Not so giddy about Gili
This morning my fellow travel bloggers and me boarded a bus that took us to the western side of Lombok, where we climbed aboard a few small private taxi boats that sailed to the largest of the Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan. The two-and-a-half bus ride from the Novotel Resort in Koeta to Pelabuhan near the Bangsal Ferry Terminal was quite remarkable. Much of Lombok is rural, with lush and mountainous terrain. I noticed many new housing developments under construction—master-planned communities likely targeted toward Westerners. I got the sense that Lombok is growing in order to take some of the influx of those interested in migrating to Bali, the neighboring island to the west. Lombok is certainly less expensive than Bali, but both are quite affordable compared to Western standards.
The windy road and elevated views of the ocean made the drive quite enjoyable. We came off the mountain side and meandered into the seaside village of Pelabuhan. We waited just a bit for all of our water taxi’s to arrive. After about a half hour boat ride we landed on the shores of Gili Trawangan and walked straight to an outside restaurant on the beach. The restaurant was basically a massive gazebo with a palm frond thatch roof and nice tables and chairs that rested straight on the beach.
We had a fantastic meal, probably one of the best lunches of the entire Indonesian trip. I later learned that the restaurant was part of our hotel, the Vila Ombak, which is a fantastic property. I stayed in one of their Deluxe Ombak Rooms, which was very open and quite large. The room was designed with modern accents, including beautiful marble flooring with a nook that had nearly a king sized bed as a seating/resting area along with a number of throw pillows. The bathroom was also posh and stylish…and was located outside. There is something a bit romantic about showing within nature, in the buff, but within the privacy of tall walls. The setting of the bathroom was very tropical and what you might expect when staying at a resort in a place like Bali, which is not far away, so its influences are certainly felt by the nearby islands.
Once we got settled we had a few hours to ourselves before our next planned event. I met up with one of the travel bloggers and we grabbed a couple of bikes from the hotel and took a ride along the only road on the island. Interestingly, there are no motorized vehicles or motorbikes allowed on the island, everything is either peddle power or a unique horse carriage. We had a lovely ride that in one direction took us past some beautiful beaches and some nice hotels. We didn’t think we had enough time to bike all the way around the island, so we went back the way we came and headed in the opposite direction of our hotel. We didn’t get very very far when the pedestrian congestion was too much to deal with, so we ended up going back to the hotel and getting freshened. The congestion we encountered was an area with a high concentration of shops, restaurants and massive night clubs.
There are many cool aspects of Gili, but the overall vibe is that of a bunch of young tourists and backpackers descending on a place to simply party. It reminds me of a destination that young folks go for spring break. Since Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim nation, the “party” scene is not very evident in most of the country, with the exception of Gili and perhaps parts of Bali.
After more than two weeks touring all over Indonesia, this was our last night together as a group. Our organizers had something special planned for us. We met at the beach around 5:30 that evening where a couple of small boats picked us up and took us to a massive trimaran sailboat. Actually, this was more trimaran than sailboat as I saw no sails. This boat was a party barge! In between the two pontoons were enormous nets with lots of large pillows to sink into and relax. At the stern (back) of the boat was a large bar, in the middle was a live band playing music and down below were the heads on one side and the galley on the other. At the bow of the boat were those large nets.
I was one of the first to board, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to fly my drone around while everyone got settled, before we set sail. I was capturing some nice footage when I heard the engines start up. I thought I’d better get my drone put away before we set said, however before I could do so, to boat had started to move. I have zero experience flying a drone from a moving object and so I had no idea what to expect. Something you need to realize is that the drone is locked onto GPS, so unless I move it, it stays still. When you are moving, it really complicates things. As I was landing the craft I needed to be moving the drone in the opposite direction than I would normally, as the boat was moving in the same direction as the craft. My mind was not working fast enough and before I realized it, the drone hit the top of the mast and dropped like a brick right behind the musicians. I was absolutely stunned. I was so thankful no one was injured and also thankful that the drone did not fall in the water. I still had two more weeks of travel, so my thoughts then went to how I would get the drone fixed, because surely it would not work after than incredibly hard landing. I quickly retrieved my DJI Phantom 4 and inspected it for damage. I could not believe my eyes, not a single prop had broken. To my utter surprise, the craft looked to be in perfect condition. I wasn’t going to fly it, but I did go ahead and start it and could not believe it was in perfect working order. With a big sense of relief, it was no time to party.
With everyone aboard and the boat now sailing, food and drinks were soon served. After everyone got a chance to eat, we were then asked to step up onto an elevated portion of the boat to talk about some of our special moments of the trip. After spending so much time with a group of people, amazing bonds begin to form. Some people got quite emotional as they talked about this extraordinary experience we all shared. Not only did we get to see and do so many fantastic things around Indonesia, but we developed lasting friendships. I have been on many, many press trips, but this was the first one where there was not a single high-maintenance primadonna among us. I’ve also never been on such a large press trip before and was blown away at how well organized and well run it was. This trip to Indonesia was one I will never forget and I have no doubt I will be talking/sharing this experience with all of you for some time to come. While Gili was not my favorite destination on the trip, it had its appeal.
While I’m parting ways from my blogger friends, I’m not leaving Indonesia just yet. Click here to read about my next destination in #WonderfulIndonesia. If you missed my previous Road Diary update, please click here. If you want to continue reading about my Indonesian travels, click here.