(Continued from “Arrival in Bali“)
After hearing our driver recommend a visit to his hometown ‘Padang Bai’ at *least* 10 times in a 45 minute drive, we arrived at the ferry pickup point.
The friends we met in Ubud had told us that bad weather had cancelled the ferry 3 days in a row, trapping them on the Gili islands. While a minor inconvenience in the middle of your holidays, it could be disastrous if you missed your flight home. We made sure to check the weather conditions and hoping to leave Ubud as quickly as possible, we took a chance that we’d make it. We were lucky. The seas were relatively calm, with only small sea swells.
Few of the ferries offer direct transportation. They make many stops. You’ve got to make sure you AND your luggage get off at the correct stop. Easier said than done!
“Gili” just means “small island”. There are many Gilis scattered all over Indonesia, but the 3 most famous are off the coast of island of Lombok. Closest to the coast is Gili Air, the smallest of the 3. Then Gili Meno. Furthest out is the largest Gili Trawangan, often referred to as “Gili T”. This is the one that most people seek out. It has a reputation for nightlife and readily available drugs. Since becoming popular in the 1980’s, the crowds coming here have increased nearly every year. Oddly, there is NO police presence on any of the Gilis. Somehow it all seems to work. The islands are very laid back and easy going.
Not being partiers in any sense of the word, we decided well in advance to stay away from the crowds and head straight to Gili Air. The ferry simply noses into the beach and you jump into the surf. Your luggage is lowered down to you and with a bit of luck, neither get very wet. We timed our jumps with the waves and only got wet about 1/2 way up to the knee, with our luggage not getting wet at all! Others were not so adept at timing.
Our trusty Lonely Planet guide had already let us down twice at this point. 1st the falsehood about Ubud being ‘tranquil’ and ‘relaxing’. Then the super difficult to navigate walking tour. We weren’t about to trust it blindly when it came to booking accommodations on ‘Air. We found a decently rated hotel on Booking.com, at a very good rate. Booking only for 1 night, we checked in and immediately set off in search of other places to stay. We wanted to see them with our own eyes before booking a longer stay.
Nearly every place we went to fell into two categories: Overpriced or Nightmare.
We ended up booking at another budget-minded place, just across the road from the beach. This turned out to be a deciding factor after returning to our original hotel late at night. 200m from the main road, there aren’t any lights on the path to the hotel. Even with a good flashlight, we were surprised a few times by people and critters. Not a pleasant experience. What a shame too, as the cheap room was actually quite nice. Recently renovated with a quite clean and well decorated outdoor bathroom (as is the norm there).
The beaches on ‘Air are a bit of a disappointment though. The pictures show a very wide beach with tons of sand. These pics are obviously NOT from there. The real beaches are entirely made of ground coral and sadly, garbage. Lots and lots of garbage. The coral is rough enough that you wouldn’t want to walk on it in bare feet. And certainly not pleasant to lie on. We did find a couple of beachfront restaurants where the coral was ground fine enough that is resembled sand, but it was still wasn’t great. I’d also expected to be able to snorkel right from the beach. Although I was able to do this in a few places, there were few fish. In one spot there were several hundred, but small and not very colourful. A few days later I booked a 1/2 day snorkelling trip and found that Gili T and Gili Meno both had better beaches and snorkelling. But being more crowded and having a lot more ‘hawkers’ constantly trying to sell you something, really put us off. We decided to spend only a few days on the Gilis and move on.
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Not too many pictures in this gallery. I decided to focus on living life, instead of just taking pictures of it! (And I was pretty sure that my camera would be stolen if I turned my back for a few seconds.)