Air Malaysia takes you 6700 miles and it takes 12 hours to Kuala Lumpur, then 2 hours to Bali, Denpasar. We stop over in Kuta before driving 1hr 15 minutes to Udud in the middle of the island, through Sanur. These are endless roads adorned by carved masonry, gods, baskets, doors and bamboo. Scooters are everywhere, and most of the drivers have no crash helmets.
The sophisticated Hotel Maya provides superb Indonesian cuisine, while the silly currency makes you a millionaire with just a couple of hundred dollars. A walk through the rice fields reveals snakes and spiders, collapsing dykes, carnivorous dragonflies, snails and eels. The local kids dance a lot better than the professionals at the ceremonial show, which is full of monotonous music and overlong scenes.
Our flight to Flores is via Sumba,and we are in search of multi-coloured lakes. It’s a 3 hour drive from Maumere through Thirkaddy-like landscape – steep slopes, endless palms and bamboo, and the occasional glimpse of the coast. We stay at arguably the worst hotel in the world, second only to Chaneral in Chile, with flooded bathrooms and bedbugs, which means no sleep. Up in the morning to 4500 feet to see the triple lakes of the staggeringly beautiful Kelimutu – one brown, one blue, one green. Is this a home to dead spirits? The locals believe so. Discovered by a Dutch geologist in 1914, they change colour all the time (they can be white, red and black). Back across the island to lie on the beach, and as we fly out we can look down again at these amazing lakes.
Lombok is next – the luxurious Sira Beach House on the north west of the island, facing the Gili islands. Much poolside relaxation, with a trip into town for Independence Day – a massive parade and much pageantry. Many of the locals have probably never seen a westerner before, and soon we become the spectacle.
Snorkeling off the reef with turtles, beachcombing for shells. Gili Air, Meno, and Trawangan islands frame a silhouette of the huge Mt. Agung volcano at 3142 feet.