Travel Southeast Asia: Bustling Bali vs. Laid-Back Lombok

Travel Southeast Asia: Bustling Bali vs. Laid-Back Lombok

foreign-correspondent badge finalFamous Bali has been drawing in tourists for ages with its volcanic hillsides, picturesque rice paddies, and of course the notorious surfer-style beaches. But, while Bali has been bursting with millions of tourists annually, Lombok–Bali’s sister island– has remained low-key and unspoiled, only slightly tainted by tourism, comparatively speaking, and home to a sparse tourist industry (for now).

When it came to planning our Indonesian vacation we didn’t want to be disappointed by the crowded, dirty, and hawker-filled Bali beaches, but we also didn’t want to miss out on Bali itself, which everyone seems to love so much.

With that in mind, we opted for three days on Lombok for the quiet pristine beaches, and three days in Ubud (Bali) for glistening green rice paddies, world renowned cuisine, 5-star spa experiences (at a 1-star price), and some up-close-and-personal monkey business.

Simply put, the beaches on Lombok are worth the extra effort.

Travel Southeast Asia: Bustling Bali vs. Laid-Back Lombok

Here’s why it was worth it:

Tourism is a major contributor to Bali’s economy and the condition of and crowds on the beaches reflects just that. When I go to a beach, especially with my boyfriend, I want serenity, privacy, and a gasp-worthy view. Maybe my standards are a bit high, but what can I say? I’ve been living and traveling in Thailand for several years and have seen paradise. I know it’s out there, so I’m always determined to find it again.

Simply put, the beaches on Lombok are worth the extra effort.

Horse-drawn carts clopped passed and puppies wrestled curbside everyday as we hopped on our motorbike to explore the many nooks and crannies of the island.

Even though Bali is busier and some areas may be less desirable than others, Ubud is absolutely charming.

We drove around in search of the best beaches and each day we were pleasantly surprised. Some beaches are better than others. Some are for fishermen and can be a little dirty, but some are for swimming with crystal clear turquoise water. Some are for surfing, with strong waves and good breaks. Some have soft white sand and some beaches even have sand granules that look like Dippin’ Dots ­– which, by the way, make for a fantastic impromptu foot massage.

If you have high expectations for beaches, love tropical tranquility, and don’t really want or need a nightlife scene, then take a 25-minute flight from Bali to Lombok for a few days.

After a few days rejuvenating on the beach, we headed back to Bali to spend the tail end of our trip in Ubud, Bali’s cultural hub.

Even though Bali is busier and some areas may be less desirable than others, Ubud is absolutely charming.

Ubud was perfect for an affordable day of pampering, fantastic vistas while riding on the back of a motorbike to nearby temples, and trying amazing Balinese dishes on the cheap.

You might not find love in Ubud like in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, but if you’re nice and are bearing some bananas you might be lucky enough to cuddle with an adorable and rambunctious monkey.

There’s so much to do in Ubud, but we were able to fit in our must-dos into a quick visit.

We headed straight to the Monkey Forest, conveniently located on Monkey Forest Rd., and played around for a while with the little guys and took an obscene amount of photos. Then, we rented a motorbike from our homestay and ventured out to see the breathtaking views of rice paddies and temples. Lastly, I spoiled myself with a Balinese massage for roughly $20.

Of course we stopped at numerous street side warungs (restaurants) to try just about anything, such as traditional tempeh concoctions, suckling pig, tuna cooked in a banana leaf, and scrumptious curries.

At night, we slung back a few Bintang beers with some friends and swapped our Ubud stories.

You might not find love in Ubud like in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, but if you’re nice and are bearing some bananas you might be lucky enough to cuddle with an adorable and rambunctious monkey.

So, Bali or Lombok? Well, I couldn’t decide either and I’m glad I couldn’t. Both were completely worth a visit for their own unique reasons. A week was not even close to enough time to explore both of these special places thoroughly.

Time moves way too quickly in places like Lombok and Ubud, so do your best to soak up all they have to offer.

Travel Southeast Asia: Bustling Bali vs. Laid-Back Lombok

Further Bali travel tips:

1. If you do decide to fly from island to island, you may come across problems when booking online with Lion Air, or any of the Indonesian airlines as the websites require you to have an Indonesian credit card. As soon as we landed in Bali, we just bought tickets at the airport with no problems. If you’d like to plan more in advance, look into an Indonesian travel agency to help with the flights.

2. There is a $25 visa on arrival fee when you land in Bali. But, there is also an exit fee of 200,000 Rp for international flights and there is even a 40,000 Rp exit fee to fly domestically. It’s a pretty annoying fee, so save yourself the hassle and make sure to save some extra cash.

Travel Southeast Asia: Bustling Bali vs. Laid-Back Lombok Related Reading

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Have you traveled to Southeast Asia? How was your trip? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

About Kaitlin Kimont

Kaitlin KimontKaitlin is based in Bangkok, Thailand currently working as a freelance writer and English teacher. She’s making her way around Southeast Asia one country at a time, all the while gaining a subconscious, perhaps conscious, addiction to MSG and Thai milk tea.

Follow her on twitter @kaitlinkimont.

2 thoughts on “Travel Southeast Asia: Bustling Bali vs. Laid-Back Lombok

  1. Rita Nielsen
    Rita Nielsen
    September 29, 2014
    Reply

    Gili Air which is accessible by boat off of Lombok is also very beautiful. I got certified diving on Gili Air. Also very romantic and peaceful with horse drawn carriages and a no vehicle policy.

  2. Avatar
    Kathleen C. Kimont
    July 9, 2014
    Reply

    This article tantalizes the senses, as well as, the heart and soul of anyone who has traveled beyond their own backyard, creating an immediate desire to board the next flight to Bali…Ahhh the beaches! Kaitlin brought them to life for me and I live them for them! The contrast of atmospheres is so interesting, typical, and yet unique from all other exotic climates. That makes the urge to visit even stronger. What a gift my imagination and Kaitlin’s depiction has created!
    Thank you Kaitlin!

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