The Gili Islands: Indonesia’s Response to Jakarta

 

As I continue to reflect on the travel I’ve done since moving to this region of the world, I can’t help but think about my trip to the Gili Islands. Where Jakarta is chaotic, the Gilis are calm. Jakarta screams while the Gilis whisper, and for this reason I really enjoyed my time while there.

My first year in Indonesia, I decided to do a yoga retreat during the March break.  A married couple that I befriended at work loved diving off of Gili Air and I, well, just loved the beach. Still do.

Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T), where I stayed, is known as the party island. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a partier. I have to convince myself to go out and actually liked that Luang Prabang, Laos had a 11:30 PM curfew.

I say all this because it was very easy to avoid the party scene in Gili T. Ignore the middle-aged man who asks if you want to buy shrooms every day at the same corner and explore the island instead. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take a yoga class or two at Gili Yoga. Most days, I took two classes. One of my favorite memories in Indonesia is sitting on the wooden platform after a class and listening to the call to prayer. Glor-i-ous.
  • Eat, sleep, read, repeat on the beach.While at Gili T, I (foolishly) attempted to walk around the entire island in the heat of the day. When the heat got the best of me, I ended up stopping at Pink Coco and camping out. The food was good and the staff extremely friendly. It was a nice place to watch the sunset too.
  • Rent a rusty bike and circle the entire island. Cars are not allowed on the island, so that made the experience all the better (There are horse-drawn carts to get around, but I felt bad for the animals. Some were clearly overworked).  At points, I had to push my bike through the sand, but it was a beautiful way to spend the day.
  • Snorkel or scuba dive. The Gilis is a diving destination. Coral bleaching, pollution, and tourism are definitely damaging the wildlife. That being said, I’m so glad I snorkeled. I saw my first turtle there. As someone who loves the ocean but will only get in water up to my neck, another traveler I befriended had to convince me to snorkel. I’m so, so glad I did.
  • Island hop to Gili Air and/or Gili Meno. One day I took the ferry over to visit my co-workers on Gili Air. Again, I rode a bike and had a wonderful time cycling around, being near the ocean, and eating. In March 2016, one-way fare cost 40,000 Rp (roughly 3 USD). The ferry left twice a day.
  • Visit the Sama Sama reggae bar for live music. I have to be honest, I’m beyond tired of seeing Bob Marley murals and buildings decorated with red, green, yellow, and black whenever I go to a beach locale. As a Black woman with two-strand twists that are often mistaken for locs, I had locals come up to me soooo excited. Some asked me how I did my hair (and I laughed inside at the signs that promised to start locs for people). Still, if you want live music…it’s there.

What are your must-dos or want to dos when on an island vacation? Would you ever consider a yoga retreat?

 

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