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The small-time fishing town of Riung is perched along the quiet and relatively dry northern coast of Flores, making it a decidedly long way away indeed from the beaten backpacker track. Occupied by a mixture of Bugis, Bajau, Bajwanese and the occasional migrant from Amon, residents here subsist largely from fishing, some farming, and the small-scale tourism that comes here, as well as seaweed farming.
Tourists come here in pleasingly small numbers to take boat tours of the "Seventeen Islands," island-hopping in smallish fishing vessels from one white-sand tropical paradise to another. There's also very good snorkelling over hard coral, a truly massive colony of fruit bats, and the off-chance of spotting a mbou — a smaller and shyer cousin of the more-famous Komodo dragon.
Other than the Seventeen Islands tours, there isn't much of anything to do in Riung, other than wander up and down the town's (one or two) streets and have a look at the stilted homes of the friendly locals. This can be rather relaxing if you take the right approach to it. Try to be outside at around 18:00, when fruit bats emerge to feed in huge lines, reminiscent of a pterodactyl flight from some time in the late Jurassic period.
Some cultural celebrations of the Ngada people are said to happen in Riung, but seeing these may be more a matter of luck and timing. Ask a local guide to clue you in if you're the anthropologically inclined type.
The accommodation is simple backpacker fare. It's no worse than most other places in Flores, which is to say it isn't particularly good, but if you're in Riung you're not here for the rooms -- you're here for the islands.
Insofar as dining goes: hope you like fish. The guide-owned Cafe Del Mar is the only restaurant in town, and is eagerly attempting to be an appealing stop for the small number of backpackers who wash up here. All the staff seem to have dreadlocks, and the seashell-centric decor and the Buddha Bar trance music on loop will remind you of Bali or Thailand.
Naturally, there's Bintang on offer, although it's best to come an hour or two after the power comes back on at 18:00 if you like your beer cold. If you're looking for a boat guide, this is an excellent place to pop your head into. Just walk down Riung's main street toward the water until you see the sign, a small hippy shack and the requisite painting of Bob Marley.
Food is whatever they've got: nasi goreng and mee goreng with vegetables are usually a safe bet, and the lucky will be able to dine on tasty grilled fish with rice and vegetables. There's also a tomato-and-cucumber salad on the menu, dressed with real balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Other than the Del Mar, you can get a simple dinner at the Pondok SVD, and a couple of extremely basic warungs open during the evenings in town. Your hotel can probably help you rustle something up too.
There's no regular internet connection in Riung, and only one BRI ATM, which doesn't accept Visa cards. Bring as much cash as you will need -- the closest real ATMs are in Bajawa.
By Faine Greenwood.