Figure 1: Rue Berbisey
This is where my friendship with Alexis started - a little street in Dijon, France called Rue Berbisey. It was January. I had just arrived from Australia, and had put up a notice on Couchsurfing.org begging any young, easy-going French local to take me in while I looked for my own place. Alexis responded, offering his sofa bed, and one week later I was walking down this very street in the snow, trying to find his apartment.
This is where my friendship with Alexis ended up - a little island in Indonesia, an hour's boat ride away from Bali, called Lembongan.
Figure 2: Dream beach, Lembongan
It really is quite complicated how we both ended up here - but basically, Alexis' friend Pauline (we call her Popo) started traveling around South East Asia and stayed with me when she visited Kuala Lumpur. We had such a crazy weekend together that we swore we would party down in Asia again some day. Shortly afterwards, Alexis and Popo decided to celebrate New Years in Indonesia together, and asked if I wanted to join.
Celebrating New Years, in good company, on a tropical island? Bah, oui.
Figure 3: Adventure
Figure 4: A little overexcited about seeing the beach again
Figure 5: Banana fritters and coconuts picked from the tree next to the café
Figure 6: The happiest bridge in the world
Lembongan took me completely by surprise. It's been a long time since I've felt so peaceful and refreshed and rejuvenated. We purposely chose Lembongan Island over Kuta (the main tourist area of Bali) because we wanted something a bit more chilled out - but I was not expecting to find so much natural beauty, so many happy, smiling faces and a feeling that I can only describe as stillness.
Figure 7: A seaweed farmer going back to his house on the shore
The highlight of Lembongan for me was probably this moment: at twilight, we took our scooters down the hill to Jungut Batu in search of dinner. As we drew closer, the sound of Balinese music rose up into the darkening sky: a hypnotising, relentless drumming, wooden percussion, gongs, singing. And suddenly we're speeding past a never-ending procession of Balinese locals dressed in the purest white, with mounds of fruit balanced impossibly on their heads, carrying baskets of tropical flowers and candles, on their way to the Hindu temple. And it was at this moment that I fell in love with Bali.
Figure 8: Photo courtesy of Josephine Stoker Photography
Bunga Bungalo Restaurant
On-the-Sea, Pantai Jungut Batu
(+62) 82 89 76 08 691
Figure 9: Into the sunset
When we got to the end of the bay, we parked our bikes and started walking down the long path next to the ocean. A little cluster of lights, far away, caught my eye.
Figure 10: Relax
We hit the jackpot. Bunga Bungalo's restaurant is right on the sea, so you can hear and smell the ocean as you sit in the soft glow of lanterns hung up around the restaurant. We were seated inside an adorable little wooden hut elevated off the ground, and sat on beaded cushions sipping Bintangs while we flicked through the never-ending menu. And when the sea breeze blew, strings of seashells hanging around us would tinkle like music.
Figure 11: In my element
Honestly don't remember what Alexis and Pauline ordered - I was too hungry to notice. But I can very clearly remember what I had - chicken satay with Balinese peanut sauce and a side of vegetables. My satay came served upon a tray of glowing red-hot coals, which lit up our table with warmth and light, like a mini campfire. Tucking into these sticks of smoky deliciousness after a long day of exploring the island was the perfect way to top it all off. Not to mention my chicken satay holder actually had a smiley face.
It was so nice to sit down and have a meal with Alexis again. In his apartment in Dijon, we were always cooking and eating together. I missed this.
Figure 12: Just like dinnertime in Dijon
For dessert, we shared a woodfired calzone filled with banana, honey and cinnamon, smothered in chocolate sauce. I think it had a lifespan of about 40 seconds before we completely annihilated it. Maybe less.
Figure 13: Hasta la vista, baby
Figure 14: Fairy lights
Figure 15: Spot the volcano
Figure 16: A world of colour
One thing I have learned whilst living abroad is to cherish friendship,
and to hold onto it, no matter where it takes you.
Figure 17: All aboard the Sunshine Express
Figure 18: The last known photo of 2013