Our first stop in Indonesia was Bali. While Indonesia is a Muslim country, Hinduism is the predominant religion on Bali. Aside from the many ornate Hindu temples, you see evidence of the religion all around the streets. Shops, taxi drivers, along with home and business owners place flowers is coconut leaf-woven baskets outside, often with incense (canang). Our trip to Bali was limited to the landlocked Ubud, which is overrun with tourists, in part in response to the Eat, Pray, Love hype (Ubud was "Love"). Despite this, we enjoyed a trip to the Monkey Forest as well as a show of traditional Balinese dancing, and would definitely recommend it.
One important word to understand when visiting Indonesia is "warung," which is a small, family-owned business. This can be a cafe, convenience store, or combination. We stopped in many a warung for water bottles, lunch, and even toothpaste.
From the beautiful rice paddies and tea fields in Bali we moved to the breathtaking, nearly empty beaches of Lombok. Lombok, and Kuta (the area we were staying) in particular, has many pristine, beautiful beaches with clean, deep blue water. Tourism is quickly developing there, with a number of big resorts popping up along the coastline. The biggest tourist group here at the moment are surfers, that still populate the beaches and their unique waves. We got the sense that as tourism is still in its nascent phases, corruption and scams still run pretty rampant. We didn't have any scary experiences where we felt unsafe, but we had a dubious incident in which the tire of our motorbike mysteriously had a flat (for which we had to pay) all of a sudden. In all fairness, though, for how untouched the beaches are in Kuta, the roads have seemingly not been touched in ages--potholes galore! From Kuta, Lombok we traveled to Gili Meno (still technically part of Lombok).
Getting to the Gilis, or at least Gili Meno is quite the experience. We took a car with 3 men from Kuta to Bangsal harbor (~2 hours), traversing Lombok's own Monkey forest.
However, cars cannot get all the way to the harbor. There is a little dirt road that takes you to the harbor, and the only public transit options are a horse and cart. We opted to hoof it on our own, bags and all. There is a public boat (which costs 15,000 Rupiah) 2-3 times a day: first thing in the morning and then not again until 2pm and 5pm. As we were there at 10 am, we didn't want to sit around and miss half a vacation day waiting for the public boat, we opted to spring for the speedboat at 85,000 rupiah per person. The speedboat (and the public boat, for that matter) cannot pull all the way up to Gili Meno. The coral surrounding the island makes it near impossible to have a harbor or dock. Thus, we literally hopped from the speedboat to another smaller boat that brought us as close to the shore as possible, then jumped into the water (~ankle-thigh deep) and walked to the shore. Again, there were horses and carts that could take us around the island, but we opted to walk to our Airbnb.
They call Gili Meno "the honeymoon island" because it's very quiet and there's not much to do so...people make do. In many ways, Gili Meno feels like one big resort. After dinner each night we had to use the flashlights on our cellphones to navigate the footpaths. Our Airbnb hosts used SIM cards to power their internet, and had to take boats to Bali to get said SIM cards. Melissa got stung by small jellyfish two separate times will swimming!
Being a Muslim country, it was a very unique experience to visit during Ramadan. We were told that we didn't really get a good feel for the "normal" life around Indonesia.
We wish we had time to explore more islands. Maybe on the next trip.