Island life

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August 5th 2019
Published: August 6th 2019
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A lot of the people reading this blog know we love islands. We love island life and island time. We adopt the often simple living that comes with islands and we easily make ourselves at home in a basic bamboo cabin. Islands are kind of our natural habitat ;-) Island hopping, flying and ferrying have occupied us the past month. From Tioman (Malaysia) we hopped to Singapore (which is an island), from Singapore via Bali to Sumbawa, and then Flores, Lembata and finally Alor where we are now and from where we will hop over to Timor tomorrow.

We left Malaysia via the huge and efficient border post at Johor Bahru in a local bus crossing the river into Singapore. We both had not been in Singapore for a very long time and it was both fun and exciting to be back. We checked ourselves in in a capsule hotel centrally located in downtown Singapore. Accommodation in Singapore is over the top expensive so the capsule hotels are a good and convenient solution and after getting used to the small space that was our capsule we enjoyed the facilities and the location.

Singapore is a great mix of cultures and life in Singapore is all about food and eating. Everywhere and every moment of the day there are people eating and talking about eating. A lot of people from all over Asia have started their restaurants as a hawker stall in the city. Some of these hawkers are famous for their specialty dish like for example hawker Chan’s soy-chicken-and-rice. Chan became even more famous after Michelin rewarded him, his stall and his soy-chicken-and-rice dish with a Michelin Star. We have explored Singapore downtown, China Town and Little India and we jumped right into the culinary craziness. It was great fun finding the best dumplings, noodles, soy-chicken-and-rice, black pepper crab, chilli crab and drunken prawns.

We meet Monique and Madelon, our friends from the Netherlands, who have put a lot of effort in coming to Singapore to meet us. We spend five beautiful days together, catching up, eating and drinking, exploring Singapore and just hanging out as friends do. We visit the Super Tree Grove at the Gardens at the Bay at night for a magical light and sound show. We experience a crazy show of firing cannons, fighter plane flybys and fireworks, all part of the rehearsal for National Day.

We meet June, a Singaporean friend of Judith, after not having seen each other for around 20 years. It’s impossible to catch up all these years but having lunch together and ending up at the beach with a beer closes the time gap easily. She joins us and Monique and Madelon at East Coast Park Jumbo restaurant for an amazing seafood dinner.

We meet Sigrid, another friend from the Netherlands but living in Australia since a long time and now working in Singapore. It’s great to meet her and her husband Callum and son Brunel and to have a typical Singapore dinner at a hawkers centre. Way too little time is left for us to catch up but it’s great to feel that friendships last.

After this intense, very social, fun five days we fly to Bali. We don’t feel like spending a lot of time on Bali where we expect too many holidaying tourists so we only spend one night here before continuing to Bima on Sumbawa island in central Indonesia. From Bima we directly go by local bus to Sape where we catch the first ferry to Flores island the next day. We end up in Labuan Bajo as this is the entrance to Komodo National Park. We got a lastminute offer we could not refuse from some super enthusiastic Indonesian dive fanatics and suddenly we have bought our place on board of a 4 day / 3 night live-aboard dive trip.

The trip is super, the crew is cool, the ship is good, the other passengers are a great bunch and the diving is just amazing. Life on a live-aboard consists of eat-dive-eat-dive-eat-dive-eat-sleep and repeat and it’s wonderful. We do some incredible dives, some in strong current, once being ‘slingshot’ by the enormous current through a canal where we get to hang out with a manta ray. Nature is again amazing and the beautiful animals underwater leave a firm impression with us. We got so close to manta rays, we got to swim with an eagle ray, we encountered many beautiful sharks and turtles, it was really a highlight in our trip.

With Grace and Matt, a couple from Canada we had met at the live-aboard, we decide to continue our travelling. We arrange a car and driver and are driven around and across the island of Flores during five days. We get along very well and during the rides and dinners there are hardly any silences because we have so many things to talk about. We visit a number of traditional villages with traditional houses where the local people now and then gather for their ceremonies.

We are extremely lucky when we step out of the car to take some pictures and we hear loud music in a small village down the road. Our driver beckons us to come with him because he has some family living in the village and suddenly we are seated with the village elders where we are offered locally brewed arak and where we are welcomed in their village. There is a huge crowd of only locals and no tourists outside gathered around a dry plot of land where the local men are performing a traditional dance in which they fight each other with whips. It looks very serious and not like dancing at all and some of the men have bad injuries. It’s very impressive and we feel special to be allowed to attend. A bit later we are invited to have lunch with the uncle of our driver and his family which is heartwarming. We are not very sure about what meat we had but the dogs in the village are clearly not kept as pets.

We drive through lush nature, beautiful rice fields and a lot of cacao and banana trees. We visit a volcano with three coloured lakes and we stay the nights in small towns on the way. After five days we end up at the beach on the north east side of Flores island where we find a perfect small family run resort with 4 bamboo huts where we decide to stay for a while. Every day we go snorkelling, we sit at the beach watching the sun set and we have some great fresh fish. Life is good.

Another ferry brings us, after saying goodbye to Matt and Grace, from Larantuka to Lewoleba at Lembata island. We are getting seriously off the beaten track now and there are no other travellers on the island and the locals are intrigued and curious when they see us. Almost every single person, young and old, shouts ‘hello mister’ to us as soon as they see us. This apparently is the only thing they can say in English so they also use it with Judith. We get the biggest smiles from everybody when we say one or two words back, both in English and Bahasa Indonesia. There is no tourist infrastructure on this island so we stay in a local hotel with some business people and we rent a scooter and ride around the island, looking for places to snorkel which we did not find. We ride around one of the big volcanoes without finding a single place for coffee or food. But we do find a beautiful totally deserted white sand beach and we do end up at some kind of fair where suddenly we are the center of attention instead of the things they were actually presenting. On Lembata exists a village where the men hunt whales in a traditional way but we decide that we really don’t want to see this, it must be really horrible and we don’t want to give the locals the impression that we find it interesting or that we support their old-fashioned practice, so we just don’t visit the place.

From Lembata we take the weekly local ferry to Alor island. The ferry is hours late but we find ourselves a good bunkbed and are able to sleep most part of the night. Alor island is one of the last islands in a row and also rather off the beaten track. Again all the people are extremely friendly and all shout ‘hello mister’ hundreds of times a day. We feel like celebrities, it’s really fun and just extremely friendly, nobody asks us for anything unlike in other parts of the world. Also on Alor we ride around on a scooter and in five days we visit all the beaches we can find and we snorkel in the clear waters above beautiful healthy coral gardens and reefs with many colourful fishes. On our last day after our last snorkelling session while sitting on a beach we suddenly see a huge shape surfacing. An enormous blue whale pops up a few times to breath before it swims off. Wow this was magical!

Yep, island life is a good life.

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