Thursday, 26 February 2015

A paradise on earth; The Gili Islands (Impressions, boat information and timings and of course, pics to make you run for the door)

When I started my research about Indonesia (yes, I know that you all know by now that I research a lot!) it was when I started hearing about these great three tiny places on earth; the Gili Islands.

A little reachable paradise and it is with this word that I wish to title this post as hardly any other word can define better what this place is; a paradise on earth.

These islands are a total of three very close to each other (aerial pics of them are pretty amazing, have a look) and they belong to the peninsula of Lombok, however most of us we reach them from Bali and of course, they have it all organized there to make it possible.
After my last disaster being a hero trying to reach Ubud by my own that cost me almost my sanity, I decided that this time I would be more tourist that brave backpacker and took a transfer, so organized that the pick-up was across the road from my Guest House J
Pick up from the GH in Ubud to Gili Trawangan or Air by fast boat, a total of approx. 3-4 hours, cost me 275.000 IDR.

Now, it is possible to do it alone (they say…) and the way is to get the Perama Shuttle Bus in Ubud (only that is nowhere to be seen but I heart it does exist!) to Padang Bai, from there take a boat to Lombok, then again from there another boat to Bangsal and there another boat to whichever Gili you wish to visit.

Seems a lot of hard work or maybe is not, I would however like to point out that by then I was still traumatized by my experience. Said that, I wouldn’t mind to try the next time I’m around here.

Padang Bai seemed to me a little sleepy fisherman village very charming, possible the kind of place where anyone can hang around easily for one day but there was not time, as soon as the shuttle dropped us and after a short time to exchange our tickets for the fast boat one, we were on our way to the small pier where we waited for almost an hour for the boat to arrive.

The fast boat is quite comfortable; full of Westerners and minority of locals, for the obvious reasons related to the high cost, sadly.
It took an hour and a half with some very few heavy waves at a times to reach Gili Air (with a previous stop in Gili Trawagan where all the entire young crowd jumped in to return to firm land). After that, a quick ten minutes more and we reached Gili Air.

As soon as I stepped out of the boat and put my feet on firm land, I felt it. I felt the peace, the tranquillity, the slow pace, the island life. I could feel and sense all those things, it was like the time had stopped and I just arrived to a different world.

There were not touts hassling me at the tiny pier so I made the most of something so unexpected and started walking slowly inland. Of course I knew that any GH or hotel/resort at the beach would cost me much more that I could pay and besides, I quite fancy the tranquillity of the island local community.
As I walked, I noticed two things; GH and homestays signs were absolutely everywhere and most of them were beautiful bungalows of similar shape. Very nice!

I finally ended in a way too nice bungalow for me called “Family Homestay” where initially the guy was asking me 300.000 IDR which I would not pay as it was way out of my budged so I said thank you and continue. Five minutes later he reached me with his bike and offered me 150.000 IDR with breakfast included. Good enough, I took it.
This below was my bungalow. Not bad, uh?

I spent two days in Gili Air and then moved to Gili Trawagan where I stayed three days. The tale of my time in the islands is quite simple as I have done pretty much next to nothing other than cycling, walking, swimming, sunbathing, eating and contemplating the turquoise water and sunsets.

I read a while ago that each island has a different personality to match your own. While I did not go to Meno I can’t say that this affirmation is true…Yes, Air is very quiet and smaller and when you step in Trawagan you notice right away that the dinning, diving and bar options have multiplied but not in an overwhelming way.

I read that Gili T was a party island and I was a little bit concerned where I was getting myself into but after spending here three days I have seen lots of similarities with Air and no major differences, so much that I decided to stay longer because I happened to find a truly wonderful beach with friendly locals selling jewry and felt so very comfortable here.

I also found accommodation inland; the Dian Homestay, here are a couple of pics; ery nice, quiet and comfortable for 150.000 IDR with breakfast included.
Walking completely around both islands never took me more than an hour but of course, it will always take you more because you are likely to stop in a nice beach, have a swim, enjoy a great spot, have a drink in the many bars at the beach, take pics, etc…
I noticed that, especially in Trawagan, there are wonderful hotels and resorts, I mean, wonderful spectacular pure luxury places where I doubt there are any backpackers staying. Wow.

Is not a wow meaning “I wish I could stay”…no! I loved my homestay and would have not change it for the world, ran by a genuine nice Muslim family but you’ve got to give credit to the constructions and decorations of such places.
Also, I noticed that in both islands but specially T, there were many hotel constructions taking place. I suppose that sadly if I visit in a year’s time, the hotels will have doubled even though soon they will ran out of place.
One thing that I did not ask but I sort of suppose is that many of those locals working so hard on the constructions are possible coming from Lombok or other places like mainland Bali to work and earn money. Then conditions didn’t look great for them…
Amazingly, vehicles of any sort are not allowed and the only official vehicles are two; donkeys/horses pulling wooden carriages and bicycles (as you can see from my pic below, there are two types of bikes; with the big thick wheels and the normal)

These bikes with the crazy wheels are not so crazy after all, as not only when it rains but also when you go around the islands, there are paths full of soft sand and with a normal bike you have to get off and walk pushing your bike and with the other super bike, well, you just don’t…Is like a bike from the future, don’t you agree??
These carriages being pulled by donkeys and horses not only are taxis for the locals and tourist but also to carry construction stuff and any other thing. I don’t want to imagine the disaster of having motorbikes in such peaceful clean islands like these. The idea is just a big no-no.

Together with the Ubud locals, these island locals are one of the nicest people I have ever seen. They are just incredibly smiley and accommodating. There is no way you walk or bike around the island without being greeted by almost all of them! Not only hello, but also how are you and any other questions that may arise. How beautiful is to be in a place like this?
I have found a perfect package here; a paradise on earth with heart-warming people.

Of course these islands they survive thank you to the tourism and everything, absolutely everything is focused on it. As you walk around, you notice several places dedicated to diving, tours, boat transfers... Then there are the many restaurants and bars each of them fighting to capture your attention and that makes them extremely appealing and exotic; imagine endless beautiful objects decorating a terrace facing turquoise waters with a background of chill out music.
Then there are the shops, the exotic locals, the smiley children, and their genuine carefree happy attitude, a chill out atmosphere and surf tables everywhere.
Why would anyone want to leave a place like this? Hard to answer.
I don’t and I feel I could spend here a long time but the trip must continue and I have decided that instead of being unhappy because I have to now move on onto my next destination, I’m going to feel incredibly blessed because I came, I saw, I enjoyed.

Don’t let anyone make you believe that Gili Islands are expensive if you are on a tight budget. I’m the living example that they can be indeed very cheap because accommodation aside, watching an amazing sunset and enjoy swimming in their intense blue waters is free and makes you very  happy.

 As they say, the best things in life are free J

Before I close this post, some useful information if you are about to get here or thinking to; Here’s below the timings for the boat and also the prices.

Bear in mind that this prices are for the local boats, not the fast ones and as an example, if you take the local boat for Gili T to Padang Bai, it takes 10hrs and costs you 220.000 IDR however I paid 300.000 IDR for the fast boat to Padang Bai (1hr ½ ) and then a transfer to Kuta in Bali. Make your calculations and decide what is best for you).

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

There are so many things a person can say about this paradise, but why not to say less and maybe inspire you to see it for yourself?

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