After our very long ass trek up Mt. Rinjani we were expecting a few days of aching legs and walking around like Pinocchio. Hence we opted to head for some R&R on the Gili Islands which are just off the north-east shore of Lombok. There are three islands within the Gili Collective: Gili Meno (“Gili M”), Gili Air (“Gili A”) and Gili Trawangan (you guessed it, “Gili T”). Gili M is the must underdeveloped of the three (wooden shacks, no-ATM etc) whilst both Gili A and Gili T both have traveller mod-cons with Gili A having a chilled vibe and Gili T being the party capital. We opted to start off on Gili A, enjoy the relaxation and then planned on exploring the Gili M and T once our legs had recovered.
As luck would have it we managed to find an incredible hotel. Cheap, clean, great swimming pool and an all you can eat buffet breakfast – with pancakes! Amazing. After having spent three days sleeping in tents and prior to that 7 months mostly in basic hostels where we’d count ourselves lucky if we got toast in the morning, this was our idea of heaven. So our first few days were spent stuffing our faces in the morning, lying about the pool for the day and then heading to nearby bars and restaurants in the evening. Bliss.
After 2 days of pancake towers and very little activity we thought we should explore the island a little more so we extended our stay at the hotel for a few more days. As we got to know the island and find out some cool places to chill we really began to fall in love with little Gili A. Days were spent walking the island, snorkelling in the sea and chilling by the pool whilst our evenings involved sunset watching happy hours, great local food, outdoor cinemas and chilling in bars with live music. We loved the vibe so much that we completely forgot about wanting to go to the other islands and just enjoyed our time where we were.
There are a few memories that we will always hold close of our time at Gili A. The signs that cover almost every tree bark or spare space either pointing out a location direction or telling you to chill out and enjoy a drink. The horse and carriages that run around the island delivering tourists or cement (although we do feel sorry for the horses). Romantic spots by the beach to sit and sip a cocktail whilst watching the sun go down. Watching the moon rise over the sea during dinner. The huge yummy breakfast.
Unfortunately, our time on Gili A had to come to an end. We decided to head to Ubud on Bali next so we opted for the cheap slow boat method to get there. This involved a boat over to Bangsal port on Lombok, a bus to Lembar, the slow ferry to Bali and then a mini-bus to Ubud. This mind-numbing long-ass journey was made more interesting by arguments with scheming taxi drivers, fighting off locals trying to sell curries and coffee, laughing at the travellers who had to sit on the minibus floor half hanging out the door and sympathising with the couple who brought tickets to Canggu only to get told at the Bali ferry port that the bus driver wouldn’t take them there. Transport is always an adventure in Indonesia!
Stay: We stayed at the Villa Karang Hotel and Spa. However, we weren’t in their main hotel but in a separate building referred to as the Villa Karang Homestay. Staying here was exceptional value for what we got. We paid between 175,000IDR and 245,000IDR per night which included a great buffet breakfast (no need for lunch!) and access to the hotels amenities including the pool. It is located on the south shore so it is near the boat terminal and you can easily walk anywhere on the island. One tip for cheap laundry – further up the road a local offers laundry service for pretty much half the price of the hotel.
Do: Snorkelling is good clean fun. You can either go out with a tour or do it yourself (just watch where the tours drop people off to find the good spots). Walking around the island is bliss with lots of places to stop for drinks and it is a good thing to do to get to know what is going on every night. Plenty of places off outdoor cinema for free as long as you buy drinks. Along the West coast bars set up for sunset view and offer happy hour cocktails. Also, do try and get involved in any beach clean-up activities that tend to get organised by some of the beach bars.