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Two worlds collide in the Strait of Badung
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Bali is bustling. Thousands of Indonesians and foreign tourists press through Poppies Lane 1 and 2, while Legian Street is clogged with sputtering motorcycles and automobiles. This is Kuta, the island's main resort. Either you love the chaos or you hate it.


When the band in the Espresso Bar begins to play Welcome to My Paradise, the crowd can contain itself no longer. Holidaymakers and locals dance with wild abandon. Giuseppe from Sicily is among them, and Antonia from Britain, and Ashley from Sydney.


The three are going to bed earlier tonight, though, because they have booked an outing for the next day to Nusa Lembongan, a small island near Bali.


One of Bali's fantastic beaches. Even terrorism cannot keep the tourists away.


In the morning, as the catamaran approaches Nusa Lembongan after an hour-and-a-half's journey, it is immediately clear that its inhabitants do not give a hoot for hubbub and discos. A white beach awaits the visitors, colorful fishing boats rock in the wind, and the only sound is the lapping of the waves.


Nusa Lembongan lies in the Badung Strait about 12 nautical miles from Bali, and is near the islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan. Just 2.5 km wide and 4 km long, it is situated directly on Wallace's Line, which marks the boundary between the Oriental and Australian zoogeographic regions.


The island not only offers splendid snorkeling and diving areas, spotless beaches, and pristine, turquoise-colored water, but also marvelous views of Gunung Agung, Bali's highest and most sacred mountain.


Most visitors take a day trip to Nusa Lembongan. Their first destination is the mangrove forests, where they glide by boat through dense jungle. It is quiet, hot and humid. Algae farming is the island's chief source of income. Standing knee-deep in water, local boys set out algae shoots. The crop is harvested after a month and sun-dried on mats before going to Bali for further processing.


Snorkeling is another highlight of the trip. Visitors can explore the underwater world of Nusa Lembongan from an offshore platform. Small, colorful coral reefs and schools of tropical fish await snorkelers. There are also five good surfing areas on the northwest coast, with names like "Shipwreck" and "Lacerations."


In the afternoon, when the catamaran sets off again for Benoa on Bali, some of those on board envy the holidaymakers who are staying on Nusa Lembongan for several days. So secluded is the island that the effects of the terrorist bombings that shook Bali in 2002 and 2005 are hardly felt.


That cannot be said of Bali itself. There the tourism industry is recovering slowly from the attacks, which unnerved even confirmed Indonesia lovers around the world. Nevertheless, there is no sign of fear among the holidaymakers that have decided to travel to the Lesser Sunda Islands.


Only a few posh restaurants search entering guests with metal detectors. "Everybody's checked at the large hotels, too, and cars are inspected for bombs," said Kim, a taxi driver from Sanur.


(China Daily February 18, 2008)


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