Travelogue Indonesia 3: Lembongan

LEMBONGAN
10-12 June 2015

Christian’s commitment to punctuality combined with Bali’s promise of delivering the predictably unpredictable made for quite a lengthy wait for the boat. Really not so bad though; we passed the half hour viewing the bright sunny midday from the comfort of the shade under the giant TRAWANGAN sign, with soft sand under our bare feet.

The cause of the delay became apparent as our boat docked. A rowdy group of American “Uncle Ed’s 50th Bday Tour” partygoers spilled out onto the beach. One quite literally, dropping her backpack into the sea while attempting an epically clumsy disembark. There was a tour leader with a flag on a stick (that gave away the theme of the group trip) running here and there, barking orders to the rebellious, issuing encouragement to the hapless and sweating up a storm while trying to herd her proverbial cats. 

We headed right into the airconditioned cabin, still freshly reminded by the learning-the-hard-way sunburn that the open-air deck choice had taught our virgin skin en route from Padangbai. Christian’s shoulders were still angry red (leaving a very white skin chest vest) and my thighs and feet were still the shade of bright pink normally reserved for nail polish (and toenail polish at that!) so, factor 50 or no factor 50, we were avoiding continued exposure at all costs.

The boatride proved to be longer than we’d hoped, stopping twice on the journey to Padangbai, then requiring a change to a smaller boat as we arrived into a channel on Lembongan that must’ve been too shallow for our bigger fast boat.

All in all, it took 3 hours on the boat to get from Gili T to Lembongan, but 4 hours door-to-door as the harbour, of course, was on the exact opposite side of the island to where we needed to be. The boat tickets all include transfer service and this one was an bakkie convert with shadecloth roof and cushioned benches along the sides.

We were the last passengers to be dropped off so the journey fortuitously doubled as an island tour, which presented inland to be little more than a network of single lane once-tarred roads that spidervein from the apex down to beach access around the coastline. The roads were riddled with tourists on scooters, jiggling their merry way from one point to another, which wordlessly determined our mutual decision to not become part of this most misguided biker gang.

Having dropped our co-passengers at various fancy resorts, we were preparing for the disappointment of being, like them, placed clifftop with lovely views of the sea but no direct access to it. Fortunately, our fears were unfounded and we were deposited on the edge of the beach, where a porter from our hotel was waiting to escort us to our lodgings two doors down.

Lembongan Island while by no means big is much bigger than the Gili Islands we’d come from, so I’d agonised a bit on where we should position ourselves. The shortlist became the main length of beach that stretches from the left tip to more or less the centre of the island (as viewed from Bali mainland) versis a quiet cove adjacent to it, called Mushroom Bay. The name won me over and that’s how we found ourselves staying at Lambung Beach Huts right on the waters of Mushroom Beach.

The accommodation was superb. We had a beach hut wooden bungalow, two storeys with a (completely outdoor) bathroom and (partly outdoor) daybed patio beneath the upstairs loft bedroom with balcony overlooking the sea, through the frangipani and palms. Again with a 4-poster bed and fresh white linens. Idyllic!

With sunset rapidly approaching, we headed straight out to grab a sundowner. We walked the full stretch of our beach (200m or so) to assess our options and end up at the farthest hotel, the Mushroom Beach Bungalows, which won thanks to it’s sea-facing deck, infinity pool and pretty glowing lanterns easing in the nighttime.

We had a few Bintangs while soaking up the tranquility of the evening at the cove from our prime vantage point, and ended up staying for dinner.

Unable to decide between the dishes on our shortlist we ordered all 3 – which isn’t as gluttonous as it sounds as Indonesian portions are considerably smaller than ours – and were soon (very soon; nothing takes more than 10 minutes) languishing a snapper with salsa topping, red prawn curry and a seafood platter with calamari, tuna fillet and prawns. All beautifully fresh, no doubt from the day’s catch on the island.

Our hosts at the hotel had done a hard sell on their dinner offering when we checked in; their dinner kitchen presumably a big part of their trade since there was no pool to attract other guests during the day. We felt a bit bad as we return triumphant from a first evening and great dinner and proactively quelled any guilt we might’ve felt (or questions they might’ve posed) by ordering a couple of Bintangs to take back to our balcony as nightcaps.

Breakfast at the hotel was a casual affair, under the shaded thatch with beachsand floor. The food was excellent though, with freshly squeezed orange juice, toast with eggs of any preference… and bacon! Really good bacon too, sort of streaky rashers with a lovely generous length of fat like back bacon – truly best of both!

We’d already decided the day would be a relaxed beachy one, but figured we’d best sate the curiosity on what comprised our little neck of the woods. We took a walk up the road – or maybe that should read “The Road” since there was only one – and saw that there was not much to see.

Lots of construction going on; presumably new villas and lodges based on signage and foundations. Building is a very manual process and largely undisciplined from what we could see. Can’t blame them really, being 11am and hot as Hades! (And this is technically winter, Bali being 8 degrees south of the Equator).

Confident that we’d “supervised” enough, we assessed the beachfront options and chose to fritter away the day at the Sedag Resort, mostly because of the novelty of finding our own private infinity pool. Terraced just below the main pool, our little slice of paradise had a ledge just big enough for our 2 loungers and an umbrella, and a pool about twice the size of our own at home but only a metre deep… and spilling over into the bay below. Perfect view of everything; perfect getaway from everyone.

The afternoon drew to a close with us returning to our bungalow at sunset for sundowners on our balcony. All very relaxing.

Having enjoyed our 3-between-2 ordering the night before, we again exercised the right not to have to choose and split a beef rendang stew, chicken curry and a seafood platter that included calamari stuffed with tuna – the best thing I have tasted in as long as I can remember! Mental note to self to try and make tuna meatballs on returning home!

…which was approaching all too soon.

We had already arranged (with our front desk) our boat tickets for the following morning to fetch us directly from Mushroom Beach to return us to the mainland for the last leg of the Bali itinerary, in Sanur. Slow island life sure goes by faster than you want it to!