Monday, April 15, 2013

Lombok - Gili Islands

Gianna's Trip Report on Gil Trawangan - visited February 2013

East coast Gili Trawangan - north of the turtle hatchery

And so we moved on from Sanur to Gili Trawangan.
After much advice from Trip Advisor forum members I wimped out and booked the flights from Denpasar to Praya Lombok rather than risk the potentially rough seas, I don’t do too well on boats and 3 hours in a small fast boat really didn’t appeal.
We had arranged for our flights to be booked with Lion Air by Kuta-Lombok's Yuli’s Guesthouse which we were going to stay at later on our trip as we couldnt pay with a non Indonesian credit card on line. So we left Sanur for the 09.10 flight from Denpasar and paid 100K rupiah for the cab to the airport. It was a quick journey, maybe 20 mins and considering it was really really heavy rain that was apparently quick. I remember thinking thank God we were not going by boat !! Although the airport is under major refurbishment and reconstruction, the domestic terminal and check in was easy to find and we sat waiting for the plane watching the rain being lashed by high winds.
The 25 minute flight was pretty bumpy and dipping under the clouds we got a great view of all 3 Gili Islands before coming down to land in Praya, and then after an aborted landing, 20 minutes of circling before they finally brought the plane in for a steep, bumpy and ultimately scary landing. We learned later that we were the first and last flight across the Lombok straight that day, and there were no fast boats that day or for the next 5 days, so we were lucky to get there!

 We had arranged a pick up from the airport to take us to Bangsal for the boat ride over to Gili Trawangan for 350k but according to other people we spoke to cabs can be had for around 300k. Our driver was a loony and it took just 1 hour 20 mins in heavy rain to get to the cafe just outside the boundary (mafia defined) to the harbour. Our driver said he couldn’t go any further and the cafe owners said there wouldn’t be another boat for an hour and we could have a drink. Yeah right, they were obviously filling either their own boat up or had arrangements with someone to bypass the ticket office, either way I don’t like to be scammed or treated like an idiot so we hopped a cidomo (horse drawn cart) for 10k and trotted 5 mins down to the harbour where we bought our tickets easily from the main ticket office for 10k each.

Cidemos tend to be a favoured form of transport in Lombok

We just missed one boat and we l only waited about 10 minutes for another. By this time it wasn’t raining anymore and the sea didn’t look too bad. There are alot of people who want to help by trying to take your bag etc but it wasn’t as difficult to deal with as many guide books and forums stated and we actually found people quite helpful. So, we got onto a small narrow rickety wooden boat with a small rickety outboard engine, bench like seats on either side of the boat which held 23 people, there were only 5 tourists on board, the rest being locals going to work on the Gilis. Well, it took 45 minutes and it was hell, the sea was really rough, the waves kept coming over the boat and they kept cutting the engine, some of the Indonesian ladies were squealing and shrieking and it was not a good experience. I had put our bags inside big rubbish bags and had a rain poncho on (always prepared !) and there is of course a funny the girl opposite me yelled and looked with terrified eyes over my shoulder, I smacked full in the face with a wave and lost my sunnies (prescription lenses) A while later someone handed them to me saying another wave had brought them back into the boat !! However, we did get there safely, wet through, but unscathed. As we hit shore, my husband who is a professional boat captain said he was more than a little worried, especially when he saw that there were no life jackets.

Public boat in less trying conditions

On arrival at Gili T were were again bombarded by people trying to take the bags and I think I did snarl at a few.
Busy public boat arrival/departure area - Gili Trawangan

Aanyway there were touts offering accommodation as well but we had booked ourselves a lumbung at Mango Dive and Bungalow which was about 500 meters north of the boat landing area. Mango is a cute little 8 roomed place with a very small pool and directly across the narrow traffic free lane from the beach. There are dedicated sunbeds for guests use and the beach was cleaned daily.

Mango Dive lumbung

The lumbung are a 2 storey wooden building, modeled on Lombok rice barns. Up stairs you have a bedroom and down stairs an open living space. The room has a kingsize bed, a/c and a fan and plenty of space for luggage and a couple of tables to put your stuff on. Out the back door is the staircase down to the semi open bathroom with plenty of storage space, and fresh water shower. At the front of the lumbung is the staircase up to a huge balcony and under that staircase is a lovely little outside seating area with a bamboo day bed table ensemble as well as 2 hammocks. Immaculately clean and fresh towels every day, they even had beach towels for you to use. The included breakfast was great, eggs any style, banana or pineapple pancake, toast, fresh fruit salad and as much coffee or tea as you wanted. The staff here were lovely, as well as the owner who really was a nice man, he is Austrian and the whole place was extremely well run and we enjoyed it very much. 49 Euro in low season may seem a lot but there’s something really nice about the place and the fact that the accommodation is behind the dive shop so you get a sense of privacy and the gardens are just beautiful.
There are other rooms there as well as 3 lumbung, 4 standard rooms which were all decorated really nicely and again had fan and a/c with lovely outdoor bathrooms and also a deluxe bungalow which faced the beach and was a little larger and also had a fridge. Really super place to stay.

The beach was lovely, the sea incredibly clean and although the visibility wasn’t so great due to the rough seas, there was fab snorkelling – we just walked into the sea and there were loads of fish and even on one day a couple of turtles.
There are a few necklace sellers who come and try to sell you stuff but after the 2nd day they recognised us and didn’t bother anymore. While we were there full tide was about 11am but even at low tide you could still swim easily.

Windy beach

There are some good places to eat along the main can find places 5 mins walk or 20 mins walk towards the boat landing area. .being low season and the fact that no one could get to Gili T for a couple of days it was all a little quiet but we loved the chilled out vibe and there was enough going on with live bands at some places. I cannot imagine what it must be like in high season though.

Restaurants we ate at include Beach House where we had the fish bbq and a buffet of salads and rice/potatos for 65K each. Nice setting right on the narrow non swimmable end of the beach in the Sentral area; Tir Na Gog who make the best pizza, really good  Diavolo pizza for about 50k, they also do huge chicken skewers, you get 2 for 63k as well as rice or potato and the salad buffet and it’s all good white meat, you choose from Indian, Thai or Bali spice marinades and I was well impressed. Look out for their special offers, one night we got free beer with pizza for example.
We also ate at Fortuna which was ok, not great but they have a great live band and twice a week there is a girl who sings with them and she is amazing, seriously good. Well worth booking yourself a table as it does get busy, but you can also just have a drink there, which I’d recommend unless you stick to the fish bbq.

A word on the night market which opens at around sundown near the boat landing place, We chose lumpia (spring rolls) and bbq red snapper, it was half the price of the restaurants, but the forks were dirty and the fish so oily I didn’t finish it. Hubbies wasnt cooked through and in the very dim lighting there it’s hard to see what you are eating so be careful. It’s very very busy most nights at around 8-9pm and has a good atmosphere but we didn’t go back as there were many nice looking places to try.

One day we walked round the island and it took us about 2 hours, you can hire bikes if you want to cycle and it was a nice walk although do take your own water as there’s only a few high end resorts on the way round. We were disappointed that there was nowhere to swim on the way round, but that could have been because of the high winds and rough seas.

The north coast has a few beach restaurants which tend to be closed in low season

We were continually asked if we wanted magic mushrooms and dope but again after about the 2nd day, they stopped asking us. It wasn’t much of a hassle though as it’s just a sentence thrown at you from the side of the street as you walk past.

We stayed a full week and loved Gili T, although we knew it was the end of the rainy season there was enough sun every day, usually in the mornings but it did rain more or less every late afternoon and we had to wade ankle deep through a flooded street to go for dinner. We ended up going barefooted as it was easier and you dont then get the back of your shorts spatter painted with muddy water. But the mud under the toenails...hmmmm not a good look.
The day before we were due to leave, it rained for 20 hours, heavy heavy rain with no sign of letting up and we heard from George the owner of Mango that it was the worst February weather for 14 years !! That night we were almost calf deep in flood water and mud.

Gili T is well worth the effort of getting to, it’s an ideal beach holiday destination, nice swimmable beaches and a bit of local culture if you want to wander through the centre of the island. There’s a huge choice of accommodation from bamboo shacks in the interior of the island to the really swanky villas and posh hotels of the northwest side. The sentral area’s accommodation (check out Marta’s – absolutely gorgeous place) can be bothered by noise from the bars but if you are out late in the bars that won’t matter ! Everything is really close to hand, ATM’s down on the southern strip, lots of little shops selling suntan cream and shower gel etc, beer and crisps and even medicines, a few nice looking “spa” type places where a massage advertised at 150k was quickly offered at 100K when we started to walk away....and it was a good massage too ! Some really nice places to eat and have a drink, live music here and there and apparently during high season it really is a lively place. Off season, we found it mellow but not boring...

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  1. Thank you nice article.
    your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
    I love here Surin Beach Hotel This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
    And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
    Thank again.

  2. Waooo.... gili now would be one of places must to visit in Indonesia. But i still choose bali tour, coz holiday in bali is very amazing.