Where do we begin? With the clear turquoise sea, with the mountain contours in the horizon, with the dozens of restaurants and bars scattered along the never-ending beach or with our bungalow’s two balconies? We’ve arrived in paradise, at least compared to Bali.
The journey here started in Kuta, where we were shoved into a small bus going about 50km/h for about 3 hours to Padang Bai, via some other places to pick up or drop off people or food. The scenery along the way was something completely different from what we’ve seen in Kuta. Endless rice fields, loads of carpenter’s shops exhibiting astonishing craftsmanship, steep canyons and green mountains. In Padang Bai we had about 30 minutes to have lunch in a local warung neighboring to the travel agency’s Padang Bai office. The restaurant also housed the first hole-in-the-floor toilet, which Outi experienced with questionable satisfaction. ”Really hygienic if there would have been toilet paper” was the verdict.
At the Padang Bai harbor, we were shuttled out to the travel agency’s own big ship taking us to Gili Trawangan. This part of the journey took about 4 hours, during which we couldn’t do much more than relax, take photos, have a beer, talk to the crew and have supper, prepared by the ship’s own chef. The ship even featured its own beach on the upper deck. It didn’t come to much use, though, since at first the sun was too strong and later it started raining. We didn’t see the advertised dolphins, but we did, however, see a lot of flying fish, which was a sight we will not soon forget.
When the Gilis started to become visible in the horizon, the old volcano on Lombok had already made an impression on us and we knew that this place would be something extraordinary. Upon arrival we were taken to our hotel, which is a sight in its own right. Besides being the cleanest and newest and most stylish place we’ve lived in so far, it’s also on the upper floor of a two story bungalow, and has not one, but two balconies. One with sun bathing chairs and a cocktail table for evening relaxation and one for having breakfast in the morning sun. Breakfast is made on demand and brought up to our room by one of our two friendly hosts.
Sweaty and tired after the long trip, we headed directly to the beach. And what a sight! The feeling of having a dip in water more clear than tap water, with the white beaches of neighboring Gili Meno just some few hundred meters across the sea and Lombok’s mighty volcano just behind the two other islands is unexplainable. The small pieces of coral washed up on the beach make a soothing crystal-like sound as the gentle waves washes through them. Kids play football on the beach, divers and fishermen go past in their narrow boats equipped with stabilizing wooden pontoons while the sun is slowly setting on the opposite side of the island. This is something we’ve only seen in postcards.
Gili Trawangan is a small (1.5 km by 2 km) island northwest of Lombok, which is the next ”big” island east of Bali. ”The Gilis” are comprised of three small islands, of which Gili T is the biggest and furthest away from Lombok. It’s also considered the ”party island” due to its vast selection of bars and restaurants. The other Gilis, Meno and Air, also have their distinct identities, one being the ”honeymoon island” and the other the ”middle-aged island”.
All motorized vehicles are banned on the Gilis, making bicycles, your feet and horse-and-carriage the only means of transportation. The main road here on Gili T is a sandy three meter wide path going around the whole island, sporadically paved with stone, from which smaller alleys run into and across the island. Cats and roosters freely roam the streets, smoke rises from outdoor kitchens preparing everything from lobster to chicken skewers and sun-bleached hair contrasts nicely with the perfect tan and dirty feet.
Being Christmas Day and all, we decided to hit the pubs after the dip in the blue. During the couple of runs up and down the main street in search for the suitable venue, we noticed that the demand didn’t really meet the supply of bars here. Completely empty restaurants trying to reel in by passers were more a rule than exception, and even the more successful watering holes had plenty of room. Then again, the biggest party was yesterday and it was still only about 8 in the evening. Many restaurants were serving the most fabulous Christmas buffets, which made us curse the chef on the ship taking us here for his excellent noodles that we had too much of.
We ended up at an Irish bar having a Bintang beer (nope, no Guinnes or Kilkenny or anything other remotely Irish) and yet again wished ourselves merry Christmas in perhaps the least exciting of party moods. Luckily, we soon got accquainted with the couple next to us at the bar, which turned the almost depressive Christmas Day into a real treat. The one beer we had decided to have became two and three and more and the topics ran from lens comparisons to round the world trips. Before retreating, we even decided to meet up in a couple of days for more beer and more fun.