My final international trip while being based in Kuala Lumpur was to Lombok and Bali, Indonesia. It might also be my favorite trip so far – which makes sense, really, since the longer you travel, the better you get at it! Plus, I had good company, and Indonesia is stunning. Maybe another minor reason I liked it is because their language is extremely similar to Malaysia – so I could read a decent amount of signage.
My friend and I began the trip by flying from Kuala Lumpur to Lombok. For this trip I didn’t plan more than a couple days ahead at a time – I didn’t even have a return flight home. Another reason why it was so great 🙂
We wanted to climb Mt Rinjani, an active volcano, while visiting Lombok. Near the end of the flight we saw a giant peak of a volcano from the window and apprehensively asked ourselves…shit, is that Rinjani?! 😛 Later we confirmed that it was. So cool that just a few days later we were there at the top!
We made a Dutch friend from the plane (who also ended up climbing Rinjani with us) and shared a cab to our lodging in Kuta.
It’s important to distinguish between Kuta, Lombok, and Kuta, Bali – In Bali it’s known for being a cesspool of…grossness? I hear that a lot of debauchery, trash, and Australians are there. But Kuta, Lombok is gorgeous and still developing. It’s on the south coast of the island. We stayed at a hostel there and rented a scooter, driving all around the area and to different beaches. The first night we got some tasty local food at a place called Nanas, where we tried an Indonesian dish called gado gado – basically a lot of veggies with peanut sauce. There were many repeats of that dish on this trip! Then we went around a couple bars in Kuta – it was a Friday night, after all – and ended up absolutely loving the vibe. A lot of hippies, reggae, and locals mixing with travelers 🙂
On our next (full) day, we went to a beautiful breakfast place, then scootered to the popular Tanjung Aan beach. After briefly taking photos on the swing and of the rocks, we took an extra long scooter ride all the way to the east side of the island – to Pantai Pink. The scooter ride was beautiful with views of rice fields and the ocean, and occasionally even of Mt Rinjani. The last bit of it, however, had an awful road – our butts were really sore. We got a nice sunset ride back and went out again to some of the other bars.
On our next (and last full) day in Kuta, we spent a bit of time chilling on Mawun Beach. The waves were quite strong but the sand and colors of everything were really pretty. After eating some fruits and running around, we went to Selong Belanak beach for sunset – and sort of regretted not going earlier! The sand there was like velvet and the landscape was stunning. We even met some cheeky local girls on the beach – cheeky local kids (and stray dogs) were a big theme in Lombok, really 😛
We always would randomly run into our Dutch airplane friend in Kuta – surprising because it’s not that small! That night we confirmed our plans to hike Rinjani. We booked it with a local we had made ‘friends’ with while out the last couple of nights. I say ‘friends’ because…well, we paid a little bit too much and our experience was awful in some ways. But it makes for some good stories…
Day 1: Senaru
The three of us traveled the next morning from Kuta to Senaru, where many people begin their hike up Mt Rinjani. After arriving mid day, we went and explored a couple of the nearby waterfalls and even went a on a weird mini tunnel hike in the man made dam. We later had dinner with some fellow climbers, went to take some photos down the street of the amazing stars and milky way, and tried to get some rest before our big adventure 🙂
Day 2: Ascent
We took a ride from Senaru to Sembalun, where we would start our ascent of Mt Rinjani. These are the two ways up/down the volcano – we were to ascend via Sembalun and descend via Senaru. On our ride to Sembalun I already was getting a bit apprehensive with the tour ‘company’ we had booked. We were all piled in the back of a truck, our porters (the guys who carried our stuff up) were a small kid and and old man, and our guide, Eko, barely spoke English, complained in the first hour of feeling sick, and said this was only his 2nd or 3rd time doing the climb. But don’t worry, we survived! 😛
Anyway, this was a very challenging day. We trekked up and up (all the way up!! inside joke) in the sun – this area was quite dry and uncovered. My backpack was definitely feeling heavy. Our lunch was later than others, and we almost lost some of our food to the pesky monkeys, but we were able to make it to the base camp at the crater rim around the same time as most. There, we were basically inside of a cloud – and we could see the foreboding summit that we were to climb that night! The clouds cleared and we were also able to see the beautiful crater lake. We waited for our slow porters to arrive so we would have a tent to shield us from the wind. But the views and the sunset were amazing – and the stars – you could see the milky way with the naked eye, and a huge amount of stars. 🙂
Day 3: Summit & crater lake
We woke up at 2 am in the pitch black and cold and set out to tackle the summit and watch the sunrise. I was thankful for my strong headlamp and walking stick. This summit was super challenging because of the strong wind and cold – but primarily because of the terrain. The ground is basically volcanic gravel – and they say for every two steps you take forward, you slide one back. I was glad for the encouragement from my friends. We got what seemed to be almost all the way up after a couple hours – but sunrise was still quite far off, so we started to take our time more to save ourselves from the cold. However, we ran into some people who seemed to be turning back. They said it was cloudy with no view at the top – and quite windy. So we made the decision to climb a bit more down where we could find a place with good wind cover and a nice view for sunrise. And I’m so glad we did – it was so stunning. There was so much to take in! There was the summit with clouds to one side, the amazing crater lake with the second smaller volcano inside (where we could see smoke! and where it had previously erupted), a view of the volcano on Bali just past that, and on the other side, our campsite, the ocean, mountains, and the rest of Lombok. The pictures are amazing but don’t even do it justice, especially with the changing light of the rising sun 🙂
After that we trekked back to our campsite, super exhausted, and took a much needed nap. A German guy in our group was the only one who decided to go all the way to the summit – so we waited a bit for him. Funny that he went to the top as they were a bit slower than us usually, or as Eko would say, they had ‘no spirit’ 😛
After attempting to get more energy, our next task was to trek all the way down to the crater lake. This was steep and a hard task after the climb up and climb/slide down the summit that morning. It was cloudy and quite pretty though – looked a lot like the LotR Shire – and a bit chilly when we stopped for lunch. After a reflective lunch with my Dutch friend we continued to the lake with stunning views on the way. Our other friend had already reached the hot springs a while before us, so we met him there – we were able to bathe in super hot natural sulfur hot springs of the volcano! It felt great on sore muscles and especially felt great to clean up a bit – we were so dusty from the summit.
The day was still not over – now we had to trek all the way up to our campsite for the night. It was a steep ascent but with nice views of the lake all the way up. Some of it had some rock scrambling, which I always find fun.
We finally made it to the top and it was so cold and very windy – and about to get dark. We had to walk a bit more to find our campsite. It was so windy that it felt like the tents were going to blow away – they were constantly shifting and the wind howled all night (I guess understandable since we were camped on the side of a volcano, I had to remind myself). It was honestly miserable – my knee was hurting a ton, it was freezing, we were hungry, and they did not provide us with nearly enough water – and that night they said there was none left til later the next day. We slept with the wind blowing us around all night and overheard our Dutch friend yelling “Eko!” for help to fix his tent – which was morbidly funny, as we couldn’t even really move, haha. Later we looked and saw that on this day we hiked 22 km and a total of 279 floors – all in one day – no wonder we felt a bit shitty at the end of it!
Day 4: Descent
We descended down the other side of Mt Rinjani, Senaru. This quickly became forested – it was quite a nice shady path through the trees. My friend taught me how to speed downhill fast with limited impact on my knees – and soon all of us were doing it, speeding down the mountain and shaving an hour off the estimated time. We had one last meal from the porters (spaghetti) and went back to pick up our stuff and get driven to the ferry terminal. We were exhausted and relieved, to say the least.
We grabbed some coconuts then took the fast boat from Lombok to Gili Air, one of the three popular Gili islands. There are no cars on the islands, just bicycles and horse carriages, which was pretty cool to see.
Upon arriving in Gili Air, we were blistered, limping, very dirty, and smelly…but we had to book our lodging still! I had committed to booking a nice hotel or bungalow to get a nice hot shower and treat ourselves post hike. So we wandered around the main strip and found a beautiful bungalow right by the beach to chill at for a couple of days. We had a seafood dinner at the beach and walked around a bit, hanging at a bar with an amazing reggae band (who we later saw on Gili T too!).
The next day after breakfast we went snorkeling. The snorkeling was directly outside our hotel – and it was really impressive! We saw boxfish, trigger fish, and the highlight – a giant turtle! I got to touch him and see him eating underwater and coming up for breath a few times. 🙂 In the evening we walked to the northern part of the island to see the sunset and relaxed.
The next day we reluctantly checked out of our bungalow then went to chill at a beach for a bit before our ferry to Gili T. The beaches on Gili Air were extra pretty because we could see a view the mountains on Lombok that we had just trekked up!
Gili T has a reputation for being more of a party island than Gili Air, and we could tell right away. Travelers and especially locals on Gili Air were very friendly – but when we got to Gili T people seemed a bit grumpier (hungover, maybe?). We found a homestay to go to and ended up sleeping very early and for a very long time – Rinjani had caught up to us.
The next day we explored the island more by renting bikes at our new homestay after a breakfast near the pier. The beaches were more crowded but really pretty with the white sand and light blue water – and of course all of the swings for photo ops like at the other islands. We went to see the sunset up a hill – where my friend crazily ran into some travelers he had met in Malaysia a few weeks ago. Then we all got a really good dinner at the night market (kebabs, rice and veggies freshly made!) and went out for drinks after playing drinking games with beer at their place. Dancing with a few different types of music ended up being fun.
The next day we explored the west side of Gili T, as we hadn’t seen it yet, which was a bit more resort-y, but with great beaches. Next stop – Bali!
From Gili T, I convinced my friend to opt for the ‘nicer’ boat to Bali, after hearing some horror stories about the trip. I am so glad we did – the boat was super nice and big enough to handle the super rough waves, which we got to enjoy from the top along with the view of Bali. I have been to Bali before, but only to Balian beach. This time I opted to visit the famous Ubud.
We arrived late to our homestay in Ubud. Ubud is so beautiful, green, and full of Hindu temples – our homestay had their own family temple. We ate at a really good vegetarian place next door. The next morning, we decided to knock off one of the touristy items off the list – the Monkey Forest. This is a nicely landscaped area with tons of mischievous monkeys…monkeying around 😀 We were greeted by a bunch of them bathing in the fountain out front. We walked around and some of them jumped on people (including us)….definitely entertaining.
Next we took a scooter ride up to the rice terraces, which are super green and nice. After lunch and waiting out the rain, I went to yoga at a huge beautiful place surrounded by trees, called the Yoga Barn. 🙂
On another full day in Ubud, we had been planning on doing a scooter trip all the way to Mt Batur, but it started raining and we decided to turn back. Apparently it was a bit odd for it to be so cloudy and rainy in Ubud in July – but it did clear up a couple days before i had to leave! Anyway, instead of making it to Mt Batur, we ended up stopping on the side of the road where a local guy showed us a bunch of tea and the famous luwak coffee (where the animal poops out the beans!!). After warming up with tea and coffee and talking to some other travelers who stopped, we stopped at the Neka art museum, which I really loved. Later that night we went to one of the traditional dances, the Kecak fire and trance dance. It was amazing – it was at a temple, where there was a big circle of a bunch of men sitting cross legged and singing, while performers in costumes in the middle acted out a story. At the end they lit coconut shells on fire and one man ran across them as part of a ritual.
Day Trips: Lempuyang, Nusa Penida, Mt Batur
We really liked our homestay in Ubud and liked the yoga/gym/vegetarian food/general atmostphere and green-ness there. So we based our elves there for my six nights in Bali. Besides the activities I already talked about in Ubud, we also did a few day trips from there. One of our days in Ubud consisted of a day trip to Lempuyang temple. We stopped at another temple, Goa Lawah on the way. We picked a good day to go, as a lot of the locals were there leaving offerings.
After a pretty and winding scooter ride, where the sun finally came out, we made it to the beautiful Lempuyang temple. This temple is across from Mt Agung, Bali’s biggest volcano, and has beautiful views. We relaxed and took photos then enjoyed our scooter ride back. We stopped at another area on the way back for food and more exploring called Kertha Gosa. We saw some paintings in the temples there explaining some Hindu stories.
The second of our Ubud day trips consisted of a nice morning with yoga/workout, then a scooter ride to see the beaches. We were generally unimpressed. I think Bali beaches are not nearly as pretty as Lombok – but they are crowded for the parties and reputation. We skipped Kuta and checked out Sanur beach (ugly, don’t go) and Nusa Dua. We were stopped on the way by cops trying to scam money out of us – but got out of any trouble, haha. Nusa Dua was very beautifully landscaped and seemed a bit like a country club, but not in a bad way! There is an area there where the waves crash really strongly against the rocks and spray water everywhere – that was scary and awesome to see. After that we had to go all the way back to Ubud and had the unpleasant experience of Bali traffic.
Our last day trip from Ubud was a second attempt to go to Mt Batur. This day it was sunny, so the drive up was very different than before – and gorgeous 🙂 We arrived and got some drinks at a restaurant that had a pretty and clear view of the volcano and its lake. A guy who worked there recommended Toya Devasya hot springs, so we headed there. After yet another beautiful, winding, sunny scooter drive, we arrived at some swanky hot springs. We splurged and got a meal too. They were very nice and not too crowded (at least at first). We bathed in the volcano’s natural springs with a view of it just next to us. In Ubud we had a last dinner at our favorite local place. The next day after this gorgeous and relaxing day was my last – my friend drove me all the way to the airport and the scooter and we said our goodbyes.
This concludes an extra long post for an extra long trip! I loved it so much. ❤ I’d recommend it to anyone and will surely miss it – especially the people I met along the way! ❤