There are three small islands situated between the larger islands of Bali and Lombok in the Indonesian archipelago. Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan seem to shoot off the northeast corner of Lombok, swirled in bright blue water. The largest of the three island is the one closest to Bali, named Gili Trawangan. Besides the difficult to pronounce name, it is perfect. This small spec of land was the last stop on our honeymoon to South East Asia. We fell hard for this place and wish we would have had a few more days of paradise here.
We fell in love with Gili because it has a great young, backpacker feel. The majority of the island is filled with locally owned small hostels, so there is no problem finding a cheap bed. The south end of the island has a few higher end resorts and private vacation homes popping up. There is a good mix of people and filled with a ton of interesting travelers. The bars on the island are on a rotation as to where the party is on a given night. After 10 pm everyone finds there way to the designated bar and drinks the night away until as late as 4am. If you are up early for a sunset you can definitely find some people wandering around still up and under the influences of the night before.
Where else in the world can you rent snorkel gear for $2 for the day and walk straight off the beach into world class snorkeling? We found our favorite beach of the island on the north end of the eastern shore. There were chairs for rent but if you bought drinks they were free, even if you only ordered there $.50 waters. Every night a majority of the island comes together in the city center for the night market. The market is full of food options, everything we had was tasty and just a buck or two. Patio tables set in the center make for great places to start up conversations with other travelers. Bonus you can bring your own drinks, which also helps to keep costs down.
The few down sides
We found that on average beer and alcohol were very expensive throughout Indonesia, and even more so on the Gili’s. If possible bring some into the country from a duty free shop if you want to partake on the cheap. We visited Gili after spending time in Thailand and Bali working on our haggling skills, but to our surprise these skills proved almost useless. We ended up paying over $12 for a T-shirt to commemorate our trip (a far cry from the $2 on Khao San road).
The is not even a car on the island, the only means to get around is by foot, bike, or horse. On Gili you just don’t see the trash laying about or in the water as you do in other tourist spots. All of the hotels on the island are at most two stories and don’t impose on the natural sky line. When you are here you truly feel like you have found something not many travelers have found yet.
Get there soon!
Unfortunately we were not the only ones to discover the beauty of this island. Apparently some resort developers have too. Developers have started to put some major hotels on the previously under-developed west side of the island. The resorts are not open yet but look to be finishing soon. So if you want to see the Gili we fell in love with, I’d get there before they put up a Margaritaville. Hurry!