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March 19, 2019

Motorcycle adventures

Carolyn Hong discovers scenic spots while getting lost on the Indonesian islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan

Carolyn Hong

I have a confession: I am scared of riding motorbikes.

But there were not really any other practical option to explore Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan — tiny islands off mainland Bali — given their maze-like pathways and narrow bridges.

My husband is accustomed to the challenging dirt roads of our home village in Sarawak, but I panicked as I perched on that tiny moving seat. Gradually, it began to feel pretty sweet to be traversing through the landscape without protective metal around us.

We could smell the sea and air, feel the wind, and see people tending to their outdoor prayer altar. We could hear them say hello to us, and we could say hello back. That made our visit to these two islands a whole lot more fun.

Rustic charm

Visitors to Bali Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan may be reminded of what Bali used to be before it became a tourist magnet.

Quiet, rustic and oh, such gorgeous scenery. Both islands are not exactly off the beaten track as there are resorts, restaurants and day-trippers, but they are not overrun either.

At Nusa Lembongan, we stayed a few nights in one of a cluster of chalets with thatched roofs, surrounded by residential homes (that houses not just humans, but also chickens and dogs) in a village. Its owner told us that his wife had run a homestay here for almost a decade before he quit his job to expand it into a guesthouse as business picked up.

That story made us feel hopeful that Bali’s tourism boom has not bypassed the local people. While this family-owned enterprise was not a five-star accommodation, there was so much heart in its story, and so much warmth and friendliness as the owner shared his dreams with us.

The next morning, we hired a purple motorcycle to head up the hill to explore the area.

We found the roads confusing to navigate and promptly got lost.

A few random turns led us to an empty beach and upon backtracking, we somehow found ourselves outside a temple elsewhere. But we eventually found our bearings on a coastal road meandering along a scenic stretch of water.

Scenic discoveries

Virtually everywhere on Nusa Lembongan offered unparalleled views of the water. We particularly loved walking on the cliffs between Sunset Beach and Dream Beach, and the spectacular cliff outcrop called Devil’s Tears. The surf there can rise above the shore, so it is wise to keep an eye out for waves that can surge metres high and wash right over the cliffs.

It was mesmerising to watch the waves roll into a blowhole before bursting forth with a mighty spray dubbed the Devil’s Tears. Sometimes, delicate rainbows form in the spray, quivering for a few seconds before disintegrating into drops drifting into the ocean.

Getting across from Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Ceningan was a breeze on a motorcycle. There is a quaint yellow bridge linking the two islands, and it functions as a busy highway for locals and tourists to cross between the islands. Some years ago, it collapsed and caused several tragic fatalities, but the reconstruction seemed sturdy.

If you compare both islands, you will fi nd that Nusa Ceningan has far fewer tourist amenities. But we found it fun to explore its pathways to seek out vantage points for the most stunning views of the bluest, fiercest ocean waves.

We did not have a map, so we made turns at random and ended up at a quaint eatery perched on a cliff top with breathtaking views.

We were not hungry but felt compelled to stay to admire the views.

It is easy to sit there all day, mesmerised by the waves — and cliff jumpers. This is a popular spot for daredevils to leap dozens of metres into the crashing waves below. Surprisingly, there was no shortage of them, and each stunt brought my heart leaping to my throat.

For sure, I would not let my husband try it. For the less adventurous, there was a zipline that provided a few adrenaline-fuelled seconds of flying through the sky.

Our decision to visit the two islands was a good one — it felt like being on a holiday within a holiday. We did not feel rushed and slowed down our pace. In fact, we spent a lot of time just sitting around, watching life go by, and chatting with people around us.

Our trip ended on a memorable note. As we were returning to our accommodation one day, we tipped the motorcycle over on a tight sandy corner. We took a tumble but, fortunately, fell lightly and suffered only minor abrasions.

With plasters on our knees, we soon forged an unexpected camaraderie with other accident-prone visitors. Nusa Lembongan’s sandy paths have claimed more than a few skinned knees, it appears.

But it will not stop us from coming back to this beautiful place again.

Getting there 

- We took a fast boat from Sanur on mainland Bali to Nusa Lembongan. Check to see if your accommodation on the island can arrange the transport.

Traveller’s tips 

- We hired the motorcycle for 800,000 Indonesian rupiah (76 Singapore dollars) a day, including fuel.

It had more than enough fuel to last the day but if you run out, there are many stalls selling small bottles of fuel.

- Save your shopping for Bali unless you are after a Nusa Lembongan T-shirt. It is a hassle to lug heavy bags onto the boat, and things also cost more on Nusa Lembongan, which is not surprising as everything has to be ferried in by boat.

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