Where’s Wallis? The Gili Islands, Indonesia

Indonesian ferries have a notoriously bad safety record, so I was apprehensive about the 30 minute boat ride from Lombok to Gili T. 

My fears were compounded by the fact that the boat was weighed down with enough food for all 3 Gili Islands for a month! It did make me think about the logistics of catering for hundreds (thousands?) of tourists on remote islands.

I was sizing up which of the 25kg sacks I’d be grabbing if we capsized as my nutrition whilst at sea….Melons? Tomatoes? Onions?! Luckily before I could make my decision we had arrived safely on Gili T.

Nervous smile

Nervous smile

During 2 and a half months of travelling to get from the UK to Aus, I had developed a hatred for my rucksack, so I bought a suitcase for this holiday. The downside of this being that I basically had to clean and press 20kg in order to get it over my head, off the boat, through the shallows and up off the beach. All the while my Rinjani descent wounds burning from the salt (someone give the girl a medal…or take away the tiny violin!) 

James and I were both disgustingly hot, sweaty, dirty and disheveled arriving on Gili T, having come directly from our 2 day trek up Mount Rinjani. So we were a bit sheepish when we dragged ourselves and our bags into the clean, peaceful environment of Scallywags, our home for the next 3 nights. 

However we were welcomed with open arms (and a beer!) by Ben the manager.

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Happy chappy

We were staying in a garden view room and it was absolutely beautiful! We had hoped to get one of the ‘private plunge pool’ rooms but they were all booked up, so if you’re heading there, make sure you book early! I snuck a look at one of the plunge pool rooms and it looked awesome. 

Private plunge pool room!

Private plunge pool room…this is just outside your bedroom!

James requested that the minibar got a special mention in the blog, since apparently it was especially large and especially well stocked, and contained chilled glasses (ha, which we didn’t even use) There you go!

Wow. ;)

Wow. 😉

Both the plunge pool and garden view rooms have outdoor bathrooms at the back with high bamboo walls. It was so wonderful after 2 days of trekking and camping to have a warm shower under a bright blue sky. I’m a wimp I know, this is why I’ve never been to a festival that lasts more than 1 day!

Outdoor shower!

Outdoor shower!

The ocean view rooms don’t have the outdoor bathrooms, however you get the benefit of waking up to this:

Ocean view room. The choice is yours!

View from the bed in the Ocean View rooms. The choice is yours!

Scallywags is set on the main ‘strip’ of restaurants, hotels, spas and bars along the East coast of Gili T. When we’d told locals on Lombok that we were going to Gili T next, they’d all reacted with “Ooo, party place, BOOM BOOM BOOM” (simulating nightclub beats). 

Those who know me will know I’m not a big clubber at the best of times, so after 2 days trekking, no no! I was concerned about what we’d let ourselves in for, and whether this would be the Magaluf of Indonesia.

THANKFULLY this was not the case. Gili T seemed like one of those wonderful places where you can have whatever sort of holiday you like. You can be super active and dive all day (James), chill by the pool (me) or party the night away and sleep all day (many others!) You could go there as a couple, a family, or with friends. Can you tell that I liked it?! 🙂

In order to get dry after my long shower I had to commit the atrocity of dismantling the towel art :O It had been stepped up to a whole new level since the days of ‘Doggy Doggy’ at the Amala. I felt dreadful destroying it. James didn’t seem to feel so bad and hopped up after chilling on the bed with various squashed flowers stuck to his back.

Mad towel skills

Mad towel skills

That evening we sampled the famous Scallywags seafood BBQ. I loved their tongue in cheek advertising of everything as organic, followed by: “Of course it is, it’s just come out of the sea”!

Once you have a table out on the front deck over looking the ocean, you stroll up to the huge BBQ that dominates the front of the hotel. There all of the fresh fish and meat you could lust after is laid out for your choosing. Pick a piece to be cooked fresh (tuna steak for me – of course!). Pick a sauce (Garlic butter – of COURSE!) and then head to the salad bar to get as much salad as you fancy on the side. Divine!!!

Tooona steak

Tooona steak. Mmmmmmm.

They also had a wonderful pudding menu. I’m not much of a pudding person at restaurants as usually the selection is all creamy and sickly, but at Scallywags they featured two of my favourites: bitter chocolate orange truffles and lemon torte. We ordered the truffles and when they arrived there were about 10!! They were incredible! But so rich we had to ask the kitchen to wrap them up for us so that we could take them back to keep in the (spacious) minibar fridge. 

Bitter chocolate truffles

Bitter chocolate truffles

The next day James had booked himself in for not 1, not 2, but 3 dives with Blue Marlin dive school. We had a tasty breakfast out on the Scallywags deck again – anywhere with a pancake station AND an egg station is in my good books and I then walked the 2 minutes with him up to the dive school (everywhere is near on Gili T).

Great breakfast spot

Great breakfast spot

I enquired about beginners dives, and was told that for $65 I could do a 4/5 hour course where I’d learn the basics, try some stuff in the pool, and then head out to the ocean. 

I had tried diving for the first time back in December on my 25th birthday, in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. I was travelling by myself at that point, so had wanted to do something cool to celebrate. Admittedly Lake Atitlan wasn’t the ideal first dive site….cold, murky, nothing to see (unless you can dive already and go down to the wreck), and most people just go there to tick-off doing a high altitude dive.

I think it did put me off slightly, and I know I want to give diving another go at some point, because everyone who does it seems to absolutely rave about it. And you get to see cool stuff like this:

James' new mate

James’ new buddy

Instead I said bye to James and strolled back to Scallywags, planning a relaxed day by the pool, and catching up on the blog for KL and Lombok. But, in typical me style, I instantly felt bad to be relaxing when there were potential ACTIVITIES to participate in. So I packed a bag and signed up for a day snorkelling trip around the 3 Gili islands (Trawagan/’T’, Meno and Air)

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It was a brilliant day and only £4 for the whole outing, including snorkel and fin hire!! I’m in for a shock when I go to the Great Barrier Reef. It will be a bit ‘Exy’ = ‘Expensive’!! (new Aussie slang word I learnt today)

We snorkelled at 3 different sites; at the first we saw turtles, at the second we saw the sunken wreck of a boat that had previously been a floating restaurant, and at the third we saw a beautiful coral reef and lots of fishies (most of which were probably on Scallywags BBQ that night!) 

Calm before the....

Calm before the….

STOOOORRRRM!!!

STOOOORRRRM!!!

After some sunbathing and fun on the boat we moored on Gili Air for a drink and some late lunch. Gili Air has a reputation for being a bit of a ‘honeymoon’ resort, quiet and only for couples, so I’d expected it to just have big all-inclusive resorts. The place we stopped couldn’t have been further from that: TaMi’s Neverland was an awesome 2 story ‘tree house’ constructed from bamboo. 

It had such a chilled vibe, contributed to by the fact that a fair few of the people on the snorkelling trip were smoking weed. Now I am perhaps being super naive here, but I was surprised that people were so open about it considering that drugs have the death penalty in Indonesia! I’m especially conscious because it’s so prominent in the Australian media at the moment because of the ‘Bali 9’ (9 Aussies arrested in 2005 for planning to smuggle drugs into Indonesia who are likely to face the death penalty very soon) but perhaps it’s just because police aren’t really concerned with people using drugs, more with people supplying them. Who knows!

Anyway, the treehouse served awesome food, and I could have happily stayed there all afternoon. I think if I go back to the Gilis I’ll try staying on Air for a night or two too, especially since Scallywags also have a place there.

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We got the boat back to Gili T and arrived about 4pm. James’ final dive of the day was scheduled for 2.30pm so I popped into the dive shop to ask if they were back yet. I was told  they wouldn’t back for at least an hour so what can a girl do? GET A MASSAGE OF COURSE 🙂

I opted for ‘XQISIT’ (I think it’s meant to read Exquisite) and started with a head, neck and back massage from a lovely lady called Jum who was similar age to me. We had a good chat and she told me that she is from Lombok but moved to Gili 3 years ago to work. She lives in the village in the centre of the island (away from the tourists!) and she works from 3 – 11pm but her husband works at the hotel attached to XQISIT and works 9am – 4pm so they only see each other for a couple of hours a day, pretty rubbish!!! 

The massage was 30 minutes and I was basically asleep by the end! I calculated that I still had another half hour to kill before James would be back from diving so rolled straight into a foot and leg massage.

MISTAKE.

I had first noticed my legs aching from climbing Mount Rinjani on Lombok when I went up the steep bamboo stairs at the treehouse at lunch. The ache rapidly escalated and by the time Jun was kneading away at my calves I was in agony!! At least she seemed to find it all quite amusing.

I limped my way back to Scallywags and was surprised when our key wasn’t at reception. They told me that James was at the pool, and there he was sunbathing with a glass of vino and some calamari. Turns out he’d sacked off the final dive of the day to hang out. Oooooopsy!! 

Ideal spot for afternoon drinks

Ideal spot for afternoon drinks

After some sundowner drinks by the pool we went for a stroll along the strip to scout out potential dinner venues. We looked at the menus for Pearl, and KoKoMos. But in the end I floated that I’d actually be really happy with seafood BBQ again. We looked at a couple of the other seafood BBQs, and none of them looked as good as Scallywags. So we went back for round 2!

Prowwwns. SO MUCH GARLIC :D

Prowwwns. SO MUCH GARLIC 😀

Friday was our final full day on Gili, and last day of the holiday 😦 James set off diving again early in the morning and I had a good relax (no FOMO on activities this time!) 

Scallywags pool. Could stay here for weeks!

Scallywags pool. Could stay here for weeks!

I went for a leisurely stroll to meet up with Joanna, who is originally from the UK but has lived on Gili T for many years and owns the lovely Marta’s Guesthouse with her husband, Marta. She used to be a diving instructor at Blue Marlin (where James was diving) for 9 years. 

Marta's

Marta’s

It was fascinating hearing from her about how she’s seen the island change over the past 15 years, and that local people are hoping it won’t continue to change too rapidly. I can completely see that…whilst I loved Gili, if I had any complaint it could have been a bit quieter/less touristy. When James and I hired bikes and rode around the island it is a lot quieter on the North, West and South sides, however there were also tonnes of building sites and properties under construction, and it would definitely lose its charm if the whole island becomes like the Eastern ‘strip’.

I sat and had a refreshing iced lemon drink with Joanna on their porch, and in the half hour or so I was there encountered a few of the Marta’s guests, all of whom seemed to be having a fantastic time and to think of it like home. It’s definitely a different environment to Scallywags, and with only 9 rooms is a far smaller establishment, but it had a wonderful charm and a really peaceful feeling. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit quieter to stay, set back from the main strip, then check it out! They also have a guesthouse over on Lombok.

The peaceful garden at Marta's

The peaceful garden at Marta’s

Joanna also helped answer my big life question of the week: “Why do all cats on Gili T have stubby tails?”. It’s so noticeable that even the Lonely Planet include it in their key stats:

“Number of cats on Gili T: 3000. Number of cats with full tails: 13”

I had asked other people but no-one seemed sure, but Joanna enlightened me that it’s genetic, and that they hadn’t been cut as I’d assumed!! She said that the locals will tell you that the tails have gone into soup 😉 but that it’s really because not many cats originally came over, and some of the first ones had this genetic disorder called ‘Manx Syndrome’ (not sure if official name!) and then they kept breeding so now most of them have funky tails!

Sadly no photos of cats with funky tails. I tried but they all ran away. Just picture a cat with a regular tail and then halve it (length ways!) 

After meeting Joanna I managed to successfully cross-paths with James post dive and we went for lunch before his 4th and final dive in 2 days. This time KoKoMos did take our fancy. We had a luscious tuna tartar and I then had crab ravioli. Mmm. 

However the highlight of the meal was glamming up our coconut waters: 

Nerds!

Nerds!

I had my final massage of the holiday, a head massage. Sadly XQISIT was all booked out, so I tried another place, and I think they roped in a random guy off the street, as he wasn’t wearing the uniform, and really didn’t know how to massage. So it was basically an awkward half hour of him pulling my hair :s

En route back to Scallywags I got stupidly overexcited because along the side of a restaurant I spotted this sign:

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Misleading signs

“Today” “TODAY” My Rinjani legs didn’t put me off. Nor the fact that all I had to swim in was my trusty snake print costume which is totally inappropriate for front crawl, or bikinis, equally inappropriate. I excitedly ran into the restaurant to enquire. 

The woman looked at me blankly and called someone else over (thankfully before I’d resorted to mime!) The other woman informed me that it had taken place a few days before 😦 I had thought that it might be a repeat of the epic Fiji swim….why relax when on holiday eh!

Crestfallen, I wandered back to Scallywags, where I got a huge surprise…. Dixie, who was one of about 6 of us who studied Maths and Philosophy at Manchester was just chilling by the pool!!! I had known that she was in Bali at a similar time, but didn’t think our timings crossed. Such a treat to see her, a familiar friendly face from home.

That evening James and I hired some bikes and whizzed around the island to try and catch the sunset. It was recommended that it takes about 45 mins to circumnavigate the island. James backed us to do it in 20. 

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True lads have girl bikes with baskets and bells

This ambitious target was slightly waylaid by about 2 hours of drinks on the Western side. 

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Gili Teak

If you’re ever planning to cycle around the island, I’d recommend covering the North whilst it’s still light. Which luckily we did, since there’s about 500m where you have to get off and push your bike across the sand. James attempted to ride. Non non. 

There were tonnes of lovely looking bars on the West coast. Lots of people had mentioned ‘Sunset Bar’, which we cycled down to but it looked a little underwhelming. So instead we backtracked and headed North a bit to ‘Gili Teak’ which we’d ridden past already. It was LARVELY. There was a big wooden swing. Comfy bean bags. PROSECCO 😀

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

We then raced back around the South of the island, just about avoiding being impaled by the oncoming horse and carts. Oh yes, Gili T doesn’t have any cars. So everyone gets around by foot, bike, or horse and cart – although apparently the horses have a very short life expectancy 😦 Team bike all the way!

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A typical street scene on Gili T (although usually a bit busier!)

We weighed up dinner options for the final night. What did we go for? SCALLYWAGS!! haha it was just too good! We got a lobster 🙂 and as if that wasn’t enough James ordered 2 meat skewers too! Such a shame that triathlon wasn’t on to help mitigate all this munching.

Stop. Just stop.

Stop. Just stop.

There were a couple from Sydney called John and Mary who had been on my snorkelling trip. They must have thought that we were stalking them because when we’d got to Gili teak, there they were. Then when we got to Scallywags……there they were!! 

On Saturday we had to be up early to catch the boat back to Bali to get to the airport. This boat was bigger than the one we’d got from Lombok to Gili. So much so that they’d strapped EIGHT engines to the back :O Because we were leaving in the morning the only boat that was running went to a port on Bali that was about a 2 hour drive from the airport, the ticket included a transfer by minibus though so all easy!

I said bye to James at the airport at 2pm and waved him onto the first of FOUR flights on his ridiculous next leg of travels….from Bali to Buenos Aires, a mere 15,000km!!

My flight wasn’t leaving until 12pm, so I was NOT going to spend 10 hours in Bali airport. I asked Garuda Air whether I could check my bag in early and they said “Not this early!” ha, so I made use of the luggage lockers (hidden away next to the taxi rank) which were a mere £2 for the whole day and then hopped in a taxi back to where the trip began…potato head beach club in Seminyak.

I had to dust off my haggling skills, as I only had 300,000 (only!) IDR left in cash (about £15), to cover my taxis both ways.

When we got to Potato Head there was a big queue of cars and the host came out to say that they were totally full, so I asked the taxi to take me to KuDeTa instead (a few minutes along the road)

At Potato Head there’s a minimum spend for day beds which works out at about £25pp. At KuDeTa it’s open seating, although you probably end up spending well over that  anyway! I was lucky and a day bed came free about 10 mins after I’d arrived so I pounced and got myself settled for the day where had a lovely final few hours of reading and relaxing, and Bali once again outdid itself with the sunset 🙂 

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I suppose I can put down my book for this 🙂

If John and Mary hadn’t thought we were stalking them before then they definitely did when I spotted them strolling along the beach in front of KuDeTa and popped down to say hi. We agreed to share a taxi to the airport later that eve.

Then it was time to say bye bye Asia. I had such an amazing couple of weeks, and we did SO much. We had a villa holiday, a city break, an adventure holiday and a beach activity holiday all in one!! 

My flight back to Aus was pretty quiet, with loads of spare seats at the back, but someone next to me. I politely requested that he moved haha. I mean it just makes sense for both of us to be able to spread out if there’s spare seats right? :S

I managed a decent snooze on the flight. Classic wake-up just in time for breakfast (rice at 5am…hmmm), and managed to catch this beaut of a sunrise as we were over Aus.  A great welcome back!!

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Oh Aus, you’re alright aren’t you!

Xx

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