Indonesia: Travelling to the Gili Islands
January 1, 1970
Coming from the small city of Groningen in the Netherlands, Indonesia has always been very far away. A short holiday trip in Indonesia has never been easier for me than now, while living in Bandung, West-Java. Only on Saturday, me and my friend decided to go on a trip to the Gili Islands, a decision that turned out to be one of the best of our lives. These Gili islands, which in Bahasa Indonesia translates to ‘Small islands’, are a real paradise.
Travelling to the Gilis
From Yogyakarta, where we were staying at that time, we flew to Denpasar, Bali. From the airport we took a taxi to Padangbai, from which we took a boat to our first Gili destination: Gili Trawangan. Reserving the boat a couple days in advance might be smart, since your negotiation position is better at that time. Make sure you don’t get scammed! The first price Indonesians asks is hardly ever the price they want to have.
Travelling on the Eka Jaya fast boat to the Gili islands is an amazing experience on itself. Beside sitting inside the boat, you can also sit on top of it. The crew organised cushions, beer and reggae music: the recipe for an amazing boat trip. On the way back we even saw dolphins and flying fish!
Our first island stop, Gili Trawangan, or in short; Gili T, is the most crowded of them all. However, that does not stop you from being amazed by the clear blue water, relaxed atmosphere and the fact that the horse-drawn carriage and bikes are the main mode of transportation, since all cars and motor bikes are banned from all three islands.
Gili T is said to be the party island of the three, which is completely true. With its many bars, parties and beach clubs there will always be a good place to party. After dinner, around 9 or 10 o’clock, the bars start to fill up. Starting off the evening with a few games of beerpong in the beerpong bar, continuing to chill and listen to some (real good!) reggae music in the bar ‘Sama Sama’ and after that walking down the strip to find the best party. It is perfect for a night out, and the day after is not that bad as well. Chilling at one of the many beach clubs, from which many have beanbags : perfect to relax and forget about your hangover.
There are many great dinner places on Gili and western food is widely available, which was a nice surprise after all the rice back in Bandung. A great recommendation is the local barbeque at the square along the strip! The food is cheap, though more expensive than in Bandung, and tastes really, really well.
After two and a half day of Gili T, we took the public boat to Gili Meno. The public boat took only 15 minutes and is IRP 35k, which is only a little more than 2 euros. Gili Meno, also known as the honeymoon or paradise island, really is the most beautiful island of the three. It is quiet, the beaches are beautiful and white and I have never seen water as blue and clear ever before. The island is really small: you can walk around the whole island in less than 1,5 hours.
After dropping of our bags at our beautiful (and cheap!) bungalow, we headed to the beach. The beach was so beautiful and quiet, and we found free beach chairs were we could relax completely. There is not much to do on Gili Meno. However, this is not disturbing. We snorkeled and saw the most beautiful fishes. On all three islands, you can easily organise a diving trip or get your PADI. I did not dive myself, but the stories from people who did, made me wish I could have seen it for myself. There are really pretty sunset spots and the lake is also definitely worth a visit. Gili Meno is the most beautiful island I have ever seen and the beach really is surreal.
The last stop: Gili Air
The last two days we spend at Gili Air. This island has a chill vibe. It isn’t as crowded as Gili T, but also not as quiet as Gili Meno, it is the perfect island to end the Gili trip. There are many luxurious restaurants and beach clubs, but it is also no problem to find the typical Indonesian Warung or a nice reggae bar. During the day, we rented a snorkel set and a stand-up-paddling board, which turned out to be the perfect combination. This day, we really hoped to see a turtle, since they are very common here. We did not see any, but as a local woman told us ‘when you are lucky, you will see them, but when you are not so lucky, you will not’.
Our last evening we watched the sunset and dined in a very beautiful restaurant at the beach and were very happy that a glass of wine was relatively cheap here. For some reason is red wine always served cold in Indonesia, but this didn’t spoil the fun for us that night.
Do’s and don’ts on the Gilis
• go to the Sama Sama bar on Gili T
• visit the local barbecue on Gili T
• find a warung on Gili Air and eat Martabak
• get a room with airconditioning
• go snorkeling or diving
• go and see the sunset as often as you can
• be amazed by the beauty of the island
• tell the waiters that red wine should not be served cold
• enjoy the fact that you really have no obligations there
• stay in the Kanaka guesthouse on Gili T
• buy bracelets for any more than Irp 10k each
• visit just one island
• miss out on the Gilis
Back to Bandung
The day we left we tried to catch the 11:30 boat. However, the boat must should have been ordered the day before and we ended up waiting for two more hours to catch the next boat. The boat trip back was amazing and included transport back to the airport of Denpasar. Due to an accident we drove through the beautiful inland of Bali and the driver even tried to cross a river with the car. Back at the airport, we booked a simple hotel to spend the night. Getting food out on the street again and seeing Indomarets every 100 meters felt like home. Waking up the next day and having our hotel receptionist tell us that we could not get a taxi since they were all booked, was not a real surprise for us: this is typically Indonesian.
As my plane was taking off I felt happy knowing I explored these amazing three islands and I looked down at Bali, knowing I would come back to explore this amazing island as well.