Returning to Paradise on the Gilli Islands, Lombok

Trip Start Jan 11, 2014
Trip End Apr 27, 2014

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Where I stayed
Dream Village Gili Trawangan
Read my review - 5/5 stars

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

We fell in love with the Gilli Islands when we were first introduced to the largest of the three islands, Gilli Trawangan, last year, in May 2013, so it was always in our plans to return to the islands in our 2014 Adventure.  This time, however, we decided to acquaint ourselves with another of the islands, Gilli Air.  It is the second largest of the three, and the second liveliest as well, Gilli T being renowned as the busiest and most developed.  The smallest of the three, Gili Meno, is by far also the quietest, but we have yet to stay there.  

Gilli Air is a little analogous to that small city that offers all the amenities the larger one does, but is not quite as busy. Like Gilli T, it has a variety of restaurants and guest houses, a more concentrated strip of amenities, as well as quiet, isolated accommodations and restaurants the farther you go in either direction from the centre of the island. There are just fewer of them in total on Gilli Air. And like Gilli T, there is live music everywhere you turn, both in bars and restaurants, or people jamming in the street cafes or pretty much anywhere.  Yes, this is my version of heaven on earth.  
Of course my music manager, Stan the Man, never missed a beat when the opportunity presented itself at our neighborhood Acoustic Music Bar on Gilli Air. This was, very coincidentally, the same Acoustic Bar where our Canadian friend Glenn made his ukele performance debut just a couple of weeks before!  Glenn had shared his experience with us, so Stan was even more motivated to make this happen, and on our last night on Gilli Air, I ended up performing at the Acoustic Music bar to a small but very engaged audience for almost an hour.  I had the privilege of being backed for a few songs by an amazing bass player who could pick up and improvise on any tune I began within seconds, as well as a wicked djembe drummer. I then returned to "the stage", otherwise known as "the back of the bar" for a solo half hour set while the band took their break.  It was an awesome experience, as it was the first time in my travels that I used a (borrowed) guitar which was plugged in - much more effective than playing without a pickup, as you can hear yourself and consequently play much better. It was a new personal high for me, as far as performances go, and an evening I will remember for a long time, as hopefully the audience will as well. Plus I now know I will be adding a pickup to Ramblin' Rosie, my backpacker guitar, for future travels.  All in all, Gilli Air was a blast, and even though our time there was brief - only three nights - we met some good people who reside there and we will in all likelihood be back again in 2015 to see our new friends and continue where we left off.

We were not quite sure how we would feel returning to Gilli T, as our last experience had been ridiculously good, and you know how it sometimes goes when you have high expectations to meet! But then we kept running into so many people we had met last year who remembered us, greeting us with the typical "Hello Papa! Hello Mama!" (I'm okay with this, as long as its not Grampa and Gramma); and some even remembered me singing last year!  Then there were the new people we met, and yet more amazing sunsets! And there was another performance evening at one of the larger music venues in town, not nearly as intimate or stellar a performance as the Gili Air experience, but I did get a chance to do some wicked jazz improvising on a couple of duets with the excellent vocalist from the house band on "Summertime" and "Ain't No Sunshine".  All that, plus we did take in the best sunset ever, with the sun burning blood red and silhouetting the volcanoes of Bali in the background, but of course, that would be the day after my camera died. Damn. 

In our humble opinion, however, all things considered, we believe that Gilli T does outdo Gili Air on a couple of fronts. One is the biking experience.  Biking around the island is a regular and daily thing on Gilli T, an activity to be taken up at least once a day.  Not so much on Gilli Air - possible, yes, but very frustrating, as most of the pathways are sand and you end up walking your bike more often than riding it. The other experience on Gilli T which we found far more exciting was the snorkelling, in particular the opportunities to swim with turtles.  These marine experiences may eventually have presented themselves as well on Gilli Air, and are waiting yet to be discovered, but on Gilli T our experiences were repeatedly amazing and very real.

You may recall from last year's blog that it had been my birthday wish to swim with the turtles, and my wish had been granted when I swam with my first turtle and dove down almost close enough to touch him. He was a lovely green turtle and I was thrilled.  I did not think I would ever top that, but when I went snorkelling just a little way from shore this year, I happened to discover the largest, and most beautiful, yellow and orange, sunburst-coloured turtle I have ever seen.  And he was not below me, but right beside me. That was on day one, when I did not have my camera with me. I remember swimming so close to his human-infant-sized head I was almost a little freaked out. Like, what if he decided to do a snap turtle trick and bite me?  Right about exactly then I swam right into a large seaweed covered buoy rope.  Yes, I did scream, but only briefly, then laughed at myself and went back to swimming with my turtle a little longer.  After all, I need to toughen up in preparation for next year, when we plan to be swimming with the giant manta rays that come at you open-mouthed and are five meters across. But that will be another story. 

Naturally, not having a photo yet of the giant turtle meant we had a mission to go find him again, which we did almost immediately after setting out the next day and scouting around the same area.  This time Stan spotted him first, and he too agreed that this was indeed the largest turtle he had ever seen in his entire life.  But the very best day of all was day three.  I kid you not; I went out again to seek my big turtle buddy, and there he was once more: all five feet of him.  This time I was equipped with camera in hand, and not only got some good photos, but managed to shoot a full two minute video, swimming right beside him, concluding with him meeting a couple other turtles!  Yes, this does mean I captured on video swimming with three turtles at once.  I cannot convey in words the joy and sense of amazement that this moment created, but trust me, it was incredible.  I eventually left the turtles then to go on and swim with a zillion other fishes, madly videotaping a bunch of underwater movement, then made my way after a solid 90 minutes of snorkelling, to pass out and fry on the beach.  It was all so very very good.  That is,  until a short while later when I discovered that my camera had died.  I will be forever grateful that it did allow me to pull the photos and video footage from the day's amazing swimming experiences, as well as for the many many good shots over the years, but my trusty travel camera has now retired, perhaps from having too much fun - but what a great closing performance! I can only hope mine will be half as good.

As you can see there is a Gilli Island to suit all mind sets - from those into party zone to those seeking quiet and isolation - but all, including Gilli T - have a very chill, laid back, friendly vibe that makes you want to stay longer than you had planned, and eventually come back for more.  After our second annual visit to these beautiful islands, we are already planning our return next year.  

But first,  we must complete the last chapter of this year's adventure, which begins with a brief stopover in the very busy and renowned beach resort area of Kuta, Bali. This will be followed by setting up a home base in Ubud, Bali, from where we will be exploring central, north and west Bali if we are still able to move after our daily study of Ashtanga Style Mysore Yoga, which perhaps for us will be reading more like "Am I Sore Yoga" :)

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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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