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I enjoyed my short stay in Padang Bai but it was time to look south to Nusa Lembongan.
The waitress at the Beach Inn told me that her uncle ran a Fastboat and that he could get me to Nusa Lembongan for IDR100k. When will I ever learn…
I jumped on the back of her scooter and she took be to him. I got the ‘hard sell’ treatment immediately… “I need to book now”… “they are full’… “it is high season”…
We followed him to the ticketing kiosk. He showed me a tourist brochure that had IDR300k one way as the price. I said no and that IDR300k is what I pay to go from Kuta to Gili Air – not the short distance from Padang Bai to Nusa Lembongan.
He asked me what the price should be. I said IDR100k-150k. He said OK… “IDR150k”. Before I knew it, I had done the deal. There is no doubt in my mind that I paid much too much; I should, probably, have paid IDR75k-100k.
I duly arrived at 14:15. At 16:00 we started heading for the boat. We left at 16:30 and we arrived in the straits of Nusa Lembongan at 17:05.
You cannot dock in the big boats that you arrive in.
You need to transfer from the big boats to smaller boats; these smaller boats take you ashore.
We had to jump off of the landing boats into 1 foot of water to disembark.
We were on shore by 17:30 and packed into ‘flatbacks’ (Songteows) and heading for our hotels by 18:00.
ACCOMMODATION / WHERE TO STAY:
I had not booked a hotel in advance (as I normally do). I was expecting to arrive 2 hours earlier and I didn’t think that it would be a problem to just find somewhere walking in off the street.
The flatback dropped me off in the middle of Jungut Batu (the main village) outside of the Two Fishes.
I had heard that the waterfront was mainly expensive resorts and that the GRANDPAcking hotels would be set back in or around the main street. I started walking north down the main street. By now, night had fallen.
4 out of 5 places were full. There were no hotels for under IDR300k / night. One lady said that she had somewhere nice for IDR200k but it was on the edge of town. I took it.
It was a new-build of 4 ‘units’. All to GRANDPAcking standard. I apologise, I forgot to take pictures.
Around The Island:
I headed along the coast road going south.
At Tamarind beach I could get a Double unit with aircon set back from the beach with no views for IDR400k / night. This was the cheapest that I could find in that area.
As I went up and over the hills towards Mushroom Beach, I found the Lotus Garden House set up on the cliffs in the middle of nowhere. These guys wanted IDR500k for a poolside chalet (reduced to IDR400k for single occupancy).
By the time that you drop down to Mushroom Beach (especially in High Season) the prices are IDR500k / night plus…
It only took about 2 hours to go around the whole island.
As with Langkawi (and Cenang Beach), it became obvious that the place to stay was Jungut Batu.
The other places on the island were either too ‘Resorty’ (and way over my GRANDPAcking budget) or not to GRANDPAcking standard.
Jungut Batu (Main Village):
I re-did Jungut Batu to see what I could find.
On the main street you can get a Double with Fan and Ensuite for IDR150k but there are not many around and all of them are below GRANDPAcking standard. I also heard that you can get rooms on the beach front for IDR150k too (but I am not sure about the quality).
The High Season ‘going rate’ in a homestay along the main street would seem to be IDR300k for a Double with fan and ensuite – IDR350k to get that with aircon. These prices, usually, include a simple breakfast.
To get a decent place for IDR250k or below you have to get around the back of the main street or on the edges of town.
The Homestay-Scooter Option:
If you can find a really nice place out of town centre (or, perhaps, out of Jungut Batu) for IDR200k or less, it may be worth taking… if you can rent a scooter at IDR50k, then your cost is still IDR250k (or less) and you also have total freedom of movement.
At IDR200k (or less) for your accommodation you won’t, usually, get breakfast included. But, you have a scooter, so you can easily go to your favourite cheap warung for breakfast in the morning.
d’ Mel Sari:
It was the best value place for IDR200k and I liked the owner, Ketut.
The d’ Mel Sari is located one block back from the main road.
You take the alleyway opposite the Bali Eco Deli and turn left half way down the street. It is, basically, at the back of Mickey’s Sports Bar.
There was no wifi for the first few days but they installed it whilst I was there – which gave me in-room wifi.
The price excluded breakfast.
and I was happy getting my IDR10k banana pyramids anyway (see below).
I booked in for 7 nights and gave him a deposit of IDR400k.
He has a little cafe area but that isn’t up and running yet. You can sit there and eat your own food if you wish and he sells cold drinks (and cold beers).
Jungut Batu is easily discovered on foot.
On Nusa Lembongan you have Indonesia’s equivalent to the Thai Sangteow… A flatback Ute that has been converted into a people carrier.
The ride to / from the Ferry Terminal (between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan) will cost you IDR20k-25k each way.
Talk to most people (even tourists sitting on scooters), and they will tell you that the High Season cost for a scooter is IDR100k for a ‘daylight day’ (08:00 to 20:00). THIS IS NOT TRUE.
On the north edge of town (near Mickey’s Sports Bar) I found a guy that quoted me IDR70k. When I turned up at 07:00 the next morning, he was closed… so I went for a walk down some of the alleys to the waterfront.
After checking in to the d’ Mel Sari (see above), I drove back to the scooter guy. I offered him IDR300k in cash up front to rent his scooter for another 6 days (i.e. IDR50k / day). He thought about it for 15 seconds… then agreed. The deal was done.
DO NOT PAY IDR100k! All you are doing is encouraging prices to go up and up and up every year.
Please note that the d’ Mel Sari rent scooters to their guests for IDR50k per day (or IDR70k including petrol).
Back at my hotel, I asked Ketut what I should pay for a bottle of petrol. He said that IDR20k for a 1.5L (large bottle of water) petrol should cost IDR20k and that a good price is IDR18k.
He told me that a good place to buy petrol was just around the corner. I drove around to it. They asked for IDR20k, I offered IDR18k, he agreed and put some into me scooter. I used the same place for my petrol for the remainder of my stay.
One of the best hawkers in town is opposite the Blue Corner Bar (on the inland side of the main road at the north end of town). You will know it when you see it because it is very busy. There is another one almost next to it which is almost always empty. The majority of the items on their menu cost IDR20k-25k. For IDR20k you can get your standard fare of Chicken or Fish Fried Rice or Noodles, etc. For IDR25k you can get Fried Chicken, Special Noodle Soup, etc.
You can also pick up banana leaf pyramid meals (sometimes stapled together in brown paper) for IDR10k; these pyramids are rice with curried ‘goodies’ and are a great snack-sized breakfast or lunch. I had one for breakfast several times.
Here you can get breakfasts for IDR10-22k, local mains for IDR17-20k (including curries with rice), western mains for IDR25-30k, fresh fruit juices for IDR10k, milkshakes for IDR10-15k and local tea / coffee for IDR7k. They do bacon & eggs & toast for IDR22k or you can get this as a Set Menu including juice and coffee for IDR35k. I thought their ‘western’ menu was not as good as their ‘local’ one; stick to Indonesian dishes for the best value for money.
On my first night I got a bit of a shock. After having my great value warung meal (see above) I walked down the main road in search of a cold one (or two)…
I had to walk about 200m before I found the first place; they wanted IDR38k PLUS 10% tax. Other than in Kuta, I have never come across anywhere that wanted more than IDR40k for a large Bintang… and I wasn’t going to pay that now…
The next place was Mickeys which is a sports bar. They had English EPL Match Of The Day on the TV and a live band playing. I stayed there and had a couple for IDR40k. I could see that Nusa Lembongan had latched on to the Kuta ‘vibe’ and that finding a cheap beer around town was going to be a challenge…
Here you can sit and watch the sunset in their 17:00-19:00 Happy Hour (large Bintang IDR30k).
I was lucky that d’ Mel Sari sold beers for IDR35k (IDR30K + 10% = IDR33k to me). Which meant that I could have a cold one or two there in the evenings whilst working.
This is a pleasant enough beach and the waters are strewn with fishing boats.
However, as with the other beaches on the island, it is not really a ‘swimming’ beach.
This is a pleasant place to spend a sunset… try out the Star Two Thousand between 17:00 and 19:00 – they have a Happy Hour with IDR30k large Bintangs.
Mushroom Beach (and around):
There is no coast road, so you have to ‘make it up as you go’.
The first is Chelagimpak Beach (also known as Tamarind Beach). Tamarind Beach is located between the Playgrounds surf break and Mushroom Bay. From here, It has beautiful views back to the Bali mainland (and Mount Agung).
The strip of sand is very narrow and the rocks start as soon as you enter the water.
Because it is one of Nusa Lembongan’s landing points, there are a lot of boats parked up so swimming is not that easy. However, you can do many activities here including snorkeling and surfing.
Dream Beach (and around):
Again, there is no coast road, so you have to ‘make it up as you go’.
Sandy Bay is located near Devil’s Tear, just to the north of Dream Beach. It is a small but spectacular beach with beautiful white sand and crashing waves. It is one of best places to enjoy a sunset in Nusa Lembongan.
During low tide, a dramatic cave is exposed in the low limestone cliff at the eastern side of the bay. If you want to take a closer look, approach it very carefully.
There are rocks at the tideline and the water breaks over these rocks, so it is not good for swimming.
Continue further round the coast and you will pass Devil’s Tear on the way to Dream Beach.
That is, probably, true.
The beach is excellent but, again, there are breaking waves over rocks which means that this is not really a swimming beach.
If you are a very good swimmer you might try playing in the water, but avoid the eastern end of the beach. The rips can be fierce. Instead of taking a risk with swimming, why not climb the cliff on the right of the beach… from here the sunset view is beautiful.
The tour of the South West coast ends at Laguna Reef Hut Bay; this is a little bay splattered with small fishing boats on the entrance to the strait between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
Here you will find some cute warungs / restaurants. The snorkelling is meant to be good but you will have to negotiate your way over and around the Seaweed Farms under the water.
They also do boat trips into the Mangrove Forrest. I asked about accommodation; they had a Double chalet on the beachfront with hot water ensuite, aircon, and in-room wi-fi for IDR600k.
There are some up market resorts but these are few.
I toured the whole island and did not see any budget accommodation.
Nusa Ceningan is ‘one to watch’ in the years to come.
As accommodation springs up around the island (which is inevitable) this could be a great destination for several years.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There is one ATM on the island which is down the south end of Jungut Batu in the morning market square next to the Ocean Day Spa.
You need to get there early am as it runs out of money fast. I turned up at 07:00… it failed with ‘connection time out’. I tried again at 10:00… it failed with ‘transaction failed’. I tried at 13:00… it failed with ‘no connection’.
I tried again the next morning at 07:30… it failed with ‘no connection’. The person behind me tried and succeeded… it was, then, that someone in the queue told me that it does not take Visa cards (only Mastercards). This is DESPITE the ATM screen saying that it DOES take Visa…
It was worth noting that I saw the same people queuing there every day that I was there… which means that even people with a Mastercard were having trouble getting money.
Without a card that works at the only ATM on the island, and without any banks or official Bureau De Changes on the island, you are at the mercy of the street Money Changers. I had to change a NZ$100 note to keep me going until I got back to the mainland. The online rate was IDR900,000 – I got IDR850,000 – which means that they took 5.5% commission within their exchange rate.
This exchange rate was the best rate that I could find in town – all other Money Changers were only giving IDR800,000. I was able to find the best rate because I had my scooter… I ended up changing money 2 times and gained IDR100k as a result (which paid for 2 days of scooter rental!).
Some resorts take Credit Cards (including Visa) and give you cash… but they will take at least 7% in commission.
Effectively, the Money Changers on Nusa Lembongan have you in a ‘Kremlin Crutchhold’; they offer poor exchange rates… and there is nowhere else for you to go.
If you need money, I advise that:
- You arrive with enough cash if you don’t have a Mastercard; or you arrive with notes that you can change in a Money Changer (but be careful about any SCAMS)
- You get there early before the money runs out
- You get there before your money runs out (it may take a day or two before you can actually get more)
Petrol: IDR18-20k / 1.5L = side-of-the-road bottles
Water: Large 1.5L Bottle = IDR7k; Small 750ml Bottle = IDR4k
ONE LUCKY GIRL:
I was on one of my scooter trips heading south to Mushroom Beach…
I was driving up this steep one-car-wide, pot-holed, semi-dirt track when I saw a leather travel wallet on the road.
I said to myself ‘this shouldn’t be here’, so I stopped and picked it up.
I couldn’t stay stopped on the hill and had no time to check out what was in it so I drove on with it tucked under my legs…
It took me about 5 minutes of driving to find somewhere suitable to park and have a look inside.
I found IDR3.6 million in notes, AUS$500 in notes, 2 credit cards, a passport, and printed booking confirmations for hotels.
The travel wallet belonged to an Australian student girl. I headed straight back to where I had found it to discover a girl grid-searching the road. “Have you seen a brown wallet?’ she asks…
She was a very lucky girl! If someone else had found it, who knows what she would have gotten back (if anything at all).
Nusa Lembongan is on the verge of being a fully-fledged tourist location. The main village, Jungut Batu, is just a string of resorts and homestays along the waterfront and along the main road… with homestays now springing up in the sidestreets and backstreets.
And, it is all being done within an environment of ‘unkemptness’ – it reminds me of Kuta 25 years ago.
It offers cheap places to stay and lots of cafes / bars. There are plenty of places for GRANDPAckers to enjoy too…
There’s good snorkelling and SCUBA diving – plus some easy walks and a couple of nice beaches within walking distance. But, to get the best out of the island, you may want to hire scooters occasionally.
I find myself wanting to compare it directly with Langkawi… it sort-of has that same ‘category’ about it.
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