Kuching to Bali to Lombok



Mount Ruang is not my favorite volcano by any stretch of the imagination. We left Kuching on time at 2pm and then ended up sat at Kota Kinabalu airport for a good 6 hours longer than anticipated because of volcanic ash from the Javan eruptions.  We are trying to get from Kuching to Bali to Lombok today.

Between the loudest departure announcements in the world, EVER, the alarms from the massage chairs (which beep continuously if you sit in the chair without depositing money) that only seem to be noticed by people NOT sitting in them and horrendously loud families who clearly don’t understand that “children should be seen and not heard” this has to be one of the worst flight delays in a long, long time.

So it was later than late when we arrived at Denpasar Airport – or more correctly – Ngurah Rai International Airport on the Indonesian island of Bali. Immigration was simple and quick. Easier since the recent news that Brits now get a 30 day tourist visa for FREE (instead of a previous cost of US$35) if they enter and leave through certain border check points (one such being here).


When we travelled there was very little online booking available for buses, trains and ferries in Indonesia & Malaysia – the folks at Easybook have now remedied that – check timetables and book tickets online now – its WAY easier!

Getting cash out was harder, mainly because everyone wanted to and there were long lines for the three ATM’s after immigration. We ended up in two lines and with several transactions (as transaction amounts are limited to 2.5 million Indonesian Rupiah) – now that’s quite a lot, I hear you say, (actually only US$174, GBP 111.00) but we had an upcoming boat trip to pay for and were attempting to avoid the 3% credit card surcharge by paying cash – as, since changing my current account, we don’t pay for cash withdrawals from foreign banks.

After a successful run on the cash machines it was time to run the gauntlet of the taxi drivers. When everything you read is that there are fixed prices for taxis you tend to relax. When that price from the airport to Kuta, (just literally 3km down the road) is 70,000 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) (US$4.80, GBP 3.11) then you relax more.
When it’s 2am the taxi mafia is out in force and the price was 200k.

“We’ll walk”, said Nigel and we set off.

We made it about 40 meters before we hooked up with an unlicensed (and therefore uninsured) driver who agreed to take us to Bemo Corner, in the middle of Kuta for 100k. And that’s where I stood while Nige scoped out where we needed to be in a few short hours.


Kuta is probably my worst nightmare.

Described as loud, frenetic and brash, by the Lonely Planet, it’s the place to go for cheap all day and night drinking, partying and mopping it up with high carb meals before starting all over again.

We thought that by arriving at 930pm we’d get to see if it was really like all the reports and then leave at 6am the next day.

By the time we checked in to the Bemo Corner Guest house – chosen for its location some 150 meters from the Perama Tours office, that we needed for our 6am bus – it was 230am. The alarm was set for 5am.

I closed my eyes and tried to will myself to sleep while Kuta continued to beep it’s horn, rev it’s engine and party. It was all still going on when I opened my eyes at 5am, showered and wandered up the road to the Perama office and pay our ticket to Lombok, because if the full day of travel yesterday from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu – the hours in the airport and then the flight wasn’t enough – we’ll be spending the entire day today also traveling.

Our bus left Kuta at 6am with enough legroom for a toddler. Sitting with their legs crossed. (here’s a hint, get on first and snag the front seats, they have marginally more room). Luckily it wasn’t anywhere near full and we were all able to take two seats each and sit sideways. We dropped folks at Ubud, picked others up and arrived at Padang Gai at the cafe stop frequented by the Perama Tours buses (the ferry port where virtually all the ferries and fast boats leave Bali for Lombok from) at 08:30.

When we travelled there was very little online booking available for buses, trains and ferries in Indonesia and South East Asia – the folks at Easybook have now remedied that – check timetables and book tickets online now – its WAY easier!

Time for breakfast before we headed to the ferry. While we tucked into eggs and noodles, our fellow travelers chain smoked their way through the next 20 minutes, ensuring that most of the second hand smoke was wafted in our direction. I’m glad to be leaving Bali, I’m not enjoying it so far. I’m also disappointed that we’re taking the smokers with us.

Little do I know at this point that 90% of all Indonesian men smoke and 90% of all Western tourists we bumped into did too. 100% of them are keen to emphasize any points they want with a wave of the hand holding the lit fag. At AUS$2 a pack of 20 compared to AUS$28 at home, one Australian women stated, she couldn’t afford to give up.

I am not having a love affair with Indonesia at this point.

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We’re on the 9am public ferry to Lembak on the island of Lombok. This ferry apparently goes every hour, 24 hours a day. Most tourists will use fast boats to get to Lombok, but we’re in the cheap seats. It’s a car ferry as well, and there’s one deck for passengers.

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Plenty of outside sitting space, if you like sitting on the deck itself. There’s a “cafeteria”, where pot noodles and snacks are for sale. There’s a movie that plays throughout our journey, some seats have tables, some are just padded benches.

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At the back of this “cafeteria” is a double decker row of thin, plastic covered mattresses, that you can lie on for the duration for 50,000 IDR each.

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Or you can take a “cabin” for a negotiable amount. We poke a local guy who’s laid out across one of the seats, move him and sit down. On the free seats.

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The journey passes relatively quickly, it’s a smooth crossing and at 3:30 pm we pull into Lembar harbor where a Perama driver is waiting for the 7 of us who have a drop off in Senggigi.

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Marta who we’ve shared the journey with will be on the same boat that we are tomorrow.

We’re at the Hotel Puri in Senggigi – which gets the best of a bad lot of reviews on TripAdvisor.

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It has a nice looking pool that we don’t use. Internet that doesn’t work at all during our stay and what appears to be a swarm of locusts at breakfast the next morning as hordes of western tourists converge on free fried rice, eggs, toast, tea and coffee, mostly unable to wait until they’ve finished eating before lighting up another cigarette to share with the rest of us.

We found internet at a bar, fast enough to Skype (voice) home, drank a few cold beers while listening to two pickled Australian blokes putting the world to rights and arguing that the world is over populated and that selectively reducing some of that population would be a good thing for the globe. I agreed (silently) with them, thinking they’d make perfect first in line candidates.

Oh dear Indonesia. I’m not loving Senggigi either.
We seem to have found ourselves in amongst hordes of heavily tattooed, loud, chain smoking westerners trying to find themselves while drinking copious amounts of Bintang beer and eating pizza.
It’s a relief when our late running bus picks us up. We’re taking a Kencana Adventures  Phinisi boat on a 6 day, 5 night liveabord trip to Komodo Island, Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores, Rinca Island and then back to Lombok.

(A Phinisi boat is a traditional two masted wooden sailing boat — ours has the addition of an engine)

The thought that we’ll probably be sharing it with the hordes I mentioned above is more than a little disturbing. Still I suppose we could stay in our cabin for 6 days..



Don’t forget to book your buses, ferries and trains – and confirm your travel. Easybook have the largest network in South East Asia!


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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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