Tuesday, 18 February 2014

One more night in LB and we jumped a very early bus the next morning heading for Bajawa, our plan being to keep going East and eventually fly out of Maumere as we had already organized flights. 

Apparently it is best to book ahead in Flores and not leave it until the last minute.  The bus ride was typically Indonesian - long, rough, hot, uncomfortable, yet wonderfully scenic and always entertaining, with some really nice people to chat to along the way.
We stayed at the Happy Happy Hotel, one of the few accommodations choices in town and quite a nice place, a little pricey but nice.  We had a couple of days here doing the usual, exploring the area by bike and checking out the all the sights, not that there was a lot,  but I love heading out into the countryside and getting a real look at the local lifestyle and culture outside of the cities.
From here we headed north to Riung to visit the 17 Islands Marine Park, a cheap local bus picked us up from Happy Happy and we had the always interesting bus ride of around 3 -4 hours to get there.   

The actual distance is only around 70km to give you an idea of how rough and slow the bus ride was!   In what was becoming an all too familiar Indonesian story, the bus ride was rough, dangerous, uncomfortable yet very scenic and never dull. 
Riung is a cool little seaside town that is barely developed but does have a few guesthouses as they are realizing the tourism potential of the island trips from town.  There are a handful of westerners around, maybe 10,  everyone is here to see the islands and soak up the relaxed vibe that oozes from this place.  

We stay at Nirvana Bungalows, a simple yet adequate little hut set amongst the gardens of the place, overpriced at 225k ($22 au), but what are you gonna do?!  Somebody on tripadvisor claimed the breakfast was lousy, I thought it was really good, fresh baked bread and scones with jam.  I was a baker for many years, I know good bread!
Try to meet up with other travellers to organize a boat trip out to the islands to cut down on costs and be prepared to bargain hard, these guys will start out asking ridiculous prices.  Another option is to go see the lady at the ‘pool hall’ in town, we found out later that she could have gotten us a better deal.

  Most guesthouses will have snorkelling gear for rent and should cost about $2 for the day, your boat trip will include lunch.  Patty and I paid 200k each for the boat trip, I think the others paid a little more!  A little bit steep, but where else in the world can you have such a great day out for less than $20?!
The ‘pool hall’ is a little wooden hut that houses 2 fairly old tables and serves almost cold beer, I loved it!  Was the last thing I expected to find in Riung but it was a pleasant surprise. 

 When you find the place, as you head towards the ocean take your very first left next to the pool hall (it is on a corner) off the main street and follow this down about 100 meters and you will find a great restaurant on your right.  We ate here every night because it was a great meal and well, there really weren’t too many other options.
Aside from the standard Indonesian offerings on the menu, you can look in the esky and pick out whichever freshly caught fish or squid you would like to eat and they will BBQ it for you and it comes with a plate of delicious sauteed vegetables and huge bowl of steamed rice. 

The whole meal was amazing, easily some of the best food I had eaten in Indo and a bargain at $5 for the 2 of us.  Flores is known for it’s Arak, this restaurant serves it up so be sure to try some, it was sweet. with a slight burn and a good kick!  We met a few people here and organized to meet up for our boat trip the next day.
I gotta be honest, I can't remember if this was Bajawa or Riung...

My Bajawa Beast
Riung 'Pool Hall'   don't mind my feral look, it had been a big day travelling!
Views around Riung