Monday, December 11, 2006

Lombok & Back to Bali

After leaving Gili Air it was back to mainland Lombok and I decided to stop off at Sengiggi beach. A small-ish bay on the West coast, one of several judging by the bus journey, each is separated by a high pass up the mountains to the next. Quite a few boats in the harbour, and some yachts drifting further out to sea. I went for a stroll along the waterfront and was ambushed by students practising their English. Armed with notebooks and tape recorders they launched into a quick interview with the usual where do you come from? Still at least quite a few people had at least heard of Scotland. In fact, Highlander seems popular here. One guy asked me if the story was true! Probably thinks we run around lopping off heads in the quest for immortality. Braveheart, bagpipes, whisky and guys in skirts are the other cultural icons sometime known.

Come Saturday night time it was quite lively with a few bands playing in open air pubs. Playing mostly English language songs with the occasional local song thrown into the mix. Mixed in with the ever popular English Premier League kicking off at 10p.m. and the pub was fairly busy. Obviously a lot of Asians watch the footy as Chang and Air-Asia advertise yet only sell in Asia.

The next day I continued down to the capital of Lombok, Mataram. A busy little town I decided to take the local transport back to Bali, as I had mostly been taking tourist buses. Getting from Sengigi to Mataram was fairly easy, changed at one point and was shepherded onto the next bemo by the driver. I had a look at a couple of temples in Mataram but they were far from spectacular. Next I headed along to the Lake Park which was also unimpressive, a muddy square of water. The central point of town seems to be the mall. Feeling in the mood for a burger I headed into McDonalds, where it was crawling with kids having a birthday party. McDonalds seems to have got in on localisation big time. Strange to watch somebody in there eating rice & egg with their fingers.

Leaving Mataram was a bit tougher, I headed down the bemo stops and after agreeing a normal price hopped aboard. The ferry is about 10 miles away, it took over 2 hours to get there! Most of sitting in the bemo, waiting for other passengers. Now and again he would drive up and down the road, trying to get more people before returning to the start and switching off the engine. I slipped my hat over my face and tried to go to sleep, but it was too hot inside. Eventually he crammed enough people in so we left, to pick up more people by the roadside. Anyway I got to the ferry 30 mins before it left, I though I would of got the previous ferry 90 minutes before but never mind. As soon as you reach the entrance of the terminal people are coming up trying to sell you tickets. I just ignored them (like the Police!) and walked up to the counter. People who sell the real tickets sit behind desks and wait for customers, not run about chasing people! Onto the ferry and yet more people selling everything and anything. Food, water, tshirts etc. Then 2 minutes before the boat leaves they all dash off. Obviously they don’t get their tickets checked at the entrance, must sneak past the security guard in the morning, or pay him. Anyway it was back to Padang Bai, I was going to push on to Kuta that evening but I couldn’t be bothered, so I spent another night in Padang Bai. The next day I went to get the bus, but a local festival was beginning so no buses for two days, hmmm. After a walk around the ferry area, I quickly arranged for a chartered car, only 5000 more than the bus. Sharing with one other person who was going to the airport. Picked up another couple of people and then it was back to Kuta. Except the driver dropped us off somewhere else, and we swapped to a bus. No extra money said the driver and then headed off. And then more waiting…

Finally got back to Kuta. Just as well the woman who charted the car wasn’t in a hurry to get to the airport! A few more days in Kuta before my flight back to Kuala Lumpur. I had timed it for 30 days in Indonesia, more than that and you need to apply for a visa beforehand, at least that seemed to be the rules, although when I flew in to Bali the customs guy asked me if I wanted 60 days, you just pay double. I had some more strolling around here, getting to know the area a bit better. In the South, you have Tuban and then heading North you get to Kuta beach proper and Legian, and if you continue you get to Seminyak, which is the super posh area. One of the road is simply a line of restaurants up here. Another houses a couple of art galleries for those wanting to purchase some original pieces. A far cry from the cheep and cheerful stalls in Kuta. One night I went out, popping into the bar for a happy hour drink. All was quiet until around 30 Norwegians descended, they had spent a couple of months here for school and had just finished there last exams, so they were in high spirits. Somewhere along the line I ended up drinking whisky with a bunch of locals, before heading onto Joe’s Place as one of the locals played there on Tuesday, not that it was a Tuesday or even open, but I met up with a couple of people I had seen the first time I was in Kuta. So I had a few more drinks before staggering home. Didn’t do much the next day, except stay clear of alcohol.

Food! A couple of Indonesian dishes that I’ve liked here are Gado Gado, a healthy mix of crispy vegetables and Nasi Campur a mix of vegetables and rice, maybe some sate if your lucky. These are very open to interpretation and so finding a good restaurant is needed. The same dish can be totally different from one place to another. I had Nasi Campur in Bedegul and it was a pale imitation of the meal I had in Kuta. The added sate with the dish was lovely. Not too spicy, either.

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