Saturday, 14 December 2013

30 Nov - 3 Dec - Gili Trawangan

Our journey from Ubud to Gili Trawangan, carefully scheduled weeks before, was thrown into disarray seemingly by a single email that hadn't been sent by one agent to one operator. Staff less professional than those at The Viceroy would have abandoned us to vagaries of the cracked system, but to their immense credit, they made several phone calls, pulled some strings and got the fast boat from Bali held for us while we were driven down busy narrow lanes to the port, and shepherded hurriedly onto the awaiting vessel.

And so 90 mins or so later, via quick stops at Lombok and Gili Air, we arrived at Gili Trawangan. Back in September, I'd never heard of the Gili's, but on the way back from Burning Man, lord Jim told me his stories of two magical visits, separated by 13 years; tales endorsed by fellow Burner and diving instructor, hell's belle Helen. I was sold immediately and wrote them into my schedule.

Gili translates as 'small island', so calling them the Gili Islands is a bit tautological. And while I'm being pedantic, there's actually a score of Gilis dotted around the coast of Lombok. The famous trio, the ones Anna and I were to spend the next heavenly eight days on, are situated five minutes off the north-west corner of Lombok.

Trawangan, the largest of the three, and the furthest from the coast is also the most developed. It's known as a party island, though I'm ashamed to admit that Anna and I, totally contrary to our long established reputation as creatures of the night; didn't once stay up late enough to detect a whiff of serious clubbing action, then again, it is the low season at the moment, so we may not have missed anything anyway. 

I ventured up and out early one morning to catch the sunrise, but didn't see any mashed waifs and strays, only a couple of bar staff sleeping on their bal├ęs. This is the view up and down Trawagan's main strip at sunrise one morning. It comprises mostly of beach bars, fish/grill restaurants, budget hotels and dive shops. The other thing you may notice from the photos below is the bicycles for hire. I should have mentioned it earlier, but one of the draws to the Gilis is the complete lack of motor transport, which after the moped mayhem of south-east Asia was a very welcome relief. If you want to get around, you walk, hire a bike, or flag down one of the horse-drawn covered carts.

We stayed for two nights at the mid-range Beach House, and two nights at it's upmarket sibling -Kokomo, a recent opening which boasts the island best restaurant, (a fact that may be disputed by Scallywags just up the street.) We were really spoilt with a lovely private pool at one of the beautiful villas at Kokomo. 
Amongst all the bars and dive shops, there's a few boutiques for idle browsing, including this charming vintage store.

It's possible to circumnavigate the island in an hour or two by hiring a bike (and pushing it when the path gives up and the sand gets too soft to ride), so that's what we did on our first day. 

At the end of the busy main drag, foundations indicate further developments. Business is doing pretty well here.
There's many beach bars to chose from. This one benefitted from the shady canopy of low-hanging branches.
And a beautiful beach for which to snorkel.
There's little for tourists behind the main strip, but the village is where the locals live and it's worth a look to see what lies behind the glitz.

The south-east coast faces Gili Meno and Lombok and is where 90% of the buildings are. In the late afternoon, people head around to the handful of laid-back bars on the north-west coast to watch the beautiful sunset over the distant mountains of Bali. The tallest of which is Agong, a conical volcano which dominates Bali's shore and is a site of religious pilgrimage.
The Rastas of bar Mengong on the sleepy sunset side were very hospitable. We tarried for a while.
Back on the cosmopolitan south side, the food at Kokomo's new restaurant lived up to its reputation. We enjoyed a lovely dinner there, but our last breakfast before heading over to Gili Meno - the feta, spinach and wild mushroom toast was the most delicous breakfast I've had in a very long time.

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