Been a week since we’ve been back from our little island paradise and I still have no idea what to write to capture the amazing things we saw, did, ate, experienced. So I figured I’d just try my best and write it all anyway.
Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen…this is going to be a doozie. (Oh and all pictures are originals from someone in our traveling party unless otherwise noted.)
We left from my house to head to the airport at about noon on Christmas Day (after a fun Skype party with my family - who were still celebrating Christmas Eve.) The airport was, well, an airport (albeit a smokier one than Im used to) and soon we were flying over Surabaya heading towards Lombok. Lombok is an island to the east of Bali (which is to the east of Java where I live.) We landed in Mataram safely and soundly and met up with our amazing transporter/guide/Lombok Dad, Mardi. We decided to stay 1 night in Senggigi to save ourselves the hassle of finding accomodation in Gili Meno in the late afternoon, and Mardi helped us find an amazing hotel right on the beach (and it even had AC!) He then arranged for his driver to come pick us up and take us to dinner at his restaurant, the Yessy Cafe (named after his daughter.) It was a super cute little restaurant and we had some delicious fish, a free cocktail, and a free desert of fried bananas with honey (all thanks to Mardi - seriously if you ever visit Lombok, esp the Senggigi area, let me know and Ill give you his info.) I was very excited to have some fresh fish because, well, Im afraid to eat fish in Sby because Ive seen what all goes in the river and the nastiness in the ocean around the city, so Im not about to eat anything that comes out of there.
Had a wonderful dinner with my wonderful travel buddies, and woke refreshed to finish the journey to Gili Meno. Mardi drove us to the harbor in Bangsal, went in and got our tickets for us, and even ushered us down to the boat through all the people trying to harass us to carry our bags or sell us things or whatever else they wanted. To get into the boat you have to take off your flip-flops and wade into the water until its about calf deep and then hop on to the open back of the boat and hop down into the seating area. So I was very glad that I had worn my skirt that day and not a pair of jeans. The boat ride to the island was beautiful and fun. But then I love boats so it was all good and fun for me!
Since we had no accommodation reserved when we got off the boat we started walking to find some. We went right out of the harbor because everyone had told us that if you wanted cheap accommodation, go right, for nicer and more expensive hotels, etc for left. So right we went. We walked for a while before finding a pretty nice place with all the basic amenities we needed for a price that was well withing budget. For a double room with mosquito net, electricity, western, force flush toilet, AND a fresh water shower (plus the salt-water mandi of course) it was only 100,000rph a night (roughly $10), so split between 2 people about 50,000 a night. Good stuff. We spent the first day just wandering around and had dinner at a lovely restaurant with the ever present beachside bungalow-esque loungers/tables.
*not our picture, those havent been loaded yet*
The rest of the week was a blur of ocean, beach, hot local guys (hehe), amazing food, beer, sun, sand, and bonfires. Oh, and mosquitos. That was the one downside of the entire experience was the mount of mosquitos we fought every day. By bedtime I was just happy to go to bed to be in my protective little mosquito net!
We went snorkeling one day on a glass bottom boat which was amazing. The coral and fish we saw were gorgeous! The boat we went on was run by the guy who also runs the Turtle Sanctuary. It was really neat to see all the little turtles they are helping to save and return to the ocean. When the turtles are 8 months old they release them (which we ALMOST got to do - literally, hands on, release a turtle back to the ocean) but the weather was crap and the waves were too rough to do it. Sad day!
Intan and the Turtles (sounds like an 80s rock group)
We met a lot of really awesome people, mostly locals, that we spent most of our time hanging out with. And the guys that ran our bungalows were amazingly friendly, genuine, and even protective. When one of the locals got a little too friendly and interested (sorry, Curly) our protective inn keeper made sure to tell him to keep away and then checked in frequently to make sure we were good to go. Several nights they started bonfires on the beach (a big help to keep the mosquitos away) and we’d hang out while theyd play guitar and we’d all laugh and talk (in both broken English and broken Indonesian.) One night they cooked us fish that they had caught that afternoon (black snapper - had never heard of it before, but it was delish) - grilled it on one of the nightly bonfires and then fixed us rice to go with it (of course) and didnt even charge us for it. Seriously wonderful guys that run Soraya.
One night they invited us to go see some traditional music and dancing at a warung a little further down from our bungalows. It was wonderful. We hung out, listened to the music, watched the people and little kids dancing - even saw some of the kids playing what I can only call Fire Soccer. Yes, they played soccer with a flaming ball of..something. I think it was one of the balls that they use for fire dancing minus the chain…either way it was fascinating and scary to watch. After the music and dancing was over there was of course another beach bonfire, with more hot local guys playing guitar. All in all a perfect night ;)
That night I made a pact with Rachael that I was not going to use a squatty-potty for the entire time I will be in Indonesia (be that 1 or 2 years.) Little did I know that in less that 36 hours, that pact would be broken.
Kerry, Intan, and I went on a walk to this seafood restaurant a mile or so away from our bungalow (pretty good food but that isnt the point of this little story…unfortunately.) We get there and I realize that, oops, I need the little ladies room. I asked for the tissue paper (there is rarely any TP in any bathrooms in Indonesia regardless whether its a squat or not) and headed back. Much to my dismay I realize that the only option is, of course, the squatty-potty. In case you do not know what I mean when I saw squatty potty its basically this - a hole in the floor with little ridges next to it for your feet, where you just squat-n-go. Much MORE to my dismay I realize that a) Im wearing a 1 piece bathing suit and 2) the door, of course with my luck, doesnt even come close to shutting all the way. There was a nail hanging from a wire that you just had to stick into a hole bored in the door, all the other previous locking mechanisms had long since rusted away. So I sucked it up and did what I had to do.
*not THE one, but very similar*
By the time New Years rolled around we were excited to go to Gili Trawangan, the “party” gili. Its the island with all the clubs and bars, etc on it, so it was our obvious choice of location to spend New Years Eve. We chartered a boat to pick us up at 7pm on Meno, then retrieve us from Gili T at 4am. We get there and have to walk down the beach a ways until we found an opening to get to the street - during which I almost lost my flip-flops to the ocean. But luckily the ocean taketh, and the ocean giveth back..eth.
We get to this bar (chosen solely on cheap drink specials) and sit out in the open air section. We are then told that food that night was free and served buffet style until they were out. So we were very excited as that meant more money for drinks. We eat the free and delicious Indo food, and begin drinking. We met up with some friends from Surabaya and started the party. After only maybe an hour of dancing the sky opened up in typical Indonesian fashion and it began to pour. Some people went and huddled under the bar overhangs, a lot crowded onto the covered dance floor, but the rest of us decided “Eff it” and kept right on dancing. It was amazingly fun. It was the perfect rain for dancing. If it had just been a sprinkle it wouldve been more annoying than anything, but this heavy downpour was perfect for drunken crazy dancing. So this we did (on and off tables) until around 2am when the bar was starting to shut down. So we decided to carry the party on over to a friends hotel. We walk out of the bar and were immediately submerged up to our knees in the flooded streets. But we were already completely soaked so none of us really cared. Good calf workout, btw, trudging through flooded streets.
Rachael, Kerry, and JC in a more shallow section of the road.
We hung out and tried (and failed) to get a little dry before the boat came to get us at 4am. We hopped back on the boat (along with 20 plus extra passengers - including the guys who run our bungalows who had come to Gilli T to check on us and make sure we were ok when we didnt answer our phones) and started back towards Meno. The driver of the boat had said 4am because the tides wouldve been too low before that, but we realized, as the boat smacked right into the coral reef about a hundred yards away from the beach that he just might have been wrong. Continuing in the soggy spirit of this holiday, we hopped out of the boat and walked again through the water to get to the beach. Luckily I had our host shining a flashlight for me so I wouldnt step on any of the jagged rocks on top of the coral. Got to the bungalow, through on my beach cover up, crawled under the mosquito net and went to bed smiling.
The next day was our last in Meno. We revisted some of our favorite spots, hung out with our favorite people, and finished the night off at our favorite bar on Meno (its also the ONLY bar on Meno) with the best barman, Gusto. After saying goodbye to everyone we headed back to sleep our last night in our island paradise.
Up the next morning to catch the 8am boat back to Lombok we hurriedly packed our bags said goodbye again to a few new friends, then ruefully boarded the boat. Mardi’s driver picked us up at the harbor and drove us back to Yessy Cafe for breakfast. Then Mardi picked us up from there and drove us to a small Sasak village between Senggigi and Mataram for some shopping and cultural exploration before our scheduled flight. We watched women of the villiage weaving the traditional clothes and Kerry even got to try it out. We then were able to try on a full traditional outfit and could buy a scarf or wall throw, etc. I bought a purse with sandalwood that I adore. We also went to a pottery place where I bought a wall hanging for the house.
Finally headed to the airport so we wouldnt miss our flight at 5pm. At about 4:30 we hear the announcement…our flight was delayed until 7:30pm. Talk about sucky. So we hung out, played cards and waited it out. At about 7 there is another announcement that the airport had bought everyone on the delayed flight dinner from McDonalds. It was fried chicken and rice, which, I know, isnt your first thought when you hear McDonalds. But between the Hindu population and the Muslim population on Lombok, chicken is the safest meat to choose from. We joked about how that would never happen in the U.S. or England - someone would complain that they got sick, or that theyre allergic to chicken, or the chicken was too hot, etc etc, sue the airport and cause a huge stink. There theyd have to give out vouchers for the free food or something to that effect. Here everyone just shut up and ate the chicken if they wanted it…if they didnt, they didnt eat it. Simple. And no lawyers needed to get involved.
Finally got back to the house at about 9 or 10, unpacked my stuff from Kerrys rucksack and crashed OUT.
Im already planning a trip back. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go to the Gilis, take it. It’s paradise.
Until next time!