Bali to Gili T

Greetings from Gili Trawangan, aka Gili T. As I predicted in my last post, it took almost a month and a half to post again. Ridiculous.

If the name Gili T sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve been here before – two years ago, I did my Rescue Diver course and spent the last two weeks of my first trip around SE Asia here. It’s one of three small islands between the larger islands of Bali and Lombok, in Indonesia. I’m here because Adam, Sarah and Jeremy, all ex-SJ, work here. So Mike and I came to visit.

As for how I got here: I left Malaysia as planned on June 6. The last month or so of my time at SJ, I felt detached from everything – I didn’t really want to dive, I didn’t feel much like socializing, and I spent a good portion of my time in bed reading. Textbook leaving anxiety.

I arrived in Kuta, Bali around 9 pm. I took a taxi to a guest house that Kris & Steve, an American SJ couple, had recommended from their last stay in Bali. The place was OK, but there were two things wrong.

First, singles like me are charged less for the same room as a couple. So guest houses reserve their particularly awful rooms for singles. My room was up three sweaty flights. The ceiling fan caromed back and forth, making screeching noises and threatening to decapitate me in my sleep. The toilet flushed, but just once – the bowl wouldn’t fill again.

Second, I was in Kuta. It is the place in Bali that attracts the gap-year kids, the Aussie party-for-a-weekend crowd, the wannabe hippies and surfers. The lanes off the main roads look like a made-in-China warehouse dumped all its plastic and textiles on a stretch of beach, where the locals erected rough wooden shacks around a pile and called it a shop. And Kuta isn’t even the cheap haven it once was: my room was $10/night. Just two years ago, a similar room would have been $6. Ugh.

So in an inspired fit, fueled by the need for some beauty and peace, I moved north to Legian/Seminyak, the slightly more expensive part of the coast that attracts a slightly (and not-so-slightly) older crowd, with a bit more cash. Mike was arriving that night, the 8th, and I was meant to meet him for dinner in the area, anyway. He was staying at the Blue Ocean bungalows. They had room, I had learned from Thailand that Mike has good taste in holiday bungalows, so I took a taxi straight there.

How foolish I had been for wasting time in Kuta! My room at the Blue Ocean, for $20, had a desk, chair, huge double bed, silent ceiling fan, funky outdoor hot-water bathroom (with a bath!), a *giant* garden in back with a table and benches, a kitchenette with fridge, and a small front balcony with two chairs and tons of privacy thanks to giant tropical bushes. I leaped into bed for a nap, showered, and met Mike for a fantastic dinner at Zanzibar, his favorite eatery, about a 30-second walk away.

We spent two (or three?) lovely, lazy days at the Blue Ocean. We drank Bintang and gin and tonic and wine. We played gin (rummy), backgammon, pool and bowling. I kicked his ass at all of it…except maybe the drinking.

On the third morning, I was in the shower at 6:15 am, trying to wash away the terrible hangover from our “quiet night” the night before, during which we consumed large amounts of beer and an ill-advised G&T nightcap around 3 am. Knock knock knock “Hello?” It was our minibus driver, at least 30 minutes early, who wanted to help me with my bags. I dressed and packed quickly and knocked at Mike’s door. “We not leaving until 9 am, my lovely,” he called out in his drunken stupor. “That’s the boat from Padangbai,” I replied. “Our taxi is here right now.”

And what a journey it was. Neither of us remembers it particularly clearly. Mike chatted nonstop with an English couple in the van with us. We at a truly awful breakfast in Padangbai. I bought Mike a ridiculous fan hat.

Finally we arrived in the Gilis. We spent about 10 minutes looking for a decent place – too hot, too hungover – but lucked out at the d’Gilian bungalows. I’ve got a fan room for $16, Mike’s got a/c for $20. The place consists of four large rooms with amazing private bath (mine’s outdoors), comfy beds, tiled floors. It’s run by a friendly, hospitable and giggly family. They’re constantly bringing us free strong Lombok coffee – so strong that Mike adds sugar – and nicely arranged plates of fresh pineapple. We’re constantly adding beer, water, coke/diet and juice to our breathtakingly long bar bill. They love us, we love them.

We’ve been here about 10 days; so far there have been two days during which Mike and I didn’t leave the compound at all – we ordered lunch and dinner delivery (salads, pizzas, pasta). Since we don’t have a backgammon board, we spend our days playing another card game, Shithead, at which Mike is kicking my ass. Adam, Sarah and Jeremy mostly work during the day, but if they’re not working they stop by. A characteristic holiday with Mike: do nothing, and love it.

But that’s all going to change today, when I’m going on an 8-day liveaboard dive trip to Komodo, land of the Komodo Dragon and some of the best diving in the world. Due to its relative isolation, Komodo liveaboards tend to be quite expensive. But my friends work on the boat, so they can get me a giant discount, one that I can’t pass up.

I get back from the trip on the 29th. I’ll go back to Bali for a few days, and then either to Vietnam/Laos or to Nepal…in other words, I’ll finally be traveling again, rather than working and going on holiday. I’ll update once I know my plans for sure.

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