Gone were the days when I just appreciate places for their facade. Wandering for me now equates to a massive need to recuperate, from the pressures of adulting. That being said, whenever I search for places, I always take into account not just its capacity to feed my eyes. I also consider the healing benefits of it. Traveling in itself is an alleviating process, but there are these places that will effortlessly vibe with you.
Closer to nature, closer to the source. That’s what I always believed in. A lot of friends will agree that I was never a city person. Well I’ve been living in the busy Metro Manila for years now because of my job, but should I have the time and the right number of leave, I’d rather be out of it and go somewhere calmer. That’s why before doing the last stretch of my Bali spiritual vacation, I decided to also take a side trip to the Gili Islands. Here’s a guide to help you identify which one of the gilis is for you.
WHERE ON EARTH
The Gilis are three islands near Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. They are popular options as side trips from Bali, especially to diving enthusiasts. There are a lot of PADI certified diving centers in the Gilis, doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a technical diver, a bunch of packages are available for you. Of course if you’re not into it, you can still do various activities each island has to offer. What I like about them is they have different target markets. None the less, these little pieces of paradise can give you a taste of what it’s like to live far from the hustle and bustle, which is perfect if you’re craving to re-balance yourself.
I suggest booking your ticket in physical stores, especially in Ubud Center where shops of different operators flock. You’ll never run out of options and you’ll also have the chance to haggle. I got mine for 450,000 IDR or 30 USD for a two-way trip (low season), which is just a one-way ticket online especially if it’s the peak season. It should be 500,000 IDR or 34 USD but the seller from Wahana said, if I’m going to book a two-way ticket, she’ll give me a discount. It’s not a huge one but comparing it to prices online, I did save money.
A shuttle will pick you up either from your hotel or at a certain spot. Then drive all the way down to the port. In my case, it’s Padang Bai, located approximately an hour from Ubud. They will attach a tag to your luggage indicating a specific island destination because there’s a separate compartment for it. The boats will transfer people to Gilis and Lombok, which means stop overs galore especially if you’re going to Gili Air. Don’t freak out, my backpack was safely returned to me.
Dubbed as the party island, I must admit it was a risk going there. I fought my prejudice though to test if I can still have an undisturbed me time, in an island known for its lively night scene. Trawangan is the most visited island among the Gilis, and also the biggest. Is there a place for me in Gili T?
I admit it’s 50/50. I rented a bike for 50,000 IDR or 4 USD and enjoyed an early biking session around the island. Most of the tourists were asleep from their midnight activities I assumed, so the ambiance was so calm. I specifically like the sunset side of the island where I found the sitting area pictured above.
One thing that I appreciate about the Gilis, is the presence of healthy food choices everywhere. Some shacks even prepare Vegan menus. Healthy food doesn’t need to be bland, and the island will prove that from their main course to their delectable desserts.
While I was biking I saw this shop that stood out from the rest because of how modern it is. I’m not surprised though, Trawangan is the most commercialized island. Gili Yo Frozen Yogurt has a lot of toppings to choose from, I’ve felt like a kid in a candy store.
Cost per gram: 25,000 IDR or 2 USD
I also enjoyed the Smoothie Bowl I ordered at Hello Capitano, a shack near the beach that also offers sumptuous snacks. I had it on my first day at Gili T. I was searching for an ice cream or gelato shop, but its interesting interior caught my eyes.
Price starts at 55,000 IDR or 4 USD
After 3 days I left Gili T for Gili Air, I gotta be honest, Trawangan is probably the Gili I would least visit again. Yes I still got some of the silence that I want, and I did enjoy the food, but the island is so congested. In fact, there are commercial buildings being built during my trip, which is not surprising considering its huge tourism. For party people, this is the island for you. You’ll never run out of pub. For introverts like me though, we’re better off staying in the next island.
Boat transfer price starts at 25,000 IDR or 2 USD, please note that public boats leave at 9:30 am, so book in advance. Worse comes to worst there are speed boats available but of course, they charge way higher. I had the mistake of not booking nor waking up early, so I needed to pay 150,000 IDR or 11 USD for a 20 mins ride!
Hands down my favorite Gili so far ‘cause I haven’t seen Meno yet. The “in-betweener”, Gili Air is a mixture of Trawangan’s variety and Meno’s silence. It’s slowly catching up when it comes to development, but it’s still less crowdy than the bigger Gili. Accommodations of all sorts are available around. From dorms to fancy villas, you’ll surely find a place that will suit every budget.
Last 2017 I booked a Discovery Tour package in 7 Seas Cottages, this includes a 6 day stay in one of their bungalows with free breakfast, introductory diving lesson, Lombok falls tour, Cidomo tour (please skip this, give the horses a break), and two-way ticket from Bali to Gili Air. It should be 4d3n only but I added 2 days because I really like the vibe of the island.
Overall cost: 6,170,000 IDR or 423 USD. If you want to cut cost, you can choose a Superior Room instead. The original price for it (if you’re not going to extend) is 2,903,000 IDR or 200 USD.
I love the fact that 7 Seas’ bungalows are made of re-purposed materials. I do respect any businesses with environmental responsibility. I hope they would take out the Cidomo (Horse cart) tour in their packages though.
Overall my stay was comfortable, the air conditioning is good, the room service is also great. I remember leaving for the sunset every day, and every time I go back, my room is clean again. I like the fact that it’s located on the main road too. Yes, you will hear the neighing of horses early in the morning, but at least you’re close to the beach and different establishments.
My breakfast is free throughout my stay, so I only tried other shacks for my lunch and dinner. Gili Air’s restaurants are so hip and ultra grammable, it was hard for me to choose where to eat, because of the visuals alone.
One of my fave restaurants is the Gili Lumbung. It’s located at the Sunset part of the island. Tourists flock on it during Sunset, because of the surreal images they can capture, especially with the swing pictured above.
Price starts at 50,000 IDR or 4 USD
Biking is one of the best ways to explore the island. It took me one and a half hour to tour around it via main road. There are some challenging tracks because almost half of it is sandy. None the less I still enjoyed my biking sesh, as I always end it with the view above.
I discovered the spot near Gili Lumbung. After reading a book and watching the sunset, I’ll just walk for about 5 mins to grab my dinner. This portion of Gili is very memorable, even if I stayed on a different side of the island this 2018, I decided to walk for almost half an hour just to get to it again. There’s just something magical about it.
Gili Air will always be a piece of paradise for me. I know it’s slowly catching up when it comes to infrastructures, I just hope they won’t overdo it. I love the close-knit community and the balanced vibe of the island, and it would be great to preserve that.
I believe I’ll encounter more “me time” spots in Gili Meno, and I can’t wait to experience it. Considered as the honeymoon island, the most silent Gili is just there waiting for me, once I’ve felt the need for a reclusive getaway again.
Meanwhile, I’m gonna revel on the ever lingering memory of me, sitting on the sand of Gili Air, feeling nothing but gratefulness as I’m still breathing, and witnessing miracles every day. Traveling more than anything taught me to honor my present state and slowly heal from whatever transpired in the past. By doing that I’m learning to surrender once in a while which is a challenge, but I’m getting there.
Have you been to the Gilis? Excited to hear about which one you dig below.