After almost 2 months in Australia, which was just enough time to settle in and make it feel like home, I left. I hopped on a plane and made my way up to Bali. I met my friend Veronika in Seminyak with only a plan for where we would be staying the first few nights. We decided to just make plans as we go, because there seemed to be plenty of places on AirBnb in all of the areas where we wanted to stay.
After a few days in Ubud, which is also one of my favorite places ever, we decided to take a boat out to the Gili Islands in Lombok. We asked around a little about which of the Gili Islands to visit. There are three; Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The general consensus was that Gilli Trawangan (Or Gili T) was the party island. Not what we were looking for on this trip. Gili Meno is more romantic and quiet.. and Gili Air had a little bit of a community but was a quiet place to go to relax. That sounded perfect. We found a shuttle from Ubud that took us to Padang Bai on the east side of Bali. The drive took us just over an hour. When we got to the port there were lots of people trying to sell us things. I bought some coconut and watermelon and then a woman who I had spoken to on the way in yelled at me for not buying it from her. Why do I still feel guilty about this? Let it go, Lis.
The boat ride took about an hour and a half. We took the fast boat. There was music playing, everyone was dancing and the weather was beautiful. Gili Air is the closest of the three islands to Lombok, so the farthest from Bali. We stopped at the other two to let passengers off before we got off at our stop.
When we arrived, I stayed with our bags and Veronika went ahead to ask them if we could get a taxi to our hotel. We realized two things. 1. There are no taxis. Actually there are no cars or motorbikes allowed on this island at all. 2. Our hotel was only a 5 minute walk down the road so taking a taxi would have been pointless anyway. It took us way longer than 5 minutes though because the road was only sand and V's suitcase had to be dragged through it. I have a video of it. It was hilarious. I'll have to find that. I think after that incident I may have convinced her to start using a backpack.
We got to our hotel and it was pretty nice. We had our own balcony and could see the ocean. It's amazing the places you can find for MUCH cheaper than anything in the US. One week in this hotel was less than one night in far less beautiful accommodations in any major US city. We stayed at 7SEAS Cottages which was around $17 USD/ night at the time. Walking around the island we spotted other places we probably would have chosen had we been there before, but we liked it enough.
Exploring the island we saw signs for scuba diving, yoga and stand up paddle boarding. There were little huts scattered around with tour options, most of which took you off of the island, and we wanted to stay put for a few days. Apparently there is a night market at the high season, but it wasn't there when we visited. (June.) There was no real crazy nightlife there as I've heard there is on Gili T, but there were a few bars open if we wanted to go out at night. There were a lot of signs around for magic mushrooms.. and the occasional person asking if we wanted them. I thought it was a joke at first. I still don't know for sure, since we didn't say yes.. but it looked like they were serious. We walked the path that goes around the island every day. It was magnificent and only takes about 2 hours to walk the whole thing. It was quiet. Just the sound of the waves, soft music from the beach cafes and the occasional jingle bells that hung from the Cimodos. (Carts that are pulled by horses. This was the only way to get around the island other than on foot or by bike.) We were warned that there may be sea urchins in the water, but we didn't have any problems with that. Then again, we didn't spend much time in the water here. Basically just walking out to that swing and back.
One day while we were there we decided to try to find some wifi at an outdoor coffee shop we found online that was supposed to be the only place you could really connect to the internet. I guess Gili didn't want us connecting to the outside world, because just as we sat down with our iced coffee, a HUGE storm rolled in. They told us we needed to get off the deck and get back to our hotel as fast as possible. We didn't make it back before the rain, but it did make for a hilarious experience that we will never forget... one of my favorite moments of the whole summer.
We stayed mostly on the outskirts of the island. It wasn't until our last night that we accidentally turned down a street that had lots of little shops and restaurants. It felt like we had known the island so intimately at this point so it was so bizarre to find this random hidden street full of people. While there weren't any large buildings at the time we were there, there was some type of construction happening on what looked like a future hotel. I really hope this doesn't take away from the beauty of the island.
Tips if you're going to Gili Air:1. Bring Cash: There were two ATMs on the island, but they weren't working when we tried to use them. Apparently having random power outages on the island is pretty typical. 2. Bring a poncho or umbrella. Self explanatory. 3. Prepare to Go Offline. The wifi here sucks. That can be a good thing if you're trying to unplug for a while. I was more present here than most of my other trips. Not a great spot for digital nomads to plant themselves for a long time though I'd imagine. 4. Walk around the island a few times. Every time we went for our walk we noticed something new and beautiful.
This is an incredibly magical place. I know there is more world to see, and so many other places that I need to visit before I start doubling back, but Gili Air holds a really special place in my heart. If you go there, take a picture on the ocean swing and send it to me!