Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 2, Bali and Lombok, it feels like a holiday at last!


2 October, only entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja. Travelling from Bangkok to Bali.

After a night of little sleep, it was back to travelling again and first it was a taxi to the airport. It was a relief to leave Bangkok. In the flight to Bangkok the commercial said that it was the city of smiles, but we experienced few or none who even remotely tried to be nice or polite. Bangkok was one of the most polluted and noisy cities I have ever been to! Our flight took us via Hong Kong, I had caught some sort of stomach bug in Bangkok, so the flight was spent mostly in the toilet. We had the gayest flight crew ever! It was an all-male crew, all must have been ex musical performers or something, the entertainment level was hilarious. “Coffee? Tea? Me?” was served with the beverages – it was like a non-drag drag comedy show all the way to Hong Kong. The flight path into Hong Kong was bonkers! I felt like the plane was going to land into a block of flats! We could see the people who lived with the flight path literally in their living rooms and what they had for dinner! And when we touched down it felt like we were going to drive into the sea! Bonkers! After a 1 ½ hours stop, we took off in between the skyscrapers, I wish we had a longer stopover here, could be fun to see Hong Kong. Our musical air steward crew was with us all the way to our next stop in Singapore. It was a bit unnerving when the cabin started to smell like something burning but the captain told us that this was from the forest fires that currently was still raging out of control in Sumatra. When we landed in Singapore it was almost zero visibility, and even though it was mid-day it was almost dark, the sun was shrouded by the thick smoke that hung in the air. No very nice at all. From Singapore to Denpasar in Bali the flight was filled with a lot of young people like us. We landed in Bali quite late and booked a hotel room at the airport. The hotel was ok, nothing more but still expensive. Fell asleep immediately after hitting the pillow after almost 24 hrs travel nonstop.

Kuta Beach, Bali
Tanja

3 October 1997, Puri Bunga Cottages, Bali:
The sound of the air condition and the faint sound of a motorcycle is all we can hear from our hotel room here in Bali. We arrived at around 1 a.m. – pretty exhausted. The room costs around USD 35/night, so pretty expensive, but we didn’t have the energy to go look for anything ourselves when we arrived, and just asked for a quiet place at the airport service desk. They found a nice place for us, we’ll stay until tomorrow, then we’ll leave for Lombok by bus/ferry. Hope we’ll find a nice, cheap place to stay where we can relax for a few days. Haven’t quite got that feeling of vacation yet, too much travelling, and a lot of chaos in Bangkok. Yesterday we flew from Bangkok via Hong Kong and Singapore before arriving in Bali, quite a long trip! My ears are hurting a bit and my hearing isn’t great – probably from taking off and landing so many times yesterday, feels like I have a cold, too. Feels good to be in Bali though, the people here seem friendly, but as in Bangkok – trey want us to buy something from them all the time; watches, lighters, rings, tattoos – you name it, or wanting to braid my hair… The worst though is when people start touching me – I don’t like it! Starting to get hungry, so we’re going out for some food. Will probably be an early night, feel tired and need a good night’s sleep.

Puri Bunga cottages
Ørjan

We slept long again, missed breakfast. We walked down to the restaurant to get some food, I am sure I ordered some chicken with rice, got served a whole grilled snapper with rice. Hot but delish. We took a taxi to Kuta beach, walked around the beach area, lots of surf shops, and cheap! We thought Bangkok hustlers were an annoyance, but the Kuta hustlers took everything to a new level. A gazillion street vendors who wants to sell you watches, sarongs, silver rings and everything under the sun. They kept running after us even after we had politely said no to every one of them. What a nuisance! We bought bus tickets and ferry ticket to go to Lombok tomorrow. Cost us 70 kroners (6 USD) per person. Tomorrow we will be at Lombok! Met an English couple from Southampton when we stopped for beer at a bar. Maybe we will meet them in Australia, but we can’t know for sure. The frogs in the pond make a lot of noise!

Kuta traffic jam
Tanja

4 October 1997, ferry Bali – Lombok:
All I can see is the ocean, the sun shining from a sky partly clouded, and Bali in the distance – about an hour’s ferry ride away. Only three hours until we arrive in Lombok, then 45 minutes by bus to Sengigi Beach where we are planning to stay. The ferry is making strange noises and it is quite rusty, don’t think it would have been approved as seaworthy in Norway, but I’m sure it will reach its destination today as it has on so many trips before this one. Feeling a bit under the weather today, probably the cold, but I might also get some side effects like nausea from the malaria pills. Probably better than getting malaria though. Got quite late last night, met a nice English couple; Charlotte and Ian, and had some drinks together with them. Broke my “food rules” yesterday, too; had king prawns and green salad after eating just bread and vegetarian curry and rice until now – very tasty. Went by bus from Kuta today to Padangbai where the ferry departed. Got to see quite a bit of Bali, very green and lush! Lots of palm trees, rice fields and beautiful flowers. Looking forward to staying at one place for a few days, maybe we’ll rent a car, maybe we’ll book a trip to see the Komodo dragons, or maybe we’ll just stay on the beach and do some snorkelling. I don’t know yet, and it feels good not having to plan everything ahead, we’ll just see what we feel like doing. That’s what a vacation is all about – and imagine – it’s more than three months still left of our trip. A bit more expensive here than in Thailand, but a nice dinner costs around 20-50 NOK (2-5 GPB). Bargaining is important – yesterday’s taxi driver told us it was up to us how much we would pay. Today’s driver on the other hand tried to trick us into paying more than we should. Bought some trousers yesterday, after some bargaining, I got them for 17,000 rp, around 50 NOK/5 GBP – down from 25,000 rp, not bad. Wish I had a lot of money, or that Bali was the last stop on our trip – there is so much nice stuff to buy.

Ørjan

At 13:00 we got crammed into a small bus with no suspension with a bunch of other backpackers. Driving in Indonesia is something else. It seems like everything is random, seems like chaos to me. Ubud was the first stop for the bus and most people got off here, except us. In the middle of Bali this was, very lush and green landscape. Kept driving like a mad man until we reached the docks. Ferry departed at 16:30. It took about 4 hours on this hardly approved by any official ferry to Lombok. The toilet was probably the foulest smelling room I have ever been in! It the dock there was a small bus that took us the rest of the way to Sengiggi Beach. The hotels recommended in Lonely Planet was MUCH more expensive than stated in the book and we wanted a place near the beach. We decided that Dharma was the place for us. We paid 45 000 rupia for the first night with the promise that we would get a cheaper bungalow nearer the beach the next day. Sleep was imminent.

Tanja

5 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Arrived in Lombok yesterday evening at around 9 p.m. and were picked up by a minibus that took us to Sengigi Beach. Pleasantly surprised at how well everything worked out with bus, ferry and minibus, although it was only Ørjan and I who travelled with Perama. Another hazardous drive in the dark passing motorcycles, cyclists, pedestrians and horse carriages, seems they don’t have lights on anything or wear any kind of reflective clothing – just luck we didn’t hit anyone on the way here – we’re definitely not going to drive in the dark. Everything seemed strange and desolate, but when arriving in Sengigi there were a few tourists and some restaurants and bars along the way that were open. Looked for a place to stay, thought it was a bit expensive at Dharma, so went along with someone to look at another cheaper place in the middle of the bush, but decided to go back to Dharma when we saw the horrible rooms and the people who stayed at the other place – obviously under the influence of something. We got a bungalow at Dharma almost at the beach for 45,000, with an open-air shower/toilet – very nice. The receptionist suggested we’d give our valuables to him for safekeeping – he would hide them under his pillow… Originally, he said yes when we asked if there was a safe deposit box in the bungalow, seems they nod and say yes when they don’t understand the question. Slept quite well, and woke up to a “great” breakfast; two small bananas and a cup of tea… Well, enough to keep us going for a couple of hours… We have also switched rooms – only paying 35,000 for this one. Feels so nice to be here, as if we’re in a cottage, just the sound of nature around us; a grasshopper singing and the waves breaking. Wrote some letters sitting at our balcony this afternoon overlooking the ocean, the palm trees and the sun and just enjoyed the feeling of having time off, I really feel I’m on vacation now. We went to the beach, were swimming, sunbathing and just having a great time. Pity there’s some garbage from the ocean at the beach, but otherwise it’s just lovely. Wasn’t in the sun for a long time, but managed to get sunburnt on a few spots anyway – have to be more careful tomorrow. Did some shopping at a supermarket nearby, pot noodles which we boiled in water – quite nice, and very cheap. Had a meal later at one of the near empty restaurants – not many tourists around. Spoke to some Germans who live next door, they’d been to Gili Air, expensive and not any nice places to stay they said, but we’ll probably go anyway. Have picked up some leaflets describing boat trips that we might book. Ørjan wants to go to an island with big lizzards, apparently four metres long and weighing 130 kilos, but still not dangerous! (?) It’s past 10 p.m., and time for bed. Feel so relaxed now – it’s so nice after having been travelling all of last week, nice to calm down a bit. The thought of having more than three months off is wonderful!

Ørjan

When we woke up, we immediately walked to the reception and got shown a bungalow on the beach with a proper bathroom and toilet! It had a fan in the bedroom and paper-thin bamboo and straw walls. From the veranda we can see the sea and beach, fantastic! All this for just 35 000 rupia (120 kroner, about 10 dollars) per night. We had our first visit to the beach; the sea was warm and refreshing and no street/beach vendor in sight! Indonesians seems like a friendly bunch, much more than the Thai. Everybody smiles and wants to help us if we have problems. Not always sure thing if they do this out of friendliness or if they want money or something else from you. Usually, they want money but at least they smile when they ask for handouts. This is finally starting to feel like a proper holiday! OBS when the Indonesians say “yes” it does not always mean “yes”, they will say yes if they do not understand, if they do understand or if they simply did not understand what you said. It is important to understand the delivery of the “yes”.

6 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We did not do much more that sleep, read, swim and shop some noodles for lunch. Ate at a local restaurant, I got a tack in my food, and got a fruit salad as consolation. Power went out for 1 ½ hours. We wrote cards to our family. We also exchanged some more American Express travel cheques. Since our last exchange, something has happened to the Indonesian currency, and we got twice as much as the last exchange! Everything is now half price! Phoned for my weekly rapport to Radio Oslofjord from a local phone box.

Just relaxing at the beach
Tanja

7 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Just got back to our beach cabin after having been to Mangsit – a small place around three to four kilometres away. We were offered transportation, but refused, seemed like a nice stroll. What we didn’t think of was how fast the darkness arrives, started walking around 6 p.m., and half an hour later it was pitch black. Felt a bit unsafe then to be on an unfamiliar country road with very few people along the way without fully knowing where we were headed. When a scruffy dog started following us I started to get a bit nervous, so when a Bemo (local mini bus) stopped and asked if we wanted a ride we said yes please. Then we were only a few hundred metres away from our destination, but it was well worth the small amount we paid. The place we were visiting was Warung Bagus – a pub/eatery owned by Tor from Mandal, recommended to us by Ørjan’s brother. They remembered his brother well, and thought they’d seen a picture of me, too, but that must have been a picture of his girlfriend, we don’t look the same at all, but to them maybe blondish long hair made us look alike. Tor talked about his Balinese wife and plans for his business, and also told us that seeing a big gecko meant luck – the sounds we hear in our cabin are probably geckos.
The last two days we’ve been relaxing in our cabin, slept in, enjoyed the quiet and the view from our balcony, had some food, done some reading, been to the beach, done a lot of swimming. There are sellers on the beach trying to make us buy stuff, but they actually accept no, and started talking to us instead. One of them couldn’t believe that Ørjan and I were from the same country, since Ørjan’s skin is so much darker than mine… At the same time he said everyone here wanted to be as white as me… There was also a nice lady wanting to braid my hair, give me massage or manicure, and just smiled even though I said no thanks. A bit of a headache this morning, probably because I don’t sleep so well, disco music kept us awake till around 5 a.m. The first night I could hardly sleep because there so many strange sounds; from the ocean, the wind, animals and people – the walls are so thin that you can hear everything. But I do like it very much here – slow pace and relaxing. Got a nice surprise when we changed some money yesterday, the rupi has been devaluated and we get quite a lot more for our money than we anticipated. All of a sudden it costs us NOK 40 (GBP 4) instead of NOK 60 (GBP 6) per night. The exchange rate is now around NOK 2,20 per 1000 rupi now and not NOK 3,40 per 1000 rupi that we have calculated.

Ørjan

Since the walls are wafer thin, we had problems sleeping with the waves crashing in so close to our little bungalow. Had to wear earplugs! Read the final chapter of “Sophies Choice” I will probably have to read it one or two more times. Long day in the shade, swimming, and noodles for lunch. In the afternoon we walked to a restaurant up the road in a village called Mansit. A local from my hometown runs a restaurant there, the Warung Bagus, and my brother stayed there a year ago. The restaurant was small but ok, Tor was nice to us, and we sat there talking about all kinds of stuff. The locals came to look at “the brother of Kristoffer”. He offered us a trip around the island the next day with a driver but we are not sure if we will take him up on the offer. After having said hello to his monkey he drove us back to our bungalow. I am thinking another day at the beach tomorrow. If you should hear a gecko croak more than 7 times it means good fortunes. The flower petals and small banana leaves outside shops are offering to the Hindu gods, they also offer the first rice cooked in the morning.

The local shop, Tanja probably buying noodles
8 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Tanja got sick from the food we ate last night at Tor’s place. Typical that we would get sick when we visit someone from Norway in Indonesia. Tanja had to stay close to the toilet today. Relaxing and sunbathing between runs to the white throne. We had plans to go to Komodo to see the dragons, but we are not sure now. We have done a bit of research, and the boats that go there do not look safe, the season is not right and the cost for flying is too high. Seems like the dragons will not get a visit from Norway.

Tanja

9 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Sitting in Ørjan’s bed watching him pack his clothes, he can’t find his long trousers, and is unsure whether he brought them at all from Norway. Last night in Sengigi for now, we’ve had some nice, relaxing days. Yesterday we did hardly anything, but I suffered from diarrhea the whole day – probably from the fish or the ice cubes in the drink I had at the Norwegian’s restaurant. Hardly eaten anything today, haven’t had any diarrhea either, but have some stomachache. Bought some jewellery yesterday at around NOK 4-5 a piece (50 pence), and a sarong at around NOK 17 (1,5 GBP). Won’t go on the boat trip we considered, we thought it seemed a bit unsafe, were going to sleep on the boat during the night while sailing, don’t think I’d been able to sleep at all… Considered going by plane, but that was too expensive, or by bus, but that would have taken 14 hours. So, we’ll go to Gili Air tomorrow, then we’ll see. Have just paid for our stay, total cost for six nights, including some water, faxes and laundry amounted to around NOK 560 (56 GBP).

Waiting for the sunset
Ørjan

Tanja feeling better, not a bigger bombshell that the day was spent relaxing and swimming in the sea. We have decided to drop the Komodo trip and rather go to the Gilli islands that are closer to Lombok. We will go to Gilli Air tomorrow. It will cost 15 000 rupia for a direct boat from Sengiggi to Gilli Air. Departure 08:45 tomorrow. Today Tanja tried to order something that was not on the menu in the local restaurant, and this caused quite the commotion. She wanted fried vegetables and rice, nothing too heavy for her upset tummy. After 3 waiters and 2 chefs had come by our table to ask what she really wanted, she ended up with a kind of broth containing some sorry looking over cooked vegetables and rice. At least they got the rice correct.

That wafer thin walled hut on the beach was our first real taste of staying cheap at a great location. Even though we seem to complain about the waves being loud, it is still the sound of that small bamboo cabin on the beach, falling asleep to the sea thundering against the beach below.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Coming up next: part 3, The Gilli Islands, oh the disappointment!

Categories:Around The World 1997, TravelTags: , , , , , , ,

2 comments

  1. You two are quite the adventurists. When we have been in the Caribbean, at times we were barraged by people wanting tips. The constant bothering ruins the experience for me. I wonder how Bali has changed since your visit. My son considered going there for his honeymoon but went to Costsa Rica instead. It seems you both are still adjusting to traveling – including your stomach!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You can see that we really dislike the hawkers and everyone always wanting something for us. I remember trying to explain that we really did not have that much money to spend on another sarong but of course since we could afford travelling at all, we must be very rich. So, yes, that constant hassle from people wanting handouts, was really offputting to us both. Not sure how Bali has changed, my guess it is more expensive and maybe a bit more westernized. I would love to go to Costa Rica. And I agree, we are adjusting to new impressions and cultures for sure. Including stomach!

      Liked by 1 person

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