Indonesia p5, Lombok

Written by on July 26, 2013 in Asia, General with 6 Comments

I caught the fast ferry from Nusa Lombangan to Gili Trawangan (nicknamed Gili T), one of 3 of the Gili Islands just off the Northwestern side of Lombok.  Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tengarra province of Indonesia, and home to ~3 million people, predominantly Muslim.  I don’t think there is one traveler that I have met on this trip who I told I was going to Indonesia that didn’t tell me that I MUST go to the Gili Islands.  I was happy to have finally arrived in what many refer to as “paradise”, and easily apparent to see why they thought so!

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Aside from the warm crystal clear turquoise water, one of the first things that will strike anyone hopping off the ferry are that horse-drawn carts are the main method of transportation on Gili T, which I found really random!  Quite a nice change from the traffic clogged streets in Bali.

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I didn’t have to walk far to find my guesthouse, and was initially puzzled and then happy to find 3 remotes on the bed – one for the A/C, one for the TV, and one for the DVD player…a first on my travels this year.  The front desk had a free library of few hundred pirated DVDs to watch if it’s guests ever wanted to escape the heat and retreat to their rooms.  My bed also came covered in flower petals and the room came with its own mask and snorkel.  Nice touch!

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My marketing friend Stan would refer to this as a purple goldfish.  He’s written a book (“What’s Your Purple Goldfish?: How to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth“) on the subject, and I think this is a perfect example as I will never forget my stay at the Secret Garden, even the room itself was not so special.

I dropped my bags and took a walk around the island, passing throngs of bars, restaurants, dive shops and guesthouses.  It kind of reminded me of a mini-Boracay (Philippines), except here it was 99% western tourists, where in Boracay it was mainly North Asian tourists.  Anyway, the guesthouses/hotels got nicer as I continued south, some with cool beach bars playing chill-out lounge music with pillows/beds replacing beach chairs.

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It was a scorching hot day and I didn’t last long before returning to the room to peruse the DVD’s at the front desk and take advantage of my air conditioning. I can’t tell you how happy I was that I booked a room with air conditioning!  When my core temperature finally returned to a normal level, I headed out again to try to catch the sunset.  The setting was perfect, and I’d seen other travelers photos of postcard perfect sunsets from exactly where I was sitting.  Unfortunately, the sun dropped into an unspectacular gray haze.  Oh well.

I treated myself to sushi that night, which I hadn’t had in what seemed like forever, and then headed to the Irish Bar where I made fast friends with a funny Australian girl, also traveling on her own. She became my partner in crime for the evening as we bar-hopped down the beach and ended up dancing upstairs from the Blue Marlin Dive Shop into the wee hours.  Strange place for a club, but it was THE place to go on Monday nights…and was packed!

I had made the mistake of signing up to go diving the next morning.  Diving hungover is no fun at all.  I did everything within my power to not hurl through my regulator.  The diving was unspectacular, as I’d expected, and the only reason I signed up for the dive was to meet other divers.  But, they must have known something I didn’t, as I was the only one who made it on that 930a dive.  I did see a few turtles, which apparently are hard to miss in the Gili’s as there is a large conservation effort on Gili T where they raise turtles and then release them into the sea after 12 months.  I didn’t mind, as I love turtles!

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Despite my raging hangover, I really liked this place!  Most of the beach bars were inviting and all looked like comfortable places to enjoy the sun and oceanside views.

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When it got too hot, I’d go back and watch a DVD, a luxury I haven’t had the entire trip.  Well, I take that back.  I have quite a library of movies and TV shows on my hard drive, as I’ve been sharing and swapping with travelers all over the world.  But, it’s a different feeling to lay back and watch a movie on a television that’s not a 13″ laptop 3 feet from my face.  Is it sad to admit that one of the things I miss the most from home is my 50″ flat screen??  Still nursing my hangover, I stayed in and had a movie marathon that night, which was fantastic.

I’d made a date with my new 13 year old friend Andie to go for a bike ride and to watch the sunset that next evening.  I could not believe it when she told me that her parents had yanked her out of school in the UK after buying a homestay/guesthouse in Gili T, which just around the corner from where I was staying.  Apparently they can’t afford to send her to school just yet, so she helps out with the homestay or hangs out with the guys running the front desk of mine.  Hopefully they sort that situation out sooner than later!

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We were joined by Mushamir, a friend I’d met the week before in Tulamben, and 5 other solo travelers he’d met on the ferry over from Bali.  You gotta love the power of Facebook.  I’d seen him post that he was headed to Gili T earlier that day, dropped him a note, and voila…we were meeting up for sunset.

After a couple Bintangs, we decided to all go shower/clean up and then met up at the night market, where we all picked out fresh fish, squid and prawns to be grilled for dinner…delicious!  And really cheap 🙂

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After dinner we headed to Tir Na Nog, a massive Irish Bar on the beach which was apparently the Wednesday night party place in Gili T.  It wasn’t so crowded when we got there, but when I left at around 2a, it was packed!  We had a super-fun night, and I was second-guessing my choice to head to the mainland of Lombok after meeting such fun friends.  Gili T is definitely the kind of place you can get stuck for awhile as a traveler as there were plenty of places to chill out, and also plenty of nightlife options.  It was a fantastic alternative to the hectic and cheesy Kuta and Legian in Bali.  Nevertheless, I had a plan and was going to stick with it.

I was running out of time as I was meeting friends in Komodo in a few days for a liveaboard dive trip that was booked and unchangeable.  As such, I had a lot to see in a very little amount of time and once again hired a driver for the day to take me to the north of Lombok to a town called Senaru to see Mt Rinjani, a volcano that I would have tried to climb back in the day.  I know my knees would not be happy with me if I made such attempt, so this time I just wanted to take a look…and visit the nearby waterfalls.  No one told me that you needed to pay 300,000 rupiah for a guide to see the more impressive of the two…Tiu Kelep.  That’s ~$30.  WTF?!?  Apparently if there were others that arrived at the same time as me, we could have split the payment for the guide.  But, there was noone else around.  After the 3 hour drive, I wasn’t going to turn around and leave.  So, I forked over the cash.  The entrance to Victoria Falls, one of the most fantastic waterfalls in the world is $30.  I’m still in shock that they charge so much.  Oh well…it was beautiful.  But not worth $30.

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I did go for a very chilly swim out under the falls.  It looks rocky in the picture, but it was actually a nice sandy bottom and you could get right underneath the falls.  It was pretty amazing 🙂

There was a second waterfall (Sindang Gila), which was also quite pretty, but not as impressive as the first.  I decided to pass on taking a shower under this one.

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My driver was getting anxious that we had too much ground to cover that afternoon, so we took off and drove back down the west coast of the island, making one stop at a viewpoint where you can see all 3 Gili Islands in the distance in one direction, and this beautiful beach in the other.  Most of the drive had views like this…gorgeous!

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It took the entire afternoon to get to the Desert Point Resort, which was my home for the next 2 nights where I was hoping other guests would turn up to join me to dive at the Magnet, a famous dive site known for schooling hammerheads.  Unfortunately, they need at least 2 divers to make the trip, and I was the only one there. Apparently I was a couple weeks early for high season.   Boooo!

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At least it was a cute little place, run by an American, who took me out diving to local spots near Sekotong the next day.  The visibility wasn’t terrific, but we saw a lot of cool stuff…lots of macro like orangutan crabs, porcelain crabs, nudibranches, etc, so I was happy enough.  It was nice to be the only diver on the boat, and to see some locals out fishing.  How cute is this little boat?!?

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I REALLY would have loved the chance to dive the Magnet.  I had only just heard of it when I was in Nusa Lembongan, and it was supposed to have some crazy up and down currents and sounded like an amazing adrenaline rush.  Oh well.  Next time!

The next morning I’d arranged for someone to drive me to Kuta, a gorgeous little surf town in the South.

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En route we passed this roundabout, a reminder that Lombok is primarily Muslim.  I’d seen mosques everywhere, and had been woken up by the call to prayer in Gili T at 5am each morning…my only complaint about the location of the Secret Garden!

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Anyway, I thought Kuta was going to be the type of place I could go and sit at a beach bar and watch the surfers.  But, the big waves were breaking far off shore, so you couldn’t really see them.  And, as beautiful as the beaches were, they were made up of mainly crushed coral and were almost impossible to walk on without cutting my feet.

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So, it was an easy decision to fly back to Bali, especially as the flight was only $19!  My new friends from Gili T had recommended a nice guesthouse in Seminyak that cost the same as my dorm room on the previous visit, so I had to check it out. Word of mouth is seriously the best way to find great hotels and guest houses.  I arrived and was not disappointed.  And, I ran into Rod, who I’d forgotten was going to be back in Bali, who invited me to join him for dinner with his friends.

We first went to Potato Head, an amazing upscale sunset bar down the street from our guesthouse.  Tonight I was definitely flashpacking!

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It’s tough to see in this picture, but the beach is beyond the pool, and they had tastefully lit up the palm trees and small waves lapping at the beach.  Amazing!  We ended up going to Chez Gado Gado,  a gorgeous restaurant with delicious food, and then proceeded to bar crawl through Seminyak.  I don’t remember the whole night, but know at one point we were at a gay bar with drag queens performing, and that we ended up dancing at Maria Magdalene’s til the wee hours.  Wow – what a fun night!!!  Thanks guys!

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My last day in Bali was spent shopping at what felt like all the boutiques in Legian and Seminyak.  I’m now carrying an extra bag full of inexpensive beachwear, sarongs, jewelry, handbags and souvenirs, but I don’t mind as I haven’t really bought anything on my trip so far and as I’m nearing the end of the journey, it was time.

 

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  1. Ron Bogley says:

    hi deb! – i stand reprimanded as one of the 99% from whom you have not heard recently.
    your posts are just great. and – guess what? – it’s nothing at all like life here, where it’s all just glomping along, working day in & day out. (can you even remember that kind of life??) too busy to even send personal emails.
    anyway, it’s been many miles for you since the similans – you’re too much! – you just keep packing in the cool adventures. someday we’ll kick back in person and hear all about it. til then, keep the great posts coming.
    saw john blankenship the other day, and i’m sure he sends you his best regards too.
    my only consolation in hearing your wonderful stories is that my month in indonesia all those years ago cost just $50 – for everything. one solid month – food, lodging, transport – the whole schmear.
    see you!
    best,
    ron

  2. Paula says:

    Love reading about all your adventures…. xoxo

  3. Frank says:

    Absolutely stunning photos! Great job,
    Frank

  4. Deb says:

    Thanks! Welcome to the site 🙂

  5. An says:

    Incredible ! I love the photos. Can’t believe the flight was on 19$, that is cheap! I would love to see those islands soem day, seems like paradise on earth. Lombok is on my list of places to see!

  6. Deb says:

    Thanks! Couldn’t believe the flight was cheaper than the ferry! I highly recommend Lombok…and all of Indonesia…my favorite country I visited on my entire trip.

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