Asia Days 22,23,24,25,26
After our reunion week in Bali it was time for us to break up once again. The girls split between Thailand and Australia, while us four lads revived the Parrot shirts we had retained from New Zealand and headed towards the Gili Islands- a trio of islands east of Bali.
Gili T, the largest and most debauched of the three is perhaps the ultimate backpacker paradise; Incredible beaches, stunning food, crystal-clear snorkeling and one, if not the best party island that we’ve ever been. Its also ridiculously cheap and a place that, although is becoming more of a hot-spot, is still relatively unbeknownst.
From our hotel in Seminyak we took a minibus that promised to be at port on the East side of Bali within an hour; In true Balinese custom it took 3.
Waiting for our boat in Padang Bai, we made the most of the happy hour cocktails- $2 and watched as the fishermen trawled in their morning catches, throwing them straight onto Barbecues- $3 for a fresh skewered fish and salad was too good to turn down! Never has waiting around for transport been so enjoyable!
Our boat arrived, taking another two hours or so to whiz through the Bali sea and to Gili T. The island, a lot smaller than we had pictured, was also a lot less developed and much more localized than imagined- which in a way was a good thing. Apart from a main strip that hogged the Eastern seafront, the rest of the island was inhabited by small villages, farmland and beach.
For any backpacker, the must stay place is Gili Backpackers ($10 per night). Although the rooms are incredibly basic, this place has the best party and atmosphere, able to match up to any other in the world! We had an absolute blast here!
Our first night however, was spent at the equally infamous Irish Bar hotel (Tir Na Nog) as Gili Backpackers was booked up. We managed to haggle a standard chalet room for about $40, from an original price of $65.
Nights out in Gili T are insane. Sipping on scandalously cheap cocktails and watching as the sun dips beyond the volcano silhouettes of the mainland, turning the sky blood red, marks the start of proceedings. Our normal routine would be to watch the sunset from Ombok resort- one of the most fanciful on the island and the one that boasted the largest pool. If you put $10 behind the bar- which will return 2/3 cocktails or a large top notch meal- you can get pampered by the pool for the entire day!
Once the sun is submerged into the sea, barbecues across the main strip are lit and the catches from a days fishing are hauled onto the flames.
We ate almost every night at the Irish bar- fetching 3 fresh fish kebabs and unlimited salad and noodles for $4; Something that would cost close to $30 back home and would never be matched for freshness or quality! The local grill market also racks up a crowd, offering up the best of a days fishing for even cheaper prices.
Walking down the strip, Indonesian barmen will try to lure you into their own private-beach view bar- ‘alright mate, you want a shrimp on the barbie?’ ‘Crikey we’ve got some bloody cheap cocktails’ – The usual phrases as we were initially mistaken for Ozzies. It never failed to crack a smile as we told them we were English and observing as they paraphrased their best impressions, ‘Rodney you plonker, get in here.’ ‘luvly jubly.’ Got us every time and for $2 a drink, it would be rude to let such a amicable impression go to waste!
Seriously this place is bliss! Apart from the likelihood of getting run down by a horse on cart (the taxi service across the island) there is nothing to fault here. Or maybe that’s just the mushrooms talking…Oh yeh… Indonesia, a country that imposes the death penalty to those in possession of drugs, is happy to turn a blind eye to the Gili Islands where magic mushrooms are served up like salt and pepper on pizzas, omelets, rice, shakes…you name it! If you can eat it or drink it, they will put mushrooms on it.
The night continues down by the beach and most people will congregate together-either at the Irish bar or Reggae bar, depending on the night. Either-way, the strip is not exactly huge so you’re never far away from finding a party!
After a crazy, wild night- of which there were many- can you beat strolling down to the beaches or to one of the posh resorts on the island to grab another hugely under-priced brunch and snorkel with turtles?
We took a snorkel day trip on one of the fishing boats for about $10 and must have seen about a dozen turtles. Equally impressive was how long the local fishermen were able to hold their breath underwater and free-dive to nearly 10m below the surface in a bid to stir up some of the deeper marine life.
Snorkeling over and its back to the beach to kick back for the remainder of the day as locals will proudly offer a continuous supply of Bintang, fruity Shisha and more grilled seafood, before the sun once again begins to descend and the night is re-looped.
There is no doubt that I will be returning to the Gilis in the near future- although quite possibly not in quite the same manner. With the increased diving resorts and some of the cheapest, most luxurious hotels, catering and private beaches I’ve ever seen, there’s plenty of attraction. A beautiful, crazy and wonderfully messed up place…Indonesia in a nutshell.
Gili Backpackers: ($10/ 130,000 IDR) *****