Friday, 17 October 2014

Adventures in Bali: Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan is a little island about 30 minutes boat ride from Bali's South-East coast. It's less spoilt by tourism compared to Bali and Lombok and its waters are well known for their surfing and diving potential. 

We stayed on Nusa Lembongan for four nights, arriving after the most frightening boat ride I've ever taken. We'd taken the final seats available, facing backwards on the front row of a small boat, about to sail on very rough waters from Gili T. It was never going to be dreamy. Water came in through the 'sealed' door frame overhead and sweat soaked through my camisole. My bum was lifted from the seat, then crashed back into it with force. My hands kept a sweaty grip on the seat in front of me and nervous laughter escaped each time to boat crashed down against the water. M wasn't faring much better than me. When we stepped of that boat onto Nusa Lembongan's sandy beach, the relief matched the exhaustion. We stayed at World Diving in a sunset seaview room, around ten minutes walk along the beach from the harbour. The room was clean and comfy, and only a low wall separated us from the beach. We'd arrived early evening so got everything planned for the next day's diving and then headed down the beachfront, eating at Bunga Bungalo and heading uphill for a drink on Jungut Batu Hill, watching the waves crash into the cliffs and feeling very glad to be off that boat!

All of our dives were early morning at World Diving, setting up around 7.30am. They have a brilliant outrigger dive boat with a toilet, hot and cold drinks, and a sun deck with bean bags to relax on between dives. My diving experience is still fairly limited but the corals around Lembongan were spectacular. They were the most vibrant rainbow of colours I've seen. Lembongan is known for having strong currents and all of our dives were drift dives. You could really feel the current pushing you at times, but we didn't have any issues. At the right time of year, you can see mola molas in these waters. We weren't so lucky - too early, but we did see another turtle, scorpion fish, cuttlefish, a banded sea snake, nudibranch, and lots of other beautiful marine life. World Diving were wonderful and they are by miles and miles the best dive school we've dived with. 

The dive schedule also meant that we had the afternoons to ourselves and we used them to explore this beautiful island. There are no cars on the island so we decided to hire a scooter. Ten year old girls in pigtails whizzed past as we juddered slowly forward, but twenty minutes into it, we were away! We headed north to the mangrove forests and visited Lembongan Village and the seaweed farms in the south of the island. Seaweed farming appeared to be the main industry here. We saw lots of islanders walking the stretch of the beach late at night collecting seaweed. As you move around the island, and particularly on the south east side, you can see men and women working on the farms and drying out their stock in the sun.

One of the central reasons we hired the scooter was so that we could visit Nusa Ceningan, a smaller island which neighbours Lembongan which can only be accessed across a pretty rickety wooden suspension bridge. We'd initially planned to stay on Ceningan at La Pirate, which offers small seahut accommodations on Ceningan. It looked charming and peaceful, but we'd have paid a lot more to dive from this island. We stopped to eat at La Pirate and, as expected, its isolated location created an atmosphere of absolute calm. I'm glad we stopped off for a visit. There wasn't too much else to see, as such, on Ceningan but the scooter allowed us to move through the thick vegetation to access its highest points and take in the views. We headed back over the bridge to Nusa Lembongan and watched the light change over Jungut Batu, with Bali's volcanoes peeping through the clouds in the distance.

Nusa Lembongan definitely felt like a more authentic Balinese experience. It can become fairly busy in the middle of the day as tour providers visit the island from Bali but at night, those tourists disappear. There's no shortage of places to eat. We ate at a lovely little restaurant attached to Tigerlilly's hotel. We also had a good breakfast at Bali Eco Deli, which works hard to promote eco tourism on Lembongan. One evening we took advantage of the free pick up and drop off service at The Beach Club at Sandy Bay. As long as you buy food or drink, they'll come and collect you from anywhere on the island and drop you back off when you're ready. The food was delicious and I'd happily make my way through their cocktail list. The cliffs in this bay are unreal so time your visit so that you can climb up and walk around the coast to Devils Tear for the perfect spot to watch the beautiful sunsets.

I really enjoyed Lembongan. World Diving's social media feed is filled with photographs of mola mola's at the moment and I've been so tempted to book flights to get back to this captivating island. From Nusa Lembongan we headed by boat to our final stop, Sanur.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Remember to Remember: Summer 2014

I love this photo taken of an overgrown van in a garden in Latvia
This Summer seemed to pass by quickly. I had quite a full diary and there were fewer chances than I'd hoped to just sit in the yard-en and admire the plant pots and beautiful honeysuckle, which flowered for the first time this year, four years after it was first potted.

Diary scribbles: Summer 2014
  • A trip to London with my mum: Miss Saigon and afternoon tea at Claridges
  • Crafting
  • Dinners and sharing holiday photos with friends
  • Betting on black at a casino to celebrate a good friend's 30th birthday
  • A three week adventure travelling around Bali and Gili Trawangan
  • Mid week wine dates with friends
  • A weekend of board games, cycling, spa fun, barbecues, crazy golf, boules and hot chocolates with friends at Centre Parcs, Sherwood Forest
  • Watching the rain fall, cosy with a mug of hot chocolate
  • A family spa visit to Ribby Hall for my mum's birthday
  • A week visiting M's family and exploring Latvia: beaver watching, saunas, castles, beaches, elderflower beer, turning trees
  • Treating myself to Clarins Beauty Flash
  • Investing in our own copy of Settlers of Catan
  • Long sunny walks
  • Baking homemade peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies
  • Impromptu pub dinners
  • Stripping (wallpaper) and prepping to redecorate our second bedroom/office
  • Little spending sprees, including my new favourite Autumn coat
  • Total relaxation on an overnight stay at the Quay Hotel and Spa and a day exploring Conwy
  • Graduation celebrations in honour of my little brother's PGCE
  • Lunch dates and Frappuccinos
  • Liverpool's Summer Art Market Craft market
  • A day as tourists in our own city
  • A beautiful Brighton wedding
  • Garden centres, making the yarden look pretty and wishing I had a garden of my own
  • Overeating at Liverpool's Food and Drink Festival
  • Chasing giants around Liverpool for Giant Spectacular's Memories of August 1914
  • Celebrating a leather anniversary and falling in love with my beautiful new leather satchel
  • A long overdue hair cut and pamper
  • Impromptu half price Indian head massages
  • Becoming an ebay whizz
It's already October and I'm only just publishing this post! This is mainly because of the ongoing redecorating project in our office which has meant that the computer has been in bits, and stored in the bedroom, living room, even the bathroom over the past month! I'm finally sat at my desk in my home office, sliding the chair across the new flooring. Still staring at a bare plaster wall, though. As I said, it's ongoing!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Today's find: HeForShe

Here's what I saw, and loved today.

"If not me, who? If not now, when?"

I've long loved Emma Watson and this poised, thoughful delivery for the HeForShe campaign for gender inequality has made me love her more. The message isn't new but the packaging works for me.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Adventures in Bali: Gili Trawangan

The three tiny islands which form the Gili's are actually off the coast of Lombok, not Bali. There are horses and bicycles instead of cars, there is lots of sand, there are turtles in their waters, and cocktails are served in coconuts. This all made for a very promising start for our seven night stay on Gili Trawangan, the larger and 'wilder' of the three islands. Actually, not very wild at all.

We watched the sun rise...

And set...

 We ate fish (some good, some not so good...!) 

We scuba dived and snorkelled...

We read books, lazed in hammocks, watched the stars, scoffed amazing pizza at Il Pirata, got sunburned, drank Bintangs and mojitos, cycled around the island, stretched and meditated at Gili Yoga, ate too much ice cream, showered with spiders, watched a movie on the beach (Wolf of Wall Street!), got food poisoning, bought cheap souvenirs, ate sweet treats at the food market. Basically, we got very used to island life.

I loved Gili T. It was a lot calmer than I'd expected. This was probably, in part, because it was Ramadan and also because our accommodation was further up from the main 'strip'. We'd decided to stay on one island and get day boats across to the others. We didn't end up getting to either of them. Gili T's a little island paradise. Just don't eat at an empty restaurant where the 'really fresh' fish may have sat out for a lot longer than it should have (ah, hindsight). Oh, and cats definitely rule this island. Yay for well fed cats!

From Gili T, only the most frightening boat ride of my life stood between us and Nusa Lembongan.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Adventures in Bali: Ubud

We spent three nights in Ubud, Bali's cultural centre (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). It wasn't nearly enough time to fully explore it. We stayed at Alaya, which was stylish and peaceful, though a little bit of a walk into central Ubud. All of the rooms overlooked rice terraces. The view from our room is my go to mental image for moments of calm!

We travelled with a driver from Seminyak, stopping at Tanah Lot and Taman Ayun (and a pretty terrible coffee plantation) on the way. Bali is a very spiritual and predominantly Hindu island. Balinese temples are built from volcanic stone or red brick and feature split-stone gateways and intricate carvings. They're quite different from the ornate gilded temples we'd become used last Summer in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore but every bit as beautiful.

We spent our first night in Ubud wandering nearby side streets, eating too much fried rice and watching a local dance performance in the grounds of a temple. We were awake early the next morning and decided to head straight to Monkey Forest. There's a small entry fee to pay but you could wander around this sacred forest for hours. There are lots of stories about these pesky macaque monkeys stealing food and jewellery, scratching people and getting up to general mischief. We left food at home and kept our bodies to ourselves. We didn't have any problems. Look at that stylish do!

After a scrumptious lunch at Art Kafe (Jalan Monkey Forest), we headed off towards the rice terraces and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through fields. I think we passed fewer than ten people as we walked. It was blissful. It's quite exposed though so wear a hat, take suncream and drink water. We also had a massage at a little spa we found down a side street. If you find yourself in Ubud, I'd definitely recommend wandering away from the main road, which welcomes coachloads of day trippers from Kuta. You're more likely to find traditional Balinese walled communities, unusual handicrafts and local warungs down these little side streets. I wish we'd had more time to do this.

It was should have been early to bed that night (thanks for blocking our card and making us spend hours on the phone, Halifax), ready for a 2am pick up and hike up Mount Batur, one of Bali's breathtaking volcanos. We climbed by flashlight with a local guide and arrived to the summit with time to spare before watching the most spectacular sunrise I think I'll ever see, high above the clouds with a view of Mount Agung. It was one of my favourite moments of our trip. If you get the chance, do it! Be careful on the descent. We saw one tourist being carried on a stretcher after presumably losing her footing around a raggedy rock. "Careful. It dangerous", became a favourite phrase for our guide. 

We were back to central Ubud in time to re-fuel with Alaya's amazing breakfast. We flopped by the hotel's pool for an hour or so to rest. Next, we explored some of Ubud's quiet side streets, drank a coconut or two, and headed out to the Campauhan ridge for another walk through the lush countryside. The walk itself will take around two hours but plan in a stop at Karsa Kafe for a coconut and roasted sweetcorn cob with stunning views out onto the rice terraces. 

We were keen to try Nuri's warung, recommended in countless tourist guides (and in the New York Times, apparently). Their barbecued ribs did not disappoint. It was a bit of an uphill trek from central Ubud (around 45 minutes) but there is a stunning temple and pretty handicraft shops along the way. Walking back down towards our hotel, we saw a temple ceremony procession. That was something! We spent the rest of our last night sipping a few cocktails and admiring carved entrances to the local walled communities. 

The next morning, it was time to leave Ubud and catch a ferry to the Gili islands.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

30 for Thirty: No#17 Eat Something I've Never Tried Before

I do enjoy tasty food and, after last year's flavour adventure in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, I wanted to set myself the challenge of eating at least one new dish. I definitely did this in Indonesia this Summer. I ate new savouries and sweets. Here's a few photographs as evidence that I can tick this 30 for Thirty item off the list:

1. Seafood: Barramundi and mahi-mahi 

I was really excited to try "barra" and mahi-mahi on Gili Trawangan after dribbling in front of the TV for so many episodes of Australian MasterChef. 

2. An Indonesian pot-luck plate

This was a tasty dish I ordered at a little warung on Lembongan. I've no idea what exactly was in it, but it tasted good and I'm pretty positive there was at least one thing in it I'd not tried before.

3. Indonesian nasi campur

I cannot remember whether I tried nasi campur in Sri Lanka, but I'd not had Indonesian nasi campur so I'm counting it as another new dish! This was my nasi campur breakfast our hotel in Ubud. I did wimp out and avoid the spicy sambal at 8am, though.

I am sure my adventures in food with continue but I'm not sure that I'll be on such beautiful islands eating any time soon!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Weekend Beside the Sea

In June, I travelled to Brighton to celebrate two lovely people getting married. I've not seen enough of the UK and this was my first trip to Brighton. I know that it wont be my last. 

Favourite moments:
  • Seeing lovely friends become Mr & Mrs in the stunning setting of the Royal Pavilion Gardens
  • Eating amazing burritos at La Choza
  • Playing penny slots and general childishness at Brighton Pier
  • Ice creams quicker than they could melt on the pebble beach
  • Exploring little shops and people watching in the North Laines
  • Sunsets and sea air
  • A tasty fish meal at Fishy Fishy, which turned out to be owned by Dermot O'Leary
  • Posing in deck chairs and face-in-the-holes
  • Cocktails with friends at our fantastic hotel's (The Artist Residence) bar, The Cocktail Shack 

Brighton, I'll be back!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...