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Published: July 15th 2015
The Gili's; Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno - 3 photogenic small desert islands all frindged with white sandy beaches, lines of coconut trees and clear turquoise seas . All 3 have their own individual identity, attracting tourists in their millions each year. Highly recommended by most people we meet. Some people visit just one island, whilst others - such as ourselves - attempt to explore them all. A booking error costing us 2 days (stuck in Makassar) and a 90min delayed flight wasn't going to stop us either.
Our grand plan to get to the popular Gili's was to fly from Makassar to Bali, catch a bus from Bali to the laid back village of Padangbai, explore, stay overnight and then head straight over to the Gili's in the morning.
Landing a couple hours later than planned we arrived in Denpassar, Bali. We didn't want to waste no time, the boat for the Gili's left in the morning from Padang Bai 2hrs away. It was now 7.30pm and too late to catch our intended bus, so we haggled a price with a taxi driver to take us straight to Padang Bai. Luckily traffic wasn't too bad that
time of night and the journey took just over an hour.
Before we'd even found our hostel in Padang Bai we quickly booked our tickets at a random agency for the Gili's fearing there'd be none left. With it being quite late and now too tired to do much else around the town, we ate a fairly pricey meal at our hostel and went straight to bed.
Out of the 3 Gili's: Gili Air stood out to us both. From our research, it was branded a mix of both Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, which to us sounded perfect. Gili T was known as "The Party Island" wheras Meno was more the "Honeymooners" island. All 3 islands are stunning in their own way with mesmerising sunsets, beautiful scenery and soft sandy beaches.
As we were getting off our boat in Air we bumped into Christina (who we'd first met in Ubud). We planned to meet up with her at some point on Air as we were aware that we would be there at the same time. We chatted briefly and decided that we'd try to get a triple room as it would work out cheaper.
We walked along the main strip filled with shops, bars and eateries until it became a little 'quieter' stopping at one place we'd seen online. Unfortunately they were full but the guy led us to another place further up. The homestay was perfect - views of the sea, hammocks, porch, free breakfast (by the beach). Although the room only had one double bed they were happy to throw in an extra mattress so we could all fit.
After hearing that there was a possibility of spotting turtles just off the beach we made it our mission the following day to find some. We snorkelled along the coast not too far from our hostel and also just off the main beach. The corals were colourful although not plentiful, we swam with a few schools of curious fish but unfortunately no turtles this time. On our way back we bumped into 5 of the guys (2 Austrian, 2 French Canadian and a Swede) we did the Mount Ijen climb with a week earlier and agreed to meet up with them later.
Having caught the yoga bug in Ubud, P was itching to practice some more and so attended a class
(only place on the island) and as usual came bouncing out of the class relaxed but still upbeat.
We met up with the Mt Ijen guys at a nice little place overlooking the beach with comfortable seating and good shade (this became our prime meeting spot during the daytime). Over drinks we caught up on the adventures we'd had since we were last together. We also had a lovely dinner that same evening all crammed into a bamboo seating area on the beach enjoying each others company. We were even joined by another girl, Frnnc (German girl with an Aussie accent after 6 months working there) who we'd also met in Ubud. It was like one big mismatched reunion of friends we'd accumulated on our short trip through Indonesia.
For our last night, we decided to stay in one of those beautiful charming wooden huts and we managed to find one that was well priced given its luxury appeal. This triangular shaped hut came equipped with a swinging hammock out front, carved intricate wooden doors, a hug bed and its own outside area out back decorated with marble and stone and with out very own outside rain shower.
Only for one night this proved to be a lovely treat and fulfilled our craving for a little bit of luxury that was long overdue.
The following day we took a stroll around the whole island, well about 3 quarters of it (we'd walked some the previous night on our way home). The walk took us about 2 hours as we followed the path alongside the beach. The further we got from the main area the quieter the hostels and homestays got. It was a very subdued atmosphere. One thing you do notice as you walk around Air is the many blackboard signs outside some of the bars offering magic mushrooms and 'shroom shakes. Sometimes you'd hear the faint but clear sounds of "Marijuana??" "Mushrooms??" as you passed some of the locals.
We came across a small eatery serving the usual local fare. The price was good and the owner was eager to impress, giving us extra rice to entice us to return. Chris went for the shredded chilli chicken with rice & veg, whilst P opted for the same (minus the meat) with tempe. In P's words this "is the best tempe" she has ever tasted in
Indonesia, another favourite to add to her list. Suffice to say we returned to the restaurant twice more, bringing friends on our final visit.
After a relaxed morning and farewell goodbyes to 'the gang' we bought our tickets for the sleepy island of Gili Meno. The journey there was the worst boat ride EVER! The waves were huge, rocking the boat from side to side. Seating about 50 people, with passengers facing each other around the edge of the wooden boat, we were treated to an alternating view of beautiful scenery then a huge sea swell back to beautiful scenery and so on. It felt like at any minute the sea was going to flow over the side of the boat engulfing the people sat opposite. Luckily it didn't, one backpacker girl squealed quite loudly at one point as she grabbed hold of P. Thankfully we made it safely onto Meno.
Meno is very quiet indeed. This is a place people come to totally relax and get away from other people. For us this could've been found on Air if you looked hard enough. On arrival we were greeted by a tout who offered us
accommodation a short walk within the village for a good price. We even got free welcome drinks. The hut we stayed in was very charming, the pictures speak for themselves.
We walked through the village and around to the west side of the island to watch sunset. The beach was very quiet with only a handful of people on it and was very 'corally' making barefoot walking a bit painful. With Gili T just across the way, the sunset was fairly lacklustre; mainly due to too much clouds, so we didn't stay too long thereafter.
During the evening we walked along the pier front looking for a cheap and tasty meal. There wasn't a great deal of options when it came to eateries here so we settled on a place overlooking the sea and the most enticing menu. We ordered a tuna pizza and chips to share which we finished in record time.
Walking along the pier front in the evening we noticed the really expensive huts with 2 floors. Open fronted, we could see everything they had to offer - Kitchenette, sofa, wide screen tvs, dining tables. They looked like a small island version of an
ikea showroom. After gawping at these huts for a while we made our way back to our own modest hut and called it a night. If you listened carefully you could sometimes hear the music all the way from Gili T from your bed!
Everybody told us Gili T is where you go to party. Maybe we went on a quiet day as we never really seen that crazy night life everyone describes. It was full of travellers and holiday makers but there was still plenty of quiet spots to get away from the hustle and bustle on the main strip. With only one night stay there we had to make the most of our time.
Straight after we'd checked into our quiet little homestay a few streets from the main strip within the village, we went in search of push bikes to hire. Finding suitable bikes we took a leisurely ride around the whole island. We went through the village in the centre, along the main strip passing the many bars & restaurants, along the road parallel to the beautiful beaches (perfect for sunsets) and passed by the more pricier resorts before ending
up back where we started. It was a nice little ride and beat walking in the heat.
Whats great about all the Gili's is that there are no cars or motorbikes - if you've travelled in SE Asia you'll understand what a relief that is. There are horse drawn carriages however, making P quite nervous not wanting another collision whenever they approached.
For sunset we found a nice bar right on the beach with 2 perfectly placed swings for some amazing pictures. With it being a popular photo spot we had to nervously wait our turn in the queues hoping the sun will hold out for us as it disappeared quickly behind the clouds. We did have time to admire its beauty still though on our comfy bean bag seats, as Chris enjoyed an overpriced ice cream and P an ice cold Coke.
The guys we were with in Air highly recommended the night market for an evening meal. As we walked through we were in complete awe. Set in a small 'court yard' the grounds were packed with various street food stands, long tables with diners tucking into plates filled to the brim and the air
was filled with the smell of bbq. After perusing the stands on offer, we both ordered the bbq'd tuna steaks with rice, veg and tempe. It was so good, and we were pretty stuffed after it.
Bellys full, we decided to go out for a drink and check out Gili T's night life. It was a pretty quiet night here, maybe we were out too early, most people seemed to eat dinner quite late but we were the only 2 for a long time in the place we chose to drink. Maybe the partying followed much later. We ended up in a bar overlooking the beach with decent music, cheap beer and a cool sea breeze. Before calling it a night we walked once more along the main strip surprised that we actually enjoyed the atmosphere here, wishing we just had one more day and night.
Our visas however said otherwise we had really enjoyed our 30 days but tomorrow it would be up.
Overview. Before coming out to Indonesia we opted for this country due to its location near other countries we wanted to visit and some of its cultural and natural wonders. We did not
think we would enjoy it as much as we did but it is certainly a destination we could see ourselves coming back too. Definitely on our top 3 list of favourite countries visited so far.
Despite some established tourism here, Indonesia appeared to retain soo much culture. Plus its one of the most diverse places we have ever travelled to. The country itself is spread across lots of islands and provides ample amounts of opportunities to get off the beaten track.
As it was our first visit we mainly stuck to well known backpacking hubs with a few side trips to less known places in between. This was just what we needed.
Duration; 29 days
Budget; 736k Rupia/ £36 per day for us both including 2 internal flights.
Accessibility; with the places we visited on Java it would have been easier and more cost effective to travel on a package tour. Nonetheless it is still possible to get by without this especially if you want to get off the beaten path more than us. Trains are also a good alternative to buses here.
P's favourite place and activity;
Tanah Toraja/ Solo and trekking in
Gili T's night market
Chris's favourite place and activity; Ubud and Sunrise at Mt Bromo.
Favourite food. All the vegetables tempe, tofu (nice and chewy P dislikes the soft tofu) selections from street stalls. Nasi Goreng (incredible fried rice), Sota Ayam (noodle soup with chicken/without for P) , the buttered Chicken dish for Chris, and the Gado Gado (peanut sauce over vegetables) dish for P. We rate this as our favourite food so far.
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