After a handful of fun days at the “Pimp Palace” on Gili T we had our sights set on the small Island of Nusa Lebongan Southeast of Bali. The island is known for surfing, diving, snorkeling, and for being quiet and slow paced. It sounded perfect to us.
We were also joined by our friend Raychel.
I had first met Raychel in California through our mutual friend Alex. We met right before Peter and I left for our round-the-world trip in June of 2014. Since then we have traveled with her and Alex in Budapest and most recently Bangkok for New Years. It was a month earlier in Bangkok when Raychel had been sharing her upcoming travel plans with me that she expressed interest in checking out Indonesia. Alex was heading back to California after a few months of traveling with Raychel so she would be traveling on her own.
I started to reminisce when Raychel said she would traveling alone. I thought back to my time in Indonesia in 2012 when I traveled solo. A friend from college had reached out to connect me with her friend Theo who was also traveling solo. I ended up traveling with Theo for three weeks through that connection. We built a great friendship and had an absolute blast on our travels. I decided this was my opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ for the good travel fortune that had been afforded to me. I am a strong believe in Karma. When the universe speak, I try to listen.
The truth about solo traveling is you don’t really want to be by yourself all the time, completely isolated. Meeting and making friends is some of the best parts of traveling alone. Rachel graciously accepted the offer to join us in Indonesia and with a few emails back and forth we planned to join in Nusa Lebongan and travel together with Andrew the next 10 days.
Pete, Andrew and I arrived first in the sleepy island of Nusa Lembongan from Gili T. It was about an hour and a half of rocky waters and heart palpitating moments crossing the notoriously dangerous Lombok Straight. A trip not for the faint of heart nor for passengers who had drank coffee and water right before the boat ride (i.e. me). Apparently, the toilet sign in the front was just for decoration and inconveniently out of order.
Upon reaching the island we were greeted by staff from our Airbnb. They took hold of our large luggage and led the way. The carrying of those bags is no small feat; those bags are heavy and the weather is hot. The boys were happy to have this service.
The airbnb was another hit!
We were 3 for 3 for fantastic Airbnb stays in Indonesia. We walked the short distance and then a handful of staircases to our little paradise for the next 5 nights. It was a 3 bedroom flat with open-air common areas including the kitchen and living room. You could sit in the kitchen enjoying breakfast and the ocean breeze while simultaneously watching the waves crashing onto the shoreline. The guys could spy on the surf and make a quick run for the surf when the tide and swell was just right. According to Peter and Andrew the surf would only break on certain conditions for a couple hours a day so having the view of the surf-break from the rental was an incredible time-saver. Work class surf right out your front door. It was ridiculous in a great way.
Raychel made her way to the island a couple hours later and showed up in good spirits. It was pretty hard not to with the view we had from our balcony and our cool backpacker gear we were still boasting from the day’s contest. Plus I think she was pretty excited to see Andrew. Wink, wink.
The guys settled back into their theme of daily surf sessions. They rode waves at Playgrounds, a surf spot that was about a five minute walk from our rental; and Shipwrecks, an off-shore break which required a cheap five minute catamaran to arrive at the break. World class surf right out your front door in warm tropical waters. What an absolute treat for Peter and Andrew.
I did my daily hot and sweaty runs where I would encounter unique and stunning sights along the way. As you can see in the picture below, one of the locals beckoned me to join their parade mid-run. Uncharacteristically, I chickened out, uncertain what involving myself in the ritual would entail. White girl sacrifice avoided.
Most mornings we walked over to a nearby cafe, Lebongan Reef, where we would grab coffee and breakfast with a tremendous view. Talk about starting your day off on the right foot. Sip coffee, drool at view, take bite of food, repeat. The color of that water is a perfect sea green.
Peter and I also discovered one of the best sundowner spots ever. Literally. The majority of nights we would rent stand up paddle boards (SUPs) and enjoy the last parts of the day on the water. With the mellow and quiet vibe of the island most times we were out their on our own.
I tried my first SUP headstand while we were out to sea waiting for the sun to go down. It was my first attempt and I was both pretty happy and surprised that I was able to successfully do it. Maybe I was inspired by the surrounding beauty including Mount Agung in the background. Fun fact: The last time I was in Bali I did a sunrise trek to the peak of that mountain. I have never seen a more starry night sky in my entire life.
After some yoga SUP we settled into our front row seat for yet another golden and wondrous Indonesian sunset. There is nothing quite like them, especially when you have a seat on the sea.
During our time there we found a restaurant we enjoyed so much that we ended up there a couple times. Located in Mushroom Bay, Hai Bar and Grill offers a nice view and delicious food. Although I do suspect we liked the ride there the best. The restaurant would send a car for you which was an open-air truck with built in benches. We would take the 15 minute drive through winding dirt roads while playing tunes of hip-hop on our jam box. A formula like that makes any ride a bit more fun.
Even though Nusa Lebongan is a small island there are still places to explore by motor scooter.
The four of us rented bikes for an afternoon excursion of the area. We headed out to the adjoining island of Nusa Ceningan. The only way to reach the island from Nusa Lembongan is by a rickety and narrow suspension bridge that makes a scary wooden roller-coaster sound as you cross it. I remember feeling a bit nervous crossing it while envisioning our bike crashing through the boards into the sea. It felt a bit Indiana Jones. Peter navigated us safely across (both times).
Nusa Ceningan hosts a number of beautiful beaches including a hidden gem named Secret Beach. Aptly named due to the dirt roads you need to traverse to get there and the cove it’s hidden amongst. The beach is surrounded by thick, emerald mangrove forests making for a beautiful contrast to the blue water. Connected to the beach is a small quiet resort, Villa Trevally. We ordered up Bintangs and sat for awhile taking in the serene setting.
While on our drive we also witnessed the corner stone of island economy, sea weed farming.
Many families take part in this work together, although the younger generation is becoming less interested in farming and more interested in the higher paying tourist industry which gives them more time to spend checking things on their iPhone. This generational shift is making seaweed farming a dying industry on the island. But for now the industry is still alive and the seaweed is sold to a middle man and then exported to China, Japan, and Singapore for mostly cosmetic reasons. It looked like hard and strenuous work.
Next we headed over to an area named Devils Tears named by the force of waves that hit the limestones cliffs causing waterfalls, water pools, and a thundering noise. We were there at the wrong time of day as the waves were mellow and negatively effected by the draining tide. It gave us a reason to come back.
Then we walked over to nearby Dream Beach shortly before sunset. This was a busier beach and not surprising due to the powdery white sand and gleaming clear blue ocean.
Located on the beach are some huts, bars and restaurants. We decided to grab a sundowner at Café Pandan and take in the views from there. It had been an incredibly picturesque and adventurous day.
For dinner we tried a top rated restaurant, Waroeng Boemboe which was located right on the water providing relaxing ambient noise of crashing waves amongst the many foreign patrons. That was probably the best part of the restaurant. The restaurant itself is very basic which wasn’t the problem. It was the service. It was so bad that we had to ultimately laugh it off. We sat for about 20 minutes without being acknowledged. We finally flagged someone down that I believe was the owner’s daughter (who wasn’t a day over 12 years old) who appeared aggravated by our existence and disinterested in being there. We promptly ordered Bintangs which I think she forgot about because another 15 minutes went by. Peter got up and went to the kitchen and retrieved the beers for us. It was probably another hour before the first entree came. Thereafter, each entree came one by one every 20 minutes. I had finished my main dish an hour before Peter even got his. I have eaten at many Indonesia restaurants and this was a first. Despite that the ratings for this place are through the roof. Maybe we were there on an off night.
The next day was our last and Raychel and I had booked a mangrove forest and snorkel tour. We had booked with a questionable character by the name Captain Coconut. We had read that a boat tour through the Mangrove forest is quiet beautiful and one of the top things to do on the island. Captain Coconut mentioned that he could also take us snorkeling which I was thrilled about. We agreed on a price, time and a deposit was paid.
We showed up and all was good. We headed out towards the Mangrove forrest, but started with the snorkel portion of the tour.
The snorkeling was epic. Transparent water with hundreds of colorful fish and the most gorgeous reef I have ever seen. Between the shades of fish and the reef every color of the rainbow was out in sheer vibrance. Really spectacular and peaceful. Unfortunately the zen-like state snorkeling had put us in came to a crashing halt once we reunited with Captain Coconuts at the surface of the water.
For one Andrew had lost his snorkel when it came detached from his mask. Snorkels shouldn’t just fall off a mask so there was problem with the gear. When Andrew relayed this information to Captain Coco-NUTS he took no responsibility for the faulty gear and emphatically told him, “you pay me for lost snorkel.”
Andrew and Captain Coco-NUTS did not see eye to eye on the matter and a few rounds of back-and-forth negotiating occurred. The problem seemed rather unresolved, but we did however set out on our next part of the tour to the Mangrove Forrest.
After a few minutes we realized we weren’t going in the direction of the forest. Confused I asked Captain Crazy Pants “what gives?” He informed me “the water is too high to go into the forest.” This information was frustrating because he knew the tides and times and we had booked specifically for the mangrove forrest tour. The snorkeling was what he added on. The other problem was that we had booked and agreed upon a price for 2 hours and only had been out snorkeling for 30 minutes and he was heading back to shore.
We voiced our concern over the price and what we had agreed to pay for what he was not delivering on.
Captain Coco-NUTS stopped the boat in the middle of the sea exclaiming, “You pay me agreed upon price.”
He was still demanding the price for the initial tour even though we only did one of the things agreed upon and for a fraction the amount of time. We tried to reason these points with him. We quickly realized that there was no rationalizing with this guy. He was looking to extort us and our logical points fell on deaf ears.
Things started to escalate.
We were close enough to shore that we started discussing jumping out and swimming back. This was not a great plan though because we were on the complete other side of the island from where town was. Captain Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs was not going to take his chances on us jumping out as he listened into our plan. He started up the engine and drove us further out, trapping us at sea.
He literally took us out to sea and refused to take us back until we paid him in full right there and then.
At this point emotions were pretty high with everyone. It wasn’t the point of how much the tour cost it was the feeling of being extorted. No one wants to be blatantly lied to and ripped off. Raychel started to feel seasick and threatened to throw up on him and his boat. That didn’t work.
At the pinnacle of our disagreement Captain Coco-Cray punched the steering wheel of his boat while yelling, “you pay me money!”
It was at this point that Peter calculated that it wasn’t worth the money if things were starting to turn violent. He paid him the money and Captain Nutty took us back to safety.
It didn’t entirely stop there.
Emotions were still running high as we exited the boat. Peter started speaking with other proprietors next to Captain Coconuts business, explaining our extortion. Just then Captain ran over to us and fake punched Peter, getting up in his face yelling at him for talking bad about his business. That was it. I told Peter we needed to just get far and away from this guy.
It was so uncharacteristic of the local vibe I had experienced on a previous trip. It was really too bad and disheartening.
Peter and I walked ahead at my plea to Peter that we get moving. At one point we looked back and Andrew was talking to a guy who had recommended Captain Coconuts. Seconds later the Captain was in Andrew’s face, fake-punched him and then shoved his chest. Andrew took it as a sign to walk-away.
Peter and Andrew were understandably upset by the altercation. We all were.
They started thinking and discussing what to do about it. At this point I realized it wasn’t worth it to let this guy creep into our night. We needed to just move on and let it go. I told Peter, “I kind of feel sorry for this guy. He must be really desperate for money for him to act like that. Let’s just move on and not let this guy ruin our last night here.”
Just like that we all agreed and moved on. I went inside a convenience store and bought the four of us Bintangs.
I once read something that really resonated with me which was to never be revengeful.
If you try to seek revenge on someone that has wronged you then you are telling the universe/God/Buddha that you don’t need any help. That you are taking the matter into your own hands. It’s best to let the supernatural handle these types of situations. Not that I have ever been a revengeful person but putting revenge in those terms gives great perspective and understanding of how to move on from something or someone that has hurt or upset you. You give it to the universe and move on with confidence and piece of mind that something bigger than you is handling it.
In that spirit of that logic, we decided to grab SUPs and watch the sunset on the water. That will for sure cure any ill feelings rather quickly.
See, all is good.
It turned out to be one of the best, most colorful, and dramatic sunsets of the year. Captain Coco-who? See the universe did help us out.
For dinner that night we took another rockin’ truck drive to Hai Bar and Grill and feasted on delicious pizza. We ordered four different varieties between us and had a pizza pot luck. I tried my first curry chicken pizza and it was delicious. I strongly recommend it.
The next day we were heading to Bali to stay in Seminyak for the remainder of our time in Indonesia.
Nusa Lebongan provided a relaxing trip full of stunning scenery and soulful sunsets. A place I would easily go back to.
Thanks for being with us in Bali. It’s a pretty magical place. xoxo