Kicking off 2020 from Lombok, Indonesia

The 2020 New Year got off to an….interesting start.

After leaving New York following the Hayden Christmas celebrations, I flew through Hong Kong to Singapore. I stopped home briefly there to unload my winter items and pick up my pre-packed suitcase, then I was out the door an hour later on my way back to the airport. This time, I was off to celebrate New Years Eve in Lombok, an Indonesian island east of Bali known for its beaches, surfing and sea turtles (note the sea turtle bit is a piece of new information I wish I’d known prior to going). I checked in for my flight and from there, things got messy. At first, my flight was delayed three hours. Fine. Once we boarded, though, we didn’t move or hear any updates from the cabin crew. After nearly an hour, we received news from the pilot that the plane had a faulty part and we’d need to de-board. Fast forward another three hours and we were up and running, but I was exhausted by the time I reached the villa before midnight. Exhausted as I was, I can’t complain about the airline keeping its passengers safe, and to be completely frank, all I’d missed out on at the villa was a series of naps and walks, so there wasn’t much to whinge about. It’s my disaster return trip that really got tricky. More on that later.

The traveling group comprised of myself and Zé, along with our Singapore neighbors Mariam and Vlad (recurring characters in this blog), along with Zé’s work friends Debbie and Martina and business school friends João, Marcelo and their partners Camila and Alejandra. This is a group comprised of consultants and other high-performance individuals, so of course the only logical way to spend the last day of the decade was to focus on self improvement and skill mastery. It was time for my first-ever surf lesson and test out some surf lingo I’d always wanted to use but never had a reason for (for instance, announcing I was ‘amped to catch the perfect barrel’ the moment we left the house). It was a fun afternoon of catching some epic surf with my wave tribe (am I a surfer yet?), and we were particularly impressed by Marcelo, whose athletic ability reflected that of Kelly Slater starting from his first attempt to ride a wave.

For New Years Eve that night, we decided to dress in white, reflecting the shared Brazilian tradition of several of our group mates. The traditions says wearing white on New Years Eve will bring peace in the year to come. As a fan of peace, I was down for this.

The house staff prepared a delicious dinner that evening of rice, curry, and roasted vegetables, which we sat down to enjoy around 8PM alongside our cocktails. We discussed our various resolutions for the year, what we were grateful for in 2019, and how we believed the world would look in the coming year geopolitically (it seems one can never escape this topic these days). We enjoyed an after-dinner cocktail along with some card games, then headed out to the downtown village of Lombok afterwards. We stumbled upon a little haunt called Rasta Bar, which was a grubby as you’d imagine. There was a live cover band playing, and we got some drinks and enjoyed the music, toasting and cheering when the clock struck midnight. A new decade, woo hoo! Lots of fireworks of the unregulated variety went off to mark the occasion, and we danced and celebrated until our old selves could no longer stay awake. Which was approximately one hour after midnight.

The next day it was a dreary and cloudy day, which may sound dismal to some, but which actually presented the ideal setting for a day of rest and relaxation. Think reading, journaling, drawing, listening to music, and doing crosswords. I even taught my first-ever yoga class for the ladies of the group, jotting down a quick series of poses and leading the group through each of the postures. A new hobby on the first of the new year to top off a sweet day of slow nothingness. To cap it all off, every room in the villa was outfitted with some infinitely comfortable Indonesian-style robes, which we obviously reveled in all day long. A beautiful, lazy and truly gorgeous way to start off the year. (The resolutions could certainly wait…)

On the second day of 2020, we woke up for a ‘one hour drive’ (2.5, thanks to traffic and lack of infrastructure) in the Lower Gili Islands. The two islands we visited, Gili Sudak and Gili Kevis, are meant to be pristine and peaceful, but they weren’t the most impressive. The islands were crowded and polluted, and the water was a bit dirty. On top of the long drive, we likely could have done without this trip, but it was worth a shot, and nice to spend time together as a group outside the villa. For dinner that evening we headed back to the downtown area to Kenza Cafe, a cute and trendy place with modern, local options. The downtown area of Lombok is very up-and-coming, but not too many options exist at the moment. Between this and the terrible road condition, I think Lombok has a ways to go until it reaches the likes of Bali and the bigger Gili Islands in status, but that’s also what gives it a certain charm. If you’re willing to risk getting whiplash every time you hit the road.

I woke up the next morning feeling absolutely terrible (from either the food at Kenza or the lunch we enjoyed during our beach trip), and was very slow and groggy all day. We headed to a local beach near our villa, which was actually much nicer than the ones promised to be ‘pristine and peaceful’ in the Lower Gilis, but I wasn’t up for much more than lounging around and calming my stomach with ginger ale. I skipped dinner that evening as well, falling asleep around 6PM and, miraculously, I woke up the next day feeling 90% better. 24-hour stomach bug? Food poisoning? My condition will remain the Eighth Wonder of the World, but I was certainly happy to be able to be social again.

For our last day, we spent the morning gearing up to leave our villa, with a thinned-out group in tow. We shifted to another hotel, as the villa was booked out for that evening, and headed to another hotel in town. There, we spent the day doing much of the same thing we’d been doing all week, but on Saturday night, we met up with some friends of Vlad’s for dinner. They owned a nice restaurant in town, just a short walk from our new place, and we enjoyed a delicious meal with them. Afterwards, we headed to the Bus Bar, a low-key outdoor ‘club’ with DJs and a lively dance floor. We stayed for a bit with Vlad’s friends, and headed home shortly after midnight.

The next day marked the day we were all meant to fly out, on different flights but all around noon, so we headed to the airport together. What entailed for me was nothing short of a fiasco. I had accidentally booked a separate flight from Zé, so I was on my own for this one. I’ll save you the whole song-and-dance here, but the short story is the third-party vendor I used (Trip.com, the least organized and most faulty travel organization on the planet, in my unbiased opinion) shifted my flight to 9PM without alerting me. I attempted to call them, use their app, and email them to no avail. Fear not, however: I booked a new return flight for 5PM that day, and am putting my Michael Hayden skills to good use in my ongoing credit card dispute. #DMfordetails.

We had a nice time in Lombok, but I wouldn’t necessarily go rushing back. I wasn’t overly impressed by the beaches, and the lack of infrastructure and options for dining had me pining for more. I think there are many nicer options across Asia if you’re looking, though I imagine this won’t be the case in 10 years for this rapidly-growing island. Overall though, it was a nice trip with good company, a way to ease back into the Eastern time zone, and a restful break that got me energized to take on 2020.

Some photos from my trip to Lombok: