Lombok: The Beach

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We finally got round to seeing the beach, going southeast to a different set of Gili islands from the usual Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan. These Gilis were called Gili Nanggu and Gili Sudak. We drove about 2 hours down, following the winding road till we found the beach at Sekotong and rented a boat for the day. The boatmen took us in turn to each island, stopping first at the smallest one, a mere splodge of sand fringing the coast.

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It was a beautiful splodge of proper white sand, albeit rather coarse. This was a far cry from the brown beaches of Senggigi – I didn’t even bother writing about that. We circled the island, found a nice spot and enjoyed the water for a bit.

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Then it was off to the next island, Gili Sudak, where we took a walk along the beach, thinking it wasn’t such a big islet. By the time we got round to the edge of the island, we realised that it might be bigger than we thought. For a moment, we wondered whether we’d starve by the time we got back to the little cafe for lunch.

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But it wasn’t too bad. After crossing round to the back of the island, there wasn’t a great deal more to go and we again sat and enjoyed the beach. The waves were a little too strong for us to venture into the sea, so we saved that for the next island. We headed to our cafe for a simple lunch of nasi goreng and vegetable soup made with a chicken stock cube.

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Then it was more lying around on Gili Nanggu. We wanted to go snorkelling, but the conditions weren’t good enough. Close to the beach, the waves churned up too much sand and further away, the waves seemed a little too aggressive.

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We ventured into the island and found a little turtle conservation area. There was lots of little pools of  turtles of different ages. I think this little fella is a green turtle. We gawked for a while and then gave a little donation at the centre.

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Then we lounged under some casuarina trees for a nap and headed back to Lombok.

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Our final meal in Lombok was this fantastic sop buntut, also known as oxtail soup. Again, Ibu Rosa at Villa Sayang recommended this place. It was sop buntut as I’ve never known before. The place was someone’s front sitting room converted into an eating house. It appeared that there was only one dish served here. Everyone had generous portions of tender oxtail in a thick, almost stew-like broth. They’d obviously spent ages gently cooking the oxtail as the soup was immensely flavourful and unctuous with collagen. The flavour was so intense that the were lime wedges provided to cut through the richness. I also liked the very spicy chilli sauce accompaniment – alternating mouthfuls of soup, chilli-spiced oxtail and plain rice was enough variety that I didn’t even think of having other dishes for our meal. They were very generous with the oxtail as well: plenty of soft meat that couldn’t help but be flavourful, and almost melted tendon. I think I’d return to Lombok just for this amazing dish. It was definitely the best sop buntut I’ve had.

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And with that marvellous meal, we ended our relaxing trip to Lombok. I think I enjoyed the eating far more than any other activity there!

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June in Thailand: Doing Good the Muddy Way

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My computer is finally fixed and I bring you yet another instalment of my Southeast Asian jaunt, now a good two years ago. This time, I spent a month in Thailand doing only land activities. I started in Bangkok and bunked in with Dee. The weekend I arrived, she had a company charity activity to which she very kindly invited me. It was a trip to the swampy river delta south of Bangkok to replant mangroves.

It started off with a briefing that went right over my head since it was in Thai, but there was a sign in English that basically said don’t stand up in the longtail boat or you’ll fall over.

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We headed down the very muddy distributory of the Chao Phraya with the offboard motor chugging away.

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Soon we pulled out of the hamlet of shacks lining the muddy stream and ended up in the mangrove area. The prop roots stuck out from the mud, forming a rather odd sort of undergrowth.

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We soon spied the monkeys emerging from the mangrove trees.

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They were all rather bedraggled from the mud and were lured out by the combs of bananas brought by the boatman. Odd, because I thought we were there to regrow the mangroves, not feed the monkeys living in them!

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The monkeys were quite aggressive, baring their teeth and fighting each other for the fruit. I was quite glad that we kept our distance. Sometimes the bananas fell into the edge of the stream, but this hardly deterred the monkeys at all. One of them simply washed off the excess mud and then gobbled up the delicacy.

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Soon we ran out of bananas and headed out into the delta proper. Here, the stream disappeared. It merged into the mud and we were doing nothing but float over it.

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It wasn’t until we saw the other boat in the distance that we realised exactly how much mud we were into. The propeller spattered mud high in the air as it travelled across the area.

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It wasn’t quite your usual seaside scenery, but was nonetheless rather impressive.

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The beautiful clouds and vast expanse of mud-sea was surprisingly lovely.

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We passed by some mussel farms. Now I know why bad mussels are full of muddy grit.

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There were also oyster farms, which I’m glad to report supplied mainly to oyster sauce factories and weren’t meant for direct consumption.

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Before long, we stopped at an attap house and retired there from the heat of the day.

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We hadn’t done any work yet but were treated to a very sumptuous local meal, featuring plenty of fish and yes, mussels. The food was as amazing as expected…

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… and we soon fell asleep in anticipation of our hard labour ahead.

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After the siesta, it was time to get muddy.

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Don’t ask me why everyone else got right into the mud and started flinging the stuff everywhere. It wasn’t that we really were required to get into the mud. What we did was to get shuttled out to the nursery of mangrove saplings out here and tie each sapling to a little bamboo support. Each person got about 20 bits of string and was shuttled out by one of the locals on a little wooden board.

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It was quite amusing that we came this far just to tie a few pieces of string round some saplings, but I guess we brought some money to the local economy and encouraged them to conserve their mangroves. The subsequent mudskiing (it’s exactly what it sounds like) was a lot more fun. Too bad that for obvious reasons I have no pictures to show for it.

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It was a lovely day out just hanging with Dee and her colleagues. While not a particular authentic experience, it was nice to see what Bangkokites got up to when they wanted to make a little difference to their part of the world.

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