CJ believes that any real vacation must include blue water, white sand beaches, and palm trees, so off we go to the Gili Islands, three microscopic specks off the coast of Lombok. Gili Trawangan, revered for its all-night parties, is the largest of the three islands, called “Gili Tee” by those “in the know.” A short boat ride away is Gili Air, the middle child. Another short boat ride gets you to Gili Meno, the littlest.
To get to these Gili Islands we took a Parama bus down to the sleazy harbor town of Padang Bai, about an hour southeast of Ubud.
After hanging around on the Padang Bai dock for a scorching hot interval,
we boarded a tender which took us out to the “Slow Boat.” This old inter-island ferry was indeed slow, but oh so cheap. We bid goodbye to Padang Bai . . .
. . . and settled in for a totally enjoyable boat ride of 4 hours. The old boat was exotic, the passengers few, and the crew cooked and shared a delicious lunch with us.
Now comes the shakiest part of our Bali narrative. We heard that accommodations would be easy to arrange anywhere in Indonesia . . . without reservations. This was “low season” and the best hotels would be there for the picking, begging us to stay, practically giving away the rooms, so we had no reservations for our first island destination, Gili Tee.
By the time we arrived at Gili Tee, just at dark, a storm had blown in and the seas were rolling. You need to understand that there are no docking facilities on the Gili islands. They send out a small tender that gets you in close and then you wade ashore. With the waves smashing the tender into the larger boat, we had to disembark the Slow Boat by clambering over the side to jump into the little boat, a rickety craft that seemed to shrink in size along with our confidence in it. We could tell that even the deck hands were worried. We and our baggage were getting soaked. The tender was rocking from side to side, almost shipping water over the gunwales. I wasn’t worried about drowning. We were only a couple of hundred yards from shore and CJ and I are both strong swimmers, but I didn’t want to lose all our stuff. I was also worried about some of our mates who were green around the gills and wide-eyed in fright.
Slipping and sliding down the waves, rocking and rolling through the crests, we eventually made it to the beach where we waded ashore.
Here’s the beach, photo taken several days later.
The boat hands dumped our wet backpacks under a tree and went on about their business. By now it was near-dark, the wind and rain whipping across the water and soaking us to the skin.
I ran out into the street and waved down a “cidomo,” one of the pony carts that serve as taxis on the Gili Islands. Oh yes, here’s something else you need to know about the Gilis, there are no motor vehicles. None. Not one. No buses, no cabs, not even a mo-ped. Here’s a photo of a large Gili truck.
You want to get somewhere? You walk. There are some bikes they rent to tourists (God help us all!), or if you have the money and it’s dark and you’re wet and you don’t know where to go, you hire a “cidomo.”
Here’s a photo of the “cidomo” stand taken in a more hospitable hour . . .
. . . but on this unpleasant night, two wet Jenkins climbed into the back of a wet cart and asked the wet driver to persuade his wet pony to convey us to the Blue Marlin Hotel.
“No rooms at Blue Marlin,” said the driver.
“We have to have a room, do you know a place?”
He told us that maybe he knew a place, and off we lurched and bounced, north along the main drag.
Here’s the main street of Gili Trawangan during the day, when you can see it, and the tropical cyclone is not blowing you into the sea.
On this night, however, we were not interested in sight-seeing. After about a mile of jerking along behind a miserable pony, we stopped at a disreputable-looking establishment where a friendly young man showed us to possibly the worst room I’ve seen since an episode outside of Da Nang many years ago but that’s another story. The young man gave us a key and said that we could pay in the morning. He squished off into the darkness. I started our stay in the Gili Bates Hotel by killing a two-inch roach in the bathroom. That wasn’t so bad. There was no furniture except a bed, OK, OK, but the stench of the room was the final straw.
“We’re getting out of here,” I told CJ. “Leave the packs.” We locked the room and splashed out into the Gili Tee storm. Continuing north along the coast we waded down the street, going from place to place, like Joseph and Mary. Eventually we came to what appeared to be an upscale hotel, at least by Gili standards, with an ominous-sounding name . . . Villa Ungull. Villa UNGUUUUUULLLL, insert evil laugh, but it had a large pretty swimming pool out front . . .
We decided to give Villa Ungull a try.
Yes. They had one room available. Electricity. Hot shower. Air conditioning. It did not have a sink, nor a mirror, nor a closet, nor large insects, but it was clean. It was dry. It was ours! Back into the storm, we snuck down to the roach room, rescued out stuff, left the key in the door, and ran to our safe haven, giggling like the rascals we were.
We dried off, changed clothes, grabbed another cidomo, found a place to have dinner, made our way back to Villa Ungull, dried off again, and crawled into bed. Safe.
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