GILI Trawangan Island, Bali, May 17-24th
The Gili Islands are 3 islands off the coast of Bali, near Lombok. "Gili" is a bit redundant as it literally means "little island," but it is so widely used that the names have stuck and are used to refer to the 3 islands off of Lombok: Gili Trawangan (the biggest), Gili Air (smallest), and Gili Meno (middle). Seeing as how I wanted to "get away" I wanted to to go to Gili Air. Unfortunately, my boat didn't go there (or so I was told when I bought the ticket, but when I boarded, they asked which island I was going to…). My next choice was Gili Meno but I later found out it's full of mosquitoes since there's a lake. My last choice was Trawangan as I heard it was a party scene and I was afraid it would be too touristy for me. Read on and you'll see what happened.
The journey to get to the Gili islands wasn't too bad. We bartered the price down to 630,000 Rupiah (~$63) for a roundtrip ferry boat and shuttle to and from Padang Bai, the pier town. I asked around amongst fellow travelers and the cheapest anyone paid was 550,000 Rupiah for the same deal and the worst being 600,000 one way ferry only so I thought I did pretty well! You can take a much cheaper, public ferry boat route but it takes over 12 hours and I wasn't about to do that! My route only took about 3 so I was happy to pay a bit more for my sanity.
Shuttle ride to Padang Bai was about 1.5 hours. We waited about 30 minutes at the pier for the last boat of the day around 12 noon. While we waited, I bought a pair of fake Ray Bans (actually "Roy Bons") for $2. The seller was a cheeky little guy. He started at $4 at which point I laughed and offered $1. We finally settled on $2 when I noticed the glasses were scratched so I asked for a different pair. He called his friend over for a new pair and the friend tried to say he wanted $3. I told them they could have the glasses back then. So, he agreed to the $2 and when I handed it to him he asked for .50 more. In the end, I held my ground and got my new, unscratched glasses for $2 but I can't say they didn't try hard for more!
The ferry ride over took about 1.5 hours and I met some guys who had been there before and gave me some pointers on where to stay on the island. As with most islands in SE Asia, directions are given in terms of "Sunrise" or "Sunset" side of the island. For Gili Trawangan, most hotels are on sunrise side.
Of course, this made me want to stay on sunset side but I knew I had a few days to figure it out so when we arrived and a guy offered to show the me a hotel on sunrise side I went with it. I stayed at Ilham Homestay for 2 nights. While the rooms themselves were nothing to write home about, the boys running the place (Omed and Kay) were super friendly and helpful and made up for it. It was $12 a night, breakfast included. Since breakfast was banana pancakes (actually a crepe) and I can't eat the gluten, they made me a special fruit salad every day. They also lent me an extension for the outlets and guided me around town. The place was near the center of "town" which was nice for eating out and stocking up on provisions, but not so nice for the relaxing beach days or quiet nights I had hoped for.