It was one of the more impulsive travel decisions we have ever made. We had planned to spend 5 days exploring Bali, but after less than a day in Kuta, we felt suffocated and depressed. I had done some research, so I expected Kuta to be touristy. What I didn’t expect was for the street vendors to tell me that they would starve to death if I didn’t buy a necklace, and for the locals to speak in unnatural Aussie slang. The prices of everything from accommodation to food were so inflated that we began to contemplate assuming fetal positions in our overpriced guesthouse until our onward flight a few days later. It felt like Kuta was slipping its fingers into our wallets at every turn. I’ve never seen a place more broken and warped by tourism.
We knew that we easily could leave and that more culture could be found by traveling to other cities in Bali; but it was as if we had become locked in some kind of dissociative Kuta-induced trance. We couldn’t make a choice about what to do or where to go. On our second night, Brent ran into some fellow Canadians at our guesthouse who couldn’t stop talking about their recent trip to the Gili Islands. It was all the sign we needed. We were on a boat the next morning.
The Gili Islands are located off the coast of the larger Indonesian island of Lombok. Of the trio of islands, Gili Trawangan is the largest and most popular. After the urgent, frenzied energy of Kuta, arriving on Gili Trawangan felt like heaving a deep sigh. Bali is so large and developed that it had been easy to forget that we were on an island at all. In contrast, Gili Trawangan is so small that we were able to walk around its entire circumference in less than 2 hours. We were never far from the beach.
Cars and motorbikes are illegal on the whole island, so people travel by foot, bike or horse-drawn carriage. There are tourist bars and restaurants, but the relaxed island vibes still dominate.
It rained frequently, but they were big, beautiful rains that filled up the streets with deep puddles, and turned the sky to striking shades of slate.
The most memorable moment of the whole trip ended up being a simple one. I returned to our guesthouse alone one night, and the room was silent except for the light sounds of rain hitting the pavement outside. Then, the electricity suddenly when out at the same moment that the call to prayer came piercing through the stillness of the night. Like in most of Indonesia, the locals on Gili Trawangan are predominantly Muslim. I sat in the peaceful darkness listening to how the haunting melody echoed over the entire island and mixed with the sounds of the storm.
Do you have a favourite place in Indonesia? Where would you like to visit?
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