Ending our days on an idyllic island...we don't want to go home!

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May 27th 2013
Published: June 20th 2013
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We always knew we wanted to spend the last part of our trip on a beach, so that we could go home with good tans and feel relaxed, and since we decided a few weeks back to make Indonesia our last country, we couldn't think of a better place in the sun to end our beach time than the beautiful Gili islands. Once we managed to tear ourselves away from lovely Ubud and got a good deal on tickets for the fast boat, which was very smooth, we arrived on Gili Trawangan, the biggest of the three Gili islands (although it is only 7km around the whole island so still very small).

As soon as we got off the boat and saw the crystal clear waters and white sand, we remembered just how much we had liked it here when we visited a couple of years ago and knew we had made the right decision to come back and make this our last island. We set about finding a room and decided to push the boat out and stay at a small resort called Pesona, which had gorgeous clean rooms, big comfy beds, warm water in the shower, a pool and included breakfast. It was the most we had spent in Indonesia on a room but when compared to rooms we have had on other islands in Thailand or the Philippines it was amazing value at around £15 a night. Yes, we could have got a decent room at half that price but we felt like treating ourselves for the last part of the trip!

Gili T, as we said, is a very small island around 7km in diameter, with no motorised traffic, just bicycles and horse and carts to get around. Accomodation ranges from small basic homestays to 5 star hotels, locals are very friendly and will always offer you 'extras', and there is a wide variety of restaurants to enjoy both local and western food. While it was busier and there were a few more bars and shops than a couple of years ago, it had a great traveller vibe to it and the beach, especially further up to the North of the island, was one of the best we have seen. We know we have said this a lot over the past few months and there hasn't erally been a beach that we haven't liked, this one really was amazing. The sea was so clear and there was no rubbish anywhere, the sand was white and soft and the weather almost the whole time we stayed was perfect. Originally we had intended to stay just for 3-4 nights, then move to either Gili Air or Gili Meno, which are smaller, quieter islands nearby, but we loved it so much we ended up staying on Gili T for the whole 9 days and could have stayed even longer.

Most days after breakfast we were content with finding a patch of sand and sunbathing for a few hours until the sun went behind the trees and the beach shaded over. The water was so inviting and a relief from the intense heat, so we were always dipping in and out of the sea. We found a couple of places that offered good local food for lunch and we soon became regulars, having anything from Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng, to beef Rendang or stir fried chicken for just 15,000-22,000rp a dish. One day we were feeling energetic so hired out bicycles and rode round the whole island which was great, stopping for a few hours at a luxury resort on the other side where we got to use their sun loungers and pool when we bought lunch there. It was lovely, although we have to say the best bit of beach is definitely the stretch on the Eastern side, as round here it was rocky and the water had a lot of seaweed in it. Most of the island has a path running round it so cycling was easy, but at some points it turned to sand so we had to get off and push the bikes! Scott also fitted in a few runs around the entire island whilst we were there, keeping up his fitness regime, but it probably wasn't the best idea as for a few days he wasn't feeling 100% with the dreaded 'Bali belly' and he felt quite weak but he was back to normal soon enough. We had also planned to do a boat trip one day to visit the other islands and do some snorkelling while we were at it, but we just got so lazy! Although when we found out we could hire snorkels for the day and potentially spot turtles just off the house reef, we had to give it a try...

We ended up getting two snorkel sets including fins for 50,000rp/approx. £3.30 for both of us, a great deal, and wandered up the beach until we reached a point where we wanted to go in. The current looked quite strong and we were told that if we went further up, it would just take us all the way back down, which is exactly what it did. The sea is so shallow that for the first few metres our faces were almost touching the bottom, but then a bit further out if drops off and is so clear. Within 2 minutes we had not only seen countless fish, amazing ones at that including huge colourful parrot fish, Nemo's and Angel fish, but we had also spotted a couple of turtles! These creatures are incredible, so old yet graceful, and we couldn't get enough of seeing them in a natural environment, just paddling along. The current was strong and it didn't allow us to stop for long to look at them, so we kept walking back up the beach, going in the water and being taken down by the current several times just so we could see the turtles again and again. We wanted to see turtles so much and were really lucky that we got to see them just a few metres away from the beach that we sat on every day.

Gili T is known for being a party island, and yes it had a handful of bars, some of which are open until the early hours, but there are only 3 main party nights a week (Monday, Wednesday & Friday) at alternating bars so if you wanted to have a quiet night you could easily, and we did several times. We enjoyed going for dinner each night, either to the night market or a cheap local restaurant where you could get a Nasi or Mire Goreng with chicken Satay for 20,000rp/£1.35, or to one of the many fancy BBQ places further towards the southern end of the island. Our favourite down here was Scallywags, which we went to twice and both times it was excellent - we tried a few things from the BBQ ribs to chicken and beef kebabs to pork steaks, all served with baked potato or chips and with unlimited fresh salad - it was more pricey than other places on the island costing around 140,000rp for 2 people but it was delicious. We did sample the nightlife a fair few times too during our stay! The weekly parties at Tir Na Nog and Rudy's were really fun with good music and the drinks flowing, although due to the recent scare stories about methanol being in local alcohol here we were quite cautious of what we drank. Live music at Sama Sama reggae bar was also good, and we even squeezed in a full moon party with our Dutch friends who we last saw in Bali a few days back - it wasn't like the ones in Thailand but still partying on the beach is always good! Some nights we would catch a film on the big screen TV's at our hotel, or go back to our lovely room and watch something on the laptop, grabbing an early night which was also nice.

The sunsets here were some of the best we have seen on the entire trip, although sometimes the cloud would cover them, but the ones we saw were incredible. They didn't even look real, the colours that the sky would turn and the reflections onto the sea looked like something out of a painting. We enjoyed sitting on the beach watching these very much.

Our amazing time on the island came to an end quicker than we would have liked, and it was with a heavy heart that we packed up on the last day and headed back to Bali. This would be our last bit of beach time on this trip, and it also signalled the last of our main destinations, meaning it was very nearly time to go home...whilst we were looking forward to seeing friends and family in a few days time, we couldn't believe our trip of a lifetime was almost over, and if we thought we would be ready after over 8 months on the road to go home, we were wrong. Yes it would be nice to not live out of a bag and watch every penny, but to think of going back to the dreary UK, have routine again and not make decisions like 'the beach or the pool today?' was not something we were looking forward to...

S&V's Travel Info & Tips:

General Info: Approx 15,000 INR/RP (Indonesian Rupiah) to £1.

Transportation: We haggled hard to get a good deal on the fast boat to/from the Gili islands. It cost us 425,000rp each for a return ticket with Sea Marlin, who were very good, and it took around 90 minutes going from Padang Bai harbour and 2hrs back. The cost also included a pick up from our hotel in Ubud, and then a drop off back to Kuta in Bali.

Food: Scallywags for a BBQ treat, the night market for cheap local eats, Ocean 2 restaurant for lunch or its special pasta dishes in the evening (just 25,000rp/£1.70), Taman Thai for lunch or dinner (local & Thai dishes) - as you can see we ate our way round the island!

Accommodation: We treated ourselves for our last few days and had a lovely room at the Pesona Resort. The fan rooms (hot water) were at the back so although the resort is in the middle of everything, these rooms were quiet at night. It also included a yummy breakfast and the use of the pool. We paid 250,000rp a night, approx. £17, and it was worth it to us to have some luxury at the end of the trip.

Other observations:

x) The people in Indonesia have been so friendly and kind, and this was no different on the Gili islands, where locals would always say hello and help you if needed.

xx)We hired our bikes and snorkels from Blue Wind just off the beach - they were the cheapest we found on the island and it was run by a lovely guy, the name of whom escapes us but he had very long curly hair!

Additional photos below
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20th June 2013

Ending your days
We've enjoyed following your adventure. Sorry you are at the end but looks like you picked a great place to wrap this up. Lovely photos.
21st June 2013

Oh no!
I can't believe it's almost over. I hope "a trip of a lifetime" doesn't mean the only trip. I expect more from you. And thanks for all the advice about traveling in China.

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