I spent far too much time at the beginning of the year working like a crazed person but I've totally made up for it in the past few months with way more than my fair share of gadding from beach to beach where I've generally just flopped in a hammock and snoozed in the sun.
Continuing in the same lazy vein, it's taken me forever to get myself in gear, sort through the photos and blog about my adventures. Finally though, here's part one of the peek into where I've been and what I've been doing.
So, it's up, up and away - first stop Lombok, neighbouring island to Bali, home to beautiful beaches, lots of paddy fields and a great big active volcano...
We started off the trip with three nights of flopping by the pool at the Puri Mas up on the North-West coast of Lombok just outside of Senggigi. We booked our room very last minute on Agoda so we really weren't expecting much. When we arrived to a huge room complete with a big sunny terrace and its very own plunge pool, we were very happy holidayers indeed.
The Puri Mas is a little dated but the pool's great, the rooms are luxe-comfy and service is friendly and efficient. The food at the resort is fine with a decent selection of local and international dishes but a quick wander down the beach leads to more exciting options. At one end of the spectrum, there are beach shacks where you can feast on piles of pea nutty chicken satay washed down with Bintangs, and at the other, there's Qunci Villas' very good beachfront Medditerranean restaurant (top tip - book ahead and request one of the waterside tables).
The beach that the hotel sits on is pretty desserted save for the odd fisherman or pack of local children playing in the water. It's not the most picture perfect beach as the sand's volcanic so a little grey, but that's the case for all the beaches along this stretch of coast.
The Gilis are a chain of three islands - Trawangan, Air and Meno. Gili Trawangan is the largest, most developed and known for being the biggest party island. All three are pretty backpackery but have a couple of more high end resorts too.
The Gillis are a short twenty minute boat ride away from mainland Lombok, but in a bid to save cash (what turned out to be about 5 pounds when we worked it out...), we got a public boat rather than a little speedboat. Two hours later, we agreed that the saving hadn't really been worth all the bobbing in the airless boat waiting for the captian to show up followed by a terrifying five minutes midway into the crossing when the boat ran out of petrol and the skipper refilled the tank with a cigarette hanging from his lip as we drifted perilously near a reef... Thankfully it all ended well, and once we'd got over our traumatic crossing and settled into our little B&B, we were already laughing about it all.
We stayed at the very imaginiatively named Trawangan Resort which was small, simple and unexpectedly stylish with a very cool outdoor bathroom. The location is the real reason to choose the Trawangan Resort though, right on a quiet stretch of beach with a laidback little beach bar, it's a short stroll from the main stretch of restaurants and bars but far enough out to be quiet if you fancy an early night.
We decided to kick off our stay with a bit of exploring, so set off on a wander around the circumference of the island. The walk only takes a couple of hours but it was a scorching day, so we made sure we included plenty of rehydration breaks (hello fresh coconuts!) and cooling dips in the sea.
Finally arriving back where we started, we flopped onto a couple of large beanbags under a parasol and downed a few well-deserved Bintangs as the sun set.
The next few days were much less energetic and mainly consisted of lots of lazing at Pearl Beach Club, plenty of BBQed lobsters and more than a few cocktails... The only downside to Gili Trawangan is that the beaches are a bit corally which means that although they look pretty in photos, they're a bit hurty to walk on, and swimming requires flip flops to avoid lacerated feet.
Being a picky princess aside, Gili Trawangan was the perfect mix of laid-back and lively and by the time we boarded our (private) speedboat back to the mainland our heads were a little sore and we were ready for some serious switch-off, zone-out relaxation.
Luckily for us, that's exactly what we got. Cutting a diagonal swathe across Lombok to the South-Eastern tip, we arrived at Jeeva Beloam AKA paradise.
We've already waxed lyrical about Jeeva but just in case you missed them the first time round, this is what heaven looks like...
Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment - Malaysia...