Gili Trawangan – the first chapter

I had only heard of ‘Gili T’ for the first time from a couple of 21-year-olds on a party boat in Koh Phi Phi, and heard of it again after I had somewhat spontaneously booked my flights to Bali a few weeks prior. I had figured, based on my proceeding rigorous internet research, that it would suit me to a T. A Gili T, perhaps. It is unlikely I could have been more correct, nor more unaware how impactful this little island would be on me. So many feels do I have about this place that even my first week-long stint there can hardly be contained in one blog post, so I won’t attempt it.

My decision to pay for a well rated ferry company – Gili Getaway – to take me from Kuta to Gili Trawangan proved a happy one. Despite the expense, the service from the friendly crew was impeccable, and I was able to drift off into a comfortable nap against the window with my travel pillow before we gently arrived right on the shores of Gili T. ‘Welcome to your new home, Gili Trawangan!’ one crewman beamed as they helped us off one by one and carried our luggage out to us on the hot and sunny sand.

Having already booked my room at the fun looking Gili Backpackers I set off to find it, the hostel’s map and directions on my phone. Of course, I still needed to ask for directions as it was easy to miss the relevant side street: the place was set back on the street just adjacent to the beach, as was most accommodation.

After checking into my private ensuite room overlooking the communal pool at about 11:30am, I went to get some lunch and found myself enjoying a tasty burrito in one of the nearby beachfront restaurants. I then wandered onto the beach to take some photos before giving into tiredness and heading back to my room for a nap.

When I rose at around 5pm, I was a tad disappointed to find that there seemed nobody about: an observation that seemed to adhere to that of a girl in Kuta who had lamented that the famed Backpackers did not have a busy atmosphere after all. Consequently, I promptly wandered out the gates and spotted a group of people sitting and talking at the hostel across the road – the Broken Compass. As these were all the types of places it was easy to simply walk into and join the common area, I did so, to find everyone tucking into a special Sunday roast that the British owner had put on.

After mingling with everyone I found myself able to have a plate of roast myself due to there being enough leftover, although without all the original meat options. It was nonetheless quiet delicious. The English folk revelled in this meal due to the entrenchment of that country’s Sunday roast culture, about which I would only learn later.

I then joined the few to whom I had been talking in heading out to the bars: we first passed that night’s designated bar, the feature of which was beer pong tables, before settling on the outdoor section of Sama Sama and enjoying a brief dance and a couple of drinks.

The next day my body clock, hunger and perhaps the noise of bodies outside woke me in time to join others at the outdoor tables in my backpackers (actually no longer called Gili Backpackers, but Gili Castle, due to recent island laws outlawing hostels) and partake in the free breakfast before 9am: I chose the banana pancake. Shortly after making this most fortuitous decision I found myself talking to a couple of friendly people who were going snorkelling, and invited myself to join them: first, however, they had to go and do something – perhaps get ready.

They did not return for some time, so, still hungry, I ordered some more food and leisurely ate it. At this time a vivacious Australian guy, Adrian, sat down. I indicated I was waiting for company but that they hadn’t come back: in no time at all he had produced five friends – two Germans he had met, and two girls and a guy from the UK – and the whole group of us were headed for the beach.

On a mission for nothing more than sun and relaxing, we all got to talking and introducing ourselves as we walked. Soon we had settled on a beach club that enabled us to pay 10,000 rupiah for a lounger (about AU$10) and included a cocktail.

Before long another delightfully outgoing Australian named Wade, whom the UK folks had met on their ferry over, joined us. We proceeded to spend the rest of the day in great merriment talking, listening to music from the portable speakers I had produced, drinking the cocktails that Wade was very generous in buying us and getting along like veritable houses on fire. It was really an idyllic day!

The order of the day was evidently warming up to partying, so after a dip in the beach club’s pool (I bought a beer from my first ever swim up bar) we returned to the hostel to chill a bit more. Adrian climbed the rock climbing wall and he, their friend John whom I met and I chatted in the pool. We then all got ready and headed out to dinner.

At the beachside restaurant we settled on many of us had pizzas, and they were both very cheesy and very delicious. Moreover, we found ourselves joined by a couple of girls we had just met at our hostel.

Afterwards we headed first to Sama Sama to dance to the live and very entertaining reggae band. We then eventually made it to Blue Marlin, the venue of the day (in Gili T a different bar is ‘the place’ for each night) where both floors were packed with merrymaking backpackers.

The next day Katie, one of the UK ladies, knocked on my door as I had insisted they do so that I would not need to be alone despite my private room. The four of us – Katie, Kelly and Ryan and myself – then went to grab breakfast / lunch from the nice beachfront restaurant at which Wade had said he had been eating for every meal. Sure enough, Wade and his boyfriend shortly appeared!

The other three had been debating whether to join the party boat, for which I had already booked a ticket and that was to be held the next day (and is held three times a week). Eventually all five of them decided to buy tickets from the bar that sold them. As we bought five one of them was free, and we insisted Wade take it after all the cocktails he had bought us the day before!

Rest was the order of the remainder of the afternoon, until about 5pm when the five of us joined some friends of the other three whom they had met in Koh Phi Phi and who were now staying at our Backpackers in heading out to Sunset Beach and its famous swing for the requisite sunset photo.

I hadn’t really twigged that the way to get there was to cycle (there is no motorised transport on the island – only horse and cart and bicycle) until all nine or so of us were fronting up to a bicycle hire place near our hostel and I found myself having to cycle for the first time in years – and in thongs (flip flops) no less. Miraculously I made it without too much difficulty at all, and we each took turns taking the obligatory photo – although the clouds meant the sunset was not very spectacular and I couldn’t capture the ideal shot.

Cycling back I somehow managed to lose everyone but assumed they were up ahead. When I got back to near the hostel I was surprised to see none of our bicycles outside the place from where I thought we had hired them: I thought I must have confused the place, so headed back to the hostel, only to find no one whom I knew there.

Luckily I then received a message from Katie, who had obtained wi-fi at the restaurant that they had all stopped at for dinner on the way! It was too far to walk, so I was forced to cycle all the way back, even though I had become quite tired of dodging other speeding bikes, pedestrians and road bumps and managing the pedals with my thongs. However, I put sneakers on and was there in no time: the others’ food had not yet arrived.

That night Katie, Ryan and Kelly wanted a quite one, but I was on such a short holiday I decided to join others from our backpackers, who were all now talking and drinking at the long outdoor table. It turned out I had been mistaken about the quiet hostel vibe on my first night: most people simply gathered from around 6pm, not from 5pm. We eventually all headed off together to the Tuesday night venue – the one from which the boat party would leave the next day – via the small bar the hostel often went to first. At this time, most people were simply playing beer pong and I retired before long – after taking a cheeky meal from the 24 hour chicken restaurant back to my room, as would become a sort of ritual – to ensure I was somewhat functional for the next day’s boat party.

5 thoughts on “Gili Trawangan – the first chapter

  1. I’d never heard about Gili T until I traveled around Thailand, either. Now I want to go badly. It seems like a relaxed alternative to the rowdy and often crowded beaches of southern Thailand. Glad you had a good time!

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