us covered in mud (thanks rainy season!).
A few weeks later, the mold is under control, we’ve done some deep cleaning and we’ve had a few more visitors (more on that later). 2013 will be the year of visitors and we are so happy about that!
Happy New Year!