Despite having already several opportunities to travel in 2019, work grilled me in far enough to need a break from everything. I had a friend who was already visiting Bali, so he invited me to Gili Islands and Lombok. I had caught a bad cold, but the experience made me forget even that.
Gili Islands are a group of three islands so tiny that no vehicle is needed to get around. Admittedly, they really are just small holiday islands with very little activities to do compared to Bali. But they are still the perfect place to simply take things slow and chill for at least a couple of days. Or party, as the younger crowd might enjoy more. That being said, my companion and I chose to spend three days on Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short), the biggest island of them.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Golden Villa in the middle of the island. It was a very quiet spot without the hustle and bustle of the perimeter. The villa also had a small private pool for us to cool down on a warm day. Perfect to relax under the shade and listen to nothing.
The only transports on the islands are bicycles, horse carriages and the occasional electric bikes that the locals whiz around on. We avoided the horse carriages for the sake of the poor animals, having read enough about the poor treatment on them. Cycling was a much better alternative when we didn’t fancy walking all day under the sun despite the size of the island being relatively small enough for it. Our accommodation provided free bicycles, although they needed some maintenance. If not, there are plenty of places that rent out bicycles across the island.
Other than riding the perimeter of the island, there were two paths that go through the middle of Gili T. One clearly led to our accommodation, with the path poorly made with stray gravels and unclear maintenance. We found another via Google map—it had a concrete, well-made path through a flat field, with some local houses along the way. So if you find the perimeter too boring after too many rounds, this is a great “shortcut” between the western beaches and the lively commercial area.
Snorkelling is a no-brainer for a place like Gili Islands. A package is required for this. We didn’t book a package in advance, but there are many guides offering this from Gili T alongside diving packages. I have a weakness for water (I literally can’t swim!), so snorkelling seemed ideal to get me out onto the ocean. Lifejacket: check!
A typical snorkelling itinerary covers the underwater statues, turtle point, garden fishes and sometimes the shipwreck because we had somehow skipped over it although it was supposed to be covered by the package… It was also unfortunate that much of the coral reef have died from over-tourism. But it was still pretty cool to watch a turtle coming up towards us. Too bad I didn’t bring a GoPro.
In between, we stopped at the island of Gili Air for lunch. We didn’t explore too much of the island beyond the strip of shops and restaurants, but it already felt like a nice change of scenery from Gili T.
I knew about this from my research, but my well-travelled companion was pleasantly surprised by the idea of watching a movie on the beach. We found three spots on the western side of Gili T where a large screen had been set up and movies of the day were projected for the evening after the sunset. These are for the cost of at least one (expensive) drink. You can tell which is the most popular simply by the movie they are showing. We picked a lesser known one near the northern side of the island, and we were the only ones there all night. Ironically, the movie we ended up watching was The Beach. Classic Southeast Asian beach movie: check!
We did have to cover up with our beach towels because the mosquitoes are relentless. Even then, we weren’t spare us a few bites. As expected of tropical places, even on a faraway island.
Again, the western side of Gili T is well-known for the sunset. It’s also a generally quieter area than the partying eastern side. We didn’t manage to catch the sunset, either finding it cloudy or too late to see any bit of the sun. But the emerging stars were still beautiful. It’s certainly a nice change for me who lived much of my time in a city void of stars due to light pollution.
This trip was planned to soothe my work-stressed soul, but 3 days and 2 nights out here were sufficient to do just that. For the most part, we relaxed on the serene beach in the northeast of the island in the day, and lay on our beach towels in the evening watching the star-filled sky and listening to gentle waves. In my opinion, this was a better vacation than a hourly-filled itinerary.
*All photos featured in this story are taken by the author.
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