So for our second annual First Weekend in December trip, Scott booked three days in Lombok. I was quite surprised and excited to go. All our American friends ask if we have been to Bali or plan on going to Bali. We will eventually make the trip to mark it off the bucket list but according to all our friends in Indonesia, Lombok is the Bali of 15 years ago and is the real place to go. We left Friday evening for the 1.5 hour flight southwest.
We arrived in Lombok Friday night about 9:00 pm (Lombok is an hour ahead of Jakarta time.) The airport is brand new and after getting our luggage we headed out hoping that the hotel car service was waiting. (Yay for our misspelled name on one of the signs!) Our driver led us to our transportation…surprise… a black Toyota Kijang Innova! (Exactly the same as the one we own. It did seem a bit surreal to get in, almost as if we hadn’t left Jakarta at all.) It did not take long to know that this was indeed not Jakarta, no traffic!
The road we traveled rarely had another car on it. I was confused at first because our driver stayed to the middle of the road as much as possible until we could see that people were sitting on the sides of the road and sometimes right on the road itself. Young people just hanging out on a Friday night. A bit unsafe for my taste but our driver expected it. The sky was full of stars and the only light around was the moon and the headlights of our car.
I knew we were staying at the Novotel, a European chain to my knowledge. I was expecting something like a Marriott/Holiday Inn/Hilton but with palm trees. Imagine our surprise when the reception desk was outside under a thatched roof. Too dark to really see much, we followed the bellboy with our luggage on several different paths in between other thatched buildings to the gate to our villa. Yes! Himself sprung for a villa with a private pool on the beach! Incredible.
After unpacking we headed down the beach to the hotel bar. It was a slow Friday night and we enjoyed the sound of the surf and sipped our drinks under a clear sky full of stars. (Living in the city and even in Houston you don’t get to see stars like this…brilliant.) After a few drinks we headed back to the villa for a dip in the pool. It was a humid night so the water felt good although a little warm. We were surprised when a hotel employee showed up in the yard to pick fresh mint that grew there. I guess I wasn’t the only one drinking mojitos that night.
In the morning we had breakfast in the restaurant. All buildings are open with just roofs covering them. It was a buffet and we watched as the staff worked preparing the beach and smoothing the sand. The beach borders a lagoon-like area with the waves breaking about 200 yards offshore. Very calm and clear. After breakfast we stopped by the spa to book massages for the afternoon and then decided to take a walk and left the property to climb a nearby hill that overlooked the beach and the ocean. From there you could also see a public beach that was probably more of a place for surfers. It wasn’t long before the locals spotted us and headed our way with food to sell. We beat a hasty retreat as the word “no” is taken as a jumping off point for negotiations. We cooled off from our hike with another swim in the pool. It was great how convenient it was.
The massages were really good. It was Scott’s first time and so I was a little worried but I think he is hooked now. He booked us massages and body scrubs for the next day. Calmed and relaxed we headed to the beach. The sand here is strange, more like tiny pebbles, rather rice-sized. The water stays shallow all the way out to the break and there were some people fishing further out. Snorkeling and scuba diving are big business here. We talked to a dive instructor who said it was a perfect place for beginners. We plan on booking that the next time we go.
As the day wound down locals (mostly children) came by on the beach selling everything from t-shirts to sarongs to bracelets to coconuts. They are quite aggressive if you give them any sign of interest and sometimes even if you don’t. They are not allowed to come closer than a certain point on the sand. I made the mistake of buying a couple of bracelets from one of the little girls that seemed more interested in playing with her friends than selling. I was instantly harrassed by the other girls that I had said no to. For the second time that day retreat seemed the best option and so we headed back to the villa to clean up.
One of the employees had told us about a tour to watch the sunset but when we went to the meeting place we found out he was mistaken so we walked back to the beach to watch from there. It was gorgeous. Sort of like a Corona commercial. I have not seen Scott so relaxed in a long time. Eventually the sun began its journey to the other side of the world and we headed to dinner. A seafood buffet with live music. The food was pretty good, the music even better, and the service awesome. There was a night market on the beach that was rather small and mostly t-shirts and sarongs so we passed on that since my stomach was a bit upset and we had plans for an early morning in the local city market.
Needless to say it was the best 24 hours I may have ever spent on a vacation. The next 18 hours were not so good. Being accustomed to the safety of food preparation in our home and Jakarta restaurants I had let my guard down. I have traveled Food Poison Lane before and this was no different. We travel with a medical kit but even the maximum dose of Imodium did not help. By morning Scott was looking for a doctor or a flight home. The doctor was out of town and his assistant could not understand Scott so she hung up. The closest hospital was 1.5 hours away and the flights back to Jakarta were booked. Of course by now the worst of it was over and I was just exhausted.
Scott canceled our trip to the city. (It was raining pretty hard so we didn’t feel like we missed much.) He canceled our spa treatments but I convinced him to go back and at least get a massage while I slept. He signed up for a hot rock massage and is now requesting the names of the Jakarta spas that my friends recommend! I drank lots of water and some rehydration stuff in the kit that sort of tasted like the salt water you gargle with except it was cold instead of warm and I didn’t get to spit it out! By the afternoon I was feeling human, had practiced my bahasa Indonesia with the houseman, and was ready to get some fresh air.
We signed up for a monkey walk and I didn’t want to miss it. Luckily it was just Scott, I, and the guide. We walked around one of the hills near the hotel past a public beach to another lagoon like area. Our guide had a basket of peanuts for us to feed the monkeys. Nearby were several bungalows belonging to locals. The guide started calling to the monkeys but no luck. He chatted with some of the locals who said they were further around the bend so we went there. On the beach there was a large family of several generations I guess out for a Sunday picnic. A few children called for the monkeys too. Finally when we were about to give up one monkey showed up. Scott bought a coconut from one of the local boys. (He looked about 8 but carried a machete about the size of his arm to open the coconut.) Apparently monkeys like coconut as much as nuts and soon the monkey came over and started drinking out of the coconut. I guess the word got out on the hill and some of his friends joined him. Soon there were about 10-12 monkeys and they would take the peanuts right out of your hand! It was so cool. They were fast at getting them and faster at eating. Scott bought two more coconuts and they had a feast.
We had our fun so Scott asked the guide if the small children from the family that had been watching us would like to feed the monkeys too. He seemed surprised at the request but asked and of course the kids jumped at the chance. Even some of the teenage girls got in on it and soon we were chatting with the family about where we were from and where we lived. (Thank goodness that was our lesson last week with the bahasa Indonesia teacher!) Of course we had to get a couple of pictures. We took a group shot with our camera but one of the teenagers had a phone and I think we took a picture with almost everyone individually. The girls really wanted to stand next to Scott and hold his arm. I am not sure which was more fun, the monkeys or the interaction with this wonderful family.
With the peanut basket empty and the pictures all taken we headed back. I was exhausted but happy and Scott also had a good time. He went for a swim and I took a nap and then once again we sat and watched the sunset. Not bad for a day we thought was ruined. Scott did switch our Monday afternoon flight to morning since we were still not 100% sure it was food poisoning. We ordered room service for dinner. (I had steamed rice and bananas.)
We called for the car service to pick us up at 5:00 am for a 6:55 flight, set our alarms and went to bed. Did I mention before that Lombok is an hour ahead? Yep, you guessed it, the phone hadn’t adjusted time. Luckily I was still getting up several times in the night and woke Scott the final time when he realized that it was 5:20 am and not 4:20!!! Yikes! We threw the last minute stuff in the suitcase, brushed our teeth, got dressed (Scott threw a hat on his head) and we raced for the front. The bellman and driver took the suitcases, moving too slow for my taste and Scott went to turn in the key. The driver asked me why I was so frightened. “We slept too much and now we are late,” was my reply. He and the bellman laughed and the bellman said. “No worries, the crew is here!” What? Like they were the A-team or something? What did that mean? Mario Andretti was going to get us to the airport? I guess I still had a frightened look on my face so he repeated. “The crew is here. Garuda Airlines. The pilot stayed here. They are eating breakfast still.” Oh…..that’s what he meant! No worries!
The rest of the trip home was relatively smooth. We had to upgrade to executive class because they were the only seats available and we sat across the aisle from someone important since a bunch of people getting on the plane bowed to him or shook his hand. (Later our driver told us it was a General because his driver and security detail were waiting for him.) We headed straight for the clinic where I had to drink more rehydration solution. This time it was warm and orange flavored. Think warm Tang with salt and you get the picture. Yuck! Back home I slept for most of the day. Later this week my tests for parasites and bacterial infection came back negative confirming the likelihood of food poisoning. I think that term is offensive to the Indonesian people because everyone kept saying I had eaten something that did not agree with my digestion. You think?
So our weekend trip to paradise will still go down as one of the best weekends. Can’t wait to see what Scott comes up with next year. Whatever it is I think I will pass on the salad!