Islands of pure nature, party and relaxation. The Gili Islands are three very small islands off the northwestern coast of the island of Lombok, which is east of Bali. There is no law enforcement on these islands, no police, no cars, no dogs. No, really. There are no dogs on the islands, just many, many cats; many without tails, just large deformed nubs. There is no police there also, no laws against drugs being sold, meaning it is an endless party if you know where to look or what to ask for. Many times you wont have to ask, you will be asked, “Mushys?”
The Gilis are known for their mushrooms, or mushys as they like to call it. You can have them raw, or it is usually preferred to blend them into a shake, often flavored with Coca-Cola, so you don’t taste anything but the soda. I recommend getting a shake from the Surf Bar, south of downtown, should be about 150,000 rupiah. They have fun music there at night with a live DJ spinning and a beautiful piece of art of a baby Orangutan and rainbow colors. Also, many bright colored pillows to relax on, or take a nap if need be. Many times they import the mushrooms from the larger main island of Lombok, which is mainly inhabited by practicing Muslims, unlike Bali, where it is mostly Balinese Hinduism that is practiced.
The island of Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands, the others, Gili Meno and Gili Air, are much smaller and have no nightlife whatsoever, but very pretty nature as well. Since there are no motorized vehicles on the islands, there is very little pollution, they keep it pretty clean, and especially the water, has no garbage floating around, which is a pleasant change from the waters around Kuta (mainland Bali).
Most people will rent a bike (our hotel provided them for free) to explore the island. Although it is small, it still takes about an hour to make a loop around it, if you don’t stop and look at the shops, get a beer, or get stuck in the traffic of bikes, pedestrians and horse (pony) drawn carriages. The downtown area of the island, which is the east side, can get pretty congested with people arriving on boats to the island, or going for a snorkeling adventure to see the turtles.
Our hotel was called Trawangan Oasis, and it was. In the middle of the jungle forest, it was on the northwest side of the island, surrounded by trees and the sounds of birds and frogs. Even our pool had frogs in it from time to time, that I saved or they would die from the chlorine, one didn’t make it, may he rest in peace…
The party scene lasts as long as people are still around and paying for drinks or mushy shakes, which can be all the way to sunrise and onwards.
The north side of the island is pretty quiet, with nice beaches but lots of coral in the water and not much depth, so not ideal for swimming. It is very peaceful, with a random bar every few hundred meters, and reggae playing to set the mood. The west side of the island is called Sunset point for obvious reasons. Many bars are located here to sell you a beer or a tasty cocktail while you enjoy the horizon in front. The south side is where the surfing happens and the east side is where people arrive at the marina and snorkel with the turtles around the coral reef.
This place was truly magical and I cannot wait to come back again.
I highly recommend checking out the Pearl Lounge, it’s all made out of bamboo and makes for a beautiful place to eat, drink and look around. I enjoyed an ice cream at the Bakery there. My favorite place for food was the Ko-ko-mo Resort, which has tapas style foods, lots of seafood like calamari, prawns sautéed in garlic and butter or amazing sashimi of local, fresh tuna and imported salmon. Yum, yum! Plus, a local, cold Bintang and salty fries, nothing beats that! Cheers!
Also, if you want something handmade and very local, I recommend stopping by the shop in the Sunset point area. When you pass the trees with trunks covered in flip flops, pull over and the shop is on the opposite side of the street from the beach. I found a beautiful handmade necklace from cow bones and plastic beads. I prefer shells to plastic so the artist restrung it with shell beads I picked out and made me a custom piece in 30 minutes. Great man, great shop, great prices! Stop by, there!