Monday, 7 July 2008

Election Day Special

Our journey here was a little eventful. The driver of the car had a rather strange friend accompanying him. His friend – Pip – had lived and worked in Manchester in the mid-90's and was very clued up on the music scene of the time (Happy Mondays, Oasis, Charlatans, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets). However, we think he might have been a bit too well connected to the Manchester scene when the talk turned to drugs. Once that conversation ended abruptly, an eerie quiet descended on the car. The impromptu stop for the roadside bottle of palm tree moonshine, bought for us as a present, was disconcerting. The expensive hotel he suggested we stay at also rounded the journey off nicely. We were glad to say goodbye to him. (N.B. The moonshine was still fermenting this morning and was hissing away in the corner).

Our first evening meal in Sengiggi was rather special too. We felt like two extras in an Indonesian edition of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. To sum up, mediocre food arriving sporadically – which you may or may not have ordered; lots of time watching others eat whilst waiting for your own food to arrive, and all this set in an ambience of other diners complaining and storming out. A dire and uncomfortable experience.

Waking up to the 5am competing sounds of the two local mosques, prayers being chanted and geckos scurrying across the palm roof of our bungalow, this morning is going much better. We've met local fixer Abeng who has managed to sort out our flights from Maumere (Flores) back to Denpasar (Bali) and then onwards to Surabaya (Java). This means we only have to do the three day Flores bus journey in one direction.

Today is election day in Lombok, as the islanders elect a new local governor and vice governor for the next five years. We've seen a lot of election posters scattered around the place – the photo shows one that we spotted on our walk to Rinjani, half way up the mountain. The younger man is only 27 years old, studied in Saudi Arabia and is going for governor. The older man is the vice-governor candidate.

Something that we've noticed in Indonesia is that everyone here is a great salesman. Indonesians are particularly good at cross-selling, as most friendly questions about what we're doing today end up in a sales pitch about their tours. Europe's got something to learn from the people here! People work very hard too, starting the day's work as early as 6am. Hence some visitors mistake locals having a long midday rest on the platforms outside their houses as being lazy, even though they've already worked a long day.

Right now we're staying in the lovely Raja's Bungalows with open air bathrooms. The staff here are fantastic and would be horrified if their guests weren't enjoying their time here. We highly recommend Raja's for anyone visiting Sengiggi!