I’m jumping around a bit in my posts – I’ve been on so many little trips recently that I still need to fill you in on, from Venice, to Valencia, London, Oktoberfest and a few little side trips around Austria still to come – so I hope you’ll forgive the broken timelines. Despite all these wonderful little jaunts, my heart right now keeps returning to memories of Bali. Perhaps because the weather here in Vienna is turning grey and the daylight hours are getting shorter, or maybe because we’ve had enough distance from the after-effects of Bali-belly (yes, its real, and no, you don’t want the details). Whatever the reason my brain keeps skipping to snippets of our little paradise island and the incredible start to our summer break. So, to make my daydreams more useful, I thought I’d share a few insider tips for travelling to Bali, in particular, Nusa Lembongan.
I straight up loved Nusa Lembongan. It was the perfect mix of a small-scale touristy development and rough island escape, just off the east coast of the main island, between Bali & Lombok.
Our main reason for visiting Bali was a wedding, so we had a lovely first week filled with family, cocktails, friends and celebrating on the mainland of Bali. However, after a week of Aussie-style partying and touristy resort-style holidaying in Legian we were ready for a change of gears, which Nusa Lembongan certainly delivered.
The easiest way to get there is via little local boats, as there’s a number of companies that run transfers direct from Sanur. We went with Scoot because the internetz assured us it was the most reliable and well priced cruise line, but we later found out any one of the 6 or so major operators would be cheaper and just as reliable. It can be a rough ride over if the weather is a little choppy, so if you’re not great with small boat transfers, brace yourself to look like this after a 45 minute ride:
Arriving on the island felt like stepping back to how Bali might have been 20-odd years ago. Before the mega clubs, the Aussie influx and ‘investment properties boom’, before super-hotels and McDonalds and Starbucks and KFC and cheap surf-shops and Eat, Pray, Love tours. Nusa Lembongan is still a touristy spot, but I actually saw locals in the streets, grilling fish, working, riding mopeds and going about their daily lives that weren’t wholly focussed on servicing tourists. Speaking of streets – there’s one. Just one, single street. It consists wholly of broken up bitumen, gravel and dirt – suitable only for mopeds.
There’s also only one ATM on the whole island – which can cut out for days at a time depending on the power supply, so come to the island cashed up and make sure you have credit cards to pay at hotels and some restaurants. The warungs where locals eat will most definitely not have EFTPOS machines, but the bigger, regular restaurants will.
In terms of food there’s only really two restaurants I would wholeheartedly recommend:
Bali Hai Located on Mushroom Bay, right where a lot of day-transfer boats do drop-offs, this restaurant was connected to the Hai Tide Beach Resort and had reliably, deliciously good food. Toward our second week on the island both S and I were struggling with the delicate Bali-belly, so Bali Hai became one of our go-to restaurants, as we knew the food quality was good, nothing was going to make us sick(er) and most of all, the views were to die for. You are literally sat on the beach-front watching the waves roll in as the sun sets. It’s open seating so you can stroll up in your thongs (flip flops for you non-Aussies) straight from the beach and enjoy their excellent service and drinks list. There’s even little bean bags out the front on the sand so you can sit and relax in a group. I really enjoyed my steak here and the creme brûlée is excellent – but you could stay for the views alone…..
Sand and ocean are RIGHT THERE, behind the cute boy’s head
Sandy Beach Resort: This was our brunch lifesaver. I’m all about eating local and enjoying the culture of a place i’m visiting, but when it comes to brunch, all bets are off. Sandy Beach Resort has been designed exactly for the likes of me – a traveller who enjoys their home-style good coffee, likes to indulge in breakfasts and cannot pass up a beautiful beachfront seat. While dinner here is superb, it’s a lot pricier than anywhere else on the island. We tended to visit here in the mornings to mix up the monotony of our hotel brekkie. Sandy Bay is best when it’s near-to-empty, quiet and you can be guaranteed a table right on the sand to luxuriate over breakfast. The bliss of waking up early, jumping on a moped with your lover to enjoy a relaxed brunch overlooking the surf is as close to heaven as it gets for me. This place also hosts weddings and is jam packed at night – you’re best to book a table in advance. The restaurant will also organise a shuttle to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. Otherwise the moped journey home in the dark can be treacherous!
We loved it over coffee in the morning….
….and over cocktails at sunset
Which brings us to my final tip for Nusa Lembongan. Beware where you stay. Although looking at the map on Booking.com you will notice most hotels are situated on the main central strip of Jungut Batu Beach, do not stay there. You’ll be close to the sometimes-working ATM, but the hotels and restaurants and beachfront here are not great. They were some of the earliest built accommodations and the area is more designed for the serious surfers who want a cheap place to stay that’s super close to the surf breaks. If you want a proper island getaway resort, find a place in and around Mushroom Bay, Tamarind Beach or Dream Beach, all of which have very reasonably priced options. Or if you really want to get away from the world then there’s a few special places on the connected island of Nusa Cenigan – slightly further removed from the ‘town centre’ but completely idyllic and quiet. There’ll be more about my favourite beach there in a later post….
We stayed at the lovely Nanuk’s Beach Bungalows in traditional thatch-roof huts and enjoyed the extremely friendly staff (Jacob is the BEST) and laid-back atmosphere. Most accommodations will rent you out a moped to get around easily. For about €4 a day its an absolute must-do to explore the wilds of the tiny island and really feel like a local.
There’s a lot of reasons to visit Nusa Lembongan. For the cheesy photos, for the authentic Balinese atmosphere (even though tourism is clearly taking hold of the place) for the views, for the slower pace of daily life that forces you to relax, for the stories you’ll bring back. But mostly, you should go there to strong-arm your mister into taking freckle-faced selfies, to run around barefoot in a sarong all day and to feel completely young and free on the back of a moped, no matter what age you are.
So, you’ve had a taste of Schönbrunn Palace, a swim on top of the city and enjoyed the heights of Prater Park. If you missed it, check here.
Now for the seriously cultured side of Vienna.
Head first to the Museums Quartier, or MQ as it’s known to the locals. A hub of Museums surround an enclave of cafes and comfy hang out spots within a gorgeous courtyard. This place is always energetic and inspiring.
Official photography from MQ site http://www.mqw.at/de/presse/pressefotos/das-mq/
To fuel the next few hours of looking at art, its imperative to indulge in good coffee. I’m sure that’s why MQ has so many funky cafes, the better to fortify yourself for artistic discoveries!
Artistic Prep time in the Leopold Cafe…good to go!!
The Leopold Museum is currently housing a magnificent exhibition of Schiele & Klimt, two big names of the Vienna Secession art movement. An artist friend of mine (http://sarahmasson.com.au/) was in town recently so it was the perfect excuse to finally check out the famous works.
Klimts art is pretty unavoidable in Vienna – he’s a hometown sensation, born and raised in the 14th District of Vienna. Consequently, all souvenir shops are plastered with cheap reproductions of his most famous paintings.
Pretty sure he never envisioned his work on Tins of Tea
The exhibition in the Leopold is a fascinating exploration of Klimt & Schiele’s lives, well worth spending a few hours exploring. Personally, the Schiele piece ‘Couple Embracing’ was my favourite, with Klimts ‘Life and Death’ a close second. If paintings aren’t your thing , MQ also has museums dedicated to Dance, Architecture, Musical Theatre, Modern Art and even a KinderMuseum for children.
After such a stretch of time inside, you’ll be in need of some sunshine & fresh air – head to the skies my friends. There is a wonderful rooftop cafe about 5 minutes walk from MQ where you can see across the entire Ringstrasse of Vienna. Dachboden comes with views over some of Vienna’s most famous monuments: the Natural & Art History Museums, the Rathaus, the spire of St Stephans, Hundertwassers’ Heating Tower, the WWII era Flak Towers…
Stunning blue skies not guaranteed daily!
The bar itself is very comfy, lots of cosy couches, big communal benches, the terrace is glorious (if you can get a seat) and they serve excellent local cocktails – try the Kaiser Spritz or a Hugo!
The first of many family rooftop reunions – even Dad is stoked!
From here you can round out the cultural day with a wander into the city centre, known as the 1st District. Stop by the historical Hofburg Palace en route for the must-have photo opportunity. The Hofburg was the winter palace and seat of power for the Habsburg dynasty, and the modern day President of Austria still has his residence here. Its grand, imposing and still as stunning today as when the Kaiser was in power
Spot the symbol of Imperial Austria up top – the double headed Eagle holding a crown
Maria Theresa – mother of modern Austria & Marie Antoinette – will give you her benediction on the way by
Then get up close with some statues, fountains and spectacular architecture in the 1st District
...looking at this view all day must be exhausting for him…
The 1st district is full of historical buildings, cobbled streets and ‘Fiaker’, the traditional horse & carriages of Vienna . Wandering up little alleys is the best way to find hidden treasure bookshops, cafe’s and artisan stores. More about my favourite stops to come in a future post! Wrapping up your short weekend in Vienna with a leisurely stroll through the historical centre is the best way to soak up the spirit of a city hundreds of years in the making.
Some friends of mine were asking me about the best way to see Vienna as a tourist. How to find something ‘other than classical music and Schnitzel’. Slightly outraged on my adopted city’s behalf, I replied that there is a huge variety to Vienna, you just need to know where to look! So, to prove the many wonders of this incredible city, I devised a plan for a Weekend in Wien….
Right, it’s summer, you’ve had a long overnight journey and the last remaining days of sunshine are calling you to the water – but you’re traveling, you need see the city too! The perfect solution to this dilemma? Krapfenwaldbad:
Beautiful people guaranteed to be in attendance
Krapfenwaldbad has incredible views over the city of Vienna, being perfectly placed near the top of the Kahlenberg Mountain. There are multiple swimming pools, the main one being nicely deep & cold for swimming . Don’t expect anyone to be doing laps though, this is serious ‘see and be seen’ territory for the young trendy locals. It’s also relaxed enough that you can while away the day in relative peace. There’s an on-site cafe & bar too, so any and all your chill out needs are attended to. Plus, did I mention the crazy awesome views?
That’s all of Vienna at your feet!
Ok, now that you’re relaxed after a day spent poolside, let the tourist activities begin! First, there’s some really excellent gardens to spend a morning roaming around….
That little building up top is a Gloriette, where Emperor’s have breakfast – ‘cos being an Emperor is kickarse!
…which are conveniently attached to the glorious Schönbrunn Palace. Schönbrunn was the Habsburg’s Summer Palace, which, when you see the size of it, tells you just how awesome it was to be Royalty in the Golden Age. The best Apple Strudel & Iced coffee in Vienna can be had in the cafe to the left of the entrance – trust me I have done thorough research on this.
Once Schönbrunn has been conquered, you may find yourself in need of a drink, or just a change of location for further drinks- based activities. The über cool Donaukanal is the perfect location. Wander down the canal steps from the city centre and you’ll find brilliant street art, a huge choice of bars, pop-up shacks selling different food & drink, all nestled beside the gorgeous Danube Canal.
‘Beach’ Bars – bit different to beaches back home!!
Wicked street art along the Kanal paths
Once you’ve satisfied your inner hipster with a few riverside drinks, I’d round out the day at the the historic Prater Park. Prater is a huge nature reserve and set amongst this leafy gloriousness is Vienna’s famous amusement park, home to the worlds oldest Ferris Wheel, built in 1897:
With some slightly younger specimens in front of it.
The park itself has been set up with adults in mind as much as children. Along with loads of awesome rides, there’s gigantic Beer Gardens to meet all your Beer & Pork Knuckle desires. There’s also adult games like Bowling, Mini-Golf, Clubs if you’re very keen and terrifying rides for thrill seekers:
Fear. Pure and simple.
That up there is the Prater Turm, which I absolutely refused to go on, right up until I was strapped in. It was at once terrifying and beautiful – at 117m, this is the world’s highest flying swing. The pay-off you get for braving it is stunning views over all of Vienna. It only gets nauseating on the way down, when, near the bottom, they speed up the pace of the chairs swinging in circles. But if you can stand that for 2 minutes, the view is well worth it!
Super cute old fashioned token to ride!
After all that adrenelin, rounding out the day with a sugar hit is highly reccommended.
Fairy floss and chocolate fruit on a stick = heaven.
Exhausted yet?? Well stay tuned…part two of your awesome Weekend in Wien will be posted next!