First and foremost, Gili Trawangan is a beautiful, chilled out place. Generally, the order of the day would be to wake up to breakfast on the porch of your bungalow, where the reggae music will already be playing and to head to one of the beach bars where you can chill out on the loungers on the beach while they serve drinks and food to your spot. You have to take a dip every now and again to cool off and chat to other travellers in the sea, and maybe head out on a snorkelling trip out to one of the other islands, Gili Air and Gili Meno. Later on, you can grab dinner at one of hundreds of restaurants overlooking the sunset behind Lombok where you sit on the floor and smoke some fruity shisha.
Secondly, Gili Trawangan is a great party scene, and it manages it without being seedy (mostly). Generally, the order of the night would be to get to the Irish Bar (oh yes!), Tir Na Nog for 6ish to catch the end of the sundowners happy hour, after a few hours (and a few Bintangs!) when you’ve made enough friends at the bar and it’s worthwhile heading off, head down to the Sama Sama reggae bar where they have a great live band each night who will play the reggae classics as well as Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones covers in reggae style! 3 nights a week there are also big parties at Rudys, Blue Marlin and the Irish bar which tend to go on until the last person leaves. These parties are full of travellers and locals alike. Although it seems the locals stick to the magic mushroom shakes rather than the Bintang which, for most, is against their religion (crazy, huh!?).
The magic mushrooms are everywhere here. The lack of a police force on the island (or maybe something to do with bribes and corruption) there appears to be no rules whatsoever. Walking down the street in a country which punishes drug smuggling with execution and feeling like you’re in the dodgiest parts of Camden is a strange feeling. The phrase of choice for the locals who are offering mushrooms or weed is generally “something else?” and you’re bombarded with it whether you’ve been offered a ‘something’ yet or not. The whole time though, the island manages to remain completely unintimidating. The lack of control seems to send people into dizzy friendliness rather than violence and theft, but maybe that’s the mushrooms. The beach front road (I say road, there are no cars or motorbikes on any of the Gili islands, only here drawn carts) is surrounded by signed saying things like “fresh, sexy mushrooms here” and “super strong shroom shakes” and the menus in these places are ridiculous. You can get mushroom shakes, mushroom pizza, mushroom sandwich, mushroom macaroni, mushroom pie, and the list goes on… Some people drink them like other people drink Bintang!
My favourite local on the island was a guy called Bas, who we renamed The Boss. He ran a shop by the port and late at night he would sit outside with his guitar strumming away and apparently waiting for some drunken tourists to sit down with him and sing along, which of course we did. He was a 50 something guy with a penchant for singing a good few octaves above his comfort level. After rattling through ‘Redemption Song’, ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ he asked if we had heard of 4 Non Blondes… “Of course!” The following few minutes were spectacular!
I met some great fellow travellers too. Two Canadian rugby players, Scott and Jonah, (from Bamf, who said that it was nice to be in Bali where there were fewer Australians than at home!) who I met on the boat over and shared a room with. Kiwi Tim and Shane (actual name Tony, not sure why) and Canadian Brad, who were fly-in-fly-out workers in Western Australia and Papua on their 1 month off before going back to work, were the guys I spent most of my time with, “6 o’clock in the Irish bar” becoming the catchphrase of the week! And also Englishmen James, Eden and “Beast”, who play for Westcliff RFC, who I believe will probably be playing against Tabard next season. I also strangely met a girl from St Albans, who’s name escapes me but she went to STAGs.
I’m heading back to Bali now for 1 more day on the beach, and I’ve booked a flight back to Kuala Lumpur for Thursday 7 Feb to return to some sanity and to stop spending so much money on beer! From KL, I might meet back up with Corbin, Jake and Mitch (who I met in Tanah Rata) who are volunteering building a guesthouse somewhere or may head north to Penang. I need to start heading north soon though as I have 7 weeks until I fly to Mumbai from Bangkok and I want to see Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia before then!
Goodbye Indonesia. It’s been expensive.