Bali/Lombok – March 19, 2009

“With it’s protected bay, Padangbai has a good beach right in front.” – Lonely Planet

Liars!  I went to Padangbai hoping for a quiet town lining a nice beach where I could lay on the beach all day and read, chill out, maybe go for nice walks… To be fair, the sand itself is okay.  However, my guidebook neglected to mention that the sand is covered in boats, so there’s actually nowhere to lay.  It’s like eating a fat piece of chocolate cake in front of someone on the South Beach diet.  Grrr.  Not to mention, the day I was there was a holiday and all the locals managed to find a spot on the beach.  However, they swim in their clothes, covered from head to toe, and I would have felt pornographic in my bikini.  So I decided to go to Lombok, which is the island just east of Bali.

I bought my ferry ticket to Lembar, along with a shuttle bus ticket to Senggigi, from a “travel agent” in Padangbai.  He instructed me to meet him there are 8:30 a.m., half an hour before the ferry was due to leave, and we would all walk together.  Well I waited there and a couple guys, I guess working with him, walked me to the harbour and one took my suitcase the few meters to the harbour.  He told me I had to pay, so I gave them 10,000 rupiahs which is pretty standard for a short bike ride/taxi ride.  He then demanded 50,000 rupiahs from me.  He was totally trying to rip me off and I calmly told him that I would give him no more money.  Then he came down on the price and asked for another 10,000 for his friend.  But his friend did nothing except came along for the walk, and again I calmly said I would be giving them no more money.  Eventually they left.  Gosh I’m starting to feel jaded now…

Finally I got on the ferry and dragged my suitcase up the stairs while the locals laughed at me.  I compared the experience to Italy, when my grandma and I both had rolling suitcases and there were a couple times we had to carry them upstairs, but men always stopped to carry our bags for us.  Here they would help if I paid them.

I found a spot on a hard wooden bench and kept my eyes on the other tourists.  This is a weird phenomenon because I noticed them doing it too.  It’s like we want confirmation that we’re in the right spot or doing the right thing so all the foreigners stick together.  I got up to look out the window for awhile, and when I came back a man was sprawled out on my seat, so I dragged my bag back to where I was standing before.  Eventually a French guy joined me, along with a Polish guy.  The French guy was traveling with his wife for a year, and they had been doing it all overland – from France.  No planes at all, only trains and boats.  All the way through Europe, Russia, China, SE Asia, boat to Bali.  The Polish guy was on a RTW ticket for a year and he told me about his travels through South America and his cruise to Antarctica.

After the 5-hour journey, getting off the ferry and onto the shuttle bus was pure chaos.  People were lined up waiting to sell the tourists stuff (again).  “Cold drink?  For you, cheap price!”

Luckily on my shuttle bus was the French couple and the Polish guy I had just talked to.  We stopped in Mataram, about an hour’s drive from the harbour, and then transferred to another bus where me, the Polish guy, and a middle-aged German wearing a hot pink shirt and extremely sun-burnt lips rode to Senggigi.  For some reason (barf) the old German was keen for me to stay at the same homestay as him.  NO THANK YOU!!!

I got dropped off at a homestay more central, recommended by my guidebook.  It’s a bit of a hole, but the ladies who run it are extra friendly and it costs about $5.50 US a night.  It does have a western toilet, but there is no flush so you have to do it manually.  What is a manual flush? you ask.  It’s a bucket filled with water and a scoop.  You then scoop out some water and try to flick your wrist to imitate the swirling motion of an automatic flush.  You’re not supposed to put toilet paper in there (oops) but rather in another bucket next to the toilet.

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