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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nyepi Eve, Dream Beach, Mushroom Beach, Scootering and a Broken Bridge.

We rented a scooter from a random local who approached us in front of Mushroom Beach last night and decided on 70,000 rupiah ($7) a day.  The only thing is, it was before we had decided where we were going to be staying, and we never decided when we would leave it when we were finished.  I guess that's just Island life for ya.  He'll eventually find it, I guess!  We headed for the bridge this morning, excited to scoot over to Nusa Cennigan Island, only to find out that a cyclone demolished it 2 weeks ago!  Oooouuuuurrrr briddddggggeee.  Such a bummer.

But the rest of the day made up for the broken bridge!  :)  We road the scooter back towards Mushroom Beach, but stopped here at one of our favorite views on the island... 

... before ordering lunch here on the beach! 

 1 Mie Goreng ($2.50) and 1 hamburger ($3.00).  Gotta love the prices around these parts, and the fact that you can see the beach reflected in your husband's glasses at lunch!

Nusa Lembongan is a Hindu Island, so seeing offerings like these laid out all over restaurants, small shops and hotels are common place!

We did a little swimming at Mushroom Beach, but Dream Beach has our hearts and we were eager to get back over there to see how it had changed since we were there last!  The view looking out to the water was EXACTLY how we remembered it!

This pic's for you, Sam McElwain!

Sadly, or not so saldy, depending on how you look at it, the bungalows at Dream Beach have gone from charming and rustic to fancy schmancy, and they've even added a pool, where if you pay $5.00, you can swim and rent a beach chair for the whole day.  We opted for the FREE soft white sand! 

Since it was Nyepi Eve, we knew there would be a BIG night time parade in town and that we needed to get back to that side of the island before it started... otherwise we'd be stuck!  So, we jumped on the scooter and drove through the 1st little town (on the inner area of the island) where we were asked to stop our scooter while this parade of towns people walked from the Hindu temple on the hill down through the village, doing blessings to the gods and carrying their special offerings baskets of only the most pristine fruit, all along the way. 

It was definitely a sight to behold. It's a very holy ceremony for them and while it seemed eerie at times, it was a really cool thing to witness!

We made it back to our hotel just in time to take a quick shower, say hello to "the kids" (a group of 5 German high school graduates who we've become friends with.  LOVE THEM!)  Here are Marie and Larissa...

... and walked along the hillside path and into town to catch the festivities!  

The hill to the left is where our hotel is.

Literally the whole town shut down for a prayer ceremony around the temple area.

...and all of the locals came out in their best Hindu clothing and gathered around the temple... spilling out into the streets.

They would, in unison, push the smoke from their personal incense sticks up into the air, then grab a wildflower and hold it tightly in their hands, say a prayer, and then tuck the flower into the back of their head pieces.

The ceremony at the temple went on for hours, I think.  The whole center of town was shut down, so Aaron and I walked the back roads in search of a closer view of the temple, where all of the cool stuff was happening (cultural dances, etc).  Instead we came upon the Ogoh Ogoh monsters, waiting for their big debut at tonight's parade!  These are ALL handmade with foam, by locals in the village, and are more than 20 feet tall.  Talk about artistry.  I'll explain what they're for in my next post about the Tawur Kesanga (Nyepi parade). 

This was my best attempt at a colorful Nyepi Eve outfit!  

We went into town a little too early for the parade, so we walked back along the water to our hotel at sunset to put our bags down and change... We were told it would be best to both wear a sarong around our waist if we were planning to attend the parade. :)

So, after dark, we walked back over into town, BOTH wearing sarongs, tied like long skirts around our waists, to witness one of the most interesting, colorful, exciting, traditional, and cultural events that either of us has ever seen in our 4 years of traveling Asia. 

Farewell Gili Islands... hello Nusa Lembongan.

All good things must come to an end right?!  This morning, we said goodbye to our charming Indonesian hut, our favorite restaurant on the beach, the unbelievably happy and friendly servers there, the sweet kitty who always came to say hello, the crystal clear Gili Island water and the beautiful sea turtles and set off for Nusa Lembongan Island (just south of Bali)... but not before pulling some of my favorite shells together for a Gili Air sign! :) 

We had breakfast at our hotel, but since I haven't been hungry for dinner lately, I've been eating 2 breakfasts!  I couldn't pass up another $2.50 banana and chocolate pancake now, could I?!

... or one last dip in that water!

We walked over to the harbor and checked in with the Scoot office (speed boat) to make sure we were registered for the boat transfer to Nusa Lembongan this afternoon.  Turns out "registration" is at 12:00, but the boat doesn't leave until 12:45pm, so wince we had to wait 45 minutes for the boat, we had lunch here next to the "harbor".

The restaurant is family owned and everyone lives in a little hut to the side of it.  While we were eating, one of the girls came out of the public bathroom, wrapped in a towel from showering! 

At last, we boarded our tiny speed boat and headed for Gili Trawagan, where we would then catch the bigger speed boat for our next destination!

We were originally told that we would get off at Gili T and immediately transfer to the next boat, but in true South East Asian fashion, we waited and waited... There's not really a time table to stick to around these parts.  It was fine though, neither of us had ever been to Gili T, so we walked around and played with the horses! :) 

If you tell them a funny joke, they'll smile for you.  (Or if you get too close, they'll whip around and try to bite you!  But, it'll look like they're smiling!  lol)

Getting one last shot of the Gili's before we set sail!

There's our speed boat to the left!  It was the best $35.00 (each) that we've spent on a transfer in a long, long time!  Saved us A LOT OF TIME!

The boat was definitely fast and definitely rocky!  There were some serious waves out there in the middle of the ocean and lots and lots of wind, hence the sweet hair I'm rocking in this picture! 

We made it to Nusa Lembongan in record time!  Last time we were in Indonesia, it took us almost 12 hours to get here on the ferry!  This time it was under an hour and a half!  So, tomorrow is Nyepi Eve and then Nyepi day, and since Oka No7, the hotel we were planning to stay in ended up being closed for Nyepi, we splurged and went next door to Lembongan Reef Bungalows for $50 a night... but with a view like this from our private balcony, breakfast included, air conditioning, hot water, a pool, and knowing we'd be stuck there for 24 hours on Nyepi, we were just fine with the price!   

We're so happy to be back in Nusa Lembongan for the 2nd time!  It was, and always will be, one of our favorite places in SE Asia and we're hoping we can make just as amazing memories this time as the last!  Tomorrow we're planning to check out Dream Beach, Mushroom Beach, the bridge, and maybe a cock fight or two!  Soooo happy to be back here again!

A day of snorkeling... Gili Islands

I think we could have stayed on Gili Air for another 3 or 4 days, but alas, this will be our last full day here … But, it’s only because of the Nyepi Festival on the 12th. More on that in my next post. We woke up bright and early today, had breakfast and walked a couple hotels over to Manta Dive, where we met our group of fellow snorkelers! I found this sweet spear gun, leaning against the table!

There’s awesome FREE snorkeling right off the beach at Gili Air, but everyone kept talking about seeing Sea Turtles on their snorkeling trip, and we just couldn’t pass up the chance! So, for $8.00 each, we boarded the boat and headed out! 

I’m pretty sure it’s just not possible to ever take a cute snorkeling picture, but we always give it a good shot! 

The water was beautiful with perfect visibility, which is PRIME conditions for a snorkeling trip. Unfortunately it was sooo clear that we could perfectly see the thousands of baby jellyfish swimming near the top of the water as we swam right through them off the east coast of Gili Meno. UGH! 

We stopped off at 4 different spots between the three Gili Islands during our 9:30am -3:00pm snorkeling adventure! The guide told us that we could have our money back if we didn’t see any turtles, so we knew it would be a guarantee! And, YES, we saw them… beautiful, glorious, elegant giant sea turtles! I swam directly over one for a minute or two and Aaron swam within a foot of one for a long time off the west coast of Gili Meno! All in all we both saw 8 turtles total. Having the guide around to point them out was key, because those darn things camouflage like no other and are almost impossible to spot. As you can see, seeing those kinda made my day!

As an added perk, our snorkeling boat happened to be a glass bottom boat! 

At around noon, we stopped off in Gili Meno for lunch. 

This one’s for you Osteen’s and Rozzell’s! I think I married into the biggest diet coke loving family in the world!

I’m not a huge fan of buying little trinkets while I’m vacationing, in fact I usually never buy anything, but I couldn’t resist buying a turquoise stone bracelet. This guy was walking around selling his handmade jewelry and I told him I loved his necklace and asked if he had a bracelet. He didn’t, but walked over to a table in the shade nearby and made it, just for me! I paid him $3.50, which may be a tad bit more than most great hagglers would get it for, but he was such a nice guy and I wanted to support him! It may be his only sale of the day. 

After lunch, Aaron and I took a walk down the beach to look for shells and see the baby turtles which were all gathered together in a baby turtle pool, where they stay until they’re big and strong enough to make it out in the ocean! 

Then, it was back on the boat for one last snorkeling stop and then back to Gili Air. 

The rest of our day / night was just like the last 2, dinner on the beach, followed by a short walk through town to buy snacks for those late night cravings and then lounging on the balcony of our room, taking in the sounds of the birds, geckos, and whatever other creepy crawlies might be around!