Paradise Found

by Johnny

Anna and I had envisioned spending the final couple of weeks of our trip lounging on tropical beaches, and we had read that the area around Kuta, Lombok (not to be confused with the party ghetto of Kuta, Bali) boasted some of the best undiscovered beaches in Indonesia. For those who don’t know (I certainly didn’t before researching this trip), Lombok is the island directly to the east of Bali, and, with the exception of Gili Trawangan, is largely ignored on most Indonesia travel itineraries. Thanks to a brand new airport only 15 minutes away, Anna and I were able to forego the 6-hour ferry ride and 2-hour taxi ride previously required to get to Kuta for a $30, 30-minute flight (albeit a pretty bumpy one). We checked into our guesthouse, rented a scooter for the next four days, filled it up with a 40oz of fuel from the kid next door, and set off to explore the coast of southern Lombok. I doubt our pictures or my writing can do the area justice.

The first beach we visited was Tanjung Aan, about 5km east of Kuta, where we posted up at a little beachfront restaurant called Sama Sama and took full advantage of their lounge chairs and fresh coconuts. We had the entire place to ourselves until a couple more tourists showed up in the afternoon. A giant bay with endless white sand and turquoise water, Tanjung Aan was one of the most beautiful beaches we’d ever seen.

On our second day, we drove to the west of Kuta down a dirt road that made South Africa’s roads look brand new to a beach called Mawun, which must be Indonesian for “Johnny’s paradise.” Seriously, it’s like my daydream visions of a secluded, tropical paradise, where rolling green headlands slope into white sand and azure water, materialized right here in the south of Lombok. I could probably search for the rest of my life for a beach as beautiful as Mawun and not find it. And the best part is, with the exception of a couple fishermen, their kids and a couple locals who kept an eye on our scooter, we had the entire beach to ourselves. After a few hours of basking in Mawun’s awesomeness, we navigated our way to an amazing lunch at Astari, where our salads were just as good as the view down the entire coast.

The last (but definitely not least) beach we rode to was Selong Blanak, located even farther to the west than Mawun. However, due to the terrible road conditions, we took a detour inland, passing several tiny villages along the way. Half of the villagers we passed greeted us with blank stares, while the other half (mostly kids) would yell, “Hello Mister!” and try to high-five us as we rode past. Either way, we got the feeling that a couple white people riding through these villages was a rare occurrence. We drove for about an hour, not knowing if we were going the right way, until we finally arrived at Selong Blanak. Hoh-hum…another picture perfect beach we had all to ourselves except for a few local kids having a blast in the water. This time, however, dark clouds came rolling in right after lunch. We tried our best to race home, but as soon as we started up the scooter it just started pouring on us. I’m talking Indonesian rainy-season tropical downpour. Getting drenched to the bone while riding past naked kids playing in puddles was definitely one of those “where are we and what are we doing right now?” moments.

When we weren’t busy exploring the most beautiful beaches in the world, we enjoyed hanging out in the tiny town of Kuta. It’s basically a one-road town right on the beach consisting of a handful of restaurants, shops and guesthouses catering mainly to visiting surfers, a mosque (it was crazy hearing the call of prayer for the first time since Turkey) and a rowdy Sunday market.

With a brand new international airport making the south of Lombok accessible to the masses, who knows how much longer the area will stay “off the beaten path.” One thing’s for sure, we felt lucky to find our own little undiscovered paradise there at the moment in time when we visited. With literally thousands of islands in Indonesia, though, we can’t help but think how many more treasures remain out there waiting to be discovered.

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