Nusa Lembongan

April 25, 2011

In the Lonely Planet guidebook to Bali and Lombok, the small island of Nusa Lembongan is described as “the Bali many imagine but never find: simple rooms on the beach, cheap beers with incredible sunsets, days spent surfing and diving, and nights spent riffling through a favourite book or hanging with new friends.” They go on to say that it is a place where “time is marked by the crow of a rooster and the fall of a coconut.” In short, just my kind of place. Saki and I went there for a few days just before her return to Japan (where she had, unbeknownst to her, an appointment with an earthquake). I still had a couple of weeks left, and faced the choice of heading eastward to Lombok or beyond, places I had not yet explored, or simply going back to Lembongan for a bit and vegging out by the beach. Those who know me well will not be surprised that the second option won the day.

Nusa Lembongan is quite different from “mainland” Bali, both in the broad strokes and in nuance. For starters, there are no cars on the island, but for a few emergency vehicles and resort minivans. Thus, the daily take-your-life-in-your-hands experience of crossing a street or piloting a motor scooter is imbued with a good deal less dread than on the mainland. Renting a scooter was by comparison quite different as well: no contracts, no signatures, no hassles. Just a ten-dollar payment for three days, and we were off and running, fuel included. The fact that the scooter would not make it up a moderate hill with two of us aboard was mildly amusing, but not a deal breaker, as there were only a few hills between us and any place we wanted to be.

I should also mention that Nusa Lembongan must be about the most affordable place on the planet. An air conditioned beachfront hotel, complete with restaurant, bar and infinity pool, ran $15 US per night. There was no hot water, but it was scarcely needed, as the water reservoir was on the roof, heated all day by the tropical sun. A huge supper of freshly caught fish steamed in banana leaves, with rice, veggies and beer, set me back about $5. In town, a bit away from the beach and its “tourist” prices, a veritable feast could be had for a couple of bucks. Endless white sand beaches, friendly locals, a volcano simmering just across the strait—a modern-day Gilligan’s Island just waiting to be discovered.

The pictures will tell the story better than mere words…

Lembongan waterfront

The high-priced hotel, $20/night

Before the cockfight

Lembongan beach from above

And again...

Lembongan back in the day (1980s)

And, as Lonely Planet pointed out, there were ample opportunities to meet new friends. This is by no means a comprehensive grouping, but I did my best with the pictures at hand:

Sasha from Sweden, en route to higher ground in advance of rumored tsunami

Sipri and baked (in several senses of the word) Bruce

Iris from Taiwan, w/fiance Phil from NZ

Meng from NZ checks out Sasha's pics

Swedish flower girls Marie and Sasha

Anna, yet another lovely Swede

Jenny (Holland), Ali & Robin (Canada), Meng (NZ) with Ketut's family

Update: May 2, 2011: Aarrggh! Is it not the pits when somebody points out that you may have made an error, an error in print no less, especially when they are right? Jenny from Holland (see above pic) quite correctly pointed out to me that Sasha and Marie (see “flower girls” pic, above) are from Denmark, not from Sweden. This, of course, makes Anna (from the next pic after Sasha and Marie) “the only lovely Swede” in this column, rather than “yet another lovely Swede”, as I had noted in the caption. I apologize to all affected parties for the error, and I have no excuse whatsoever, except to say that perhaps I was bewitched by the beauty of all concerned!

Erratum #2: “Sasha” should be spelled “Sascha”, which I just found out from Marie, whose name, by some happy accident, I actually spelled right.