Indonesia – Bali & The Gili Islands

We made it to the Indonesian Archipelago, over 1800 sun drenched islands where we intended to relax for a while.  Everyone says that travelling is easy and that I’m a lady of leisure, which in some ways is true, however, I’ve found the trekking, sight-seeing quite tiring, so I’ve been looking forward to getting to the sunshine, the beaches & getting on the idyllic islands that we all talk about as being our dream destination.  Our trip was to start on Bali, the original backpackers destination and I was very excited.

Our Flight from Sydney to Denpasar Bali

The flight to Bali from Oz.

We got off the plane to be hit by the hot, incredibly humid weather. The humidity was like nothing I have experienced before and it was clear that we would need time to acclimatise to the tropical climate.  My bag was searched as I walked through customs, a pretty nerve racking experience  but I got through the ordeal unscathed, if under the watchful eye of the stern Indonesian military officers.  We’d arranged to be collected by a driver who had been recommended to us by Paul’s surfing instructor in Australia. It was nice to arrive & have someone there to collect us, there were plenty of over enthusiastic hawkers touting for business which was quite intimidating and it was a relief to see a calm face in the crowd with a small sign reading “Mr & Mrs Rushworth”.  We had decided to head straight to the Gili Islands which involved a stopover at Padang Bai. The drive there took about 90 minutes, the streets were chaotic with traffic, there are  no rules, it seems the size of your vehicle wins the right of way and our car wasn’t particularly big. We drove passed green rice fields glistening in the last of the evening sun.

Keeping watch over Padangbai Harbour.

Keeping watch over Padang Bai Harbour.

At Padang Bai it is possible to catch the boat to the Gili Islands. We found a room in a hotel which was tucked away up a back street, we had to climb up 70 steep steps to reach the door of the Lemon house avoiding rats and cockroaches as we climbed. It was worth the effort to get to the top as the view was amazing. We watched the lights illuminating the small harbour down below and listened to the call to prayer which reverberated over the steel roofs of the houses in the valley below.  Our first experience of Indonesian food was brilliant, the flavours and presentation were fragrant and colourful. After doing a little research we decided that instead of hopping on the first ferry to the Gili’s it might be worthwhile exploring the east of Bali so we headed further up the coast to Amed which had good reviews and offered a faster boat across the sometimes treacherous seas to the Gili Islands. The private car was another terrifying journey, it seemed time was money to that driver and he sped along overtaking on blind bends in a generally reckless fashion. As we arrived in Amed and we opened our eyes cautiously, the driver’s wing mirror hit a moped rider travelling in the opposite direction. Thankfully the moped driver didn’t fall off. We were relieved to get to Amed and get out of that car.

He won't be happy with this.

He won’t be happy with this.

Amed was a decision well made, thanks to Paul’s researching skills he’d found a hotel called the Bedulu Resort, it was out of this world and very  cheap considering the quality of the accommodation and the gorgeous infinity pool at the foot of the steps which led from our villa .  The room had a sea view, Paul created this youtube video of the room and surroundings to show what a great time we had.  We could have stayed at this hotel for ages, the fact that we didn’t leave the hotel to explore at all tells me that I loved it there that much, it was the perfect place to relax, with great views across the sea, we even saw a whale spouting water at in the bay whilst we were having our breakfast on the balcony.

Buddha

Buddha

Despite extending our stay at Bedulu two nights we had to move on, we needed to get to the Gili Islands. The Gili’s is the place that so many people have spoken to us about whilst we were planning our trip saying they are the must see islands of paradise just off the coast of Lombok.

Our bags were carried to the boat.

Our bags were carried to the boat.

The fast boat took  about an hour over pretty calm seas to get us to Gili Trawangan. Gili “T” as it is known, is the most developed of the 3 islands apparently and the one that is best known as a party island.  The day we arrived just happened to coincide with the Manchester derby, not that I’m suspicious of Paul’s motives but I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the real reason we had moved on from Amed. The accommodation was totally different from Amed – a small homestay called Galway Bay, run by “Dave” an expat Irish guy who had moved to Gili T last July after holidaying on the island and falling in love with it.  As a true Irish fellow he made us feel very welcome by handing us a free beer on arrival, and inviting us to join him, some other guests and a handful of his friends to experience sunset at a little bar on the other side of the island.  The homestay even had free bikes for each residents and we got on our trustee cycles at 5pm and followed Dave along with the others to the local beach bar, it was the first of many beautiful sunsets we have seen here. Later during out stay we recorded some film of our cycle round the islands including a man throwing his bush at Paul. Here it is.

Sunrise Snorkelling.

Sunrise Snorkelling.

After a few too many drinks we arranged to go on a sunrise snorkel with one of Dave’s friends, “Captain Eddie”, but to achieve this it meant getting up at 5am the following morning, this would have been hard enough after a good nights sleep however we ended up staying out very late with our new friends watching the football and dancing at a club until the early hours so it was near impossible to get to the jetty for 5am – somehow we managed it.  It was surreal jumping into the sea at 5.45am to snorkel with turtles and an array of tropical fish something that I will remember for a long time. Captain Eddie was brilliant. another expat, this time from Texas. I was later told that he had spent most of his life on the sea, it showed as he was able to dive for long periods and he managed to record this footage for us of  a graceful sea turtle.  We spent 3 days on Gili T and then headed off to Gili Air.

Captain Eddie and the turtle.

Captain Eddie and the turtle.

Gili Air was according to the tourist information the second quietest island and more designed for couples and families which I would probably agree with.  Accommodation was working out similarly priced to Amed (about £23 a night) but it was definitely not as good, the swimming pool was small and warm. You couldn’t escape the heat on the Gilis, even the sea water near the shore is warm, its like getting into a bath a very strange experience. Each of the Gili islands has coral reefs straight off the beach so its perfect for snorkelling, it’s just difficult to get into the sea due to all the dead coral.  We found a great little local warang, a small traditional back street eatery that sold excellent food for a ridiculously cheap price. We ate here twice enjoying nasi gorengs and meat in satay sauce with rice. After 2 days on Gili Air we wanted to visit the last island and hopped on the small local ferry service to take us to Gili Meno the smallest of the 3 islands located in the middle of Gili T & Gili Air. It took us just 15 minutes to get there.  You can see the islands from the shores, you think that it might be possible to even swim to the other island, but the currents and waters around the islands are dangerous and have boats zipping about all the time it would be a death sentence waiting to happen.

Awaiting another sunset.

Awaiting another sunset.

We walked around the whole of the island before finding a place to stay, all the beach front places were quite expensive. We had hoped it would be cheaper but we headed inland and stumbled upon a room at the Gili Meno Bird Park. The room cost 250,000rp (£12). The rooms were named after the members of the Beatles and by chance we got “Paul” – a room personalised just for Paul.  It was cheap and cheerful but as Gili Meno has no fresh water we were showering in salt water, not the nicest thing to do.  Whilst on Gili Meno we went on another snorkel trip and on this occasion we saw more turtles but also a huge 2 metre long sea snake, we later learnt that these species are very poisonous and should be avoided, an Australian couple also on the trip did just that, they got straight back in the boat!  Later that night we witnessed a local party apparently it was celebrating a wedding on the island, the party being held in the village square which was situated just behind our hotel and the celebration went on until the early hours with live singers and music. It was fun to stand at the back of the celebrations and watch the locals party.

Off to Lombok.

Off to Lombok.

The next day it was time to leave Gili Meno and head to Matram the capital of Lombok to get a nice shower, visit the local shopping mall and eat at a recommended seafood restaurant for tea before getting a flight to Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores to spend time with one of the most dangerous and aggressive animals on the planet, watch this space…..

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