The Indonesian language is very easy to pronounce but not as easy to remember. Selamat datang (which I remember using for my IPS humanities classes in our ritual good mornings greetings from around the world) is hello, terima kasih is thank you and sama sama is you’re welcome. Nusa means island. And get this: air means water. It’s a fun language to use and we’re trying to pick up bits and pieces as we go. So it was hello Nusa Lembongan next, a little island to the south east of Bali we had heard good things about (thanks to my good friend Kristin who lived in Bali for two years).
We had organized a shuttle bus from the place we had rented our scooter the night before, and packed ourselves in with a number of other tourists also heading from Ubud to Nusa. I stationed myself in the front seat with the driver to stave off any car sickness, and enjoyed a nice chat with him all the way to the port in Sanur. We didn’t get a chance to see much of Sanur, but were delivered to a ticket office and then ushered onto a “bemo” (which is a popular mode of transport here involving a cab for the driver and covered bench seats in the back for the passengers) and then to wait for the boat. We had booked the “fast boat” which was only going to take about 30 minutes, but first we had to wait an hour for it.
This was our first glimpse of the ocean in Bali and it looked beautiful. The sand was soft and the water clear and warm. The boat ride was indeed fast and we were arriving in the picturesque turquoise-water harbour full of traditional Indonesian fishing boats (called jukung) before we knew it.
In Sanur, I had spoken to a woman (from Victoria, BC, of course; there are lots of Canadian tourists here despite the distance from home) who recommended a nice homestay on a quieter side of the island, and since our shuttle bus ticket also included getting dropped off right at our accommodation, we decided to try out the “Coconut Cottages” on her advice.
Unfortunately, there was no one there when we showed up. We waited for a while and then decided to check online to see if they even had any vacancies. Luckily, there was a huge beautiful resort right across the road with wifi. We got two over-priced juices, enjoyed the cool of the fans, and realized that the Coconut Cottages were booked up anyway. We discovered, incidentally, that we could find nicer (and cheaper) accommodation closer to where we had come in on the boat. So we loaded up our stuff (backpack, ukulele, handlebar bag and little camelpack/iPad/Kobo/valuables carrier) and proceeded to walk the 1.5 kilometres back to where we had just come from. It was hot and there were a ton of scooters and trucks whizzing by us constantly, (our first thought: let’s rent one tomorrow!) but we got a pretty good first look at the main street and sussed out some good food spots for later.
We had booked the Radya Homestay right off the main street, and luckily it was set back a bit In some lovely lush gardens. We were grateful for how quiet our actual room was. The family was kind and helpful, we made some stray-poochy friends…
who would join us each morning for breakfast, and it suited us just fine. The outdoor bathroom was my favourite part.
We found some nice cold beer and a late lunch spot up the road and tried the traditional style of fish: a shredded spiced tuna wrapped in banana leaf and served with rice and vegetables (which was immediately swarmed by flies as soon as it was served to us, proving indeed that it was a “local” favourite). The dish was a bit too spicy for me so I stuck to the Gado Gado, another traditional Indonesian dish of steamed vegetables (and sometimes tempeh) covered in a delicious peanut sauce. We then walked to the beach for some sensational sunset views and dog-watching.
Here’s a timelapse we caught (wait for the curious poochy sniffing the camera who blocks the view at 19 seconds):
Nusa Lembongan has that laid-back island feel we love the most, but it was still teeming with motorcycles and scooters and tourists. It was nearing the end of Chinese New Year holiday, so there were tons of Chinese tour groups and vacationers everywhere; at one point, I counted a total of 18 bemos of them pass us in a 10-minute span. So on this lovely little island, we felt like we had taken one step closer since Ubud to the haven we were seeking out, but we still hadn’t exactly found it.
The next day, we rented a scooter and really got to explore the island properly. Our fuel tank was low, and Christian had left the homestay without a shirt on (island living, man) so when we found a little stop at the side of the road with petrol and t-shirts, I made it my duty to find him one he didn’t totally hate (Christian is picky that way) and get a good bargain for both petrol and shirt. I succeeded at both, and he pretty much hasn’t taken his new t-shirt off since then!
Nusa Lembongan is big enough that it would take several hours to walk around, but small enough that on a scooter, you can easily drive around for 30 minutes and see the whole thing. There are lots of little beach spots on all sides of the island to explore though, and we spent the day checking out the requisite ones: Mushroom Beach, Sunset Beach, Sandy Beach and Dream Beach.
The beaches were all spectacular in their own way, but many of them had powerful-looking waves that looked a bit too dangerous to swim in. It was fun watching all the tourists get bowled over and pummelled by the surf, but we decided to just watch instead of partake ourselves.
We also got ourselves to THE photo spot/viewpoint on Nusa and stopped for some selfies.
There are many resorts on Nusa Lembongan with infinity pools and amazing views, and we learned quickly that, as long as you are willing to buy food and drink there, many of them are happy for you to hang out and use their pool. The next day, we made it our goal to find the nicest resort pool spot to relax at.
Unfortunately, the rain put a bit of a damper on the experience for the first two hours we were there, but it eventually cleared and we got in some good pool time.
This was followed by a delicious dinner at at local warung (Indonesian-style restaurant, usually in the yard of someone’s home with cheap and delicious home-cooked food) of tofu cashew stir-fry and pad thai. I also took some epic pictures of Christian, which he has promised to use as his author’s photo upon publishing his first novel.
A final sunset and sleep on Nusa and it was time to head off the next day to our next spot: Gili Air, where we would continue to seek the traveller’s utopia of island living, and this time, find it…
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.