An island off the coast of Bali, Lembongan is not dissimilar to what the Gillis are described to be. Now I never visited the Gillis so I'm not one to comment, but Lembongan was wholly untouched. The kind of beauty and authenticity that every true traveller craves.
There were hotels across the waterfront but wandering across this tiny place it was clearly the insight into true Balinese life that we were looking for. Every step you took you watched to avoid stepping on the offerings. The locals all smiled, and asked where you were going. (Something I learned from Eat, Pray, Love is that the Balinese feel a need to know direction in order to feel centred – I'm not 100% how well I’ve interpreted that but it makes sense when you look at how interested the locals are in where your wanderings will take you.) It was welcoming, friendly. There was none of the abuse and eternal bombardment we felt in Kuta – street sellers were impossible to find. Heaven.
And that isn’t even the best part: THE FOOD. Wherever we went we tried to find hawker centres or small back-alley restaurants owned by families, often with young ones running around with pets, chasing lizards or staring with curiosity at the white people sitting in their home. And this was where the food was best. Because, simply, it was pure bali.
There was however a cute little addition of a ‘jaffle’ on every menu. What’s a JAFFLE our English friends may ask? It’s a toasty. Like a cheese toasty. Its what they call it in Australia, where many of Lembongans’ tourists come from, searching for the surf. (Please do at home: A banana & honey Jaffle - the food of kings).
Lembongan was also where we took our very first surf lesson. A small, family run business called Newbro surf school, recommended highly on Wiki-Travel and Trip advisor. Well, now it’s highly recommended here as well. They were happy, funny young people who had spent their lives on the waves. Initially we started on land, learning to jump up and paddle. Then they took us out to the break, way out into the sea. And then, we all tried our first surf lesson. I struggled, a lot. I managed to stand up but then the wave disappeared pretty much seconds later so there was no photo (or so I tell people). The best thing I can say about Newbro surf was that these guys were fantastic teachers. They pushed you, just that far enough so that you didn’t give up. They were patient, and helpful. And when they saw it had got too much? That was the end. You rested, and recouped. (mainly me than anyone else, not a fantastic swimmer/no upper body/no lower body strength?) Check out their facebook page – if your in bali, give them a go. If anything, just watch. The shapes those guys make in the sea on a board arewildly entertaining to say the least.
We stayed at a hotel called Mainski – very cheap and very Australian. The staff weren’t so courteous as they realised we were standard backpackers and not willing to pay for the overpriced drinks and meals on site, but that’s expected I guess. It was beautiful though, with an infinity pool looking over at the surf and seaweed farms.
Take a walk around the island, visit Mushroom bay – named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Hire a bike. Go Manta-ray diving. Lembongan is that slice of heaven that we all want to find. But keep it secret, we don’t want the rest of the world finding out.
And my final destination: Ubud.
But that deserves a whole post of its own.