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Irene's Adventures

Bali - Lembongan

INDONESIA | Thursday, 10 February 2011 | Views [736]



We took a taxi to Sanur and caught a boat to Lembongan, 1.5 hours to the south and slightly east. This is a small island where the busiest street has no street lights, the major mode of transportation around the island is motorbike and no one seems to be in any hurry to do anything.

typical boat

local kids

Mushroom Beach

Len and Irene booked a couple of days of diving. This was the first time mother and son dived together. They saw some giant mantas which were at least 2 meters across. Wow!! The next day they went to a different dive site, called The Blue Corner. The dive master said that the currents can be a bit tricky, and also a bit dangerous if too strong. Irene got to see and experience just how good a diver her son is, as he had to 'rescue' her from being swept along the coral by the 5 NM current. (if you've ever been on a sail boat going 5 nautical miles / hour you'd appreciate this underwater speed a lot more!) He held her hand, thus stabilizing her, until the current softened. Apparently, he forgot that he is one of the beneficiaries on her life insurance.....LOL A few days later, Irene saw an octopus. This has been one of her dreams since she began diving. Alas, Len & Michaela had left the previous day, to continue their Indonesian tour on another island.

One of the big things in all of Bali is cock fighting. Traditionally, cock fights were only held in conjunction with temple celebrations. Only two roosters fought, then the blood was used as a sacrifice, not unlike most religions in the world. However, they have grown into a gambling event, still masked as a temple celebration, with hundreds of roosters fighting. The gambling is illegal, of course, but you can 'pay' the police for a 'permit' to hold a cock fight outside of a celebratory event, albeit, they are still held in the temple and can only be partaken if one is wearing the traditional garments. They strap little knives to the rooster's legs and they fight to the death. Nice..... one hesitates to order chicken at the warungs. However, if you like the sound of a rooster crowing in the morning, imagine the chorus of 100+ roosters crowing in the morning – an old farmer's paradise!!

The relationship between the men and their roosters is weird. One can see men sitting and lovingly stroking the bird in the same manner one strokes a cat. They say they are massaging the bird so that it gets strong muscles. Men walk down the road or ride their motor bike with the rooster lovingly tucked under one arm. Yes, men and their cock truly have a relationship going. LOL One bird will can sell for up to 100,000 rp ($90 CND) and gambling events can go up to 20-30 million rupiah per fight ($2200-3400). The average income in Indonesia is about 35,000,000 rp ($4000), with Bali being a bit more affluent. This particular island is known for its high priced cock fights – only the high rollers come here. Having said that, we met a rice farmer in mainland Bali who does not sell any of his rice. He merely grows what his family will eat. His only source of extra income is some wood carvings that he sells to tourists. It is doubtful if he comes anywhere near the average, and the only cock fights he sees are the ones held in the traditional manner.


We have been renting motor bikes on Lembongan on a daily basis. At the outrageous price of 60,000 rp ($7) per day, we thought it was the ideal way for Irene to become proficient on a motor bike. There is hardly any traffic, those that are on the roads are cognisant of other drivers because the roads are so darn narrow and full of pot holes. It is the perfect time and place to learn how to ride a motor bike as a tour of the entire island is only about 20 km. One can never get lost, you can only go in a circle with 3 cross roads so if you turn left this time, you'll turn right next time around. And who cares if you get lost? The scenery is well worth it.

Irene Cabay - motor bike


There is an interesting Underground House on the island. Back in 1961 a very old man was inspired by a Hindu epic where some people were banished to the forest for 12 years because of gambling losses. The story goes that these people feared for their lives and in order to protect the family they built a cave. The Lembongan man decided to build an underground cave (maybe he was a gambler??) that took him 15 years to complete by using only a hammer, chisel and intuition as guidance. It is 500 square meters and has 7 entrances, 2 ventilation shafts, 2 kitchens, a sitting room, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a well. One has to scrunch down to manoeuvre through the “house”, but it is still a very impressive piece of work.

underground house

Tourism only came to Bali about 50 years ago, and that was only to the big city of Denpasar. It took about another 20 years for it to reach outlying areas such as Ubud and even longer to the island of Lembongan. Tourists used to come across in a sail boat, and it took 1 week. Now one can take a slow boat and be there in 1.5 hours, or a fast boat for double the price in ½ hour. This explains why the traditional way of life is still very strong on the island. The primary source of income is still fishing or seaweed farming. There is evidence of tiered rice fields, but they have long overgrown with jungle.


We were there with the tide reaching high by mid-morning, so at this particular time of the moon phase the seaweed farmers are out in their boats well before sunrise to bring in their 'harvest' while the water was still low. They load their boat up with seaweed, bring it back to the shore where it is all unloaded into large woven baskets and transported either atop the head or on bamboo poles to be dried on plastic tarps. The beach is an absolute beehive of activity as the sun starts coming up. They export to Japan. The white seaweed is sold for food, at 2000 rp / kg. The dark green is sold for cosmetics and medicine compounds, for 5000 / kg. - it does not weigh a lot, even when wet. With the advent of tourism, more and more fishermen and seaweed farmers are opting to build guesthouses or home stays, as the income is bigger and easier. We feel grateful to have witnessed and experienced a traditional way of life before tourism swallows it up.


Evenings are magical as the beach and water now belong to the kids. They splash about, chase each other along the beach, and make sand castles. They swim out to the bigger boats to play about as kids play in tree houses. They crawl to the top of the boat and jump off in a magnificent splash. Their friend on another boat beckons them and they swim over to it. They practice their surf moves on what appears to be cast off surf boards. Bear in mind the shore drops quickly, with these big boats being in about 2-3 meters of water. The kids frolic about like sea nymphs. The sun reflects brilliant orange on the water, sinking quickly and finally it disappears, as do the children.


All good things must come to an end, as did our vacation time. We took the later leaving speed boat back to the Bali mainland, as it afforded us a bit more time on what we feel to be Paradise Island. Then flew to Jakarta to catch our home bound flight back to the frozen north. If this trip taught us anything, it is that one can live very inexpensively in semi-luxury and beautiful surroundings. Sigh......

Ed & Irene

Places to stay:

Lembongan : Minami      125000 rp (8800 rp = $1 CDN)

Jakarta: FM7 Resort     610000 rp with airport shuttle service & spas

places to eat:

Waroeng Boemoe Bali     breakfast 20000 dinner 30000 large beer 22000




















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