Annchen

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In the middle of our South East Asia trip we found a sort of sanctuary in Kuala Lumpur. We arrived in KL at a high-rise apartment with views on views on views (see above) – except, of course, when the torrential monsoon season storms sweep in and obliterate it all in a white cloudy mist – with no plans, no expectations and just a lot of dirty laundry. It was bizarre being hosted by my family who used to run a small diary farm outside of a small town in South Africa  in this apartment in this monster-city that is 40% highways and mostly skyscrapers and giant malls. Even more bizarre that my cousin, this totally Afrikaans boy who grew up on this farm, is now speaking Mandarin and even reading some Chinese characters and totally adapting to life in KL with his awesome Chinese girlfriend. By ‘bizarre’ I obviously mean crazy impressive. But what a privilege to be able to reconnect and take a week under your family’s wing in a foreign place.

(And to do a load or two of washing for free.)

What followed was a week of being shown around the sprawling city of Kuala Lumpur by the best tour guides ever. We were shown around all the corners of the city – from the old city, to the food markets, to skyscraper central, to the Chinese temples and the deep dark caves (you haven’t experienced darkness like this), to a bar on top of a repurposed helipad (with no railings!), to cool coffee shops hosted in ex-brothels, to the escape room in the mall (where we wholly failed).

Escape Room KL edition. We look pretty happy here but we failed so hard.

Also, by ‘shown around’ I mean ‘taken out to eat’.

Kuala Lumpur is a cosmopolitan Asian hub, where tons of Asian expats from all over the continent make it work together. It’s an affordable Singapore, just without all those fines and rules and taxed alcohol. So it’s basically any Asian food lover’s dream – the street and restaurant food is next level, in terms of tastiness and diversity. And my cousin Hendrik has unbeatable taste in food locations. From the famous incomparable Nasi Lemak at Village Park, to Chinese hawker stalls, to the best Korean shaved ice Bingsu deserts, to Jalan Alor street food and moshi, to Indian breakfasts and a mooncake festival Tan family dinner (thanks for having us Ameline and sorry Joel embarrassed himself in front of your family with his terrible chopsticks etiquette!). KL is a whirlwind of food memories that will unlikely be topped in such concentration ever again.

I even lost my heart at that unassuming smoothie stand when they whipped up the best drink I’ve ever had – 30% watermelon, 30% lychee, 40% soursop.

I mean can you even handle that?

 

So this is just a photo post of my impressions of the city as we were led around it by Hendrik and Ameline – a sort of familial city scape of a foreign place.

Kuala Lumpur to us is food, family, friends and clean clothes. And reading a lot of very silly TripAdvisor reviews.

Mid-Autumn Festival with the Tan clan

Celebrating mid-Autumn festival with our mandarin-speaking cousin, Hendrik, and his gf Ameline’s family. AKA that time a Chinese matriarch insisted Joel use cutlery instead of chopsticks (LOL).

The Hindu temple in Batu Caves

Sharing street food at Jalan Alor

City view of Kuala Lumpur from the Helipad Bar

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Why We Hated Canggu, Bali

After almost four weeks in Bali, we were just starting to worry that we’ll be too sad to leave. And then we went and stayed our last three nights in Canggu. Sometimes we get annoyed by certain destinations; sometimes we are underwhelmed; sometimes we are disappointed; sometimes it’s a socio-political situation that makes us feel frustrated or uneasy; sometimes we are bored; sometimes a place can feel like food without salt. But I don’t think we’ve ever hated anywhere we’ve traveled. We hated Canggu.

On thinking about our feelings about Canggu, wondering if we were crazy, we googled things like ‘Canggu sucks,’ ‘Canggu is the worst,’ ‘I hate Canggu’ – just to see who else is out there and what people think. Turns out there are many people who hate Bali for that western stretch of beaches – Kuta, Seminyak, Legian. The reasons cited are all the same: the traffic is terrible (sure), the piles of trash on the beach (an occurrence around December that we did not witness), the drunken folly with the Australian accent (avoidable), pushy and/or scheming locals (this is the opposite of what we experienced), poor beaches (Bali is more of a surf than swim beach destination). The scapegoats seem to be Kuta and Seminyak. Canggu is rarely mentioned, and sometimes even offered as an area to escape from the above-motioned plagues.

I can’t cite ‘5 reasons I hated Canggu’ (maybe I could), because it’s just an overall atmosphere that has washed over this neighbourhood, gentrifying in its wake. It revealed itself slowly whilst driving through it for the first time on our way to our accommodation. Local family-run restaurants by and for locals and tourists alike, quintessential signposts throughout Bali – Warung Wayan, Warung Made, Warung Ketut – slowly gave way to one-syllable, styled-for-instagram, vegan restaurants – Quince, Nüde (don’t forget that superfluous Umlaut), The Slow, and, the unfortunate pinnacle and epitome of our Canggu-focused hatred, Crate. Crate was conveniently located right around the corner from where we stayed our first night, so we sauntered over first thing in the morning and what a rude awakening we had. Maybe if I can describe what it was like, I can capture some sort of essence of our general dislike.

Everywhere you looked: young and good-looking white people, all resembling one another. (Do white people all look the same?). Dressed, styled, made up and blown out for the perfect candid smoothie bowl shot. Scrolling through albums of selfies. No not selfies (who takes selfies anymore?), drone-followed footage and giant tripod setup shots of self. Against the wall are printed polaroids of the regulars – all these same people. Hundreds of contoured faces and tastefully tattooed pecs peeking from obnoxiously low cut tank tops lined the wall. Where are we?

And just to completely drive us over the edge: Offensive abbreviations and Zs added to every item on the ‘Brekkie’ menu. Expect your ‘Chia Boi’ smoothie to come with coconutz and strawbs. Cute, right?

Let me just interject here and say the breakfast was really good.

 

Anyway, our immediate point of comparison to this was Cape Town, my home town. I love Cape Town – it’s cool, it’s trendy, it’s gorgeous, it’s great, but it is still deeply segregated, having been severely targeted by the apartheid government in terms of city spatial planning. And Canggu felt separated. It felt like a weird hip upper-class instagrammable neo-colonial white enclave. And Canggu is not all white, it is local too. But because there seems to be such a high concentrate of expats here it is startlingly obvious when all the white/expat kids can be seen playing after-school football on huge cut grass fields behind tall security gates, behind security booms, behind security guards. It was startling and confusing, because Bali seemed like one of the safest places we’ve traveled to (at least during the day). So yes, in this way, Canggu was like what we hate most about Cape Town. Except if all the white people in Cape Town were Western foreign expats who don’t have to 100% commit to either their own country’s or their host country’s issues. It’s nice to stay in a developing country when you can have one foot out the door and leave when the shit really hits the fan.

But that’s a whole other thing.

 

People warned us about Seminyak: ‘young, drunk and Australian’. But we stayed one night anyways to see it for ourselves. And it was young and drunk and mostly Australian. But it was unashamedly and unpretentiously so. People were having a lot of fun, that’s for sure.

But I did not expect to hate Canggu in this way. I was completely ready to like it.

 

I think a better way to concisely describe why we hated Canggu is this: think of all the things that you hate about Instagram. Canggu is the embodiment of these things.

 

Of course we are making snap judgements. We were only there for three days, and disclaimer, I was super sick for most of it. I was mostly sleeping off a fever in my room, eating flavourless sweet potato and dry bread. Disclaimer number two: the food in Canggu is good, I’ll admit. I remember having some really good meals before my fever shot through the roof. Disclaimer number three: we  were warmly welcomed by an old school friend of Joel’s – a super sweet expat family from California living and working in Bali. We had a great time connecting and reconnecting, and we got to hang out with our regular Bali buds who we went exploring Nusa Penida with and who subsequently moved over to the Canngu area. So we did enjoy some fun and special moments. And I got my antibiotics from a kind doctor at a Canggu clinic, so that’s a good memory right there too.

Getting our picture taken with some aspiring pharmacist Indonesians

 

I mustered the strength to get out of bed for our last blood orange sunset in Bali. Only to be met by hoards of people doing their best coyly-looking-down-or-out-of-frame insta poses and multiple drones following girls erratically jump skipping and twist-turning in and out of the waves. Coming to a YouTube screen near you.

 

Canggu is not for us. 

And then we were definitively ready to leave Bali.

Bye bye Bali! (I am not sure how Joel managed to not get any drones in this sunset photo. Very impressive.)

 

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Munduk Moments: A Travel Diary Update

We sort of nervously peered over the edge to our left. Joel asked, “do you think that’s where you slide off the waterfall?” We have heard from fellow travelers and tour guides about waterfall trekking and cliff jumping and waterfall sliding in the north of Bali, and now we are here feeling somewhat unprepared. “No,” I said, “I mean…that’s a proper waterfall. Surely that’s an injury if you slide down there. Then our guide, Panca, stepped over and happily pointed to our right: “Okay, we jump in here, swim across, and then slide down there.”

Us: “What, there???”

Me: “How high?”

Panca: “Let’s say 12 meters.”

We initially ruled out the waterfall to our right because surely that’s not safe for sliding down on.

We sort of shrugged our shoulders at each other, and changed our mindsets. I guess we’re sliding off that real full-size waterfall. And then we jumped and we swam and we said a little prayer and we slid down that waterfall.

We don’t normally take pleasure free falling or shooting out into pools from waterfall chutes, but we were there and we were ready to have fun and try new things and be the waterfall.

Then we safely climbed down to the other pools while we contentedly watched as other people jumped from 10 and 15 meter platforms.

I think our time in Northern Bali may be characterised by moments like that of being completely unprepared and then wholly surprised of how moments are unfolding in front of us. If it were up to Joel he would’ve spent all his time in Nusa Penida, where we just came from, but I had managed to convince him to drive all the way north where the elevation is higher and the temperature cooler and the mood mistier. We traded beaches and cliffs for mountains, coffee and marigold plantations, waterfalls and lakes. And then we arrived, and my idea of leisurely exploring the misty mountains quickly disintegrated when our accommodation, perched next to the mountain road a few kms from any town, had no scooters to rent. And to get anywhere anyways means at least 45 minutes, but mostly an hour of driving on the windiest mountain pass you can imagine behind cars and trucks and other scooters.

We felt a bit stuck as we ‘borrowed’ a staff member’s scooter to go try and get money from the nearest town, whose ATMs were all out of order.

 

Enter Ari.

Ari is one of the drivers who responded positively to Joel’s wild frenzy of whatsapping random numbers he found online once we realised what the area was like. We suggested some things we want to do for the day, he said fine – 500,000 rupiah (ca. $30) – he’s leaving right now, he’ll be there in an hour.

 

Our first stop was Munduk waterfall. We had already taken to Ari by this time. You’d have to be a monster not to. He is literally the happiest, friendliest person we have ever met. He laughs all the time, but in a way that is cozy and warm, endearing and infectious. Then we approached the waterfall and a group of young people noticed him and got really excited. People were rushing over to greet and chat and laugh with him. You know you’ve struck gold guide-wise when everyone is happy to see your guide wherever you stop.

“You know all these people?”

“Yes, yes,” he laughs.

“They are also from your home town?”

“No, no.”

“Oh, how do you know them?”

He knows them because he helps out at the orphanage sometimes on his days off. Sometimes he takes his kids along too.

Ari literally spent the day making us and everyone else around him smile (as he photobombed visitors to the famous Ulun Danu Beratan Temple with glee).

 

If you ever need a guide in Bali – Ari is an expert driver and just a phenomenal human being.

Our second day in the Bali highlands panned out much like the first. We had no ideas of feasible, practical plans of how to fill our day. So we jumped on our scooter right at sunrise and made the coldest 90-minute trip north over the hilliest, windiest mountain pass to meet Panca near his village. And then Panca took us around the rice fields and the villages, and down into the valleys to swim in blue lagoons, jump off cliffs and slide down rushing waterfalls.

We arrived back at our homestay, fatigued from long scooter rides and waterfall adventures, and were just happy to see the sun set behind the rice terraces that expanded into the distance from our balcony in Bedugul.

So even while our time in northern Bali was poorly planned on our end, it quickly morphed into two incredible days of chasing new horizons from sunrise to sunset by the grace and expertise of other amazing people who had plans for us after all. 

The holy Aling Aling Waterfall

Exploring the Temblingan forest

Pondering the meaning of life but mostly thinking about if we’ll have the courage to slide down that waterfall in a few minutes…

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The Seven Principles of Nusa Penida: A Nomad Travel Diary Update

There is no one official boat to Nusa Penida from Nusa Lembongan, even though the guy that drove us from our hotel to the beach walked us to an office underneath a big red banner: THE OFFICIAL BOAT TO NUSA PENIDA. We bought two tickets for 60,000 Rupiah each (about $4 or R60 each), and were told to wait. The captain will only take the boat when there are enough customers. It wasn’t long before someone pointed to a little boat pulling up right next to the yellow bridge and we boarded with about 6 other people and 10 chicken pens.

I’ll start off by saying that it only took a few days for Joel to decide that he never wants to leave this island. We were initially going to stay for 3 days, but stayed for 7, because each day Joel would convince me to stay another night. He was basically working for Mr Harry, the snorkelling guy, and talked about buying land with Agus, the owner of Tentacle Bali, as he drove us to catch our boat out of there.

As Agus said to Joel: “I think you belong here, you must stay.”

So despite having our first South East Asian scooter crash on Nusa Penida (read on), we had an incredible time on this island. Our days were seemingly endless, and then all of a sudden it was over and we realised the days were too short. I was having a hard time trying to come up with a way to describe this spectacular place, so I decided to compartmentalise:

These are the 7 principles of Nusa Penida, according to our experiences.

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First Principle: BEACHES

Inspiringly beautiful beaches are the defining characteristic of Nusa Penida. Many people take day trips from Bali just to see them (which is why staying over one or two or seven days is also a good idea). So naturally at the the top of our priority list was to see all them all.

 

First was the sunset one, Crystal Bay, where the current can be a bit strong depending on the time of day, with rocks and dead coral hitting your ankles as the water pulls back to sea. But then you lift up your legs and float in the waves and the orange sunset flares up against the rocky outcrop in the middle of the bay and you forget all about the dead coral hitting you on the ankles.

Crystal Bay

 

And then there was Angel’s Billabong, which is not really a beach, but actually a tidal pool. At high tide the water crashes violently against the hewn cliffs, but at low tide you can float around in the green seaweedy pool. This is the one where lots of day trippers come for 5 minutes to take a photo on the edge before they have to leave. But for us, this was the one where I floated for what seems like forever with my ears under the waterline, drowning out all the noise.

Angel's Billabong

Just peering over the edge of Angel’s Billabong. Luckily the one and only crazy talented Moira was there to take a photo because I was far too involved.

Then there’s the one close by that looks like a T-Rex from the top. Kelingking beach. Or as we know it now, the most beautiful beach we have ever seen.

 

Then there is also Atuh Beach: the one with the really far drive. We drove almost an hour to see this beach, passing by an illegal cockfight on the way (read on!), so it was totally worth it. And the beach feels grandiose, even though it isn’t. This may have something to do with the fact that it’s encircled by towering cliffs. We floated among the starfish in what was starting to be low tide, while locals fished out on the rocks and cliffs, and an inevitable instagrammer did a yoga pose (you do you, girl). We chased this bliss with freshly grilled tuna, a beer, and, our favourite, lots of sambal (a spicy peppery Indonesian salsa). Then we experienced our first and only rain – one dark cloud moving over the beach and inland – 10 minutes of waiting under a beach umbrella and it was gone.

Atuh Beach

Second Principle: VIEWS

The second defining characteristic and principle of Nusa Penida is the views, and part and parcel with the beaches, the number one reason tourists venture out south-east of Bali. Around every turn and very bend the brightest and deepest blue stretch out into the vast open sea, or up to the south edge of Lombok, or all along the shores of Bali, which is visible most of the time. And then from Nusa Penida you also get the very best view of Bali’s biggest and baddest volcano: Mt Agung. I don’t remember the first time I saw it – it was on one of the island beaches waiting for a boat – but I was absolutely blown away. We’ve only been on Ubud and Seminyak up until this point, where the volcano lies far, far back behind other hills and mountains. So I looked back to Bali, which was covered under a blanket of clouds, and wondered which one of these mountains might be the volcano. And then I noticed that far, far, way above the other hills, peeking out just above the towering clouds: a bit of land. Mount Agung is GIANT. And a very pretty picture at sunset from Nusa Penida.

Also, you know what makes a sea view just that much better? When you can see giant manta rays from way up on the cliff.

manta ray views

Spot the mantas

Broken Beach

Views on views at Broken Beach

Third Principle: STEPS AND STEPS AND MORE STEPS (AND A TEMPLE).

Behind every gorgeous beach is a set of impossibly steep stairs.

To get to all these vistas and beaches in Nusa Penida you have to climb a million and one steps, which is why it is one of the main principles of the island. I cannot imagine a Nusa Penida without them.

Our favourite steps were definitely the steep blue stairs of Peguyangan Waterfall, which ends at the bottom of the cliff face at a temple that has been pressed up to the rock. What a spectacular and dramatic place of worship. This may or may not have been my favourite set of stairs because Joel was required to wear a traditional sarong. We had grand plans to go and find some sort of natural pool in Tempeling village, which we only knew of because I followed our taxi driver on instagram and he posted a story where he jumped into it, but we were done after 20 minutes of climbing back up the steepest stairs you can imagine. We were done and hungry, so we set off to find food, aka Mie Goreng (fried noodles).

Atuh Beach

Taking on the steps at Atuh Beach

We caught these guys in the act of carving out silly steep steps down to Diamond Beach (pictured below).

Diamond Beach

Fourth Principle: BROKEN ROADS & BROKEN BIKES

It is a huge giant irony that all the roads to these tourist destinations are very, very, horrifically terrible. Meanwhile you can take a freshly paved, super smooth road to nowhere in the middle of the island. Again, a sort of defining characteristic of Nusa Penida: the roads are bad. Everybody talks about it. Instead of small talk about the weather, it’s more in the line of ‘can you believe those roads?’ It even feels like a kind of rite of passage for adventurers. Tourists who brave them on scooters glance with contempt to tourists who paid drivers with 4X4s. We scoff at your need to comfort (though we would happily abandon our bikes if you offered a lift.)

After a day of exploring the west side of the island visiting Broken Beach, Angel’s Billabong, and Kelingking beach, my back was absolutely shot. I popped some pills and rubbed some ointments before going to bed, but still I had to sit out of a snorkelling trip the next day. Part of traveling with arthritis is knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

And then on our very last day, on a perfectly paved and flat road (oh, the irony!) on our way to drop off the bike where we rented it (oh murphy and his laws!), we totally crashed our scooter. The SE Asian scooter gods finally initiated us and now, I guess, we are true backpackers.

A very friendly (and fluently Indonesian or Balinese) Welsh guy rushed out and ushered us into his dive centre, where he tended to our light wounds and offered us water. Luckily we walked away with only some scrapes, bruises, and exhaust burns, and only about $10 of damage to the bike.

Pre-scooter crash, back when we were young and naive.

Fifth Principle: MANTAS

We met Mr Harry at out accommodation early in the morning and we followed him on our bike to the port. There was a bit of waiting and some small talk and we were shown to a small boat with a driver that speaks almost no English. After a pretty bumpy ride we pulled up next to lots of other boats just like ours, filled with tourists just like us, geared up with snorkelling masks and fins. The boats were driving around in circles, going from one rocky point to the next, where the swells seem to double in size and crash against the cliffs. We were looking for mantas. Then one appeared. Our driver yelled “Manta, go! Go go go!” while we were still figuring out which fins would fit our feet. I leaned over the edge of the boat and saw it flying right underneath us. It was gone, and Joel was already in the water, swimming like a crazy person at full blast. I finally slipped on my fins and jumped in to join the crowd, every now and then coming up to see where the shouting drivers are all pointing at. I swam in the general direction, but was at the back of the pack. And then the manta must have changed directions because all of a sudden I was at the front. I was right above it, I dipped down and I could almost touch it. I couldn’t see anyone else and I felt like I was the only one snorkelling. I came up in astonishment, strangely calm in between a frenzy of swimmers who still need to see it. I found Joel, whose mask was totally messed up. We exchanged gears and he set off in a blaze of swimming fury to see it for himself.

We have gone diving and hung out with divers enough to know that seeing giant manta rays is pretty rare. Not on Nusa Penida. Joel went snorkelling twice more after this, and got to swim with mantas three times (I sat one out because of my back).

The last time we got to meet some new Instagram friends, Alex and Lucille (WeMovedAbroad on instagram), and they got awesome footage which they just posted on youtube – check it out!

Sixth Principle: FIGHTS

Back to less ethereal moments, but, I hate to confess, one of my favourites.

We were on our way to Atuh Beach when we drove past a crowd of 80 – 100 men, standing in a circle and making a lot of noise. I saw just a flash of feathers in the shade of the bamboo lapa and knew immediately it was a cock fight. Naturally, we pulled off the road to take a peek.

I thought better just watch and not take any photos, having read that cock fighting is done somewhat clandestinely. Clearly this was off the beaten path for cock fighting authorities, whoever they may be. We were the only two white people, and I was the only woman. But it only took two minutes of reading the very clearly friendly crowd to test out taking my camera. And as I did people started nodding ‘it’s ok’ with big smiles, and later sort of cleared some way so I could see better. These guys are very proud of their cocks. (…)

It works like this: two guys will go in with the cocks and sort of psych them out to each other – pointing them to each other and stuff. Then after this…display…there’s a lot of noise and the ring leaders go around collecting bets. Then it quiets down again, a bell is rung (round one), and the cocks fight. The crowds gasps and oohs and aahs in near unison at each big move. the bell rings again (end of round), and the cocks are taken out, and bandaged up, and they take off or tighten the blades on the feet.

The reason I say this was one of my favourite moments on the island is that it gave us just a completely unguarded look at a part of the culture that people get very passionate about. I am all about tanning on beaches and sipping watermelon juice with a view, but it is a special moment as a tourist to be confronted with completely different cultures off the beaten path and be welcomed to be there in the moment. I do not believe that foreign cultures and customs are better or worse just because it’s unfamiliar to my own.

Anyways, it turns out that cockfighting is common and permitted with certain ceremonies, but totally illegal when there is gambling involved.

The Final Principle: FRIENDS

Finally, the most important principle. I can’t imagine a better way to see a sunset or explore an island on some badly maintained roads than with friends. And besides being ultra cool people, it turns out that Moira and Constant are especially useful to have as friends on Nusa Penida, because Constant is a pro biker and we got to just follow in his tracks, and Moira who is in now way Indonesian actually…speaks Indonesian. How crazy. She learnt Indonesian from an e-book before they settled in on Bali island. She’s very modest about this but it’s hella impressive.

And if there is one valuable lesson we learnt on this island: no man is an island. If you’ve read my previous updates you’ll know that I had to ship my passport to Germany from Denpasar to get a UK tourist visa. After shipping it from Ubud, we got a reply from TLScontact (the third party visa company that handles most western European schengen visas) saying that ‘THEY WILL NOT SHIP BACK MY PASSPORT.’

HA.

Wait, what.

So it is only after Antonia so graciously agreed to take a power of attorney to our storage space and rummaging through all our shit and finding the original document that is needed for pick up and sending this to another friend in Berlin. All the while she actually had to get ready to go to a trade show in Paris the next day.

Then our other friend Hagen, who is quite possibly the busiest person in the Berlin tech space, actually agreed to pick up my passport from the damned TLScontact and ship it back to Denpasar. It is because of friends like these that I will not be stuck in Indonesia forever. I picked up my passport today and I am the happiest girl in the world (with a brand spanking new visa!)

 

And these are the Seven Principles of Nusa Penida. Lest we forget.

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Bright Blue Nusa Lembongan: A Nomad Travel Diary Update

I initially downloaded the Indonesia Meteorological and Climatological app to keep an eye on Tsunami warnings. But a few days before our boat trip to Nusa Lembongan, the island next-door to Bali, I was borderline obsessed with checking the Bali strait swell forecast. After a particularly rough crossing to Cozumel on our honeymoon, we have some light ferry trauma. And the stretch of sea in between Bali and Nusa Lembongan was marked bright red, labeled ‘rough’, with 1 – 4 meter swells. Great.

So two hours after I made us drink what I only later realised was drowsy motion sickness meds (sorry for drugging you, Joel!), we waded into the water and heaved our backpacks onto our fast boat to Nusa Lembongan. A quick thirty minutes of motion-sickness hell and it’ll be over, we figured. Five or six songs max, or half a podcast.

In the end it was totally fine. I got used to the boat slamming after the swells, which weren’t so bad anyways. That’s the secret, I guess: Expect worse, you’ll love it!

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(So if you’re thinking of taking a ferry to Nusa Lembongan from Bali, take the not-so-strategically-named Rocky Fast Cruise boat. It’s better than the name implies.)

Where Bali is overwhelmingly green, Nusa Lembongan is blue blue electric blue. After we checked in to our island hut, we walked over to the Devil’s Tears point (‘tears’ as in sad tears or tears as in a tear in a cliff, I am still not sure), hitting it right at sunset. And here Nusa Lembongan made a startlingly strong impression. Giant waves, pulsing blue even in the fading daylight, crashed up onto the rocky coves, spraying huge clouds of mist into the air. Droplets of sea catching some sun and being tossed aside in the wind. It’s beautiful but alarmingly treacherous-looking. It’s clear why this is the devil’s place (whether he’s being sad or aggressive…who knows).

After dreaming of giant swells and crashing waves (and also passports and visas), I was excited waking up the next morning to see the sights, and more of that blue we had a glimpse of at sunset. We set off on our new scooter with a bit more trepidation than before – the roads coming in on the truck taxi were questionable: tar roads suddenly giving way to bumpy sandy rocky stretches; potholes here and there; quite a few steep slopes. We were off to Nusa Ceningan, yet another island, except this time we could just drive from one island to the next (PTL), over an iconic bright suspension bridge.

Our first stop was the Blue Lagoon, and, spoiler alert, it was BLUE. As in the bluest shades of blue you could imagine. Intense, deep dark blue. Electric neon cyan. Soft milky baby blues. All these blues swirling and frothing and crashing into another stunning cove. You haven’t seen blue until you’ve been to the Blue Lagoon. And watching all these blues ebb and flow made us pretty tired so we rewarded ourselves with some blue-themed lounging at Secret Beach.

And then when it’s not blue, it gets green and dark and whisper-tone quiet back in the mangrove forest where we kayaked around in between large and lazy iguanas.

Lembongan and Ceningan are our first tastes of the ocean on this 5-month journey that should be packed with more ocean hues. It gave us the entire range as a taster to come. Every shade of blue and green; giant waves crashing against water hewn cliffs, to lounging in wooden docked boats rocking gently in two feet of lapping crystal clear bays at high tide between the two islands.

It was only a moment and then it was over – we were waiting around the ‘office’ of the ‘official boat to Nusa Penida’ with our backpacks to continue our trek. We paid 60,000 Rupiah each (about $4), waited until there were enough customers, and hopped on a tiny boat with about 6 other people to make the crossing to Nusa Penida.

Another day, another island.

 

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