Indonesia So Far: Lembongan, Bali

It’s been an eventful week and a bit since we arrived in Indonesia. When we first arrived, I have to admit I really wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy my time here. The idea of being somewhere where it was the Australia’s answer to Benidorm really didn’t seem appealing to me. I also wasn’t quite ready to be back amongst the normal holidaymakers having been amongst climbers for nearly a month.

We stayed in Sanur for two nights whilst we waited for my dad to join us for a week. Unless you are heading to catch a ferry, I would avoid Sanur. There’s nothing outstanding about it and it’s festering with locals who pester you to offer their services. Once we landed on Nusa Lembongan, it got much better with the island providing a much more relaxed atmosphere. We originally booked for four nights and ended up staying seven as Ed wanted to do his advanced course as well as his open water. The island (and the neighbouring two islands) are beautiful and are so good for watersports. If you like diving, surfing or just beaches under a blazing sun, this is the place to go.

The islands are stunning, I would highly recommend renting a scooter to explore the island as well as crossing over to the smaller but no less spectacular Cennigan. Although I would not recommend what my dad did which is drive his scooter off the edge of a 2.5m drop… If you do have any mishaps, the East Medical Centre on Lembongan is very good. The treatment rooms are clean, they have good equipment and it’s sterile. Luckily my dad only escaped with scrapes and the need for a couple of stitches for a particularly bad cut. Do take care! Some of the roads on Cennigan are particularly steep and in bad condition and certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Having already done my Advanced PADI, I spent my days mainly surfing and doing admin bits. I’m a complete noob at surfing so it was quite amusing to take on the beginner surf lessons with Thabu Surfing and get absolutely spanked by the waves. The lessons were really good and in my last session I could stand up on most of the waves I caught. At 450k IDR a lesson it’s almost worth doing the lesson just to catch Thabu and his instructors catch waves themselves. The names for the surf spots did make me chuckle though, they were Razors, Lacerations and Playground with the last one being the least friendly so I’m told.

The highlight of our stay on Lembongan was definitely the day of fun dives I did. We went out with Blue Corner Diving who were super great from day one. I saved my day of fun diving for a day with less swell so we could go out to Manta Point. We went out early at 8am and saw dolphins playing in the water as the boat left the reef. The boat trip was fantastic to showcase the beauty of the Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Cennigan and Nusa Penida. We arrived at Manta Point being one of the first boats there and got in the water without delay. Within less than a minute of descending, we saw mantas. Not just one, but about eight to ten of them all together feeding. Throughout the dive, every so often a manta would just zip past you nonchalantly, it did not get old! Considering they were between 3-5m wide, it was definitely a little intimidating at first! What a thrilling first dive of the day. After that we dived at Crystal Bay where I finally saw my first turtle and then at Sen Tal where I had my first proper experience of drift diving. It was a fantastic day.

Pai, a Tourist Town story

From Chiang Mai we booked a short stay in Pai for two nights. Everyone we’d come across would rave about Pai and how amazing it is. By the time we were heading there for ourselves here’s what I had learnt

  • There is lots of avocado on toasts
  • It is a small town settlement in the mountains
  • The road there is incredibly windy and has many hairpin curves
  • It’s renowned for a relaxed “vibe”

Well, I would say all of those were correct. Although I’d heard the word “chilled” and “vibe” so many times when we were there I was ready to punch the next person who said it just to ruin their chilled vibes.

The journey wasn’t actually too bad although for the people who are prone to motion sickness, it would be advisable to take something for it. Both Giada and I fell asleep on the way there and back which made it go very quickly.

Pai was small but compared to Tonsai, which was little more than a high street, it was giant town. The setting is indeed lovely with its mountainous and varied range. The town was incredibly geared towards tourists though which obviously has its advantages but also downsides. When every cafe seems to offer avocado and eggs on toast in the morning and the falafel stand is the most popular at the night market, you do start to wonder what culture there is to explore.

I do recommend hiring a scooter to take out and exploring the surroundings. We hired from a place called Vespai which is just off one of the main streets. It is run by a lovely man called Tam who will ask if you know how to ride and offer a lesson for 50 bahts if you don’t or need a refresher (we hired scooters for 130thb so still costed less with a lesson than the high Street price of 200thb).

With the scooter you get the freedom of going out and exploring the area for yourself. For our expedition we went to the Pam Bok waterfall (meh), Pai Canyon (pretty cool but probably best at sunset and not at the peak heat of the day), Memorial Bridge (🤷‍♀️) and then a final stop at Fluid swimming pool. After a long day riding around in 35 C degree heat, the swimming pool was a very welcome respite that is worth the 80 baht entry. There is a bar and they also serve food should you be in need of sustenance.

The street food here, as with most of the other places in Thailand we’ve been to, was fantastic. The bbq skewers being a great stand out here. The skewer that features fatty pork wrapped around golden pin mushrooms seem to feature here quite a bit and are very tasty. Instead of having avocado on toast in the morning and spending ~150 thb, maybe try the congee (rice porridge but it’s savoury) from the street market stalls in the morning for 40 thb instead. We had one with mushrooms and preserved egg which was delicious. We also had a fantastic mango and sticky rice from one of the multiple stores.

Jazz House was a nice little relaxed venue with hammocks and low tables to sit at that had live music every night. The nightlife was a bit quiet with most places closed by about 11.30ish. There were some places closer towards the Pai River (one of which was called Pool Party) I suspect stayed open later although we didn’t try to find out.

It was a very nice chilled place that I could’ve stayed an extra few days to explore more on the scooter but alas my 30 days in Thailand were drawing to a close so we were limited on time. Next time maybe!

I am currently now on the plane to HK for my next part of my trip! Time to see family, celebrate Chinese New Year (it’s the year of the dog, if you’re asking) and most importantly, eat a ton of food!