After spending last two months away from Indonesia, coming back to Bali was a dream come true. Bali doesn’t feel the same. It’s not the mysterious land that I arrived to in July last year. It isn’t the foreign mindset and unfamiliar culture.
Feels like “Home Sweet Home.” But better.
A warm welcome at the airport stretched into a wonderful trip to a place that I haven’t had a chance to explore: Gili Trawangan – a small island shrouded in the mystery of acid parties and other whatnot.
The first time I heard about the Gilis was from some Australian travellers who were about to set out for days of crazy parties on a boat cruising around the islands. They had already been there a few years ago and couldn’t wait to get back to a place that was 1) near Bali, and 2) full of drugs.
Drugs in Indonesia? You might raise your brow. After all, the country has super crazy restrictive laws regarding drugs.
Indeed, it does. But in places like the Gilis, where there is no police, it is not so easy to enforce the law. Moreover, business is business and there are many types of tourists that need to be catered to. Some people travel to get wasted in remote locations. No denying that.
Alright, drugs and what else?
Scuba diving! For those who aren’t too keen on expanding their brains with various substances, Gili Trawangan and its sister islands (Gili Meno and Gili Air) have some of the most renowned diving spots near Bali, featuring one of the cutest sea creatures: the turtle!
The scuba diving industry is alive and well on the island. There are many PADI centres ready to take care of adventure-hungry travellers. The great thing is that if scuba diving is not your thing, you can enjoy snorkelling in many places around the island (TIP: ask for best snorkelling spots in a scuba diving centre).
Moving around the island
One of my favourite things about Gili Trawangan is how transport is solved: no cars, no motorbikes. The only two modes of transport are bicycles and cidomo, aka horse carts. Yes, that’s right: horse carts.
The horses are small, sweet and adorned with bells. Because of this, the island reverberates with the jingle coming from their trotting. They work very hard to earn their living and the rides are somewhat pricey, usually around 75,000 – 100,000 Rupiah, even if the distance you’re covering is not too long.
For all these reasons, I felt much more comfortable using a bicycle. You can get them in all of the resorts on the island. They are offered free or for a fee, depending on how far your hotel or villa is from the sea.
Back in the saddle
I was happy to explore the island while riding a bicycle, something that I really enjoyed in Ireland. There’s an overpowering feeling of serenity when you pedal through the mostly unpaved streets that are unbothered by the sound of car engines. The air you breathe is pure. It smells of hot trees, salty sea and the occasional cow dung.
The future of the Gilis
Measuring 3 km long and 2 km wide, Gili Trawangan is the largest of the Gili Islands. The name of the island originates from the Indonesian word Terowongan (tunnel) and the island boasts having a cave tunnel that was built by the Indonesian forced labour for the World War II occupant – the Japanese army. (Click here for directions on finding the tunnel.)
The fame of Gili Trawangan has been spreading among travellers for some time now and the island has gone through some serious development. People’s interest is unwavering as the island allows unwinding in many different forms. Whatever you’re after – beach, party, water sports or nature – you can be sure that the island is not going to disappoint you.
The easiest way to get to Gili Trawangan is taking a shuttle boat from Bali (the crossing takes about two hours). Shuttle boats set out several times a day bringing travellers in and out of the Gilis, so moving around can be done with a degree of flexibility.
If you’re looking for a challenge, you can take a ferry to Lombok and then another boat to Gili Trawangan. The journey will be never-ending but at least it will feel like an adventure.