<<  Gili Islands, 29-Aug-2013  >>

Legendary Gili Islands

Gili T - Asia for beginners, Gili Air - Asia for pre-intermediate. Sleeping with a cat and major breaking news!

52km on perfect and straight roads, 1 hour and 4 minutes according to Google Maps – reality: more than 5 hours. Only in Asia… And that excludes the 1,5 hour break in, you guessed it, traditional village :-) near Kuta.

Roads on Lombok are in excellent condition, I’m serious, there are even pieces of proper highway with 2 lanes in each direction, usually sight unseen in Asia, but anyway the trip from Kuta to Bagsal by public transport took 6 hours, because I first had to take a scooter taxi, then take 4 different bemos (minibuses) and the final 1km I had to travel with… a horse cart. Next time you travel in Europe, bow to the coach bus or train and show your appreciation. At least I will :-)

From tiny port town Bangsal I took a public boat to Gili Trawangan, one of the legendary “Gili Islands” aka “Gilis, 3 tiny islets off shore from Lombok, which were uninhabited just few decades ago, but now are supposedly backpackers’ Mecca and almost everybody who has been there is raving about them as one of the best places in whole Asia. There is no motorized transport on the islands, not even omnipresent scooters, only bicycles and horse carts and dogs are forbidden, and absence of in Asia otherwise unavoidable noise of motors and company of stray dogs sounds very promising, so I went o check this paradise…

Gili Trawangan, alias Gili T, is the most developed of the three island, is known as the party island. Right upon the arrival (just 30 minutes or so from Lombok mainland) I knew I was in the wrong place. While I don’t deny that the island had certain appealing atmosphere and charm, with the horse carts and bicycles cruising the “streets” and zillions of bars and restaurants and trendy places to stay, this here is 100% pure “Asia for beginner” (honestly, more like “Asia for pussies”). It didn’t look, or more precisely FEEL like Asia at all, it was a piece of Italy or France teleported to a tropical island. There’s 20 000 white European and Australian tourists and maybe 1 000 locals, so this gives some idea of how “Asian” the island could be. Based on the reports of the travelers I had met I imagined this place to be some kind of hippie place, but hell no, this was pure distilled mainstream. I expected Byron Bay, and landed in Sydney (using the description which I used when I wrote about the place to Irene). When I say Asia for beginners, I don’t mean that I consider myself better or more cool than the people who come here, honestly if I had just 2 weeks of vacation and was looking for a nice place to relax I might come exactly to this place, but as it is, after almost 1 year spent in Asia during the last 2 years, place like this simply doesn’t give me any kick. Actually I don’t understand that someone travels as this, deep in Asia, just to be completely isolated from anything that is Asian. Beer, pizza and sun bathing metrosexuals are easily found in Europe, why travel here?

Since I was too lazy to move to another island and anyway I just needed a place to sit and program I stayed there 3 days, mostly snorkeling (nice spot, but no match for Komodo National Park) and coding. And I surrendered to the local social habits and yes, I did have pizza, yes I did buy one beer (by the way, it was only my third beer since my arrival to Indonesia one month ago), and yes I even did some sunbathing(!!!). Or more precisely, I was laying on a beach while reading… wait for it… Bible :-) Hahah, I might have joined the masses on the outside, but I bet I was the only freak who was reading Bible on Gili T :-D
Me and Jehova have some common interests now, namely creation of worlds, so I was reading Genesis and confronting the ways of God with my own divine programming activities, because I let the waters and the land separate, and I saw it was good...

To give you one more hint of how heavily touristed this island is, let me tell you that during the last 8 months, I met 3 people from Slovakia (excluding people I met on purpose: Samo, Janka, Viktor, Hanka, Jakub,Lucia), and here during a single dinner on night market I saw 5 of them. I haven’t spoken to any of them (I always avoid everybody from Slovakia and Czech Republic on this trip…), but still, my feeling of “far and away” diminished heavily.

The first night I stayed in a “broken room” :-) After long time of searching for cheap accommodation I found one guesthouse which had a room with broken fan and curtains, and they wanted to paint the room next day, and so they let me sleep there for one night for really good price. Funny thing happened during the night. I woke up in the middle of the night and as I turned from one side to another I saw something on the bed. Thinking that it’s a piece of my clothes that I left there I wanted to throw it away, but when I touched it, it was hairy and soft and warm and big :-) I touched it again, it moved a bit, and there was no denying that it’s some animal who was sleeping next to me. Some people would probably freak out, but I knew that it’s most probably either a cat or rat (and I love rats) and so I stumbled to the light switch, I let there be light (you see how me and Jehova really do share interests…) and saw it was a cat. As dog are prohibited on Gilis (but drugs are “allowed”) the cats have taken over the reign and there’s a million cats on the island. I wonder how many people would let an alley cat sleep in their bed next to them, but when I saw it was only a cat and not a rat, I just stroke it, turned off the light and gladly shared my bed with it. I love all living creatures!
The huge cockroach which was running around my bathroom and which I killed would probably disagree, but actually I showed my love to him by giving him long time to get lost before I terminated him and when I did so, I made sure not just to hit him, but to crush him into disgusting shit, so that he would die instantly and not suffer too much. Or is this not love? :-)

There’s a lot of live music on Gili T, and unlike elsewhere in Indonesia, it’s not horrible, they can sing at least acceptably. The live “music” I heard in Kuta Bali and Kuta Lombok was so incredibly awful, that I couldn’t believe my ears and that someone is PAYING that group to play, or even tolerate them playing. I would never enter those bars, it was like the worst of the worst losers from American Idol / Superstar. Gili T bands were much better (even muezzins in the mosque could sing, I bet they hired better ones than in rest of Lombok to make the tourists suffer less), but Enrique Iglesias’s “Bailamos” followed by Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” in reggae version? Only in Asia…

And last thing to say, as anywhere in Asia, even here it’s true that modern technology in hands of people not ready for it is bound to make things worse, not better. The room I stayed in the other 2 nights (after I had to leave the “broken room”) was brand new (I was the first person to stay there) and nice, but… it was a fucking glasshouse! The local owner probably thought it would be cool to make a room with 2 out 4 walls made of pure glass, but somehow he must have forgotten that he lives in Indonesia, and that it’s fucking hot in here and even better, one of the glass walls was oriented to the west, which meant that each afternoon the room became furnace hot. I don’t know if he intends to grow tropical fruit in the room, but I wish him good luck with renting this room to anyone else then cheapest assholes like me. If he built a the house from bamboo or palm leaves, like the generations and generations did it would be much better. But glass is cool, right? Only in Asia...

After 3 days on Gili T I moved to Gili Air, smaller, much more local and much more lovable of the Gilis. Suddenly ration of locals to tourists was 2 : 1 and the place at least looked and felt like Asia. Nice snorkeling, walk around the island and some more programming, that’s as much as I did. If you ever plan to come to Gilis, I strongly recommend Gili Air over Gili T.

But there is one more thing that happened while I was on Gili Air, real breaking news.
I found, 2 months old message, from my camera. Ehm, from a girl from Noosa who had found it. Facebook, thank you very much for putting THAT message to "SPAM" box! Anyway I'm even more stupid than I thought I was, for finding it now, after I bought a new camera, got a new (Indonesian) driving license and blocked my cards...
But,... SHE STILL HAS IT AND IT'S ALL STILL IN NOOSA, MY CAMERA, MY DOCUMENTS, MY CARDS!!! In one month or so, I should have it back 
#REF! Thank you Yana, thank you Universe. Peace and love to all!

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak