Stillness is a gem for city dwellers. Everyday, I find myself flitting from one screen to another absentmindedly, constantly plugged in or assaulted by noise pollution. Driven by boredom and restlessness to seek senseless distractions, it’s a never ending battle.
It all comes to a halt during holidays. When day to day life is postponed, numbed sensibilities are reawakened and buried dreams are remembered. No I didn’t sign up for a 7-day meditation retreat, but being away from the city with good friends has an equally rejuvenating effect.
The stresses of my life were on hold for eight glorious days in November, where a whole bunch of us congregated for a trip to celebrate Keith’s 30th. The first leg is at Lembongan, a lovely island that’s a 45 minute boat ride from Bali’s Sanur jetty. I know many see Bali as an escape from Singapore, but I’m not a fan of its crowds and high prices. The ride cost SGD20 one way, and I couldn’t stop beaming when we arrived on a beautiful beach that had the languid feel of a rustic island.
I highly recommend staying at Lembongan Beach Club and Resort. We got it at a discounted rate at around SGD75 each per night, for a two-bedroom private villa with a pool. The bedrooms are gorgeous, and the attached bathrooms are huge.
Our first dinner was a joke. We thought the best way to get good local cuisine was to get recommendations from locals, and we were told to head to Warung Made down the road. It looked unpretentious and fairly authentic, but had few customers. Well, it’s because it was crap. The only thing that was tasty was the Nasi Goreng. Everything else we ordered arrived in very small and sad-looking servings. We found out later that it was ranked #47 out of 82 restaurants on the island. -_- So we only took tripadvisor’s recommendations from then on.
The resort’s breakfast didn’t disappoint. Instead of the usual buffet fair, they had a proper a la carte menu made up of local, Western, and even Japanese and Korean dishes. The best part was that it can be enjoyed with a panoramic view of a splendid, empty beach.
And of course, diving is essential with every beach holiday. It’s exceptionally pricey here though, at SGD60 / dive.
BUT. WE SAW OUR FIRST MANTA! I think it had a wingspan of about 2.5m. Despite its size, it moved slowly and majestically. Was expecting to see a group of them since the site is a cleaning station, but the dive master said they shied away that morning as there were way too many divers. Still, it was a really moving experience so see one of that size in its vast natural habitat. To think that humans put them in “large” aquariums like the one in Resorts World Sentosa, is just depressing.
There was none of the crazy currents we experienced in Gili islands, and it was great to see how the waters were teeming with marine life. Spotted stingrays, lion fish, puffer fish, turtle, and a Napoleanfish.
After diving with Priya, it’s back to our resort’s beach to reunite with the rest. The beach may be photogenic, but it’s not much of a snorkeling or chilling spot. The sea bed was covered in sharp corals, and the waters weren’t very clear.
Then we set off on a buggy that took us on a half-day tour to see Lembongan’s famous sites including Dream beach, which was an absolute stunner.
Perched on top of the cliffs was a nice bar with the best vantage point, and an infinity pool. But our tour didn’t allow for much time here to absorb the sights, so we decided to return the next day.
The tour ended at Devil’s Tear outcrop, where large powerful waves swelled and crashed into the rocky cliffs, creating hypnotic poundings and dramatic sprays that reached up to 6 metres above the cliffs. Our guide would freak out every time we went too far out on the cliffs as you never know how powerful the next wave would be. There have been cases of tourists being swept away. We also saw a tourist taken away by a truck, with blood running down his face when we arrived. Apparently the waves knocked him back on the sharp rocks, causing a deep gash on the head.
But, if you stay behind where the water puddles begin, you’d be rewarded with an extra day in your life to enjoy the sublime view of the sun slowing dipping beyond the horizon.
It was very nice of our guide to drop us off at Warung Bambu for dinner, as it’s quite a long drive away from our stay. The casual restaurant is located by the beach, and served up the best meal we had thus far. It’s definitely worthy of the #4 spot on TripAdvisor’s list.
The tempeh tofu curry was my favourite — sweet and absolutely delish. The banana leaf chicken, Nasi Goreng, grilled calamari, chicken curry, and grilled prawns were fantastic too. Oh and the best thing about our resort? Free pick ups from any where on the island! Such good service.
Back to Dream Beach again! This time around, we had ample time to mill around, and ended up spending our last afternoon in Lembongan here. The service is pretty rubbish here though — we got a terribly ill-mannered waiter who gave us attitude and the evil eye when we added on more orders. The rest of the staff were OK, but don’t expect too much here. Just concentrate on the impressive views!
We walked over to Devil’s Tear again, and the waves were even more ferocious than yesterday. Can you spot the human figure completely dwarfed by the sprays? Scary!!! We also saw a pod of dolphins jumping out of the water as they swam away from the cliffs! It was magical…
Just round the bend is Sandy Bay Beach Club, a chi chi spot to enjoy the rest of the day as the skies blushed and shied away from the remaining sunlight. We had drinks and small bites, and got our trusty resort to pick us up again.
For dinner, we decided to try Lemongrass, which was a stone’s throw from our stay, and #7 on TripAdvisor. The creamy prawns with butter rice I ordered was great, but it was the mee goreng that really stole the show. It’s exactly how Indonesian fried carbs should be – oily, tasty, slightly sweet, and so satisfying.
The three days spent here were unforgettable, and I really hope Lembongan stays this way for a long time. Please don’t morph into the monster that Bali has become!