As promised, here’s the post about the side trip I made when I went to Bali earlier this year.
We all know that Bali is one of the most famous islands in the world. And surely, it has lived up to its name. What people don’t know is that about 3 hours across the ocean, you’ll find Indonesia’s “Hidden Gems”. And when I say hidden, I literally mean it. I’ve never even heard about these islands before. If not for the locals whom I talked to for some tips, these places would still look like dirty spots on the map for me.
I don’t know if the islands named Lombok, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan ring a bell to you, but it sure does to me now. These are the neighboring islands in this area. I didn’t have enough time to visit all 4 islands so I had to choose one. For some reason, I made Gili Trawangan my choice. No regrets though, because it was simply awe-inspiring!
Here’s the full account of the side trip as I remember it…
I booked with one of the tourist information counters in Kuta. This included a round-trip fast ferry ticket, with transfers to and from Padang Bai where the ferry port is. You can choose from different fast ferry companies but I chose Eka Jaya simply because it was the cheapest one I could find. After a few minutes of haggling, I got a seat for IDR600,000. Not bad when I found out that other passengers paid IDR650,000 one-way(what a rip off!). It pays to haggle people.
Pick up time from Kuta is at around 6am. Padang Bai is a 2 and a half hour drive so I got there at around 8:30am. The ferry left Padang Bai at around 9am and it’s another 2 hours across the ocean. Let me tell you, this ferry is really fast. It was literally flying through the waves. And the sea was pretty rough that day. There were about 60 passengers on the ferry and it was funny how more than half were puking their intestines out. That’s how rough it was. I, on the other hand was soaked because I sat on top of the boat. I couldn’t bear the smell of gasoline fumes. And that’s exactly what you’ll be dealing with with if you choose to sit inside. I finally made it to Gili Trawangan at 11:00am.
As soon as I buried my toes in the fine white sands of the island, I thought to myself “Alright, first thing’s first. I need a place to stay for the night”. After wandering around for a few minutes, I chanced upon Melati Homestay. It was just a few meters away from where the Jetty docked – Perfect location. And after another haggling session, the owner finally gave me the keys to my room for IDR60,000. To this day, whenever I travel, I never make advance accommodation bookings. I feel like this is part of the adventure and it’s a practice I’ve grown accustomed to.
I wasn’t that hungry yet so I just bought a glass natural fruit juice with banana, papaya, melon and mango in it. That was more than enough to keep me going for hours.
All “juiced” up, I went on to do an “Ocular Inspection” or simply getting to know the island. My mode of transportation? The cheapest and most practical mode of transportation to use in islands like these – a Bicycle. I rented one for about IDR20,000 for 2 hours. It took me a little more than an hour to circumnavigate the whole island (that’s how tiny it is).
After the bike trip, I found out that I had enough Rupiahs to spare for a scuba diving adventure. I booked with one of the dive shops in the area and I was scheduled for a 3pm dive in Gili Meno, the neighboring island. I had an hour for my late lunch but I didn’t want to be all bloated during the dive so I just had burger in the restaurant right next to the dive shop. Next thing I knew after devouring the burger, I was 60 feet underwater. It was a beautiful dive spot comparable to the ones we have here in my home town Cebu, Philippines. I saw everything from “Nemos”(clown fishes) to turtles. Sad to say, I also found some traces of dynamite fishing in the area.
When I got back from the dive, I explored the island a little more. This time, by foot. After more than an hour of strolling, I needed to rest my tired feet and what better way to do it than to just lay in the sand or in one of the hammocks by the shore.
If you wanna take a breather from the crowded beaches of Kuta, this is exactly the place to be. So peaceful, so serene, so majestic, so relaxing. If I had more time, I would’ve stayed here longer. Better yet, I would’ve went straight to Gili Trawangan. Don’t get me wrong, Bali was an experience in itself and I enjoyed every second of it but the island boy in me loves this less-crowded speck of land.
As soon as the sun set, the island transformed itself into a romantic, honeymooners paradise where tents were set up on the shore and candles replaced light bulbs to illuminate dining tables. Of course, I was alone so a candlelit dinner was the last thing on my mind. My choice? The cheapest meal in the island. There’s a place not too far from my place where most locals dined. In Warung Indonesia, you have dozens of food stalls to choose from, mostly local cuisine.
I had rice, fried chicken and Satay in peanut sauce with lots of Sambal(chili sauce). The best thing about it, It cost me less than IDR20,000 for this sumptuous meal. And I felt closer to home because I had to eat “Kinamot“(eating with your bare hands in my language).
This was by far the most relaxing trip I’ve had. I could use days like these, and more importantly a place like Gili Trawangan once in awhile. A little escape from everything and everyone. Truly a hidden Gem. And just like any other trip, the only sad thing about it, is that it had to end. No regrets though, because whenever I need to visualize my own happy place, I’ll always have my very own “Gili” in me.