Tuesday, June 29, 2010

5 Days, 6 Provinces

Most people think that I have so much free time, since they see me traveling a lot. What people don't know is that my travels are all side trips from work, and most of these happen very quickly. I call it the speed tour.

Recently, I made a trip across the country, landing in 6 provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao, all in 5 days. In my next entries, I will sharing this speed tour: 5 Days, 6 Provinces.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Purimas Boutique Resort

This resort made me fall in love with Lombok. And I wasn't supposed to stay here. Because I missed my flight to Bali, a lot of changes were made, and all of them, fortunately turned out for the better. This resort is probably one of the best I have stayed in. Friends, welcome to Purimas Boutique Resort in Senggigi, Lombok Island, Indonesia.

I wasn't really expecting much from the resort, since I made the booking at the last minute, and I was torn between a lot of other resorts. I was supposed to stay in Quincy Villas but a report told me that the rooms were already worn out, and not as pictured in their website. So I took my chances and booked the best value room I could find. That was how I discovered Purimas.

I was really in for a surprise. My room cost only P2,100 (USD 45) and I didn't expect to check in something like this:

and sleep in a bed like this:

and shower in a bath like this.

I didn't even show you the terrace and the day bed inside the room (that makes 2 beds inside the room).

I settled in and did some research on my trip to the Gilis because there was free internet. Afterwards, I strolled around the resort since the room was near the entrance, and I hadn't seen nothing yet. I stopped at the restaurant to grab lunch.

I was also served a welcome drink, which was the greatest pineapple juice I had. I'm not a fan of pineapple, but this made me order pineapple juices and shakes once again.

I strolled some more towards the pool area, though it was raining. There were cabanas facing the sea where one can chill out.

There were also villas in the resort. It really has become a staple in resort accommodations. I wonder when the Philippines will catch up with this trend. Anyway, the Sunset Villa in Purimas was both modern and traditional. I remember spending my days in a villa in Bali last year.

There was a beach lounge just in front of the villa, but these can be used by all guests.

And finally the infinity pool. Purimas makes everything look very relaxed, hence the guests all look calm and peaceful. Oh, they don't allow children here, which adds to the serenity of the place. I guess they're one of those resorts targeted for honeymooners and all.

Their food was also excellent. I never left the resort for my 2 night stay there. I practically ordered everything in their menu. It was a mix of international and Indonesian cuisine. Lombok cuisine was known for their spicy additions to traditional Indonesia fare.

The resort was surprisingly huge. I saw a "mansion" villa at the back of the pool area. Turns out, that it was the residence of the owner - their own villa. It is also being rented out whenever they are not around. Prices of the villas range from USD 250 to 600 per night, which is again, not bad - considering the prices we have here.

The resort transforms at night, and becomes this hip and edgy boutique resort. During the daytime, everything seems like a scene from heaven, so there's a stark contrast.

But what I loved the most of course, is the service. I couldn't remember their names, but the resort staff welcomed me like I was part of their family. They were energetic, courteous, very pleasant and well-mannered. It's either they're well-trained or the people of Lombok are truly very friendly and hospitable.

You don't go to Purimas for the beach. You don't go to Purimas to pass some time. You go here to live life again, relax and recharge yourself. Purimas has given me the best value resort experience ever. Imagine, my entire bill was just P7,500 and I ate and ate and ordered. Plus the two nights in that beautiful and comfortable room. I met the owner and praised him with glee. I will definitely be back, to share the experience to more people.

Jl. Raya, Mangsit Beach, Senggigi, Lombok NTB, Indonesia

Tel: + 62 370 693 831
Fax:+ 62 370 693 023

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Beach House: Beyond Bali Series

I honestly had a difficult time selecting where to stay in Gili T. I was already booked in Villa Julius, when for some reason, I decided to change my mind. I tried to look for a room in the more high-end Villa Ombok and Luce D'Alma, but they were already full. I also called Scallywags, the number one choice in Tripadvisor, but that was also full. Thus, I ended up in The Beach House, which was also highly recommended by travel blogs.

I was picked up in Lombok and privately transferred via speedboat in front of the resort in Gili T. The Beach House had an ambience of a upscale accommodation for a backpacker. It had that backpacker vibe, but had more luxury.

There were several accommodation types in the Beach House, from villas to tree houses. I booked a deluxe bungalow for P3,000 (IDR 500,000) a night. For this type of accommodation, that's already cheap compared to those you find here in the Philippines.

The room was very spacious. It even had a walk in closet that was oddly bare. And of course, it had an outdoor bath, that made a difference to the standard rooms. I wanted to stay in the tree house, which was the cheapest accommodation type, but they were all occupied.

The Beach House had a pleasant infinity pool, and an inviting lounge area. The pool had brackish water. This was one thing I didn't like about the Beach House - no fresh water. I was told that this was consistent in all Gili T resorts. Villa Ombak had fresh water though, even in their pools. It was a way to conserve the precious resource. Thus, after taking a bath in salt water in the bath, there was a faucet that had fresh water, where you can rinse. Quite inconvenient I thought.

The Beach House, though, had a happening restaurant, popular for their seafood BBQ. It was also pleasant to have breakfast here (came free with the room by the way). There are also several other restaurants nearby, like the one in Scallywags which served fresh, healthy and sumptuous meals.

I wouldn't give The Beach House five stars, but it was not disappointing at all - except for the lack of fresh water though. I loved the vibe, and its central location. But if ever you are here for a break, try staying in Villa Ombak or Luce D'Alma for a more luxurious experience. Or if you want more adventure, stay in the many backpacker bungalows scattered all across the island. You wouldn't run out of options.

Gili Trawangan, Lombok, NTB | Phone: +62 370 642352

The Gilis: Beyond Bali Series

From Senggigi, I was picked up by my resort in Gili T and drove straight to a private pier for around 10 minutes. I was amazed at the lush scenery and the view of the islands of the Gilis from the dramatic coastal road that I passed though. From the pier, I took a speed boat to Gili T. All of this cost me P1,500 (IRD 180,000). A bit expensive, but I didn't want to risk losing time. And besides, my goal was to relax.

The Gilis are a cluster of 3 islands off Lombok. The largest of the islands, Gili Trawangan is the busiest and has the most resorts. Gili Meno and Gili Air are smaller, but also has their share of places to stay. The Gilis boast of white sand beaches, beautiful coral reefs and of course, true island vibe.

My choice of resort was The Beach House, just near the pier at central Gili T. When I arrived, I realized that it wasn't the best choice. The oldest and biggest resort, Villa Ombak, looked to have the best value. More on The Beach House in my next entry.

Gili T was surely laid back. No cars, just these horse driven carriages (kalesa in the Philippines) and motorbikes. It really reminded me of Boracay, but it wasn't as developed.

I wasn't that enthralled with the beaches as well. Sure, they were white, and probably the best I've seen in Indonesia, but nothing still compares with the ones in the Philippines. The nice thing about Gili T is that the white sand stretches all around the entire island. That's a long stretch of sand, in varying degrees though.

I decided to rent a bicycle for a day to explore the island. It cost me P300 a day (IDR 60,000). MY bike was a bit rickety, so I had to manage passing through the unpaved pathways and sand.

Going around the island was a treat, and a much needed exercise as well. I was able to see the entire island in just 3 hours, with stops of course. You could practically circle the island in less than an hour.

I stopped by a resort in a very isolated part of the island, where the beach was more pristine. I lay down on the beach with some beer bottles by my side. Afterwards, I passed by the Sunset Point, which actually had a lounge bar that closed down.

Some landscapes were interesting, but most of it were the same. Rain poured, so the day was quite cloudy, which was great, because it was really hot earlier on. I ended the loop in Villa Ombak, where I had lunch. I was happy and sweaty.

If you're ever going to the Gilis, you can actually take a regular ferry from Lombok (I just forgot the name of the pier), but any local would know it. I took the ferry back to the mainland, and rode a minibus (van) back to Senggigi. I had myself dropped off in the resort where I had set a massage session.

Gili T was quite rowdy at some time, since most of its visitors are young backpackers who get drunk every night. It is not a family destination, but it could be a place for honeymooners. There are some resorts that are isolated and more exclusive. Thus, Gili is not for everyone. I actually preferred staying in Lombok. Nevertheless, the experience was quite satisfactory, and I was glad that I have already conquered the Gilis.

Lombok: Beyond Bali Series

Lombok has always been an elusive destination for me. Ever since I have been visiting Bali, I try to make a trip to Lombok, but to no avail. This time, I made it happen.

Getting to Lombok is tricky for a lot of reasons. If you're coming from Bali, there are several options to choose from. Taking the fast ferry is perhaps the most popular, but is the most expensive. One way to Lombok or the Boracay-like islands of the Gilis will set you back P2,800 (IDR 450,000). And that's just one-way. You get there in 2 hours, through rough waters. Hence if you're not accustomed to the sea, then you'll be in pain all the way. The fast ferry though can take you straight to the Gilis, which is usually the ultimate destination of people going to Lombok.

The other option is by plane, which is faster (30 minutes) and costs P2,400 one-way (IDR 400,000). Call it weird, but it is cheaper. However, the plane lands in Mataram, the capital of Lombok island. If you're going to Gilis, then it will take another hour via land and sea travel, and it's not that easy going there, unlike in Thailand where every tourist destination is connected.

If you're coming from Jakarta, then you can take a Lion Air flight to Mataram for P3,600 (IRD 600,000) one way, so that eliminates the cost of going to Bali. This is cheaper of course if you're just going to Lombok.

So here was what I did. After missing my Air Asia flight to Bali, I booked a flight to Mataram the next day. I spent a night in Lombok in one of the best value resorts I have stayed (more on that later). Then, I booked a transport service to Gili Trawangan (Gili T), though my choice of resort, the Beach House. It wasn't practically a backpacking trip, since I pre-arranged everything. I was just too tired and had less time to explore.

The results? Well, I'm glad I missed my flight to Bali. I didn't visit Bali anymore. I booked another flight back to Jakarta via Lion Air from Mataram. I had a well-deserved relaxing trip in Lombok and the Gilis.

So what's in Lombok? Almost all say it's the next Bali. Think Bohol versus Boracay. Lombok is less crowded, less developed and more natural. The beaches on mainland Lombok aren't that good, except for the ones in Kuta Town up north. Otherwise, they have the same beach quality as Bali's. Thus, Lombok is more for a laid back escape. The only action happens in the tourist town of Senggigi, where all the restaurants, shops and activities are.

All in all, Lombok is what I pictured it to be, but I was quite surprised on how it still maintains its natural beauty. It is clean and picturesque, wild and imaginative, solemn and peaceful. I would definitely go back.

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