I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible, but the captain made a beeline straight to where I was sitting. I just rolled my eyes because I knew what was coming.
“You must get off the boat!”
Out of 30 passengers sitting on the small wooden boat bound for the Gili islands, I was the only one with a ticket for Gili Air, the smaller island, rather than Gili Trawangan.
“You sit on dock, wait for another boat.” He told me. Fat chance, I’ve learned by doing this long enough that sitting on a nearly empty boat dock waiting for a mystery passage just isn’t a good plan. Thirty sets of eyes turned to me for my response.
I held my ground. Eventually he relented, and suddenly I was bound for a different island than I had intended. Everything happens for a reason and if you don’t embrace it while vagabonding, you will be completely miserable.
Once the engine fired up and we were under way, I felt the relief spread through my body.
An hour later, our small boat lurched to a stop and we all jumped into the slapping water to wade ashore, careful to hold bags up out of the water.
So here I sit on Gili Trawangan, the most popular of the three Gili islands, but it is still relatively quiet given that its not the busy season yet. This island has a reputation as Indonesia’s “party island” just like Koh Phangan is Thailand’s hedonistic island.
So far, there is little comparison. They have parties here three times a week; I went to the first last night, but it was no busier than the average club at home on a Saturday night. Certainly not the 5,000 people dancing, sharing sweat (and sometimes more) in the sand like Koh Phangan. There are still just as many suitcases and holiday goers here as there are backpackers.
The island is small and there is only one beachside road. I have already ran into people that I met in Kuta, Ubud, and even a French divemaster that I was friends with in Thailand in 2006 — small world! Everyone ends up here at some point and its great running into the same people.
Gili Trawangan is famous for its lack of police presence, so restaurants blatantly advertise magic mushrooms and other drugs on their menus and signs. I get offered mushrooms nearly every day by the same long-haired Rasta locals that you see in Thailand, Cambodia, and every other country on the Banana Pancake Trail.
The internet here is beamed from the mainland and will make you grind your teeth in frustration it is so slow. It also costs $1 every 15 minutes (most of which you spend looking at a loading screen), so I still can’t upload photos which have been sitting on my camera for weeks now. I promise, they are still coming!
Gili Meno, the next island over, is literally within swimming distance (if I didn’t have a bag) but after my little Kuta swimming incident I’m not going to try it. I’ve heard that you can hire a fishing boat over for $2 so I’ll do that in a few days.
I really lack the budget and energy, but this is one of the best places to do some diving, and since I know a good divemaster here I really need to get motivated – easier said than done in the islands!