Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Stranded in Indonesia? There are Worse Places than Labuan Bajo.

18

After the shipwreck, we were taken from Komodo Island to the port town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.

Lonely Planet describes Labuan Bajo as “the next big thing” in Indonesia travel. I think there are two kinds of places you can describe as “next big things” — either places that are fantastic and virtually unknown, or places that are simply the next step.

Labuan Bajo falls into the latter category. It’s not an amazing secret yet to be discovered, and people are there because it’s a gateway to better sights in Flores — but it’s pretty nice, nonetheless.

Labuan Bajo has almost a Wild West feeling to it — dirt roads, gap-filled sidewalks, dogs running down the street (though thankfully not as bad as the Bali dogs), children staring wide-eyed at the Westerners walking by.

Westerners, though coming to Labuan Bajo in increasing numbers, are still relatively rare — especially in the outer reaches of town.

Most memorable, for me, were the people from Labuan Bajo. As soon as they heard about the shipwreck, they kept going on and on about how sorry they were.

Every time I sat on the stairs where I could pick up WiFi, I was surrounded by several locals who wanted to chat.  Every time I walked by a restaurant, people would invite me to sit down and have food with them!

It was amazing.

And those locals told us quite a few interesting things.

Like the area where we shipwrecked?  The locals know not to go there during low tide, ever. We went during low tide.  Late at night.  During a storm.

Perama, the tour company that shipwrecked, were outsiders, they told us.  They don’t know the areas well.  And that is why we wrecked.

Talking to the local fishermen made me feel much better.

Life in Labuan Bajo was simple and easy, especially since I no longer had a computer. Every morning, we were woken up at 5:00 AM for the call to prayer from three mosques.  Every evening, we watched an incredible sunset.

I only wish that I had been visiting Labuan Bajo under pleasant circumstances.

Still, you have what matters — friendly people.  Delicious street food.  And, most importantly, FREE WIFI.  You’ll find it at a few nice restaurants.

Two days later, I left Labuan Bajo and flew back to Bali with little more than the clothes on my back — but I will always remember my time there with a smile.  It wasn’t bad there at all.

Comments

18 Responses to “Stranded in Indonesia? There are Worse Places than Labuan Bajo.”
  1. vira says:

    I was just there a few days ago with my friends, spending a night after my LOB trip around Komodo island. I agree, it’s a nice town to lay back, and people were friendly. Did you get the wifi at The Corner restaurant?

  2. Claire says:

    While the circumstances that landed you there were less than awesome, it sounds as if you came away with a happy memory despire the situation. I love it when locals make me feel better about something, or when they go out of their way to look after me. I would def not still be feeling better about the shipwreck though-esp after I found out that everyone else knows not to go there!!

  3. Jason says:

    It only goes to show you that everything that happens in life allows for us to experience other things if we only open ourselves up to it.

  4. Maharani Dawn says:

    I am impressed by the places in Indonesia you’ve visited. It puts an Indonesian like me to shame.
    Glad you like the places you’ve seen and the people.

  5. Larissa says:

    I don’t believe in coincidence, everything happens for a reason. You got to spend a few days in this lovely town for some kind of a reason which you are still not aware of. You’ll probably think about it after a while and you’ll see the whole picture 🙂
    Anyway, it sounds like a lovely place to visit!
    Thanks!

  6. Anthony says:

    A pity you were there after your “shipwreck”. Maybe you will need to go there again to spend sometime with the friendly locals so you can appreciate it more. I look forward to visiting there one day on our way back home to Australia 🙂

  7. bili says:

    Sometimes I am amazed to hear things like this. You’re going to a remote place in Indonesia. And people where so nice, you have WiFi there and everything. It shows me how much prejudice we think about what they call us “the third world” .

  8. Kate,

    We replied on the post regarding the actual misadventures you experienced.

    After opening our dive center there this last year (after you visited) we saw much of what you described. The town is still growing very fast and the infrastructure is lagging far behind. However they just popped up a 3G tower and reception and Wifi are much faster now. They did some work on the roads – but not enough 😮
    However many people from Lombok and Bali have come over to open cafes, restaurants, dive centers and small resorts. I would have said it was a place to spend a day or two before the Komodos, but now there are are more and more adventures being offered inland and locally as well as good food….so spend an extra day there. However – we must disagree with one comment above – it is certainly the far end of the third world.

    We have found the local people to be very nice and generous too. While the town may not be the cleanest or most developed, the people are far less jaded and more down to earth than in Bali or Lombok (just our opinion) and the town is still small enough that after a couple days most everyone recognizes each other.

    Should you do come back – we’d be happy to have you join us for a some diving, snorkeling and a cold beer in our new rooftop cafe 🙂

  9. Melvin Ngumbang says:

    Other than Labuan Bajo ever thought of flying to other parts of Indonesia such as Balikpapan? Many have the mindset Balikpapan is a place that is like a backwater village but it is not. It is actually and oil city with radiant city life and in the rural areas, there are so many things for you to do!

    You should try. Well, there is a website that offers a great deal of price to fly to Balikpapan.

    I recommend you should at least try it.

    https://www.facebook.com/MASwings

    • Hi Melvin and Kate

      I am planning on visiting “THE WHOLE” of Indonesia. I may be there for 6months – a year, I think its one of the last true wildernesses of our planet.

      I think it’s a mythical country that not too many people blog about apart from java, bali, Komodo chain of islands.

      I’m very interested in any idea’s and plans for this country. I’m doing the Phils first then heading to Borneo/Kalimantan probably around April/May time.

      Would love to hear from you!

  10. Poppy says:

    Just went to Labuan Bajo and Komodo islands recently, and since I read your post before, thought you might like the update: it’s still rough, but with a nice vibe to it – and many decent places for lazy lunch / dinners and relax after excursions / diving / komodo dragon spotting. Check my recommendations: http://foodinkl.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/labuanbajo-komodo-must-do/

  11. Uber Scuba Komodo says:

    Hey Kate,

    I’ve been following your blogs for a long time (apx 3 years) when I first decided to venture to Asia.

    I will always remember reading this particular article of yours, your bad luck on the sinking ship, but mostly how you described Labuan Bajo and it’s people.

    I am so happy to call Labuan Bajo my home, plus the diving is world class – perfect for a scuba diver. Come again soon and I’ll hook you up with a Manta dive.

    You take care, safe travels,

    Clare

  12. I was just in Labuan Bajo last week! It is still a small sleepy town but the sunsets were amazing. I didn’t have such luck with wifi, and the signal on my phone only worked in one part of town. Did you visit the Bajo people?

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