Published: April 14th 2009April 11th 2009
Chill'n in Gili
Tom loving life in Gili Trawangan
I am pleased to say that once again I have been proven wrong. My first impressions of Bali when I visited two years ago were that of a filthy tourist trap and to be honest I was quite reluctant to go back. This time I have been taken back by the variety of the landscape, the turquoise waters, the never-ending Indonesian smiles and the fabulous Indonesian cuisine. Vicki the Blonde
Our arrival at Denpassar airport included a classic Vicki "I am not going to be ripped off" moment. I had done some research about getting into town as cheaply as possible which including walking passed the hundreds of shouting and pushing touts outside and turning right to the official taxi stand. So I shuffled Tom, two backpacks and no less than three surfboards in 35 degrees heat and off the scale humidity about five hundred meters down to the domestic airport. After much huffing and puffing (yes, I am officially unfit) I started bargaining with a taxi driver only to realise that we had walked way to far and with only one taxi left we had to pay standard tourist over price. Needless to say, Tom was not
Instead of staying in Kuta where most tourists stay, we decided to stay in Sanur on the South-Eastern coast of Bali. Sanur is often described as Kuta in a Cardigan which I felt suited us better given our old age. Sanur is indeed a more quiet and relaxed place but it still has all the conveniences of a tourist place - beautiful beach, good restaurants and most importantly hundreds of massage tables on the beach! We found a dead cheap guest house - about NZD18 a night including fan, relatively clean room and a rotten-smelly, no ventilation bathroom. The Police Chase
The main purpose of our trip to Indonesia was for Tom to get some epic surfing in. So we headed straight to Uluwatu one of the world famous Bali breaks. It is a stunning place with crazy steep cliffs that seem to grow straight out of the water. To get down to the beach you have to climb down these tiny steps where you dont want to put a foot in a wrong place!
Speaking of putting your foot in the wrong place, the next day Tom and I had planned a relaxing day
Happy snorkel times
Enjoying lunch on Gilli Air before more coral adventures
on the beach but ended up spending the whole day in a Bali hospital. Whilst walking down a sidewalk on a main road I was talking to Tom about where to cross the street when I turned around and noticed that he had completely disappeared. In the split second I had a million thoughts about kidnappings, big ransoms and perhaps Tom being sold as a lady boy. But then I had moaning and cursing coming from below. Tom had fallen right through a big whole in the sidewalk - probably about 30cm by 80cm (see photo evidence), just big enough for his body to scraped from toe to hip height. The picture of Tom as a lady boy was immediately replaced with him in a wheel chair with eight broken limbs and neck support.
I knew it was time for action so I engaged my efficient self and yelled out at the first Bemo that passed us, got Tom in the bemo and told the driver to take us to the hospital. Somehow the driver understood that as a request to turn his shaky little reconverted ice cream van into a Jason Bourne type car chase. He overtook every
World famous surf break - somewhere in the background is Tom surfing (where is Wally?)
single car and motor bike on the road in any way possible. Red lights didn’t stop him either and anyone who has been to Bali will know that traffic is not for the faint hearted and driving through a big intersection on a red light does not make it any safer. I wanted to yell out “nooooooooo” but my heart was blocking my throat and there was nothing I could do but close my eyes and wait for the impact. When nothing happened I slowly opened my eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. We had somehow made it through the intersection alive. The driver was still on his secret mission and continued to push the van to what I guess would have been the fastest it has ever gone. When he went through the third set of red lights and I seriously thought that I was going to end up in hospital as well, there seemed to be some justice when a police officer on a bike turned his siren on and road up behind us. “Phew” I thought to myself, the police officer will pull us over and we will all live. But no, our Balinese Jason Bourne
Sanur Beach, Bali
knew that no one stops for the police, so he tried to shake off the chasing police officer. After a 5min hectic car chase the police officer caught us and drove up next to the driver. However, instead of slowing down the driver yelled something aggressively to the police officer, then pointed to Tom lying down in the back and floored it. The police officer turned around. To this day I am not sure what he said but I am wondering if he maybe suggested that Tom was either delivering a baby in the van or was dying from a gun shot. As you can imagine I was more than relieved to see the hospital. Even more relieved to find that it was another brilliant tourist hospital with the kind of five star service that the Four Seasons can only dream off. The avid reader will remember that I spend some time in the Bangkok tourist hospital where I had my own private nurse and coffee machine a few years back. Tom got wheel chaired straight into the ER (yes, Western world make a note here: no queues at the ER) and I rested up by the coffee machine. 1h
later Tom had had x-rays and a million tests done including an ECG test which you of course need when you have a sore leg (!) and was nicely bandaged up. Luckily no broken limbs just a few cuts and a sore calf. 1.2 million rupiahs later, we were happily back in the guest house rather shaken from the ordeal but happy to come out of alive just in time for another Bin Tang. We have ticket to mental hospital
To my luck, the surf turned small the next day and the forecast looked bleak. So I suggested that we go to the Gili Islands in Lombok, three tropical islands with white sandy beaches, turquoise water, coral reefs and absolutely no surf. Secretly I couldn’t believe my luck as I have always dreamed of going there but knew that the flat waters would not appeal to Tom. So we boarded the Perama ferry to the Gili Trawangen, the largest of the three islands and also the island known for its endless parties. What is so good about the Gilis is that there are no resorts, just nice little bungalows on the beach. This means you don’t get
the flocks of Euro trash tourists and their tour leaders. Having said that the islands only survive because of tourists and I am sure the resorts are only moments away. It took four hours by ferry to reach the beautiful Gili Islands. Gili Trawangen basically consist of a dirt road that runs around the island. Half the road is filled with restaurants, t-shirt shops and of course bars selling the infamous magic mushrooms. Being the prude I am I of course expected them to keep the illegal substances quiet and I thought that to get hold of some you would have to know someone who knows someone. Kind of like the movies. However, the marketer in me was put to shame when I saw the big colourful signs outside every bar proclaiming: “We have best magic mushrooms” or “We have ticket to mental hospital”. So much for keeping it on the quiet (see pics).
But of course the days of partying my life away have gone so instead of munching mushrooms we booked a snorkeling trip. Sorry dear reader, not as much fun as I used to be I know. One of things I love the most in the
world is snorkeling. Snorkeling is like entering an entire new universe - coral reefs are like colourful little cities with tropical fish in any colour combination you can imagine and corals that gentle wave out to you. To my surprise Tom was quite reluctant to go snorkeling - he said he never enjoyed it much. So I was even more surprised that at every stop he was the last one back on the boat - he was loving it. My favourite part was the the giant sea turtles we saw. We got so close I could have touched them - what a feeling. It was not till the end of the day when Tom was raving about the snorkeling I found out that the only snorkeling he had ever done was in an English river!!! Need I say more? Our Indonesian Wedding
After three days of relaxing on our tropical island we boarded the ferry for Lombok and took the bus from Sengigi in the North to Kuta, Lombok in the South. The drive was absolutely spectacular. A part from Sengigi we didn’t see any tourist developments on the entire island. It was almost as pure and
The Crime Scene
The hole in the pavement where Tom crashed through
untouched as back in the day. A part from cell phone shops which were everywhere. It was amazing to see such heavy reliance on human and animal labour. The main transport around the island is by hourse and cart or motorbike and in every rice field you still see hundreds of people harvesting, the women in the villages spend 8h a day weaving by hand! And it takes one month to make one sarong. As charming as it may look, the fact is that it is old fashioned and one of the many reasons that Indonesia despite being the world’s fourth largest country by population and one of the richest mineral countries in the world, it is still far from reaching its potential as a dominant world economy. Of course politics plays a big part in the slow progress as well, but that is another (long) story. The good news for tourists is that we can still visit traditional villages and get dressed up in traditional Indonesian wedding wear, even if we don’t want to (see picture)! Kuta, Lombok - magic!
We arrived at our destination Kuta, Lombok late that evening. Kuta, Lombok is also the surfing
Room with a view
I wonder whose lovely legs these are? Gili Trawangen beach.
mecca of Lombok just like its name sake in Bali. However unlike Kuta, Bali that comes with 24h parties, thousands of people, endless souvenir shops and touts on every corner, Kuta, Lombok is still a traditional village with a couple of guest houses added in for good measure. The beach is stunning - white sand in a long horseshoe bay surrounded by green hills which I thought looked a lot like New Zealand but that could just be me being a bit homesick.
We stayed at Surfers Inn a great little backpackers with its on pool and run by a kiwi from Grey Lynn- perfect. Tom had a couple of great surfing days and I chewed through another two good books. Because there were hardly any tourists around, we managed to be the only people in the different restaurants we had dinner in every night. Nice little bonus.
During the day we rented a motorbike and explored the country side with only the wind accompanying us. Every where we went people would smile and wave. Such happy carefree smiles that we could only return. We went to nice little secluded beaches, small fishing villages and of course the famous Astari
It does not get any better than this. Gili Islands.
café nestled high in the hills and overlooking Kuta beach. An Australian couple had the foresight of building a great vegetarian café which potentially has the best view in Lombok, delicious.
But as much as we both fell in love with the peace and tranquility of Kuta, we knew that we could never keep this place to ourselves. The kiwi guy told us that a bunch of Arabs had just bought half the land in the village and had already started building an international airport just outside town and were planning to build a resort with over a thousand rooms. I feel sad for all the locals living in their huts on the beach but I suppose that is the downside of progress too.
So here I am back in Sanur, Bali after a 14h bus-ferry-bus trip back from Lombok packing my bags for the next installment of our trip: Kuala Lumpur for a day followed by Vietnam and Cambodia. But I think I have got time for one more massage on the beach and perhaps another Bin Tang. Anyone?
There are more photos below