We arrived at Gili Trawangan island after a long journey of mini vans and boats. We had met a guy on the van who was also going to Gili and like us had not booked anywhere to stay yet, so he came along with us.
The first hostel we arrived at, Broken Compass was fully booked for dorm rooms as was the one further up the road. They did however have private rooms available and could put a bed on the floor to make it a room for 3. This actually worked out cheaper between 3 of us and it meant we had an ensuite and air con!
Gili T is basically a party island, it is very popular amongst young Australians as it is so close to Australia and there are many cheap flights. The island itself is beautiful, beaches and blue waters encompass the island and there are no vehicles allowed. The only mode of transport is either bike rentals or horse and carts. I was pretty sad to see the horse and carts as the poor horses looked exhausted, some of them foaming at the mouth and not once did i see any of them being fed or given water. Needless to say we refused to get in one of the carts and walked with our bags instead.
Around the island there are warnings about the vodka; in the bars you have the choice between imported spirits (expensive) or Gili vodka (dirt cheap). The gili vodka is distilled in bathtubs and is not good for you, there are warnings about methanol poisoning for this reason. However it's the cheapest drink and 2 glasses is all you need to get tipsy so we embraced the local tipple!
There are also these sachets of energy powder, called Joss, that you can put in your drink, it's basically powdered caffeine and electrolytes. Corinne and i shared one and were running up and down the road for about an hour as we were so hyper! Eoin had 4 in one night and was practically having heart palpitations... Not good!
Indonesia is predominantely a Muslim country and on Gili T there is one large mosque. As is standard in Muslim countries the call to prayer is played through loud speakers on the roof of the mosque. This can barely be heard from the other side of the island, our hostel however, was directly opposite the mosque. So 5 times a day, including at 5am the rooms practically shook with the sound of the call to prayer. I don't mean to sound rude but it isn't the most pleasant of sounds, as to my uneducated ear it very much sounded like someone wailing in pain. For 45 minutes. 5. Times. A. Day. Somehow after almost 2 weeks i kind of got used to it and almost found myself humming along!
After we recovered from our horrendous hangovers Corinne and I rented bikes whilst Eoin did his scuba diving course. We rode around the island and stopped for a drink on the posh resort side of the island. We looked at the menu and determined that we could only afford a coke between us as the prices were insane!! On this side of the island there are sea swings out in the shallow water. They make for great photos and we had a play around on them, then we came back at sunset to get some really great photos as the sun sets directly behind the swings. The photos came out wonderfully and really demonstrate the beauty of this island.
The roads around Gili aren't in the best of condition, they mainly consist of odd cobble stones pressed into sand and the occasional bit of concrete. It didn't make for the comfiest of biking terrain! After nursing our sore bums from cycling we had another fun night out and woke up early the next day to cure our hangover with some snorkelling!
Corinne warned me that she isn't a great swimmer but she would be fine snorkelling with a life jacket. Unfortunately for her they didn't give out life jackets! This meant that for the vast majority of the half day snorkelling trip i had to keep Corinne afloat whilst trying to teach her to swim. Every so often she panicked and used my head as a floatation device and i had to explain to her that if i drowned no one would be there to help her so she might want to keep me alive!! By the end of the trip she was a lot better and could keep herself afloat.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the snorkelling, i think i'm pretty spoilt having dived and snorkelled in some of the best spots in the world. A lot of the coral around the Gili islands was dead due to uneducation and over tourism with people standing on the coral and boats churning up the shallows. We did see a turtle but with so many snorkel trips around the poor thing got swarmed and swam away pretty sharpish! I was glad i did the snorkel trip as i was considering diving around Gili but decided to save my money for better places instead.
After 5 days on Gili T Corinne, Eoin and I headed to Lombok island (see Kuta Bali & Kuta Lombok post). We then headed on to Kuta, Bali, where i met up with Amie who i met in New Zealand and her friend Chloe who she met in Cambodia. After a few days in Kuta and after saying goodbye to Corinne who was off o Australia and Eoin who was off the Java and the Philippines, Amie, Chloe and I headed to Gili T, round 2!
We did pretty much the same as the first week i was there, mainly sunbathing, exploring the island and drinking. Unfortunately the Bali Belly i had experienced in the first week briefly was back in full force. Bali and the surrounding islands is known for giving westerners food poisoning or bad stomaches, so much so that it is known as Bali Belly. Everyone you speak to has had it and no one judges when someone runs to the toilet unexpectedly! Corinne and i had been bed ridden with it for 1 day and night after we both had a smoothie. This time i had it ten fold, complete with the shakes and fever. I was very concerned about getting dehydrated as everything was going straight through me! I had prepared for this and had rehydration sachets and Imodium tablets which i had yet to take. I believe the body can sort itself out most of the time and if theres a bug it's trying to flush out it's best to let it take it's course. However, it was at the point where i thought i'd need medical attention soon so i downed some Imodium and took the rehydration sachets religiously. It worked like a charm! I was able to enjoy the rest of our time on Gili.... I just didn't go to the toilet for 5 days!!
The reason for the Bali Belly was probably from eating the street food, but it's so tasty we couldn't resist! There is a night market on the main strip of Gili T which sells a range of cheap traditional Indonesian food. For 20,000 Rupiah (£1) you get a huge bowl and choose between rice or noodles and then choose 4 types of veg. There is pumpkin, green beans, morning glory, cabbage mix, shredded chicken (how that counts as veg i don't know). All of these are cooked in delicious sauces with a lot of garlic (which i love!). After your veg bowl you choose from different skewers priced at 10,000 ($1, 50p) each, these are things like tuna, snapper, squid, chicken, beef. All marinaded in delicious concoctions and then barbecued to order. Once we discovered this place we ate there every night after, it was that tasty!
The only upside to Bali Belly was that it helped me become very accustomed to Asian toilets, which let me tell you are an experience! If you're lucky you'll get an actual toilet as apposed to a hole in the ground with places for your feet either side, AKA the squat toilet, AKA the devil himself. These don't even flush and instead there is a small bowl with a handle in a bucket of, usually gross and stagnant, water which you are supposed to pour in the hole when you're done. Needless to say when you spot that there's a squat toilet in a facility, your need to go seems to just disappear! The toilets in Asia are too delicate to handle loo roll being flushed down them, so if you're really brave you can do as the locals do and use just the bum gun, or bidet, and that's that. I'm not quite that good yet so i go for the other option, use the bum gun (which is bizarre, but actually very hygienic) and then dry yourself with toilet paper which then goes in the bin... That's assuming there is a bin at all, which often there isn't!! Needless to say every trip to the toilet for one reason or another in Asia is very interesting/daunting!!