To escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Bali for the day and see some beautiful scenery, your best bet is to visit Lembongan Island. Just an hour and a half ferry ride from Bali, you can visit for a day of snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing and exploring, or even plan to spend a night in one of the picturesque villas overlooking the water.
During my three months in Bali I visited Lembongan multiple times; twice on the ferry and twice at anchor on our own boat. Each visit was better than the last. I couldn’t get over how crystal clear the water was after having grown accustomed to our marina in Benoa Harbor where there was more trash than fish in the water. Being the only one on the boat who doesn’t scuba dive, I happily spent my days in Lembongan learning to paddle board and drive a motorbike; it was an island of firsts for me. However, one experience stuck out slightly more than the others.
The last day we spent anchored off Lembongan I was just about out of phone credit so I got a lift on the tender to shore by our deckie, Ty who graciously agreed to wait for me even though the tide was rapidly receding. Adding on the fact that I had no idea where to get credit, nor did most of the locals speak much english, it was a bit of a misguided race against the clock on my part. After a couple failed attempts I finally found small convenience store (more like a closet) with a helpful young indonesian man. He told me that the place to get credit was far away but that he could call his friend who worked there and do it for me over the phone. Great, no problem. Well, said friend wasn’t answering. Then he suggested that he take my phone for me to the place. I didn’t really feel 100% about leaving my new unlocked iphone in the hands of a stranger, so he offered to leave his phone as collateral. Well, I didn’t think Ty would be too happy if I had no way of letting him know how long i’d be and besides that, this guy could’ve taken hours for all I know. I offered to come along, but that wouldn’t work because then there would be nobody to look after the shop. Wait… this guy was going to have me, a stranger, look after his shop? I missed that connection. Finally after an awkward few moments of confusion he says, “You take my motorbike.” I’m sorry, I was just wrapping my head around the fact that you were going to leave me in your shop unattended, with your cell phone and now you want to give me your main mode of transportation!? I was hesitant, but the clock was ticking and this was my best option.
After simply handing me the keys and telling me which bike was his (FYI, it was named “Snoopy”) and providing some vague directions as to where I was headed, I was on my way. Finally I located Snoopy around the corner and then realized, I had no idea how to start it. (Before you start to look down on me for being just a dumb blonde, you should know that in real life I drive a manual transmission, change my own tires AND oil, thank you very much). Running back to the shop, my friend started to become worried in my motorbike skills so he came back out with me just to make sure I knew what I was doing. Fair enough, considering my first attempt at driving a motorbike a few weeks prior on that same island was dangerously close to resulting in serious injury, both to myself and the bike. I seemed to instill enough confidence however and was on my way. Feeling a bit stressed as the clock was still ever ticking, I worked through some basic Indonesian with a kind, yet non English speaking woman as we tried to negotiate credit for my phone. Sidenote: every time I’ve put credit on my phone in Indonesia it’s been a completely different method/experience. Finally racing back to get Snoopy back to his owner, I charged through the shop door, and handed over a $20,000 note and thanked him profusely for helping out a stranger ($20,000 Rupiah is only about $2 US, but worth a fair amount more in Indonesia). He wouldn’t accept, but I didn’t have time to argue as Ty was now calling me wondering where I was, and I still had about half a mile to run around the island back to the tender.
It all happened pretty quickly but thinking about it later it dawned on me more and more how kind my new Indonesian friend was. I was a stranger, simple as that, yet he easily offered me his motorbike, not even knowing if I knew how to drive one (or that I had only driven one once before with near disastrous results…). In Bali you encounter so many locals trying to hustle you into buying this or that knick knack and it was so refreshing to get out of that scene and have this pure and genuine human interaction. Just serves as a reminder that there are good people everywhere you go and there really is hope for mankind.
By the way, he also texted me shortly after to thank me for the money and ask me for my name and even included a smiley face so i’m pretty sure I have a date if I ever go back. Score?