To give you my answer right at the beginning … I love Indonesia, but I hate Bali !!! (my personal opinion)
Indonesia is such a big island country with so many different places to see, believe me, if you have been to Bali, you haven’t seen Indonesia yet.
I went to Bali (just for a couple of days), Nusa Lembongan, Flores, Komodo and Sulawesi and I still missed out on so many other parts of Indonesia…. it’s huge and some regions are a bit tricky to get there, but totally worth the effort :)
I wanted to go to Java and Sumatra too, but run out of my visa, so next time maybe :)
By the way, if you ever wanna go to Indonesia and you know, you would like to stay longer than 30 days, then apply for a visa in one of the neighboring countries Indonesian Embassies. It’s very easy to get (usually within a day) and relatively cheap as well (I payed 35 Euro).
If you don’t apply for a visa in advance and you fly for example into Bali and you don’t pay for your visa, you can’t extend it and need to fly out after 30 days!!!!
If you pay, you can extend for 1 more month, but who knows exactly where you might end up after 30 days and maybe there is no Embassy nearby. So it’s much easier to take care of the visa issue in advance and just enjoy your time in Indonesia without any hassle.
Back to why I don’t like Bali.
I am still not really sure why this hype about Bali exists. For sure 20 years ago, it was much much nicer. But after all the „Eat, Pray and Love“ – Travelers came, it changed a lot.
Unfortunately it’s always like that. Someone discovers a paradise, then it will be developed and then paradise is not longer a paradise anymore :(
But I have to say, yes, Bali has beautiful nature, yes it has also beautiful temples and even beautiful beaches (I have seen nicer ones though), but I think it’s overrated.
It’s crowded and therefore too loud, it’s touristy and it’s too commercialized already. I got the impression, it’s all about money, selling stuff. People are not really friendly anymore, especially if you have seen much better, more rural parts of Indonesia with such kind people around, Bali sucks ! (my opinion again).
If you are into Yoga or Meditation, then go there! Especially Ubud will be your Yoga-Heaven.
And there is as always somewhere a pool to relax and to refresh :) – I went to Jungle Fish!
Almost 3 years ago, I have been to Bali already and the only thing which really impressed me, was the sunrise-hike up to Mount Batur (volcano).
When you reach the summit just at the right time for sunrise, it will blow your mind.
At the time I did it, the clouds were beneath me and the sun rose, slowly one beam after the other. It gave me goosebumps and I was truly touched by the beauty of nature. The clouds lifted and I could see a lake below. What a moment to be burned into your mind forever.
For me, Bali’s northern parts, which I haven’t seen yet, might still get another chance at some point. :)
So my rating for Bali is only 1 STAR ★ (out of 5)….. ok 2 Stars but not more!
That looks quite bad I know, but you might understand me, if you carry on reading. I will tell you about amazing things I have seen and done outside of Bali.
Lets get started with
Part I – Nusa Lembongan – 4 Stars ★ ★ ★ ★
Nusa Lembongan was absolutely not on my travel itinerary :))))) but you should put it on yours.
The beauty of traveling for longer without any time-limits is, that you can decide on a daily basis where to go to and what to do next. And one thing is for sure, PLANS ALWAYS CHANGE, believe me. I am a big believer in ‚everything happens for a reason‘ and even though I actually wanted to go to Java and Sumatra, I changed my not really existing plan and went eastwards.
So while I was in Bali, I talked to a lot of other travelers and made the spontaneous decision to go to a small island just 1 hour boat ride from Sanur – off of Bali’s coast – Nusa Lembongan.
I booked the lovely and clean Swara Homestay 2 via Airbnb. I am not getting payed for saying that here :), but I am mentioning it here, because it was one of the good decisions I made, if it comes to where to stay. Ratih and her family are great hosts and take care of you all the time. She even rents out scooters which are highly recommended to move around and discover this germ of an island yourself. But be careful if you ever go there, the streets are terrible and a challenge for every driver! Nevertheless, I was happy in an instant, because … I LOVE TO RIDE MOTORBIKES :) being independent and all!
After my arrival and Ratih’s warm welcome at Nusa Lembongan, a for me very strange but very interesting thing happened. By chance I was at the right place at the right time. It seems to happen all the time to me, not knowing what’s going on and stumbling into something. hahahahah GOOD :)
Anyway, you are curious :) so I will let you know, what I am talking about.
Ratih asked me, if I was tired from me journey and I said no, I am not. She then invited me to attend a Hindu funeral ceremony .. What ???!!!!
I was shocked for a second. Back in Europe funerals are quite private and to be invited to a funeral as a foreigner was totally new to me! Everybody can come and watch the many hours lasting ceremony, as long as one wears appropriate clothes. Women dress up in sarongs and blouses, a veil wrapped around the waist. Men also wear sarongs and something to cover their heads (I forgot the name).
I definitely was in very good hands with Ratih :)
The whole procedure is quite difficult and has many different parts. If one asks locals about details, some of them can’t even answer why a certain part is done as it is. It’s simply done like that since years, centuries.
Lucky me, I met Jonathan an anthropologist from Denmark :) He explained me a lot while the two of us were watching. But its tricky to remember all the details (sorry Jonathan!)
But here are some facts I do remember :)
The ceremony takes place when the family has enough money to afford a totem – a colorful decorated bull made out of carton. The size of the bull also depends on how rich the family is. Till then the dead will be buried in a grave and wait for the actual ceremony (sometimes for month).
The graves are usually covered by an umbrella to protect them from the heat!
At that day it was special though. The ceremony usual does not only involve the recently deceased, but also ancestor bones from the last funeral ceremony. In that case, 4 ‚new‘ bodies were buried and more than 50 bones of ancestors. All in all the whole procedure goes on for 3 days.
The ancestor bones will be dug out and cleaned, blessed by a priest, pieces scraped and put in a coconut shell together with coconut oil to be released into the ocean on one of the following days.
The rest of the bones as well as the ‚new‘ bodies will be wrapped in white cloth, and put on beautiful decorated wooden constructs and carried by men running dance-like up and down the streets… What a spectacle !!!
For me it seemed more a celebration of life than mourning death! So colorful, so beautiful, so loud and proud!
When the bones/bodies arrive at their totems, the back of the carton bull will be sawn open and the bones put in together with gifts from the family.
At the end, all the totems will be lit on fire!
But that’s not all Nusa Lembongan has to offer. The island took me in. Instead of staying there for 3 nights, I ended up staying there for a week.
Every morning I jumped onto my scooter and drove around happily smiling, feeling alive and free.
One day I met a lovely lady at the beach – a seaweed farmer. Nusa Lembongan is quite famous for their seaweed farms.
To ride a scooter on an island is just the perfect way to end up in corners where you usually don’t end up :) Just the occasional ‚wrong‘ turn and one can be at places where nobody is around. Getting lost …. a bit tricky on a small island like Nusa Lembongan but still possible.
Nusa Lembongan is connected by a suspension bridge to Nusa Ceningan, which is an even smaller island than Lembongan and has the perfect spot for sunsets. It’s not a secret anymore but still called ‚secret point‘ :) and still worth to go there.
And Ladies :) .. if you are lucky like me .. you can also watch hot surfers jumping from a platform at the cliff into the ocean :) no question about their bodies :))). As if this wasn’t enough already … I also spotted some dolphins passing by, I was in Awwwweeeee !
Nusa Lembongan – gives you everything you desire – pristine beaches like the Dream Beach. I was too busy relaxing at an infinity pool to take pics :))) and some things I need to keep just for myself!
The ocean on Lembongan’s rocky shoreline showed me it’s rough side too with it’s clashing waves at a place called the ‚Devils Tears‘. That was a bit frightening but also very impressive at the same time, nature at it’s best!
I am not wondering anymore, why it’s called like that … if you get too close you can easily be dragged into the ‚fangs‘ of the waves and might not see the surface ever again!
Speaking of nature …
One day we, two new friends and I, rented a boat to go on a snorkeling trip. The boatsman took us to 3 different spots between Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida (further east of Nusa Lembongan).
I call myself an experienced snorkeler :) who has seen already quite a lot, but every time when I go on a snorkeling trip in South-East-Asia, I get to see something new. And so also this time!
The spots felt like being in an aquarium so clear and clean was the water, with at least 30 meters visibility :))) yeahhhhh ! Colorful fishes and corals all over the place and …. a SEA SNAKE !!! Damn I actually never wanted to see those so close! You might ask yourself why?!
They are venomous and I mean VENOMOUS like, if they bite you, you wont even reach the surface of the water venomous! Be aware, if you ever see a sea snake, don’t get too close please!
Nusa Lembongan treated me nice, I met amazing people along the way I had a lot of fun with … and I got to see beautiful and rough nature and learned a lot about a for me new culture. Thx beautiful island Lembongan :)))
My next destination within Indonesia was Flores and Komodo, stay tuned for Part II !!!