In Oz, Bali is the place to go for a reasonably easy, reasonably cheap holiday somewhere exotic but not too challenging and a mere 6.5hrs flight away. Bali is beautiful and the tourist scene is well developed. There is everything from some of the smartest hotels and restaurants in Asia to plentiful cheap and cheerful hostels. It’s only downside is it can feel a little hard to believe that you have got away from it all.
Unbeknown to us, the Gili Islands are a three hour fast boat ride from Bali and are a three beautiful tropical Islands. We decided to head for Gili Air, more developed than Gili Meno, but more laid back that Gili T (the party Island), it seemed like our kind of place.
The Island has no cars or motorcycles, just horses and carts, bicycles and walking, all along small concrete or dirts/sand paths. The whole island circumference is only 6km so any of these methods are easy enough. The beaches are good, if not great and at low tide, swimable sea is a way out. It’s possible to eat well, if not fantastically (Mama Pizza, Musa Cookery, Waroeng Alam Damai and the restaurant at Dolcemare’s were stand outs) and they are all reasonably cheap so good value and there are reasonably good places to stay.
The Island also features ‘The Mosque From Hell’. I know lots of people still like to do this God stuff, and it comes in all forms, with many different calls to prayer. As a Brit, I was brought up to the sound of church bells, and whilst they didn’t have the intended brainwashing effect on me, I do rather like them, so I understand the place of the call to prayer from mosques. I also know a ‘good Muslim’ prays 5 times a day, but in Gili….the Inman Never. Shuts. The. Fuck. Up. Seriously. Never. All through the night, chatting and wailing. Torture. Wherever you are on this small island you will get a does of it, but trust me, you really do not want to stay too close to this bad boy.
We had the potential to stay up to 12 nights but only booked 5 in a place called ‘Wake and Baked’ so we could stay flexible. Wake and Baked is very quiet, nicely laid out and very, very laid back place, with 4 rooms set around a small swimming pool. By very, very laid back, I mean often the staff were asleep. One day we came back and saw one foot poking from behind the reception and another member of staff sleeping on a raised platform. We went to the pool, splashed around a bit then not wanting to wake them, helped ourselves to a couple of beers. When we told them we had the beer and didn’t want to wake them, one said ‘I briefly woke, saw it was you and figured you could look after yourselves. We had a big party last night’. This approach may be in keeping with the hotels name. We googled ‘Wake and Baked’ and found it means to wake up and immediately light a spliff.
After our 5 days there, we moved to the slightly more grown up and very comfortable Samata Village Resort for another 6 nights.
Our mission: to do very little, sleep, sunbake and prepare ourselves for a Bundanoon winter (it’s been -3c there). Really, it was to have our final holiday.
We had two day trips. The first was a snorkelling trip around the three islands to see turtles (ugly but graceful), tropical fish, coral (much of it dead), a wreck (a pretty horrible experience as glass bottomed boats full of non-swimmers tried to manoeuvre over the wreck, making being in the water a tad unsettling) and a bunch of underwater statues (this was so much people-soup, we gave it a miss). Nevertheless, it was a nice way to spend a few hours.
The second was a trip to Lombok, a 10 min fast boat away from Gili Air. It was a pretty much standard tourist thing; a couple of nice beaches, a temple, a pottery workshop, a weaving workshop, a scenic drive and a nice place for lunch. Our tour guide (Omar) was a lovely and interesting bloke and it was good to see the Island. It is a bit immature though, about 30 years behind Bali and the pottery’s & weaving thing was very much ‘here’s a token effort to show you how we do things, now buy our stuff’ affair.
The rest of the time was by a lovely pool, on an ok beach, in beautiful clear sea, eating, dinking, watching multiple sunsets made more spectacular by happy hour cocktails, reading and for me, blogging. Our thoughts also turned to updating CV’s, the job market, stuff we need to do in Bundy etc. Yuk.
For what we wanted, Gili Air was perfect…… but you should always strive to do better so we left the Island for a few days on Nusa Lembangon, a bigger Island about 45 mins off Bali. Compared to Swindon, it is a tropical paradise. Compared to Gili Air, it’s a bit of a shit hole.
It is more developed so has roads, lots and lots of whiny scooters, many ridden by less than competent tourists and beaches with incredible views of crashing waves but not great for swimming. On night one we found a nice bar that did good espresso martini’s, OD’d on them and stayed awake most of the night.
The following day we added to the barely competent scooter rider whining around from one spectacular beach to the next before deciding we needed to leave a day early and return to Bali. It’s not awful, it’s just there are heaps of better places to be.