The Quiet Charms of Nusa Lembongan

May 22, 2014

I catch myself grinning at the idea of hitching a ride on my new friend’s motorcycle.

Discovering the Island

It is very unlikely that I'd end up in a vegetarian cafe as I feel the cost is too much for a meal that doesn't give you a full stomach. However, one evening as I strolled the streets of Ubud, I happened upon a brightly-lit, inviting vegetarian cafe.

I crossed the street and hesitated to enter at first but the waitress approached me and gestured for me to sit at a table that was already occupied by a young girl who was busy filling her postcards with words.

She looked over her nose and flashed a smile at me. I smiled and she went back to her writing. We exchanged hellos as I took off my shoes and sat on the floor opposite to her. I looked at the menu and immediately found something that caught my interest.

As the waitress left to prepare my dish, I took a few minutes to observe my surroundings. The place was small, I counted probably about 5 tables inside and 2 outside. It was the kind of place that had chalkboards hanging on the wall behind the counter featuring unique dishes. Some of the tables (like ours) were low and missing chairs, designed to let you sit comfortably on the floor. Behind me stood a shelf with books and magazines.

On the other side, there was a guitar standing near the corner which people took turns playing. My eaves-dropping skills emerged as I listened to travelers in each table talk to strangers about the places they've been to. There was one table that caught my attention. A young hippie couple sang while another couple listened. And based on their conversation, they had only met that day at the cafe and were also sharing a table.

Just when my food arrived, the girl opposite to me had finished writing all her postcards. She stood up and said goodbye. Another older lady took her place and again we exchanged smiles and hellos. She was about 40-50 and sounded like she was Australian. As I ate my delicious vegetarian meal, we engaged in a conversation about the places we both had visited in this lovely island.

She told me about a quiet little island 2 hours from the main land that had white sand beaches and less people. She had been there a few days ago and enjoyed the beach there more than the beaches in Kuta. She said there were very few tourists so you could easily talk to the locals and observe how they spend their day.

That's how I ended up cutting my stay in Kuta from 10 days to just 5-6 days.

Goodbye Kuta

Though lovely in it's own way, Kuta was mostly boring for me. It was fun when Lani and her friends arrived, but other days, it wasn't as interesting for me. Food was expensive, some parts of the beach was dirty, there was nothing much to do but go shopping/bar-hopping.

On my last night in Kuta, I was scammed by 2 guys manning a "foreign exchange" booth near the hotel. I should have seen the warning signs but I was too hard-headed and went anyway. Long story short, I lost some money, called the security guard from my hotel to help me get my money back, got most of my money back (though not all), and went to sleep feeling like a complete idiot while at the same time thanking God I was about to leave the place.

Mountain-sized Waves

Perama had one of the cheapest prices for both the bus and boat transport to Nusa Lembongan. I managed to get a ride from one of the hotel's security guard to Perama's office for a cheap price. Well, it was cheap until we reached the office and I apparently misunderstood him. I thought he said 13,000 Rupiah for the short motorcycle ride but apparently he meant 30,000. Sensing that he wasn't really a bad guy and I was quite tired of arguing, I paid him and went inside the office.

We rode a non air-conditioned bus to Sanur beach for 30-45 minutes. And now the fun part.

Our small boat took 16 passengers along with the passengers' heavy backpacks and luggages. I made a mental note that there were no life jackets on board and thought to myself that if anything should happen, my escape plan would be to steal one of the passenger's surfboard and float away.

In the course of our 2-hour boat ride, there were occasions when I secretly panicked for a while when the waves turned into the size of a mountain. Okay I'm exaggerating but it was scary huge. It looked bigger than our boat and we tilted left and right and I swear I told myself I was not ready to jump because I didn't have any waterproof casing for my camera. Gigi is not ready to die yet.

So when the sight of land emerged, I felt a big sigh of relief leave my body. Nusa Lembongan at last.

The Arrival

Transportation is scarce in this little island and your best bet would be to have your hotel pick you up. I forgot to do this so I hired the boat captain to take me to my resort. He was happy to take me but I suspect it was because he planned on charging me more than he should. I shrugged it off hoping to just get to the resort and relax.

At my arrival, Wayan, a tall, stern, quiet man and Komang, a young, beautiful woman greeted me at the front entrance with 2 young children. I eventually figured out that they were a husband and wife who owned the place. Wayan took me to my room while his wife prepared my lunch. I was starving!

In between spoonfuls, I asked Komang about the island and which places I should explore first. She gave me a small printed map and told me to visit the underground house.

After lunch, I spoiled myself by taking a quick dip at their lovely pool followed by a wonderful shower at my room's uniquely-designed outdoor bathroom.

I was planning on renting a bicycle but I noticed the narrow streets were a little difficult to ride on so I stood in front of the resort contemplating on a solid plan to explore the island. I was about to go on foot when...

Hitch Hiker

"I'm going to town. You want to come with me?" Komang asks smiling as she held her helmet with 2 hands.

"Yes, please." I was ecstatic. How could I say no to that offer?

Holding on to dear life at the back of her motorcycle, I catch myself grinning at the idea of hitching a ride on my new friend's motorcycle. It was unplanned and exciting. Komang was a good driver and knew exactly when to avoid the holes that scattered around the narrow path. We got to know each other through a series of basic questions.

We went through a road surrounded by trees, went up and down before reaching a view point. I asked Komang if it was okay to stop for awhile so I could check out the view. Without any sign of hesitation, she stopped the motorcycle and I took a few seconds to enjoy the view.

It's only my first day in Nusa Lembongan and I'm already in love.

When we got to the main town, Komang told me she had to buy a few vegetables in the small market as seen below. I took this opportunity to explore the area.

After our trip to town we went back to the resort. I still had enough time before dark so I thanked Komang for her generosity and continued exploring on foot. Looking at the map, I decided to head to Sunset Point.

For about 10 minutes, this was all I could see. I swear I had taken the wrong road. I have the worst navigational skills but I decided to just go on and see where my feet would take me. Occasionally, there was a house or two that popped up and I had the pleasure of communicating with the kids through sign languages and taking a few photos of them. They were really shy and giggled and ran around when they saw me.

Lost but now I'm found

Another 5 or 10 minutes (I can't really tell), I hear the sound of waves.

I think I ended up in a different beach than intended but it was worth the long walk. I stood hypnotized by nature's random patterns. Floating in my own head, listening to the echoes, letting go of reality.

When I finally came back to Earth, an idea dwelled upon me.

Armed with temporary bravery and a pinch of curiosity, I climbed the slippery rocks holding on to my dear camera. I know it's silly but it was so fun to do something random!

What lay ahead was a huge open field with a picturesque view. There was nobody up there but endless grass and a cow. It felt like a Miyazaki film. I was ready to sit down and reward myself with the scenery when it began to drizzle.

Luckily I brought a plastic bag which I used to wrap my camera, phone and wallet. The drizzle immediately transformed into heavy rain and I couldn't get down the cliff due to it being too slippery and my visibility was cut down to about 2 meters. I cut through the field and ended up in a different path than where I came from. Great, Melody. Now what?

I could hear the island teasing me. "You want an adventure? I'll give you an adventure."

Now, I was sure I was completely lost. It was getting dark so I just took a random path while heavily drenched in rain. I didn't know where I was going. The road was starting to flood and things were getting serious. I was soaking wet and lost. A good 10 minutes and I finally find a random resort strangely situated out-of-nowhere. I ran for shelter and was greeted by a guy. Turns out, he was a good friend of Putu--Wayan's older son who I haven't met yet. He told me he could lend me his umbrella and drew lines on my map leading to my resort.

Knowing there were no street lamps on the island, I thanked him for his kindness, waved goodbye, and continued battling the heavy rain.

When I finally got back to the resort, I had tons of stories to tell Komang who was waiting for me at the restaurant. I was so hungry from all the walking so she prepared my dinner in the kitchen. While waiting, I heard some instruments play outside. Curious, I ran towards the entrance and saw a small parade taking place.

It was brief and when I went back to my seat, my food was ready and looking delicious. I ate my Nasi Goreng as if it was the first meal I had in ages. What a day!

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