Gili Trawangan

Posted from West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

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The main road of Gili T. Once upon a time it was paved with stones. Now they just dump dirt in the holes. Beware of horse poop.

Oh, Gili Trawangan. How easy it is to do nothing and forget about everything when I am on such a laid-back and easy-going island. The hangovers contribute to my shiftlessness, but this island is also known as the party island, and I don’t plan on leaving without exploiting that asset.

When I initially set out on my SE Asia trip I had plans to spend a month in Bali at the end of my travels just to relax. Well, that’s sort of how it went, only I’m not on Bali and I’ve been doing a lot of scuba diving. And I still got a bit more travel in me.

It's a picture paradise.

It’s a picture paradise.

Gili Trawangan is one of three small islands to the east of Bali, just on the west side of Lombok. I’d heard about these islands in Cambodia and planned to check them out, as everyone told me the main tourist areas of Bali were overrun with drunken Australians. I figured I’d just spend a day or two checking out the islands. (Instead I’ve already spent two weeks here, and don’t plan on leaving for another week.) I spent two days on Bali. I wasn’t impressed. So I quickly made plans to leave.

The boat ride over can be anywhere from $25 to $50, depending on which company you choose and if you want your own space. There is a dirt-cheap ferry that goes from Bali to Lombok, like I’m talking $4, but it’s a much longer journey at 4 to 5 hours. The speed boat only takes two hours. Plus if you take the ferry to Lombok, you then must figure out how to get to the other port where you can catch the boats to the Gili Islands – for also about $5. So while it’s cheaper, you lose a lot more of your life to lazing on the water – and the seas here are far from calm. Many people were green on my boat.

Delivery for the party island.

Delivery for the party island.

Gili T, as it’s sometimes referred to, and I’ve already mentioned, is a bit of a party island. The island’s largely Muslim population tolerates the bikini-wearing, beer-swilling, late-night romping island tourists with a certain level of tact and indifference. Because so many people come here to chill out, dive or just party their faces off, the island has a pretty good economy. Of course, if you speak the local language you’ll find the prices will go down. Only one bar a night is allowed to stay open until retarded o’clock. And it’s guaranteed that half the island will be there boozing it up and shaking their money makers.

While beer is fairly cheap, it’s not really. A single beer is $2.50. A larger one will get you at $3.50 – which adds up during a night out. Also be prepared to pay the same for antibiotics here as in Canada. Be prepared to pay the same for a soda or a candy bar as in Canada. But also be happy to find local and much Western food is still really cheap.

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And then there’s Joss. No one can forget about Joss. This is kind of like Indonesia’s answer to Red Bull and vodka. Joss is a powdered form of an energy drink. So you rip open the sachet, put the Joss in your mouth and then dump in a shot of vodka – which really isn’t vodka, it’s moonshine of some kind – and then you swish them together and swallow. Many nights begin and end with Joss. And luckily almost everyone makes it home.

About the homemade alcohol … Tourists have died on the island after consuming methanol – what they thought was regular alcohol. Homemade alcohol is common and occupies most Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Jose Cuervo bottles. Adds an air of adventure, no? Probably not so for the families of the people who perished. Reports only a few months ago claim that many bars on the island are still serving methanol-laced alcohol.

From the party boat the island looks quite happening.

From the party boat the island looks quite happening.

One Friday a bunch of us booked onto the party boat. Apparently there’s three of them on the island, who’d have thought so many industrious entrepreneurs existed in Indonesia? So around 3 p.m. we get ferried over to the boat and get taken around the islands while we drank and swam and snorkeled. Around 7 p.m. they fed us some chicken masama before arriving back at the mooring. We partied for a few more hours before getting ferried back to the shore where the night continued. And continued.

Every morning at 5 a.m. I am awakeded to the sound of Muslim prayers broadcasted over a very loud P.A. I hope someone could shed some light on this for me. Why at 5 a.m? Love your god, do whatever, but could you just let me sleep?

My trusty steed after we ditched the other bikers and found our own beach to go swimming at.

My trusty steed after we ditched the other bikers and found our own beach to go swimming at.

Of course, in fashion true to me, I rented a bike one day and rode around the island, sometimes pushing the bike past sand-covered sidewalks and making numerous pit-stops to get a beer or go for a swim. The island has an intricate criss-cross of inner streets, where many of the locals live, that I thoroughly enjoyed pedalling down. But it is much the same as everywhere else. There’s garbage everywhere. E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. But I tried not to let that ruin the beautiful sunset.

 

That's Mount Batur, a volcano on Bali.

That’s Mount Batur, a volcano on Bali.

I did my diving with Aquaddiction, a dive shop that conveniently has a $10/night dorm with air-conditioning. There are only three dorms on the island. On the days you dive you get a 20 per cent discount off the rate. I only ended up doing 10 dives during my time, but those dives included three SSI specialties. I only need one more to get my Advanced Open Water. Aquaddiction was a really great place to spend my time. Albeit there is a group of misfits that run and manage the place, and sometimes it’s a wonder anything gets done, but I found all the staff down to earth and really into diving – which is what I was there for.

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There are no cars or motorbikes allowed on the island, so all transport is either by bicycle or horse and carriage. And the horse drivers don’t mess around. If they honk at you, you better get the hell out of the way. Pool tables and dogs are also banned from the island, the later of which may explain the copious amount of cats and pregnant cats trying to steal the food off your plate.

Looks like a bit of a traffic jam.

Looks like a bit of a traffic jam.

It may also be surprising to note that while there is a death penalty for anyone caught trafficking narcotics, numerous hoodlums line the streets asking if you wanna get high, like Towely, and magic mushroom shakes are also available at many fine establishments, though mushrooms are legal, I think. There are zero cops on Gili T, but don’t get too excited about that. People do get voted off the island.

I didn’t do much sun-bathing or swimming (apart from the diving) and I stopped partying when I came down with a lung infection during my last five days of stay. I also had a terrible rheumatoid flare that affected my bad foot and my bad elbow for the entire stay. I toughed it out – and it sucked.

So after a long stay – 19 days on Gili T, the restlessness set in and I declared it time to leave. I packed my bags and headed back to Bali, in the direction of Ubud. Don’t let me down Julia Roberts. I only have five days to kill on the big island. I hope it’s better this time around.

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