Monday, August 31, 2009

Goodbye Lombok and Bali

We spent our last three hours on Saturday with Gregg and Leigh and Jacob at our favourite Coco Beach Warung by Senggigi Beach front.  It was sad to say goodbye to them and beautiful W. Lombok, but rather wonderful to know we were leaving G., L. and J. so happy with their lives on Lombok.

After our rather late flight back to Bali on Saturday night it was a bit of a shock to wake up in busy, buzzy Sanur after the quiet of the Puri Saron.

Sunday is family day for the locals on Sanur Beach especially up the Eastern end of the beach where our hotel is.  

In Sanur village there are plenty of signs of new affluence and contemporary craft and design in amongst the old Sanur style trinket and jewellery stalls.  

I did my bit to support these new developments by spending all my clothing budget at Animale on Sanur's main street (French style for the tropics - don't know how well it will translate to Canberra!).

Back on the beach tourists were relaxing on sun loungers, locals were picknicking, swimming and fishing in the calm gentle Sanur sea, kids were flying their amazingly intricate kites.
We checked out the Hotel Griya Santrian on the beachfront for J & J & Miss E. and thoroughly approved their choice.

And while all this was happening a wonderful, colourful, relaxed and somewhat joyful Balinese cremation ceremony was being conducted in a beachfront open air temple compound, in amongst all the other Sunday buzz.

I always feel affected by the ready evidence of rich Balinese spiritual life around us, especially in amongst all the tourist blather. Over the centuries they have managed to resist the pervasive influence of the Javanese, Islamic Arabs, the Dutch and Portuguese and now a million tourists a year, and increasing globalisation.  We're lucky that we live so close we can experience this amazing culture so easily.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The real Lombok

The "real Bali" is a marketable commodity, accessible in eco-cultural packaged tours, usually starting at Kintamani and then working downwards and ending in Ubud.  Not so on Lombok where the "real Lombok" is all around you.  Yesterday we got Ketut to drive us from Senggigi through the almost continuous line of villages and townships that make up Ampenan, Mataram and devoutly Muslim Kediri, then on through Praya, and south to Kuta Beach, Lombok, on the southern coast.

Along the way Ketut described his perspective as a Hindu (Balinese) man making his way in an increasingly extreme (his word) Muslim society in Lombok.  He told us that rich Arab countries (especially the Arab Emerites) are funding the increasingly magnificent mosques that are proliferating in this poorest of poor countries.  These same countries are funding free (Muslim) education for high school age children, a big draw card in a poor country where families have to pay to attend government schools.

We were interested to see significant work already underway on Lombok's new International airport on the road to Kuta and the start of a new roadway that should bring increased opportunities for development in the south of Lombok.  (Although Ketut reckons the new airport may not be used by tourists.  He says it may just be used for Lombok's good Muslims heading off to Mecca for the Haj.)

Kuta just looked the same as it did 5 years ago when we last visited; if anything the children and the goats looked a little thinner.

We drove past Kuta to enjoy lunch at Ashtari, an Australian owned vegetarian restaurant on the hill overlooking Kuta and the beautiful Southern coastline beyond.  It was a haven after the rawness of Kuta.

Ketut put his Kijang to the test navigating the "broken" road from Ashtari to Mawun, a beautiful, isolated and completely undeveloped beach about 20 minutes drive West of Kuta.

I took this picture of the water in an attempt to capture sparkling TURQUOISE.  I have never seen water that colour before.

We met Gregg and Leigh and a few other local ex-pats at Asmara last night for Stammtisch (which is really just a word coined by Sakeena, the German owner, for a get together of regulars for the purposes of drinking and having a good time).
We were both entranced by these little girls and their Dad, contributing to the performance (by the same band as at Alberto's the night before).

And then afterwards to Happy's Club for a lime daiquiri with Leigh and a chance to enjoy the club's resident band, "The Not Bad Band" (I'm not joking).  The singer on the left channelled little Stevie Wright from The Easybeats and the lead guitarist on the right was channelling Kiss (don't know which one).  They did all the great pub rock numbers.  We loved it!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Staying in Senggigi

The Puri Saron is the kind of hotel where you can really make yourself at home. The open air dining pavillion looking out to the "best pool in the world" even has a wireless hot spot these days.  There are so many attractive options available for spending hours by the pool.

The end of the dry season has resulted in a lot of last minute gardening ready for the impending rain.  We've been watching in amazement as this nimble footed man has been scaling the extremely tall palm trees in the hotel's beautiful Balinese style garden and trimming the excess palm fronds - no harness, no crane, no safety net, no real equipment at all, except for a machete and length of fabric tied in a figure eight around his ankles. 

We only left the hotel for short periods yesterday.  Rob is starting to recover from his cold to end all colds (at last) and he joined us for dinner with Gregg and Leigh and Jacob last night at Alberto's, on the beach.

We dined at Alberto,s, at a table on the sand, on the first night of our first visit to Senggigi 6 years ago.  It has had a major upgrade since then, one of the few businesses that must have thrived in Lombok over the past difficult decade.  It is a favourite haunt of Gregg's and Leigh's, for its great food, beautiful pool and gorgeous sunsets.  This time we dined in the tiled pavillion to save getting sand between our toes.

We enjoyed the live music: Indo versions of a wide repertoire including the Eagles, Pink Floyd and Santana, played with a slightly Polynesian twist.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bola Bola day

We met Leigh (and our driver) at Jalan Palm Raja, looking forward to our day's outing to beautiful Sekotong Bay in SW Lombok.  We weren't planning anything too strenuous because Rob is still pretty tentative in his recovery, so we didn't pack the snorkeling gear.

We were in the tiny fishing village of Sekotong after one and 3/4 hours driving through Ampenon, Mataran and the farms and villages along the picturesque and often hilly road to the Bay.  Once we were there I recognised some familiar landmarks and the stunningly beautiful aspect of the azure blue, pristine clean bay enclosing the three tiny little gilies, within easy fishing boat distance of the beachfront.

However, I knew we hadn't got to the very new hotel we'd discovered with John on our previous visit 5 years ago.  Luckily our driver could interpret my fairly vague directions and he found the Bola Bola Paradis Hotel and Restaurant for us, about 12-15kms further West around the bay from Sekotong village.  Amazingly for Lombok it was still a going concern, despite its relative sophistication, and isolation, amongst poor but picturesque fishing villages and shanties.  We did our best to provide further support by buying drinks there, and later, a delicious lunch.

The hotel fronts the bayside beach, with stunning views of the pristine water (wish we'd brought our snorkelling gear) and more gilies, only a short boat ride away.

We were a bit miffed that other guests bagged the lunchtime spot we'd chosen in the grounds of the hotel.
But the open pavillion style hotel dining room was very beautiful too.

We were back in Sengiggi after 3.30pm, with time to visit Gregg and Jacob at Nusa Alam and support the little bazaar the parents are running each afternoon this week, the first week of Ramadan.  It is important that Nusa Alam, as Lombok's only International school, be seen to be supporting this fundraising for the mosques, during Ramadan.

Parents were selling all the usual little things you see at fetes at home, except with an Indonesian twist.  Leigh tells us that a lot of people in Lombok put on weight during Ramadan, there is such an emphasis on the night time feasting and then the huge celebrations of over indulgence at the end of the fasting period.  

The start of Ramadan has seen a fall in tourist numbers, so Senggigi is relatively quiet and uncrowded.  It probably has a lot to do with he fact that all of Europe is starting back at work at the end of this month so many people have already started making tracks for home. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lazy day in Lombok

Rob woke up today feeling really exhausted after a bad night with his cold so we didn't do much today, allowing him time to sleep and relax around the pool.  I had lunch with Gregg and Leigh at Asmara (in the "downtown" Senggigi area) and Leigh and I stayed on talking until around 3.00pm after Gregg had to return to school. When I got back to the Puri Saron Rob was much improved after his 2 and a 1/2 hour sleep so we went across the road to the Cafe Johan so he could enjoy a late lunch and I could enjoy fruit and icecream.

This little procession of cows was just one of the attractions of sitting in this cafe.

We both relaxed around the pool until the sun was going down when we just had to get on to the beach to enjoy the show.  This is a great place for having a lazy day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meeting Gregg & Leigh in Senggigi

After meeting Leigh (and her household help) first thing at their very beautiful, contemporary Asian style home in Jalan Palm Raja we headed off to see Gregg (Mister Gregg) at his Sekolah Nusa Alam (Natural Place School) in South Senggigi.  Some of the locals refer to it as "the rich school in the rice paddies", but to me it looks a beautiful little school, clean and ordered, and much better resourced than other schools I have seen in Bali-Lombok.   You can tell Gregg is very happy in his current position and much admired by the school community.  He and Leigh are developing into a celebrity couple in West Lombok; most of the Taksi drivers are very impressed when we ask to be driven to see Mister Gregg or Nonya Leigh! Their son Jacob is also thriving at school in this supportive environment

Class sizes at the school are very small (20 maximum) and every class has an English and an Indonesian teacher.  There are a lot of support staff in the school, all adding to the lovely calm, secure environment for the children, 70% of whom are Anglo-Indonesian.  Gregg has big plans for the future of the school, especially around building enrolments in the 7-12 years, and building the professional capacity of his staff and raising academic standards. 

After we left Gregg, happily hard at work, Leigh introduced us to a little local warung (restaurant) Coco Beach she'd discovered recently on the beach front a couple of hundred metres north of the Puri Saron.

We caught one of the local Bemos (a tiny little old van type vehicle that are the local equivalent of public transport) there.  We laughed at Leigh negotiating (in Indonesian) with the driver about a price to take the three of us off the road into the palm fringed beach side clearing so we didn't have to walk far! 

We took a couple of hours over our delicious lunch, talking, catching up and lazing in the gentle warmth of this most idyllic setting.  It is obvious that Gregg, Leigh and Jacob have a wonderful life here in Lombok.

Leigh had to go to pick up Jacob from school (Taksi again) so Rob and I spent the late afternoon in (me) and around (Rob) the beautiful (newly refurbished) pool at the Puri Saron.  It was around this time we admitted we'd already gotten over that feeling that Lombok is somewhat of a disappointment after Bali.

Rob is still not recovered from the most severe case of flu (+ assorted infections) he's had in recent years so is not risking going swimming or any over exertion.  Such a shame it has impacted on his holiday so greatly!

We met up with Gregg, Leigh and Jacob last night and enjoyed a meal out on the beachfront Warung Menege in the South Senggigi.  The sunsets are the star attraction here as Senggigi Beach faces West towards Bali, but last night the bar-b-qued seafood, Bintangs and being able to spend time with Gregg & Leigh had their own magic.

Bali to Lombok

The port of Padang Bai on the central East coast of Bali is only an hour's drive from Ubud but it's laid back, seaside ambience is a world away from sophisticated Ubud. The place was crowded with backpackers at lunchtime but the pace was unhurried and uncomplicated.

We were catching the Perama boat to Senggigi Beach, Lombok, via Gili Trewangan and Gile Air (both islands).  I was a little alarmed as I lined up with all the very youthful backpackers on the beach at Padang Bai that we were boarding the (bigger) boat via this little boat, and I had to walk through the water and climb into it.  You can see our Samsonite case with the blue tape around it, loaded in with all the backpacks, ready to head out to sea.  I can report I completed this task with all the dignity I could muster granted I was wearing a skirt and carrying a handbag.

The trip across the Lombok Straits was rather beautiful, a chance to totally relax in the cool of the passenger cabin or out in the sun on the top deck.  The crew really looked after us with plenty of fresh fruit and tea breaks and a substantial, freshly cooked supper late afternoon.  I was thrilled to be out on the deck when a pod of dolphins chose to do some showing off in the wake created by the boat.

The sun was setting as we left Gile Air.  It was a wonderful time to be on the top deck with the warm wind sending light sprays of sea water over us as we watched the most amazing sunset unfold around us.

It is especially magical when you can see Mt Agung, the highest and most spiritual mountain in Bali, so clearly in the late afternoon light.  (It really is there - in the middle of the picture.)

Disembarkation on Senggigi Beach, Lombok in the dark was amazing.  The crew only had one torch to guide them.  I had to jump out of the little boat onto the beach in the dark and then with Rob, claim our luggage, sitting ever so safely and ready for us on the sand in front of us.  This was another time I wondered if I was too old to be doing this!  (I'm not!!)

One of the crew members walked us up from the beach (in total darkness) through a little laneway to the main Senggigi Beach road where we caught our first Taksi of the trip up to the Puri Saron.  The 2km trip cost us 90c.  Senggigi looked untidy and poor as it always has.  Our first reaction coming to Lombok is always one of slight dismay after experiencing the gentle beauty and sophistication of Bali.