Life on Gili Trawangan

My 1 week update from the Gilis….

I’m living in a small but clean and very friendly guesthouse just a 5 minute walk down a dusty footpath from the main beach road. For US $6.30 a night I get a fan, indoor shower (cold salt water of course), and clean spacious room which so far has been centipede free. There are only 5 rooms (not even numbered) and there is a small vegetable market in the front where the locals gather to eat at night.

What a great find.  There are virtually no tourists around and I’m much more integrated with local life here. Schoolkids play in the street with toys like wooden tops and clay marbles (stuff American kids would put in the trash), old ladies with stained teeth chew their Betel nuts and gossip, and daily life would make a snail proud.
Refreshingly, there are no cars or motorbikes here on the island so the background noise is provided by roosters, the clop-clop of horse carts (the main method of moving things), and my favorite – the call the prayer.

The island is also lacking pool tables (the local elder found out people were gambling so he threw all the balls into the ocean!) and a single dog. The cats love it and have absolutely taken the island by force! I have never seen so many cats (nearly all with missing or broken tails) in one place.

With pretty much one main road on the beach, its not hard to find your neighbors or friends. Inevitably they are either on the small beach or cooling off in one of the open air restaurants with the cats.  Locals and visitors alike are warm and friendly, you have to try hard to be grumpy in a place like this.

Thanks to an arrangement between the island elder and the Lombok police, drugs are plentiful on the island and are advertised on every menu and in front of every restaurant. Crime and violence are virtually non-existent however and everyone is very chilled out, either thanks to those drugs or from dripping sweat in the persistent humidity.

The beach is pretty narrow with plenty of shade trees to hide under, just watch out for the ants. The water gets deep just a few meters from shore and is refreshing and calm like a big swimming pool. Almost within swimming distance you can see Gili Air and cloudy topped mountains reach up from the other islands. To sum things up – paradise.

There is a party here three nights a week and since I have come it has consistently grown in size, with people spilling out and dancing in the brick street in front of places.  I prefer to loose the flip-flops and dance in the sand, but I guess I need to take what I can get before heading East to the rougher less-traveled places where socializing gets tougher.

The music is pretty much the same as the rest of SE Asia, I’m already burned out. Your choices are the mindless thump of electronica trance at the parties or the mindless thump of electronica trance. 🙂

For the most part, this island is the last stop for people doing a short Bali – Lombok tour so there are just as many vacationers as there are budget travelers, maybe more since the gap year students are missing.  I have met some great people over the past week but unfortunately most left this morning to head to Sydney, Saudi Arabia, and all sorts of other places.  Its a beautiful thing how so many strangers from all over the world convene on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere to dance under a full moon!

Diving is a huge lure here and since the sea turtles are in, the white tip and black tip sharks are here having a feast and its a great time to dive.  I haven’t brought myself to pony up the money for a day of diving yet, but for $2 I rented some snorkeling gear and hit the water. The reef here is in terrible shape, but for so much dead coral I saw an amazing amount of life including a turtle, 3 small barracuda, and several Titan Triggerfish – one of which was the largest I have ever seen! These things look and act so damn aggressive, I’ll take a shark over them any day! Luckily, they are not nesting at the moment so I didn’t have to defend myself.

I love Gili Trawangan but just like Ko Phangan, its a sticky budget-destroying web where travelers get caught and can’t leave.  After all, who wants to leave paradise and go sweat in a minibus for 8 hours just to fight your way through scam after scam?

Indonesia is huge and inviting me with open arms to some hard core places, but I’ve got one foot stuck in the web and the other in the sand. I’ll book a ticket, but as you hear so much here in the islands….”maybe tomorrow”.  🙂

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2 Responses to “Life on Gili Trawangan”

  1. Ah, I love it. I felt like I was there too … with one foot stuck in the sand and the other foot stuck … in the sand. And my head in the clouds … as usual. How do you find places like the one in which you stayed? No advance planning/reservations whatsoever?

  2. I can smell the salt water…your stories are so vivid 🙂

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