PARADISE FOUND

IMAG­INE A HOL­I­DAY WHERE YOU EX­PE­RI­ENCE 50 SHADES OF BLUE IN THE LAP OF LUX­URY WITH FEW PEO­PLE OTHER THAN LO­CALS

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - WEEKEND - WORDS: JANN BURMESTER

I’m barely 30m from shore in wa­ter so crys­tal clear it’s like look­ing through glass. Fifty shades of blue as­sault my eyes as I ad­just my snorkel and gog­gles and put on my fins.

It’s blis­ter­ingly hot, but the wa­ter is de­li­ciously cool.

I swim out to a shal­low rocky out­crop and see dozens of rain­bow-coloured fish in all shapes and sizes dart­ing through the rocks.

To my de­light there are even small pieces of co­ral in shades of bright indigo and or­ange.

Tiny elec­tric blue fish swim so close I can nearly touch them, while a large pas­tel-coloured fish glides past ever so gra­ciously.

I’m at Seng­gigi Beach in Lom­bok, In­done­sia and it’s pic­ture-post­card per­fect.

Just a 25-minute flight from Bali and an hour drive from the air­port, Seng­gigi Beach is an unspoilt paradise.

I sur­face and take off my mask and my eyes are drawn back to the beach which is ringed with hun­dreds of swaying palm trees.

The sky is in­sanely blue and jukungs (tra­di­tional fish­ing boats) can be seen bob­bing on the reef.

A lone fish­er­man casts his net into the glassy waters hop­ing to catch his lunch.

I swim lazily back to shore, where I climb through a fence and onto the grounds of my beach­front ho­tel – the Kila Seng­gigi Beach Re­sort.

Pala­tial grounds, man­i­cured green grass, coconut trees, huge wa­ter fea­tures, a large pool, two restau­rants in­clud­ing a beach­front bar and grill, beach­front spa, beau­ti­ful ac­com­mo­da­tion, ten­nis court, mag­nif­i­cent pool club vil­las and friendly staff – this ho­tel has it all.

I’m trav­el­ling with fam­ily, in­clud­ing two grand­chil­dren, and when we book in we are treated like long-lost rel­a­tives.

The staff can’t do enough for us, and my blond, blue-eyed, two-year-old grand­son gets par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion with ev­ery­one want­ing to hold him and stroke his cheek.

We have booked ocean­front rooms which over­look the beach and the point­break where the surfers in my fam­ily spend many happy hours rid­ing the fun waves.

We spend our days swim­ming, snorkelling, re­lax­ing, read­ing and ex­plor­ing the lo­cal area.

One day we walk into town and it’s like I’m back in Bali in the 1980s. Quiet and unspoilt by any high-rise shop­ping cen­tres, there are fam­ily warungs (cafes) ev­ery­where.

The mainly Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion are re­served but friendly and fol­low a very tra­di­tional way of life.

It’s stink­ing hot, so af­ter a quick walk through the main street, we hail a bemo (small truck) to take us back to our air-con­di­tioned ho­tel rooms.

In the cool of the evening we or­gan­ise for a horse and cart (one of the main modes of trans­port in Lom­bok) to take us up a nearby hill to a look­out where the sky turns from or­ange, to pink to pur­ple in a spec­tac­u­lar sun­set.

Ex­cept for the ho­tel guests, there are very few tourists around, so we opt to eat most of our meals at the ho­tel, know­ing the pro­duce will be fresh.

Here we en­joy some re­ally au­then­tic and tasty In­done­sian food in­clud­ing the fa­mous

MY EYES ARE DRAWN BACK TO THE BEACH WHICH IS RINGED WITH HUN­DREDS OF SWAYING PALM TREES.

ayam (chicken) tali­wang.

This baby chicken dish is first grilled half­way on a char­coal grill be­fore it’s tossed into coconut oil and fried in a wok.

The chef then pulls the chicken out, spoons over red chilli paste and puts it back on the grill.

The chicken is served with a side of savoury pelalah sauce made out of smoked dry chill­ies, plec­ing kangkung (wa­ter spinach), be­beruk terong (egg­plant with tomato sam­bal) and white rice.

We also dine at a pop­u­lar beach­front restau­rant, La Chill Bar, which fea­tures colour­ful bean­bags set up on the sand and en­joy fresh seafood and wood-fired piz­zas all washed down with In­done­sia’s fa­mous Bin­tang beer.

An­other restau­rant, As­mara, in Seng­gigi’s main street at­tracts our at­ten­tion one night with its im­mac­u­late and gor­geous gar­dens strung with fairy lights.

The food is fresh and de­li­cious.

One af­ter­noon while the rest of the fam­ily is snooz­ing, I take my­self off to the ho­tel’s spa for a mas­sage and some foot re­flex­ol­ogy.

The lovely re­cep­tion­ist hands me a cool hand towel soaked in lemon­grass be­fore I’m ush­ered into a dark­ened room where the young male ther­a­pist starts to work his magic.

I’m so chilled out that I don’t hear the re­cep­tion­ist pop back into the room at the end of the treat­ment with a re­fresh­ing glass of lemon-scented iced wa­ter.

I stum­ble back to my room in a state of pure re­lax­ation.

All too soon our time here is over and we pile into the van to take us to the air­port and back to busy Bali.

It’s been four days of pure bliss on a beau­ti­ful unspoilt is­land paradise.

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