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“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

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9 April 2015

Don't Bypass Padang Bai


23rd – 25th March 2015


Blue Lagoon Bay


     Arriving in the harbour town of Padang Bai in the South-West of Bali I can totally understand why very few tourists stay a night or two. A first glance the place has the serenity of Dover ferry terminal. Although not nearly as busy as Dover the town is dull, run down and full of fly tipped litter. But just as where Dover has its famous white cliffs and castle, Padang Bai also has a few surprises up its sleeves if you’re willing to look beyond its scruffy exterior.
I really hate Mondays


  
Monster mosquito
It turns out Padang Bai can offer a great pit stop for budget backpackers, especially during the low season. Many of the guesthouses have many vacant rooms and offer great discounts. Jono and I stayed in the catchy named “Pondok Wista Tirta Yoga Inn” just by the bus car park and market and paid 80,000 IRP a night (£4) for a twin room with fan, en-suite bathroom, breakfast and Wi-Fi.  Many of the restaurants offer considerably cheaper prices than the islands more popular tourist destinations and the town’s long standing heritage as a fishing port means that most of the places offer fantastic evening seafood BBQ’s. As the day comes to a close the best bars can be found on the market square operating from small shack lettings, pumping out mostly reggae although they are open to personal track selections on quiet nights (which is most nights). Nothing better than listening to Genesis, Bowie and Thin Lizzy whilst savouring a rewarding Bintang at the end of a challenging day of doing nothing.
slightly obscured view of Padang Bai

     As I mentioned earlier Padang Bai has a couple of places to waste the hours away in the form of two sheltered bays called “Blue Lagoon” and “White Sand Beach”. Blue Lagoon is located 1.5km south of Padang Bai close to the expensive hotel resort bearing the same name. The beach is quite small but there are small shack caf├ęs with sun loungers if you’re willing to pay to use them. Taking a swim can be a little risky as the waves are quite large and the resulting undercurrent has the tendency to rip your legs away. White Sand Beach of course features a small white sand beach and like blue lagoon has a few family run eateries operating on the shore front. Located 2km north of the town I would say this is the more secluded of the two as it’s too far away for most of the resort hotel hippos to bother walking the short distance to. Both coves offer nice surroundings away from the urban mess of the town although you do have to put up with the annoying sarong sellers who will continue to harass you even when they can clearly see you’re sitting on an almost identical product I purchased in Cambodia.
White sand beach

    For most tourist Padang Bai is the gateway to the popular Gili islands and their close neighbour Lombok. Many people purchase ferry tickets in Denpassar, Kuta beach or Ubud as part of an all in one package deal but I see that as a real schoolboy error. Firstly as with any package the company or hotel you purchase the ticket from will inevitably take a commission meaning you have been ripped off before leaving town. Secondly because they know you have never been to Padang Bai and have no interest in checking out the normal ferry prices most of the touts will charge you what they claim to be a “good price” which is in act double or triple the actual price. When we boarded the ferry to Gili T we paid 200,000 IRP (£10) and to get that we had to haggle a little (you will not get this price in high season). To my surprise during the hour and half journey Jono and I listened to other tourists comparing ticket prices and the variance was staggering. I heard a German girl say she paid 450,000 (£21.50), a Dutch guy seemed annoyed at paying 600,000 (£30) but the most pissed off of all was a posh Brit (probably on his gap-yaaaahhh from Oxford……..although this is just a hunch) who had paid a staggering 1,100,000 IRP (£55). On this occasion Jono quite rightly told me to “keep my gob shut” as inciting a riot on a ferry over ticket prices wouldn’t be in the best interest of people on board. So we kindly broke him the news just as we reached the island paradise of the Gili's.