Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

After a hot and sweaty few hours on the fast boat from Bali, we arrived into a downpour of rain on Gili T. But, as luck would have it, the rain soon stopped and by the time we’d settled into our villa the weather was a-okay. Much like Ubud, Gili T has also really changed over the last few years – from a very hippy, stoner kind of vibe, to a swanky luxury playground. There used to be mostly cafes playing trance, and people who looked like they’d taken far too much acid, but now the tiny island is really developed, with every spare inch taken up with pricey restaurants and tour agencies.

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But, as with Ubud, we had a really pretty villa with a pool where we based ourselves for much of the time, and we had some great nights and days out in our time there. We treated ourselves to some fancy food, dining in style with our friends, as well as finding a really fantastic local eatery where we got our first taste of really good local food – a buffet of Indonesian classics like tempe (tofu); spicy meats; curried veggies and fritters. We also first tasted Indonesia’s amazing ‘bakso’ meatball noodle soups here – multi-layered with tender meat, crispy wonton, porky meatballs, tasty broth, herbs and glass noodles. SO GOOD.

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Food aside, we also had a couple of fun days here – firstly, a private snorkelling trip on a glass-bottom boat that took us around Gili Air and Gili Meno, stopping off to swim with fishies and turtles. The coral was in an okay state, but is clearly feeling the strain of the popular snorkelling trips, and the most heartbreaking and infuriating moment came when we spotted a turtle, and about three different snorkelling groups harassed the poor turtle, giving it no space to come up for air, and coming within a centimetre of hitting the turtle on the head with a Go-Pro!

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We also spent a (rather wet!) day walking around the island – through an overgrown bit of outback forest, where we got a glimpse of the regular local folk on the island who essentially still live on farms in huts, and have to cope with the squalor that comes with living on a tiny island without proper waste disposal systems that can cope with mass tourism – we saw a crazy amount of rubbish everywhere on the inner island, which was pretty sad. When we emerged onto the beach with its fancy restaurants and bean-bags strewn everywhere, the contrast couldn’t have been more obvious!

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Evenings were spent drinking at our villa, and on Friday night, going out on the town fuelled by a special mushroom dinner. The night started with dinner on the market, then time at home with larking around in the pool, talking gibberish and laughing until our mouths hurt, then heading out to the strip where we downed some cocktails in a beach-front bar then danced ourselves silly outside Rudy’s, a club on the strip that was playing non-stop classic indie tracks from the 90s! Surrounded by younger backpackers who were standing still or sitting on stools, taking themselves rather seriously, we decided instead to just GO FOR IT, and moshed away to brit-pop classics and hard-rock anthems. Clearly too old to care what we looked like, we showed those youngsters how to party!

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Our last day was spent (hungover) exploring an extremity of the island we hadn’t visited yet, where we lounged on the beach and posed on a big swing in the sea, whilst ogling other tourist guys who insisted on mooning for photos. That’s the kind of vibe there was!

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Next, onwards and upwards, we started our long journey to our next island, Java, for sulphurous craters and a well-needed injection of local culture….