The continuing quest for paradise…
I have this vision of an unspoiled, tropical paradise – swaying palm trees, perfect blue skies and gentle ocean breezes, powdery white sand, and clear turquoise water. I’ve seen pictures of it on calendars, travel web sites, and airline posters. Therefore, it must exist. I will find it….
I’ve come close a few times. Hawaii is a paradise by any definition. I love Maui and always go when I have a chance, but it is a bit overdeveloped and crowded to be a true escape. Plus, in my mind, paradise does not have a K-Mart. Nothing I’ve seen comes closer to those ideal poster images than the Maldives. However, the lack of competition on each one-resort island suddenly inflates prices to four times their natural size. This stresses me more than relaxes me. I see my retirement savings ticking away with each cocktail.
In most wonderful places that I’ve been lucky enough to travel to…there seems to be something missing. There are variables that are important to me when seeking a paradise. For example, it shouldn’t be too tricky to get to, but it also shouldn’t be too crowded. Unfortunately, the easier a
A requirement for any paradise contenders!
place is to get to, the bigger the crowds. However, I don’t want it too isolated either. I’m looking for some peace and quiet and beaches devoid of crowds, but I want to be able to find a nice conversation, if that is my choice.
I must also consider the “chill factor”. This is the most important thing to me. A place should be relaxed, comfortable, and easy-going. I don’t want any stress. I don’t want hawkers following me around. I should be able to laze around beneath one of those palm trees. I should be able to enjoy local cuisine, but I don’t want chain restaurants.
Many consider Bali a paradise – and in many ways it is – but, it is more of a cultural, scenic, spiritual paradise. On my first trip there, to beaches that were already wall to wall hotels and crowded, fellow travelers whispered “Bali is ruined. If you want to see what it used to be like, go to the Gilis.” The Gili Islands are three small dots off the coast of Lombok, not far from Bali. Of course, I added them to my list of must-see places. It took
more than 10 years to get here, but I’m finally going to see if this might be paradise. Gili Meno is known as the sleepy, quiet island. Gili T is known as the party/backpacker island. I choose Gili Air, the option that falls between sleepy and up all night. It is the closest, of the three islands, to Lombok. I’m hoping it hasn’t become overdeveloped.
I head out at 5 AM and fly two hours from Jakarta to Lombok. Since I don’t have a lot of time to haggle or wait for public transport, I splurge on hotel arranged transport. A driver picks me and drives me two more hours to a harbor on the northwest coast of the island. From there, a boat takes me 20 minutes over to the island, where I am met by a horse cart that brings me to my guest house. This is still a place where you have to jump off the boat and wade ashore while holding your luggage overhead. I guess overdevelopment is not too much of an issue. All together it is about 6 hours of travel time from Jakarta. This is definitely not the easiest place to get
But, how does it rate on Kim’s Paradise Scale?
Water – the water is clear and varying shades of turquoise. I would say it is easily scores a 9 out of 10. In fact, I am motivated by the clear water to go back to SCUBA diving. I’ve been away for the sport for more than 2 years, and I was never very good at it. I always was nervous about the equipment failing (and breathing 20 - 30 meters under water) and this caused me to hyperventilate, which made it difficult to descend, which made me more nervous…and more hyperventilating. It was vicious circle of stress and panic. However, it seems that 66 dives and 28 months away from the deep are just enough to give me perspective and confidence. I enjoy 3 perfect dives. No equipment trouble, no stress, perfect weather, perfect seas, and visibility so good that it can’t be measured.
White, powdery sand – The sand looks white and soft enough. The beach is not wide, but it looks decent. However, this beach is deceiving. Much of the coral in the area has died and has washed up on or near the
These flowers ring the island and lead me on my sunrise walk....
shore. One day I decided to have a swim. I started wading into the water. Each step was painful as coral and rocks dug into my feet. By the third step, I lose my balance and hit the water. No wonder there aren’t many people splashing around in the warm, clear water. I overhead some people talking. They were in Gili Air 20 years ago and they were mourning the loss of the nice sand that, apparently, used to surround this island. So, although pretty to look at, this sand only scores a 3 out of 10.
Chill factor – Gili Air is definitely a chill place. Cell phone service and wi-fi connections are sporadic, resulting in a disconnect from the rest of the world. There are no cars or mechanized transport. It’s pretty easy to chill out in a place like this – mostly because there isn’t much else to do. There are plenty of places to eat and drink. You can dive or snorkel. It takes only an hour, at a brisk pace, to walk around the whole island and I do this each morning. Most other activities revolve around the simple hammock. You can read in a hammock. You can sleep in a hammock. I spent a fair amount of time, swinging in hammock, watching the geckos play on my porch ceiling. That is, until, I saw one catch and eat and moth. That was a little too “wild kingdom” for my relaxation mindset! The only appointment that I religiously kept each day was a stroll to the north end of the island to watch the sunset over a cool caipirinha. Chill score – easily 11 out of 10.
So, I didn’t find paradise this time. I did find a very nice place to go and relax. It does have that get-away-from-civilization quality. It is definitely a nice alternative to the crowded, smoggy, traffic-choked parts of Indonesia. I think I’ll be back, but the quest for the perfect paradise continues….and I’m happy that I can accept that mission!
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