Woke at 8 and went to Perama Travel to book a passage to Gili Trawangan in Lombok. I couldn’t face another day in Bali. Went back to the hotel, changed, had nasi goring for breakfast, then back to Perama at 10am to get the bus to the harbour at Padangbai, via Ubud, for some illogical reason, but then, illogical is a word that easily trips of the tongue when discussing organized tours or trips in Indonesia.
At the harbour, I boarded a large boat for the 4 hour trip to Gili Trawangan, one of the 3 Gili Islands that have become quite major tourist destinations recently. It felt great to be on the open water, heading away from the chaos of Bali. I was glad to leave Bali behind. It’s bursting at the seams with tourists and traffic, even in traditionally chilled Ubud, and it had become a bit charmless in places – the traffic has as much to do with it as the bintang vest wearing Aussies. I yearned for a place with a bit more of a rustic feel. Spoiled by my adventurous travels through un-touristy terrain in Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Venezuela last year, I wasn’t going to get that ‘off the beaten path’ feeling here. Everything is organized. I like organization, but only in very small doses, when independence isn’t as fun. I like a choice. I knew Gili Trawangan would be even more built up than when I visited before (it had an Irish bar the last time I visited). It’s a nice place, but it’s largely charmless and lacks only a Mcdonalds to make it a mini Kuta. It’s full of mini convenience stores, Italian gelato ice-cream stalls, tourist stalls, restaurants serving international cuisine, loads of people spaced out on magic mushrooms (advertised for sale outside every bar and restaurant)….the list of Westernised convenience and pitfalls goes on. The first time I came here was back in 2003. I liked it, but thought the beaches were shit. I still think the beaches are shit, with all sorts of rubbish dumped on them, as well as stuff washed up from Lombok and other places. Gili Trawangan has but two saving graces: no cars, and excellent scuba diving. Save that, I can’t see the point in escaping to a tropical island only to be able to watch Hollywood movies in a ‘cinema’, eat English breakfast, and do exactly as you would do back home. Which is why most travelers love it. Brazen English lasses with deep voices and London accents, tripping on ‘shrooms and shagging the local men. Other Europeans going crazy at the late night raves. People from Bali coming over to take drugs and party unchecked by police. I’ve been to many islands much more beautiful, with much more character. Gili Trawangan has built itself up on hype alone. The people are nice when they’re not trying to push drugs on you, and the home comforts are welcome at times, but ultimately, it doesn’t rock my boat.
The boat pulled up on the sand and I hopped out into the shallows, wading up to the beach. There, I met a short bald-headed fellow called Simon, who took me down the road and showed me his pathetic collection of 4 terraced bingalows, each resembling a junkies den, and the long-haired skinny bloke outside looked just like that, while his gurning Caucasian buddy was clearly being used to buy drugs and share them. I left and met another bloke, who showed me ‘Unique Hotel’, and possibly the worst room I’d ever seen in my life. No more than 2 metres by 2 metres, a bed that would struggle to contain a child, and a little stool. That was it. Awful. Again, designed for mushroom addicts and druggies in general, which definitely aint me.
Eventually checked into Tri Na Nog Bungalows, set behind the Irish bar / restaurant of the same name. Lovely, spacious, clean bungalows, with spacious balconies. I checked into room 6, and immediately befriended the friendly members of staff.
I had dinner in the Irish restaurant that evening, the same place where, in 2003, I had taken magic mushrooms and watched The Ring, the last horror movie I watched, and possibly ever will watch. Try watching it on mushrooms and you’ll see why.
I ate fish and chips, which were delicious. I moved onto Dream Café, and sat at the bar, ordering an Irish coffee. I was soon joined by a friendly Canadian couple, Pamela and Tyler, and we had a really good chat before being joined by 2 English girls, Natasha and Stacy. The bintangs flowed with the conversation. At 11pm, we were in the Irish bar drinking yet more. It was very lively here, full of red-faced Brits, bronzed Aussies and Europeans, and a few Indonesians. At around 2am, I left. A nice evening.