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Published: March 2nd 2011
As if one paradise tropical island wasn't enough, we headed to more. After our stay in Ubud we went by minibus and speedboat to Gili Trawangan, near Lombok, a mere 4 hour journey away. The steep $140 + return trip pricetag may have put us off but this is the wet season and therefore off peak. This added to several different speedboat companies and thus there were bargains to be had. Our journey out there cost us 350,000 IDR each (less than $40) Of course, when we only had a single ticket, the blokes arranging the boats tried to talk us into buying the return ticket, as it would be full price on the island, but we've heard that sort of talk before and decided to risk it. As it was, our return ticket, bought on the island, was actually cheaper at 250,000 IDR each.
The Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno, are tiny flat islands famous for diving, coral reefs and an absence of motorised vehicles. A welcome relief from motorbike mad Ho Chi Minh City. No sooner had we waded ashore from the boat than we were being led to a bungalow by a friendly
no motorised vehicles in the Gilis
tout who told us Gili Trawangan had "No motorbikes, no police and no dogs"
(I don't know why the lack of dogs, but it's true. But wow, so many cats). He then offered us some cannabis. This was an offer that would become an almost hourly occurence from various smiling salesmen around the island.
We checked into a bungalow in the village, one of a cluster of about six, about a 2 minute walk from the sea. They were in a little garden and apparently run by a small group of drug dealing teenagers.
Gili Trawangan is really small and we walked around it in less than two hours. Nevertheless, we were surprised at how busy it is in the 'town' section, which is basically a dirt track strip by the sea lined with restaurants, bars, bungalows and diving schools. People had told us about it as a chilled, island getaway but they had perhaps visited a couple of years previous, before the multiple daily fast boats from Bali, because now it has more of a festival atmophere with hundreds of backpackers and some really plush restaurants and resorts. Despite warnings in the Lonely Planet, from the internet
and from people in Ubud, there are now three cashpoints/ATMs on the island and we had no problem withdrawing money there. Despite the busy village, during our walks around the island, we found that the opposite side of the island to the town was really quiet and peaceful with the odd resort popping up here and there to interupt the sound of the waves lapping the shore, birds singing in the trees and bleating goats and cows. Plus, the calm is never shattering by motorbike engines, transport provided simply by horse and cart
Happy Birthday Bob Marley
The 6th February is Bob Marley's birthday. You probably already know this, because everyone we have mentioned it to seemed to, but we didn't until the other day.
We found out, obviously, because we spent it on a tropical island. If you've ever been to a tropical island, or any tropical beach for that matter, you'll know that whether you're in the Caribean, South East Asia or wherever, Bob Marley hold a special importance. Since leaving England in 2006, we've had a mission to visit any English/British pubs we can find. From Chiang Mai to Sapa, Singapore to
Hong Kong, we've looked for pubs called the Red Lion offering 'traditional English food and ale in a tacky Disney-esque little England setting'. But the truth is that we've been in far more Jamiacan themed Bob Marley obsessed reggae bars. Just try visiting a beach in Thailand and not encoutering a beach bar made entirely of drift wood painted in the colours of the Jamaican flag and belting out 'No Woman, No Cry'.The blokes who run it will inevitably look like a cross between Bob Marley and Captain Jack Sparrow and will be a little 'spaced' to say the least.
Getting back to Indonesia - the beach of Gili Trawangan is very similar and signs advertising the celebration of Bob's birthday were everywhere. Reggae was blasting out of one beach bar we sat in. I sarcastically predicted that the next songs would be by Shaggy, Chaka Demus and Pliers and then Bitty Mclean. As I sang Bitty McClean to Kate to remind her of the song, Shaggy came on. Followed by Chaka Demus and Pliers and then....Bitty Mclean. As if they knew, or as if we had been to far too many reggae bars for people who aren't fans of
Enjoying a local spirit gin and tonic
spirits are really expensive in Indonesia because of the tax, so Bali makes it's own.
reggae, and heard 'I shot the sheffif' and 'Red red wine' far more times in the last 4 years than the years running up to them.
The ads for magic mushroom preparations in all forms from pizza to shakes were also everywhere. The clean living gurus of Ubud were a distant memory. Perhaps they started out on Gili Trawangan on a trippy spiral of substance abuse, eating cold magic mushroom pizza for breakfast followed by a spliff but eventually decided to clean up, move to Ubud and have more wheatgrass enemas. It seems logical in a way, if enemas can be logical for anything other than chronic constipation. In one restaurant, after declining a magic mushroom pizza in favour of a more traditional margerita, the shocked waiter replied with "but it's Bob Marley's birthday!"
The Marley party culminated in an Indonesian reggae band playing in a bar by the beach (according to the Lonely Planet 'the best reggae bar in South East Asia, though how could one person have possibly visited them all?). But we missed it because we were doing a pub quiz. Yes, we chose a pub quiz in paradise over some reggae debauchery.
Middle age creeping up? It must be because we came second in the quiz, narrowly missing first place because it took place in a dive resort and we didn't know the answers to the diving questions. Result! It's amazing how many pub quiz facts you learn from ESL textbooks.
Greeting different nationalities
On Gili Trawangan I had the following exchange what seemed like a hundred times with waiters and barstaff.
Barman (always from barmen, women don't say it): "Where are you from?"
Barman in mock English accent: "Wicked!"
Me: "Ha ha. Yes, that's how I talk"
Where does this stuff come from? And what would he say if I said I was American or Canadian or Mexican. And why didn't I experiment to find out?
Years ago in Cambodia, I had similar conversations where Cambodians would say "Lovely Jubbly" to me in a Del-Boy Trotter voice, though I can't imagine un-dubbed Only Fools and Horses being popular on Cambodian telly. Do they even know what it means? I'm not even sure I do.
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