March 21 is the day of Nyepi in Bali this year. It’s the New Year in the Balinese calendar and it consists of a couple of celebration days and one day of silence and reflecting. Because I didn’t want to spend this day in Bali, I decided to travel to the nearby Lombok Island, where they don’t have this tradition.
I knew weeks ahead that Nyepi was coming but I only found out a couple of days before it, how drastic the Nyepi procedure is. The electricity is shut off the whole day, which also means no internet, and you are not allowed to leave your room. Cooking food is also prohibited. It’s not even allowed to have light from your room shining out of the windows. The prospect of all this was a little too much for me.
Going to Lombok from Bali can be done by taking the boat from the harbour in a town called Padangbai. It took about 2 hours to get there on the motorbike from my room. The ferry only costs 45,000 Rupiah (3 EUR) and it takes about 4 hours to get to Lombok.
Lombok basically has 2 popular tourist areas, which are Senggigi and Kuta. I chose to go to Senggigi because it’s close to the Gili Islands, which I wanted to visit.
The taxi driver that brought me to Senggigi, dropped me off at a diving school where they wanted to sell me all kinds of trips and tour packages. This always happens because the drivers get a commission for every client they bring in.
At the diving school I was told that they could get me a room for 180,000 Rupiah (12 EUR) a night. The owner said that this would be the cheapest deal right now because many people from Bali came to Lombok right now, which drives prices up. I didn’t believe this and went looking for a cheaper place myself. The first place I ran into was a cosy home-stay just around the corner, for 150,000 Rupiah a night. Cheap enough, so I took it.
The home-stay has a very good breakfast, which consists of banana pancake and some fruit. They told me that some of their clients visit them especially for this delicious delicacy. The room itself was not the greatest and quite small. The toilet didn’t flush and had to be operated manually, by throwing in buckets of water.
Waking up everyday with banana pancake
Renting a bike is, just like in Bali, the best way to go on these Indonesian islands. Lombok is about the same size as Bali and getting around walking is very inconvenient. The only other option would be to take taxis but they are not always around and are about 10 times more expensive than the motorbikes. On top of that, it can be annoying that they often want to bring you to places where they get commission.
The whole coastline of Senggigi is very beautiful with palm trees everywhere and several beaches that are mostly deserted. One of those deserted beaches is Coco Beach which I’ve been checking out. There were only about 4 people at the whole beach, when I was there. At the coastline are little shops selling chicken satay and drinks.
There are mountainous areas in Bali but the Senggigi area in Lombok is just completely surrounded by hills and cliffs. It’s very nice to drive around here and there never seem to be any traffic jams on these roads.
Because this area is along the coastline, many street stalls can be found here selling fish. One of these places was selling grilled fish with rice and cucumber for just 25,000 Rupiah (1.70 EUR). They grill the fish over a burning coconut.
About one hour from the home-stay, there are boats that go to the Gili Islands. This is a group of 3 islands with Gili Air being the smallest. I’ve never been on a small island before that you can walk around in a couple of hours, so I couldn’t resist visiting it.
From what I’ve been seeing online, Gili Air seemed like the best island of the 3. There are many different boats going to Gili Air but the cheapest is the public boat line, where tickets sell for 12,000 Rupiah.
Looking out to Lombok, from Gili Air
Motorised traffic is not allowed on Gili Air because this will ruin the atmosphere of the place. There is only a small sand path going around the island, so it would be uncomfortable having cars or motorbikes driving around. It would also interfere with the quietness of the place.
Most people walk on Gili Air or take a cidomo, which is a horse strapped in front of a handcart. This is also a popular way of transportation on Lombok island.
Because the island is so small I decided to walk all around it, which only took about 2 hours. There are little restaurants all over the island, selling mostly Indonesian dishes at relatively low prices. This island is mostly being visited by foreigners and is quite touristy.
There is no police on Gili Air and things aren’t as strict as in Bali. There are even many bars selling psychedelic mushrooms and marihuana.
Having no police on the island doesn’t mean that anything goes though. Just recently, a tourist was caught stealing on one of the other Gili Islands and they had him walk around the entire island with a sign around his neck, saying he’s a thief.
After completing most of the loop around the island, I went to relax at a beach hut of one of the restaurants along the shore. The view from this place is amazing and a fresh orange juice only costs about 20,000 Rupiah (1,30 EUR). Spending the day here is much better than being locked up in a dark room in Bali for Nyepi.
The trip back to Bali was a little problematic. The boat trip took for 4 hours, as scheduled, but we couldn’t enter the harbor because another ferry was in the way, letting people in and out. We had to wait for 2 hours before the boat finally sailed away.
Being quite tired from all this I went to start the motorbike, only to find out the engine was completely dead. Luckily for me, I could find a mechanic close by who wanted to fix it for the cheap price of 50,000 Rupiah. It was already after 12 o’ clock at night so I was lucky to find him.
Apparently this wasn’t enough drama for the day because after 30 minutes of driving, one of the tires went flat. Finding someone to fix it at 1 AM in the middle of nowhere is not very easy but after 30 minutes of walking I succeeded. It was about 4 AM when I finally reached home and could finally enjoy some well-deserved rest.