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.
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!
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!