Jetstar started a direct route from Cairns to Denpasar and we jumped straight on the launching sale price, of less than $500 for both of us return!!
We left Cairns on Chris’s birthday Thursday 21st of May at 11.30am and landed in Denpasar at 1.30am local time. I has prebooked us accommodation at the Royal Eighteen because it has a spa and a roof-top infinity pool! Walking out of the airport, you feel the warm, damp air on your face and you smell that smell that lets you know you’re in Asia and makes you smile. Getting out of the airport is always fun. There is a counter that has taxi guys lounging all over it. They were trying to charge people $35 dollars (their dollars is always in US dollars) to get into town, which is ridiculous and I always wonder how many people don’t do their homework and take them up on this offer. I am not entirely sure of what the going rate is but I was assuming it was between 50-80k rupiah ($5-8), it was late and we were tired so I was willing to go to 100k and not more, so one of the guys follows us all the way out and doesn’t leave us alone, quoting prices that were slowly but surely coming down to our price. We got the cab for 100k, good for you, good for me, as they say.
Waking up the next morning we looked out our hotel window and our view was of a temple with it’s traditional style decorative roof and little buildings. We went down for breakfast, the options of which didn’t change for the rest of the holiday, eggs any way you want, nasi goreng/mei goreng or continental. We walked around outside and through the middle of Kuta down to the beach. It was nice to be back. We were a pretty tired still and our body clock was out so we went back to the hotel for a swim and relax at the rooftop pool and booked ourselves in for a massage.
That night we went down to the beach and pulled up at one of the areas where the guys there give you plastic chair and bring you beers while you watch the sunset. Beers are around $2.5 for a regular and $4 for a big bottle. It was super nice just sitting there, chatting with the local guys and watching the waves crash in the background. Afterwards we went to a warung close to our hotel for dinner. A warung is a little family run restaurant that sells local dishes and is normally lots cheaper.
The next day was Saturday and we took a car to a little port town called Pandang Bai which was about 1.5hrs up the east coast. From here we took a boat over to Lombok and the Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. This place is truly paradise on earth. We stayed on Gili T which is the biggest and most developed of the three island and also know as the ‘party island’. We stayed at a place called Black Penny. They have a restaurant on the waterfront then behind the restaurant is a little lane way with doors on either side leading to private villas each with their own little plunge pool. The shower is actually outside so you can look up and see the sky. The villas have frangipanis around and they use the flowers to decorate your bed each morning. Black Penny is at the busier end of the island. We loved it, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a light sleeper. There is a spa at the front of the accommodation, it’s not the cheapest on around, but it’s pretty convenient.
The people here are chilled and there are no motorised vehicles allowed on the island. The only way to get around is to walk, hire a bicycle or hail a cidomo (horse and cart). The locals and staff live in the middle of the island which is a bit rugged and filled with little shacks, farm animals and criss-cross tracks. We rode through the middle of the island for ages lost, going around and around. It takes about 45 minutes to ride all the way around the island.
The turquoise, crystal clear ocean here is filled with fish and turtles, the sand is white and corally and it’s all right off the beach, so the snorkeling is awesome. There are little stalls all the way around all the islands that hire snorkel gear for about $4-5/day. You then just walk through one of the restaurant to the beach, pull up a sun lounge to put your stuff on, order a beer while you get ready. Then walk down into the warm water. The currents are pretty strong here and you have to keep an eye out for boats. Not far from the beach, maybe 50m out there is a huge wall that just drops away to the deepest blue colour. The coral isn’t amazing and looks a bit damaged, but we only went from the beach, so I’m sure it would be awesome if you took a boat out and went diving.
Every day we got up and and had breakfast down by the water, then filled out day by mixing up a combination of: going for a bike ride, reading a book, going for a snorkel, getting a massage, beers, cocktails, food. We did this for 5 days … it was so perfect.
There was a great Irish bar and restaurant called Tir Na Nog next to our accommodation. We went there for dinner on our second night and there was a cool band playing in the restaurant. Our table was right in front of them and we kept requesting songs. It was like we had our own private band and we spent the night singing along and drinking cocktail and getting to know the guys who worked there. One guy was called Nine, and he would go around doing magic tricks to customers, so Chris taught him a few new tricks. There was Bastian who made paper napkin origami. And little Rudy who was just cute and little. We spent another night there drinking loads of margaritas and I was having espresso martinis … I couldn’t sleep for hours after that!
At Black Penny we hung out with Aziz, he took us to the top of the mountain in the middle of the island to watch the sunset and showed us around and gave us some history on the island. He had worked on the island for 4 years and had never heard of anyone seeing a deer. When we went for a walk there was a huge stag just standing there, it was pretty cool. Everyone who we spoke to that worked there was from Lombok.
One of our days we took the public boat over to Gili Meno. It’s a quieter version of Gili T but I think the reef is a bit better. Both islands had a turtle conservation area where they had pools filled with baby turtles. They are so cute. We were so excited every time we spotted one out in the ocean…they just majestic creatures…and they would let you swim with them and touch their shells. The water is unbelievably clear, you can see for miles, it’s like swimming in a pool.
We ate loads of mei goreng, satay sticks, fresh seafood. Their fish and chips was made with Mahi Mahi!! Amazing. There is a food market that is set up each night where there are loads of stalls filled with fish and seafood of all kinds and you choose what you want and the BBQ it, then you have your choice of salads. There are prawns, lobsters, crabs, tuna, mahi mahi, snapper, travelly etc. Everything guys heat up these mobile BBQs and sell corn cobs along the street. All restaurants do a combination of local and international food. The food here isn’t super cheap, but you are on an island.
The bars are open until 2-3am most nights. They take it in turn to host a night so that it’s fair. There are certain nights that bars don’t open though because the main religion is muslim. Aziz was telling us about this massive abandoned building that is in the perfect location to see the sunset on the island. These guys would have parties on a Friday night, and the Muslim rule is that you can’t do it on Fridays. And they were warned and warned, then just out of the blue, the owner died (in his sleep I think) and the whole place was instantly abandoned because they believe they were being punished.
Wednesday was state of origin, so we watched it at Tir Na Nog, the Irish bar and met a couple of guys who just happened to be from Cairns! We had a great night, drinking beers, tequila, cocktails and vodka joss. Joss is like a strong powered from of redbull that foams up in your mouth, then you shot the vodka through it. Later that night we dropped our new friend back to his place then I took Chris back to ours. But he was hungry so I went out to get him some corn and we had a quick plunge in our pool. Then we were both hungry so we went out for crepes. Back at the hotel we had forgotten our key so we had to get security to find the spare, in the meantime, I was feeding random people my crepe….it was good night.
We booked out boat back to Bali on Thursday, which was a little daunting considering the size of our hangovers from the night before. The boat back was pretty uneventful and we jumped in a mini-bus that dropped us back into the middle of Seminyak. It was about at this point that Chris started feeling sick. We walked around to find some accommodation and found this cheap Balinese style hotel called Hotel Paradiso. It was just up the road from the beach and there were lots of bars, spas and restaurants around, without being too busy. The room was really big and the hotel had beautiful gardens and super deep pool, the only problem was the mozzies. Seminyak seemed pretty quite compared to Kuta. Not too far away is a shopping center called Krisna where you can buy loads of things, souvenirs, jewelry, clothes etc at fixed prices (no bargaining) and the same price or cheaper than you’d probably get it bargaining. The driver at the hotel took us there, he said mostly domestic travellers go shopping there, there were hardly any westerners. At night time the restaurants lining beach bring down colourful beanbags, lanterns and table and you eat dinner down on the sand. It’s so pretty seeing the colourful lights running the whole way along the beach. Many of them have acoustic bands, or DJs playing. We ordered BBQ fish for dinner, one dish BBQ’d and the other grilled in a creamy garlic sauce…it was delish.
Chris got worse and had a high fever for 2 nights along with stomach cramps and all the rest of the Bali belly symptoms. In all the confusion we also managed to miss our flight home. We were supposed to leave Friday night, but we thought it was Saturday night, so we had to book a new flight leaving Sunday night and arriving home on Monday morning.