Monday, December 17, 2018

Nusa Penida: A Journey To Bali's Newly Discovered Gem

I woke up from my phone's blaring alarm. With only four hours of sleep, I forced myself to wake up and take a cold shower. Traffic was already building up as we left Seminyak to Sanur Beach. Upon arrival, we were still early for the first boat trip to Nusa Penida. The sun was up, casting an orange-yellow hue from the horizon. Despite being a frequent visitor to Bali, I still feel this sense of adventure overtaking me as we wait for the speedboat to Nusa Penida.

The journey to Nusa Penida wasn't as glamorous as what people might have assumed. With the absence of a dock, we carefully trudged our way to the speedboat. The boulders were slippery, and the tide was rising. One minor slip can be fatal. As we sailed through the deep blue waters of Badung Strait, the smell of gasoline overpowered the salty smell of the sea. However, our wanderlust spirit screamed louder than the roar of the engines.

After almost an hour of wading through rough waters, we finally arrived at Nusa Penida. We met up with our driver, and off we went for a road trip. It wasn't the usual road trip that we've experienced back on the main island of Bali. The roads were narrower, unpaved most of the time. We crossed several mountains and villages, and my tired eyes just lazily watched the scenes of everyday life – villagers carrying their livelihood on their heads, dusty roads with overgrown vines and grasses, the cliffs and seas, the traditional villages and schools, and the temples used to worship nature and Balinese deities. Everything was fleeting.

With towering cliffs which seemed to grow underneath from the cerulean waters and school of fishes dancing through the steady current of the sea, it is not hard to love Nusa Penida. Growing up in a city surrounded by rising verdant landscapes and white sand beaches, Nusa Penida is home away from home. The whole island is not as crowded as the beaches in Bali, but it is going to that same direction of commercialization. What used to be a sleepy island is now an emerging tourist destination of Indonesia, all thanks to social media. It is up to the local government on how they will regulate the influx of visitors, waste and environmental management, and sustainable development. For now, it still lacks necessary tourist infrastructures.

Kelingking Beach

While traveling to the other side of the island, we saw several jaw-dropping views. From the towering limestone cliffs to crystal clear waters, Nusa Penida is heaven. However, there are mundane spots that are worth skipping. Nusa Penida may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the journey around made it more memorable. While the island boasts its scenic and instagrammable spots, the kindness of the locals made the island attractive. As we sought shelter from the scorching heat of the sun, we found ourselves enjoying a bottle of cold coke, quenching our thirst.  The locals were all smiles to us. One even tried to strike a conversation with me, despite the difficulty in the English language. The act itself was profound and humbling. A smile can indeed change everything, a universal language.

We went back to Sanur Beach with all smiles. For others, Nusa Penida is just one of the emerging Instagram spots. More than its superficiality, it is one of the few destinations that will make you ponder about life. While most cities are gearing towards modernity, life in Nusa Penida remains basic. How can someone still be happy and contented despite the hardships and slow progress of their livelihood? Perhaps, it is all about perception, grasping for the harsh realities of life.

Traveling with an open mind and heart changes everything – a paradigm shift.

Port of Nusa Penida

Broken Beach

Improvised dock.

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