I’m Going Going, Back Back, to Bali Bali
I have a confession: Danielle and I have broken our “no Western food” rule. Over and over. It all started with a McFlurry. It was so hot outside and it looked so good. We quickly amended the rule: we could eat Western food if it was the same price as local food. But once you get a taste it’s a slippery slope, and soon we’re splurging on wood-fired pizzas. Sooo I kind of decided that Indonesia is the “vacation” part of our trip so it’s all good. As soon as we leave it’s all local food all the time. For real.
I really enjoyed Labuan Bajo, the Flores port city where our boat docked. Labuan Bajo has only become a destination in recent years due to its proximity to many good dive sites. It’s quite charming and hasn’t been corrupted by tourism…..yet (i.e. no perverse T-shirts or cat calling etc.).
While every other shop seems to be offering diving or snorkeling trips, accommodation is lacking. Many places were full when we got there, and visitors kind of just have to walk around during check out time to see if anything has opened up. So if possible, book in advance. We got a bungalow at Gardena Hotel, which was decent and had a great view ($25/night for 3 people with a fan).
Flores is a big island with much to offer, unfortunately we didn’t have time to leave Labuan Bajo. We had planned on renting a motorbike and doing a day trip to some waterfalls but somehow ended up back at the infinity pool. Slackpackers (TM James).
We had a final dinner with the remaining stragglers from the boat at Made in Italy — one of the most popular and certainly most delicious restaurants in town. Order the Marco Pizza! Still bittersweet though, as yet again I was saying goodbye to some wonderful new friends. Though I learned the next morning that goodbye doesn’t always have to be for long, when two of our favorite Austrians walked into our hotel while we were having breakfast. So of course we had to take them to Laprima’s beautiful pool and our favorite Italian restaurant. Again.
Options for getting back to Lombok or Bali from Flored were: reversing the 3 or 4 day boat trip we had just made (ha maybe not quite ready for that again), flying from LB for around $130, taking a ferry to Bima and flying for $50, or getting a 30+ hour ferry/minibus/bus combo ticket for $40. Of course these frugal coconuts went with the last option! Ugh. We bought our ticket the day before through one of the many tourist oriented shops (bargain!) and they promised us and A/C bus with reclining seats, three free meals, and that one of their representatives would always be there to guide us to our next ferry of bus. Of course. Actually, it wasn’t really that bad. The seven hour ferry from LB to Bima was just like the Scandanavian ferries I’ve grown up with: pure luxury. Or not. We sat in the “plush” VIP section and they even played Jack Reacher. Twice!
Then Danielle and I were herded towards a very crowded minibus, where the driver kept insisting that we had to sit on the roof for the two-hour ride because there were no more seats. “Good pictures,” he promised us. We politely declind and instead squeezed into the front of the bus, with Danielle wedged next to the driver and me with my back to her, in prime position for oh so many stares.
A couple hours later and we were in Bima, ready to board our luxury A/C bus, ready for the 15-hour ride. . But by A/C they meant absolutely freezing. With our noses and feet becoming icicles we had to resort to desperate measures: removing the curtains and using them as blankets. When it was time to get off the bus the driver wasn’t too happy, and apparently thought he could get away with some bad behavior too. As in trying to sneak a kiss in with Danielle. All I heard was “oh my god, ew, NO!” Oh Indonesia….
Now we’re back in Bali where we met up with our good friend from Chiang Mai, Jeanna! A welcome reunion as Danielle and I had both been feeling pretty lethargic on the bus back from Flores. Saying goodbye to new friends and places is never easy, and I guess after all the excitement of the boat trip we were due for a bit of an emotional crash. But tomorrow Jeanna, Danielle and I head to Java, where hopefully some new adventures and stories await!