What more could I possibly have to say for yet another blog entry on the wonderful little party island Gili Trawangan (Gili T), Indonesia, in April 2017; a place I had loved so much on my first visit that I had booked this third trip before even getting there a second time? Plenty, but I’ll start with the most tangible way in which my trip differed from the previous ones:
Gili T had changed a lot from January 2017 to April. The local government had finally decided to enforce the planning laws that had apparently always restricted buildings from being built too close to the shore, which meant that all the restaurants and bars that had been situated right on the sand had been dramatically and forcibly demolished. You could still some debris and sections of foundation.
But although this meant the demise of the iconic Jungle Bar and the main section of the relatively new Ombak Bar, for the most part businesses local business owners had adapted by shifting their main business to their associated building behind the beach road. This meant that during the day restaurants simply put tables and chairs out on the sand, and at night bars did the same – giving Gili T more of the relaxed island feel that the government had clearly been trying to preserve in the first place.
However, this system only works in good weather, which brings me to the new problem I faced on arrival that I had somehow totally avoided thus far despite having visited at the beginning and middle of rainy season…
For the first couple of days in Gili T it was raining constantly. Being from Melbourne I’m not used to this kind of constant rain as the saying that we have four seasons in one day is extremely apt.
Luckily, all the main bars and hostel socialisation areas (excepting the secondary areas I outlined above) are under cover. However, poor drainage means in constant rain all the backstreets flood, such that I had to walk to my accommodation through ankle-deep muddy water. It was merciful that by this point I had switched to travelling with a small backpack, because a suitcase would have been impossible.
Further, walking home in the rain after my first night out, I happily discovered that my small synthetic handbag appeared to be mostly waterproof, as it would otherwise have been bad news for my phone and camera. While walking back through this rain and the still ankle-deep water (sandals had to be worn rather than thongs/flip flops, which wouldn’t have easily stayed on), a friendly Indonesian man gave me his umbrella when I envied it. Everyone was quick to judge later, suggesting it as a sleazy act; but I took it for generosity.
I knew it was meant to be the end of the rainy and beginning of the dry season, so I blithely told everyone that I had brought the sunshine and it would stop raining soon. They didn’t believe me, as apparently it had been raining solidly for a week and many had left the island as a result. This meant that the first boat party I attended had a poor turn-out despite good weather – however, I was able to make some good friends on it who were all staying at the Broken Compass where I was.
And I was right: the very day after I arrived the sun started to come out and for each of my 11 remaining days there it became progressively sunnier.
It is worth noting, however, that if one does experience bad weather on Gili T the streets become unpleasantly flooded and much of the restaurant seating area on the beach will be unusable. However, having since experienced Koh Phangan, Thailand, another party island, in similar constant rain (more on that in a later instalment), I now appreciate how generally well set-up Gili T is for rain by having all the bars undercover.
The randomness of travel timing
This trip was informative for future trips because it taught me the value of travel timing. I had had such a wonderful trip previously because it was during the Christmas and New Year period, so the people I met at the start in Bali for Christmas, as well as others I met on Gili T, all continued on to spend the rest of the same time as me on Gili T. I’ve always found the same effect in Thailand when timing my trip around the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, where everyone visits for the same five nights and hits Koh Tao for 3-5 nights either before or after.
This time, however, with no full moon or New Year’s Eve around which people’s plans had been scheduled, I faced some bad luck for almost my entire 10 nights: it seemed like almost every night it was the last night of whomever I met. It didn’t allow for much friendship development and I constantly started each day alone and having to start again.
I could definitely just put it down to bad luck: the reverse was later seen in Boracay when I met someone on my first night and fortuitously was able to spend the next six nights with him (indeed, many people don’t spend that long on Boracay at all, let alone with overlapping plans). And then there was my first night of my Cambodian trip in 2016, where I met a wonderful man – of course, during his last night. But it did reinforce the value of considering timing: I’m now very conscious of the benefits of Thailand’s Full Moon Party for ensuring the same group of people together, and of New Year’s Eve in a place like Gili T.
Each day presents a new possibility – and often right at the end.
Each day, often finding myself waking up and having to make new friends again, and sometimes having off nights, I could have let this get me down; but I reminded myself of the past trips on which I had ended up meeting some very good friends or even someone special at the very end. Never more was this reinforced than on my final and 10th day on this trip to Gili T, when I met a man during a daytime pool party with whom I so connected that he came with me to Bali the next day, despite this completely throwing off his plans. Much like my final night on my first trip, It goes to show that in a literal and social paradise like Gili T, something good can happen at any time.