My Anniversary in Paradise – And How It Went Horribly Wrong

By the time we arrived on Nusa Lembongan my boyfriend, Aaron, and I had traveled through Southeast Asia for exactly 203 days.  For nearly seven months we’d lived out of backpacks, cohabitated in tiny (and often grimy) hotel rooms, and spent virtually 24 hours a day together.  We’d proved that we rock not only as travel partners but partners in life. The past year had been a whirlwind of spontaneous (and some say crazy) life decisions – we’d moved out of our house, sold all of our possessions and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok.  Through all of this there were the inevitable ups and downs, but after spending six amazing months exploring Southeast Asia we couldn’t have been happier with our decision.  With this in mind we were especially excited about our time on Lembongan not only because it marked the seventh month of our journey abroad but because it just so happened to be our anniversary.

We planned to spend a full week on Nusa Lembongan, a tiny island located just off the southern edge of mainland Bali, Indonesia.  Lembongan is the perfect anniversary spot because it’s both stunningly beautiful and blissfully peaceful.  When Aaron and I travel, we typically don’t like to spend more than $20 on a hotel room.  We try to keep a tight-ish budget.  However, since this was a special occasion we decided to splurge.  We spent $42 (over half of our daily budget) on an amazing two-story bungalow near Dream Beach, which is located in a secluded pocket of the island.  Our new room was a traditional Balanese-style hut, complete with a thatched roof and chocolate-colored walls carved from coconut palm wood.  To top it off there was an enormous open-air bathroom and a second-story balcony with an amazing view of the ocean.  Our first afternoon was perfect:  We lounged by the pool, strolled along the cliffs, and watched the giant turquoise waves roll onto Dream Beach.

And it was a dream…until night fell.

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Traditional Balinese bungalows located right on Dream Beach. (Note: this was not the hotel I stayed at.)
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The ocean view from our balcony. Gorgeous!

Aaron and I were sitting on our balcony, toasting our anniversary with Bintangs, and listening to the waves hammer into the surrounding cliffs.  We had just witnessed our first Lembongan sunset, watching the sky fade from a swirl of hot pink and neon blue to a star-speckled black.  This was the perfect setting for a quiet anniversary night.  I was lost in a zenned-out state when out of nowhere I heard the loudest sound in the world!  (Okay, I might be exaggerating but it was really loud.)  A man was performing a Hindu mantra at an insanely high volume.  The initial shock of the sound was so great I jumped out of my chair, splashing beer all over myself.  Aaron and I just looked at each other and started cracking up.  It was all pretty funny for about 20 minutes, but after that I just wanted the noise to stop assaulting my ears!

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The aqua blue waves churn the waters off the coast of Nusa Lembongan.
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Huge waves pound the island’s cliffs.

The chanting – which I later found out was part of a Hindu holiday ceremony – began at sunset and didn’t stop until just before midnight.  This was not some soothing song like I’d experienced on Gili Trawangan, where the Muslim call to prayer melodically drifts through the air from a distant mosque.  No, this was really freaking loud!  It turns out there was a makeshift speaker system set up directly across from our perfect little bungalow.  And there was nothing shielding us from the mantra which was being amplified at an ungodly level.  It was so intense Aaron and I couldn’t even hear each other talk, not even inside of our room.

The obvious solution would be to go somewhere, anywhere to get away from the noise.  But as part of our attempt to have a quiet and romantic anniversary our hotel just happened to be located on an isolated corner of the island.  There were only a handful of hotels clustered there.  And as far as we knew there were only two restaurants, both of which closed at 8:30pm.  Did I mention this was a quiet island?  And since this was our first day on Lembongan we had yet to rent a motorbike so we had no means of transport.  There was honestly no escape.  So there I sat on the balcony, defeated and bummed that our perfect anniversary plans and our expensive hotel room were turning out to be a complete disaster.

The chanting finally stopped at 11:38pm.  I remember the exact time because it was one the happiest moments of my life.  We were so relieved that we decided to just calm down and try to enjoy the rest of our night.  So we pulled out our laptop, got cozy in our bed and relaxed with a movie (which in all likelihood was some sort of horror movie because, yes, that’s just the kind of couple we are).

About 10 minutes into the film we both looked up and saw a huge, beady-eyed rat staring at us from the rafters a few feet above our bed.  It circled above us, jumping on the beams of our bungalow like it was its own private jungle gym, and then disappeared into a hole.  This went on for hours.  We made pathetic attempts to plug the holes with our bath towels but our efforts were fruitless.  The little guy kept reappearing, scurrying along the beams, and mocking us with yet another disappearing act.  So in an act of insanity ingenuity we used umbrellas, which were provided to us by the hotel, as tools to hit the wall whenever the rat appeared.  Yes, we looked like maniacs, but hey, it temporarily got him out of our room.

At about 2:30am we decided to give up on trying to scare the rat away and just go to sleep.  We spent the night with the lights turned on – this seemed to help keep him at bay.  And I spent the night slightly terrified that the rat would grow even more brazen and jump down onto the bed (thank god this did not happen!).  We were woken up periodically by the scratching of claws on the wooden beams and the high-pitched screeches he made whenever he entered the room.  Happy anniversary to us!

When the sun came up we were just so happy that nightmare of a night was over.  As soon as we walked out onto the balcony and looked out at Dream Beach it was pretty easy to recover from that awful night.  We still had six more days on Lembongan.  So in an effort to make up for our disastrous anniversary, we deemed the next six days to be our anniversary.  I mean, why not?  And let me just say, it was the best anniversary ever!

Stay tuned for more stories of my week-long adventure on Nusa Lembongan!

Do you have any funny travel mishap stories?  I’d love to hear them!

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

16 thoughts on “My Anniversary in Paradise – And How It Went Horribly Wrong

  1. At least it makes for a good travel story to laugh about at the end..:)

    I’ve stayed once at a hostel room facing a disco. It was fine until after midnight. I can tell you that ear plugs are a really useful handy to have on travels for these occasions…because the music was blasting away till the wee morning…and i could not sleep until i put in the ear plugs…it was that loud…haha…

  2. I was not a happy camper that night but now it makes for a hilarious story to tell. Ugh, booking a room just to find out it’s next to a disco is the WORST! Earplugs are definitely key 🙂

  3. Funny thing about loud noises in Indonesia. My friend had first moved to Jakarta and was sleeping over at my house. The next morning she was really scared because she heard a “strange man singing in the middle of the night.” Turns out it was the morning prayer coming out of the mosque. Love your blog!

    1. Ha, that’s hilarious! If you don’t know what the call to prayer is, I suppose it would be a little weird to wake up to it!! Thanks for the nice comment. I love your blog too 🙂

    1. Thank you! It definitely ended up being a great anniversary week. Our anniversary night on the other hand…well you know the story! And, yes, that rat was enjoying itself way too much!!

  4. That is so funny but I feel for you guys at the same time. However, I am glad to hear that the rest of the week long celebration was better than the first night! Look forward to reading and seeing more pictures of this place.

    1. It was a pretty rough night. But looking back on it, it’s a completely funny story! I’m sure it will be an anniversary we’ll remember (a laugh about) forever!! Lembongan is such a great place and we really did have an amazing time there.

  5. We can definitely relate to that! We’ve suffered through all night parties with cumbia music blasting from every which ways too many times to count! I can’t believe chanting could be so noisy but it turns out to be a funny story indeed!

    1. Haha, travel can be so full of noise! After 7 months traveling through Asia, I definitely got used to waking up almost every day to the sounds of roosters crowing and dogs barking. And yes, all to often there was music keeping us up until the wee hours. Chanting is usually really nice to listen to. It’s just that this speaker was pointed right at our room and it was set to an absurdly loud volume! Looking back on it, it’s pretty funny 🙂

    1. I know…sleeping with the rat in our room was kind of unnerving, especially when it was directly over my head!! But, the rest of the week was wonderful so I can’t complain too much!!

  6. Oh Justine! That is definitely quite a horrible anniversary experience! If you didn’t have that chanting going on, and the rat visitor, would you recommend this place… would you return ever? I’m reading through your posts to see what you have to say about Bali…. I would like to visit… no idea for how long. Maybe a couple of weeks, maybe a month. I have no idea what the accommodation looks like, haven’t looked yet. I’ve just seen movies. I’d like to get near the jungle area, and meet the local people, and have massages, and RELAX and SLOW DOWN…. Something i have no idea how to do. But i have a feeling Bali will be able to help me. If you know of any meditation or other type of wellness retreats in the area, please let me know (i’ve never done these, but I think this is what I need!) And when would you recommend visiting Bali?? Thanks!

    1. Ha, it was a very interesting anniversary, indeed! I absolutely loved Nusa Lembongan and I highly recommend it. The chanting is something that is a reality on the island (and Bali in general). But it was a total fluke that my hotel was right next to the speaker system. And in all of my ten years of travel I have never had a rat in my room. Another fluke, I suppose. So please do not be deterred from traveling to Lembongan! Aside from the chanting and the rat that bungalow was so cool. Obviously I wouldn’t stay in that particular hotel again, but there are plenty of similar bungalows to choose from around the island. I stayed in two other hotels there and they were great (and cheap!). Lembongan is definitely a relaxed and beautiful place so I think it’s worth looking into. I have a feeling you would love it. As far as retreats go, I really don’t know much about that type of tourism. But it sounds like Ubud is right up your alley. For sure look into places there!

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