After a two hour taxi ride from Bangsal on Lombok’s lush northwest coast we arrived in Kuta (not to be confused with Kuta, Bali) on Lombok’s hot, dry, parched southern coast.
Rinjani’s influence isn’t felt here, the rain doesn’t fall here sometimes for months on end and the mercury rarely drops below 35C during the day and can feel more like 40C. The coastline is rugged and rocky, even reminiscent of some of the UK’s coastline in places and between the rocky peninsulas you’ll find some of Indonesia’s best beaches.
Kuta itself is in a bit of a mess at the moment. Lots of prime real estate is being snapped up and the town’s old front parade has been torn down to make way for new resorts and shops. Just outside the town centre, a new purpose built market is being constructed. There are however still some good hotels, guesthouse and restaurants to be found. We stayed at Kuta Cove Hotel which offers clean, affordable chalets. Our one came with a Lizzard who liked to scrabble about in the roof.
Kuta beach itself isn’t the best beach in the area. The sand here is golden but very coarse and there’s lots of rubbish around. It was practically deserted though. The best beaches nearby are Segar, Mawan and Tanjung A’an. On our first evening in Kuta we hitched a lift on the back of mopeds and went to Tanjung A’an and the Segar to watch a beautiful sunset.
The next day was spend at Tanjung A’an again, lazing on the beach and swimming in the turquoise water. We had to change rooms on our last night as the persistent Lizzard in the roof space was making so much noise!
After a few days chilling (or frying) in Kuta Lombok we headed back north to catch a ferry from Senggigi to Padang Bai on Bali.
Padang Bai, Bali:
Padang Bai is a largely overlooked destination on Bali’s south coast. Most tourists and backpackers are passing through on their way to/from the Gili islands. It’s a very small town with a decent beach, although lots of boats moored up. There are several small decorative temples around the centre of town and a few bars, cafés, hotels and guesthouses. The best cafe we found was ‘No Name cafe’ which did good Indo food as well as western food. Watch your feet for the daily offerings along all the pavements and entrances to shops and cafés!
We stayed at Alola guesthouse, up the hill towards Bias Tugal beach. It was a an eccentric place with cats and dogs running around. Nice pool though.
On our full day we walked to the two good beaches either side of the main beach. Bias Tugal (sometimes referred to as the secret beach) is the best beach but it involves quite a climb and a slippery descent through the trees to get there, but it’s definitely worth it when you find the white sand and turquoise water. The waves here a quite big and clean, though too short to surf, but enough for a head-sized lump of coral to be hurled into my foot leaving a big purple bruise!
The other good beach is Blue Lagoon beach, it’s smaller and busier than Bias Tugal but the sand here is good as well. We stayed here until the thunder started to rumble around. After evening dinner at Topi bar we headed back to Alola, watching the constant lightning flicker over the sea. Later that evening the storm landed in Pandang Bai bringing torrential rain and fork lightning for a couple of hours.
The following morning we had a car booked to Bali’s capital of art and culture, Ubud. Located up among the lush valleys and paddy fields of central Bali, Ubud is a backpackers paradise! Art, crafts, music, dancing, bars, stunning scenery, it’s got it all. This was the Bali we were here to see.
We checked in to Ubud Bungalows on the Monkey Forest road and headed straight out for coffee and then on to the Monkey Forest. Set in a jungle valley, the monkey forest is a tourist attraction where the main attraction is the long-tailed Macaques. Be warned, they’re very grabby and snatchy! Not like the ones we saw on Tioman who ran a mile from humans. These guys know that humans = food. Claire got a bit freaked out by the monkeys so after taking a few snaps we headed back into town to escape the naughty monkeys.
In the afternoon we headed for the amazing markets around Jl. Raya. Here you can buy anything from food, local crafts and clothes to tacky tourist gifts, musical instruments and artwork. Claire bought her Mum’s birthday present here which we later posted back to the UK.
In the evening we headed for the quiet street of Jl. Goutma and grabbed dinner at Warung Dewai. I had the cheapest Nasi Kampur yet here!
On our second day we spent the morning by the pool before heading into town to check out the Art Museum. Dinner that evening was at the excellent Biah Biah, again on Jl. Goutma. The food here was great value and really tasty!
On day three we set off at 6am on a walk out of the city and into the rice paddies along the Campuhan Ridge trail. The first half of this walk up to the rice paddies is beautiful. As you climb the land drops away to on either side to the rivers below. Up ahead the paddy fields unfurl in every direction and at the top you can see the central mountains beyond, it’s really stunning.
We stopped for a coffee break at the top and then carried along down into the valley and back in to Ubud alond the main road. This part of the walk was much less scenic and I had a stray dog try and bite my leg which was nice. Plus, by this time the sun was picking up strength and we were getting tired.
In the afternoon we got a taxi to the Airport in Kuta (Denpasar) for our next flight to Kota Kinabalu in the Sabah province of Malaysian Borneo. Time to say hello to Orang Utans and to scale the epic Mt. Kinabalu!