We had a few more days to kill in our trip when we got back from our misadventures in the Komodo Islands. We had been planning on spending those last few days on Nusa Penida doing volunteer work for a wildlife-related nonprofit. Nusa Penida is a large island off the Southeastern coast of Bali. Known for being wild and untamed, Nusa Penida is supposedly the answer to the often-pondered question “what would Bali be like if there had never been any tourism”. Doesn’t that sound great?? Well that’s not what we did. Sorry.
After being on that stupid boat for so long we decided to spend our last leg of the trip relaxing in the Gili Islands. The Gili Islands are an archipelago composed of 3 small islands off the Western coast of Lombok: Gili Meno, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T). They are your quintessential tropical island escapes. The beaches really are straight out of post cards and while there is a small population of subsistence farmers that live inland, the only industry or establishment to speak of is purely for tourism.
Each island has its own personality:
Gili T is the most popular island and is known for having something of a party scene for all the backpackers that are passing through.
Gili Air has a reputation for being much more quiet and laid back – and actual island escape.
Gili Meno… who even goes there? Super indie.
I have basically given up drinking since I left the states so I was much more keen to go to Gili Air but we ended up finding a great deal on a hotel on Gili T. So we decided to go to Gili T. This meant that we would have to get back onto a boat again. I wasn’t thrilled about this but hey – it was only for an hour or so.
We chose to take the Wahana fast boat over from Bali. This was the same ferry that we had taken for the first leg of our Komodo trip. The tickets were 500,000 IDR (50 USD) both ways. It’s honestly so smooth it doesn’t even feel like being on a boat. It’s a beautiful stretch of water between Bali and Lombok save for the rivers of trash floating through it. Our boat was forced to stop at least 2 times per trip fish garbage out of the engine. Almost every beach we visited on Bali and Lombok were covered in trash so it shouldn't have come as any big surprised I suppose. On either side of this ferry were strings of trash stretching as far as the eye could see. That didn’t seem to bother anybody else though, including the scores of dolphins that swam beside the boat, jumping in and out of the water in our wake.
It was low season, so the fabled ‘Gili T party scene’ was pretty lackluster. The island is only 3 km long by 2 km wide so there isn’t much to do on land besides eat, drink and relax. Oh, and do drugs.
Since the 1980s Gili T has been known as being an easy place to get shrooms. This was sort of a shock to us because drug related offenses carry the death penalty in Indonesia, at least that’s what the immigration cards we had filled out on the plane told us. During the one night that we did go check out the nightlife we were solicited shrooms so openly and frequently you’d have thought they were selling candy. Tempting, but we did not partake.
There is a wide range of accommodations available for travelers, ranging from luxury resorts to hostels. There is a similarly diverse range of options for food. There are nice restaurants and there is a good selection of food trucks. There is one main road on the island that essentially just makes a loop of the island. Pretty much everything the island has to offer travelers is on this road. There are no motorized vehicles allowed anywhere on the island so in order to see the other side of the island (and not walk there) your choices are to rent a bicycle or take a horse drawn taxi. We chose the bikes, for 50,000 IDR (5 USD) per day. The tiny, hard seat tore me a new asshole as I cringed my way around the rough, dirt road but it was a beautiful ride aside from that.
Here are some pictures from around the island:
The biggest thing to do on these islands (other than drink and tan) is go scuba diving. People will often come here to do their PADI certification. We had met a number of travelers on our trip that had done just that and highly recommended it. But at this point it was a little out of our price range. This would cost us at least 300 USD and this trip was already taking a toll on my finances. So, sadly we couldn’t do that. But what we could do was go parasailing. We had seen it happening off in the distance multiple times so it didn’t take us long to track down the ‘office’ for it.
The parasailing we did was run out of a place called the Lava Lounge, which is essentially just a beachfront bar/restaurant. They had us gearing up within 30 minutes of arriving at their doorstep out of the blue. It cost us 75 USD each. Our teacher was another American who spoke with a thick southern accent. I vaguely missed home as he explained to me what to do.
This was either the best or worst massage I have ever gotten. One evening, around 10pm, I had acquired a monstrous knot in my neck - the kind of knot that prevents you from moving your head in a certain direction. I remembered that the 'lobby' area of our accommodations had massage tables and the makings of a small spa. I went out and asked if I could get a massage for my neck.
The Indonesian man working the desk told me to sit in a chair. He stood behind me and proceeded to give me the most painful massage I have ever experienced. I did my best to stay loose and let him have his way with me, when suddenly something in my neck popped. My vision grew blurry, the white noise around me increased in volume and the room started to tilt and spin. I thought I was going to pass out. But then, after a few seconds, my senses returned to normal. I looked around and realized that my neck felt perfect. ASIAN MEDICINE FOR THE WIN AGAIN!
I thanked the man and twisted my head curiously as I walked off.
Fighting Our Way Off The Island
When it came time to leave we unearthed our Wahana tickets and set off to find their office and check in for our ferry. When we found their office we showed the man at the desk our tickets. He looked at them and told us there was no room for us on the boat – we were supposed to call them to check in 24 hours in advance. He told us that we would be put on the waiting list so if somebody didn’t show up we could take their spot, rudely pointing for us to sit down outside.
Now, I don’t normally lose my temper in these situations – I’m a pretty difficult person to get angry – but this guy was being a total dick. It was kind of ridiculous. He was talking down to us without even a shred of effort made to be polite. He wouldn’t even look me in the eye when he spoke, as if it was such an imposition that he might need to actually do his job and deal with customers. We told him that this was the 3rd time we had taken the fast boat with his company and nobody had ever told us that we needed to check in ahead of time before. He yelled at us, constantly interrupting us to show us the fine print at the bottom of the ticket. You don’t need the details. I had pretty much had it at this point so I told him off and stormed out.
There was another fast boat company called Gili Gili Fast Boat that operated right next door to Wahana so I walked over to the man standing out front and asked him if it would be possible to get a boat back to Bali with his company today. He shrugged pleasantly and said ‘sure.’ I was beginning to ask him what the price was for a ticket when the Wahana employee I had just told off ran outside of his shop and beckoned us to come back in.
“You book with my company! You cannot go with another company – you have to go with my company!” he yelled, waving his hands in the air.
“Haha I don’t have to do shit, bro” I replied. “You’re not the only guy on this island with a boat.”
He angrily wrote our names down on the list and shoved a sort of boarding pass into my arms.
“Wait a second” I said “3 minutes ago you said there was no more room on the boat. Did somebody just cancel in the last 3 minutes?”
He didn’t say anything in reply so I took that as a “Nobody canceled, there was never not room for you and I’m a lying asshole on a power trip”
We concluded our business in silence. When I walked out of the shop the nice man in front of Gili Gili Fast Boat asked me if everything was okay. I laughed and thanked him anyway.
And so we concluded our stay on Gili T on a bit of a sour note. But I did have a delicious doughnut while we waited to board our ferry.