The Gili islands are located NW of the island of Lombok, Indonesia: Gili Twangaran, (aka Gili T) Gili Meno & Gili Air. The first backpackers arrived in the late 1980’s & by the 1990’s Gili T had become nirvana for those in search of sand, blue oceans, cheap accommodation & weed without cops. In the main village on Gili T there are bars galore some with good live music, dive shops, no police, no dogs (but a gazillion cats) & no motorized vehicles (transport is limited to bicycles or “cidomos” horse drawn buggies.) Normally I would choose somewhere less party intensive, like Gili air or Meno, but Jen, the Canadian, and new travel buddy was going to Gili T and invited me along. So I decided to try my hand at partying. Turns out, I’m a natural.
My first bungalow was right in the thick of it, which was convenient, however, it didn’t give me that Robinson Crusoe beach experience I was craving. Within a few days I had grown tired of the throngs of people, the loud & late night revelers , and the touts that constantly nipped at my heels. I was ready to bail on Gili T & retreat to the solitude of Gili meno, and then I ventured North.
A couple of luxuries of being a long term traveler are those of time & flexibility. Independent travelers usually arrive at a destination, search out accommodation and find either a sublime retreat or a hovel (or somewhere in between). When you only have 3-7 days at a destination it makes it somewhat a pain, & often just not possible to switch accommodation or neighborhood, beach, arrondissement, village, or wherever, if you decide you like someplace else better.
The other luxury of being a long-term traveler is flexibility or the ability to “go off program” if you choose. Some long-term travelers choose to hop from place to place, allowing only 3-4 days in each place. Making sure they get value from that round the world ticket or are able to tick off boxes from a list. This mode of travel makes me weary, cranky & does not allow me to connect with a place. Places are like people: sometimes it takes a while to see their beauty.
The northern beaches of Gili T are about a 25 minute walk & miles away in attitude from the main strip. The beach is nearly deserted, the water is clear & blue, snorkeling (with big sea turtles!) is amazing just out my front door, the attitude is relaxed, my bungalow is clean & lovely, the food is simple but tasty ( curries, mie goreng, nasi goreng & gado gado, are the mainstays) you can also order “fatties” and shroom shakes like you would a cold bintang. (ahem, if you’re into that sort of thing….) at night there are bonfires & fire twirlers & the reggae music that never ceases. The travelers in this part are a fun and an “anything goes” sort of crowd. It is easy to let one day slip into the next, and that day melts into the following & soon you can’t remember what day it is. Nor do you care, really.
And then the day comes, when you know you must move on, other places beckon, but you are grateful for the gift of being able to stay, until you decided to go.
Gili T travel lowdown:
I Would recommend getting out of town, but if staying close to the action is important to you, I would suggest finding accommodation in the village. It’s less expensive & quieter. Although I didn’t stay at coconut dream or rumah saga, I looked at them & they were clean and hospitable. From 200,000 -300, 000 IDR
Food: the cheap stuff can be found at the nightly food stalls and while it’s certainly cheap, it can be a bit pedestrian. Mostly mie goring, sate & nasi goring. Otherwise, every restaurant in town offers some sort of ersatz western fare.
North of town: Windys bungalows. A perfect blend of relaxed & friendly hospitality mixed with good service. 250, 000 -350,000 IDR
There is also less expensive & more upmarket accommodation on this part of the island as well. Just take a wander
Food: Made’s warang. Some of the best food I’ve had in Indonesia. Great selection, mostly stuff I’ve never heard off, a bit more expensive, but totally worth it. No western food! Try the Gulai Ayam (lombok chicken curry, like none I’ve ever had. It had cardamom, cinnamon, coconut, chilies, and all sorts of bright flavors I couldn’t identify.) or the Urap Urap ( spicy stir fried vegetables with coconut ) and the lime juice is unbelievably good & not to be missed.