Labuan Bajo is a warm, shabby little place – fishing port, dive centre and transit hub for budget travellers heading East into Flores or West back to Lombok and Bali. With hand-built houses poking out of the jungle and a mixture of mud roads and potholed tarmac, it looks every bit the archetypal small-town-on-the-edge-of-the-jungle. LBJ is also home to the world’s most unnecessary one-way system – a ragged oval which runs along the harbourside and curves up a steep climb only to meander back along the coast on the hill road before surrendering to inevitability and returning whence it came.
From dawn ’til dusk the bemos (open sided minvans) and ojaks (motorbikes) loop endlessly. They’ll want 10,000 Rupiah (80p), but a firm “tiga ribu, OK?” will inevitably fold them straight down to 3,000. I was an instant convert to the ojaks – get on, grab hold and play it cool when the driver cracks out his Blackberry to start texting as he overtakes a bemo on a blind curve. Perhaps there is logic to the one-way system after all…
First bemo ride
Downtown Labuan Bajo
Friendly staff, The Corner cafe
Harbour, Labuan Bajo
The Lounge, Labuan Bajo