Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gili Trawangan Island, Lombok, Indonesia

It’s 8 pm.  The sky is dark, save for the perfect half pie of yellow moon directly overhead, and for a few bright stars that are the first to come out after sunset.  I’m standing on a patch of smooth fine white sand, just below the high tide row of coral pieces washed up on the shore, and a steady rhythm of salty waves are washing over my feet and ankles.  The water is the only sound I can hear at this moment.  Inhaling deep through my nose with my mouth closed, it feels like I’m standing in front of a warm humidifier, sucking water vapor into my lungs.  My skin is sweaty and damp in the hot thick air.

Off near the horizon, there’s frequent flashing of heat lightning in the clouds.  Most flashes are hidden in the layers of atmosphere and illuminate the outline of clouds for a brief instant, but a few lightning bolts pierce down toward the sea.  Every once in awhile out of the corner of my vision, I glimpse a hermit crab lugging his shell across the beach in the moonlight.

We’re on Gili Trawangan Island, a tiny stretch of sand and scrub brush off the coast of Lombok Island in Indonesia.  We arrived this morning on a speedy small boat that fit about 15 people and skipped across the waves for about an hour after departing Padang Bai harbor on the east coast of Bali.

There are no cars or motorbikes on this island; the only transport choices are flip flop treks or horse drawn carts down the dusty sand road that circles the island.  We loaded our luggage into a horse cart strung with jingle bells and clip-clopped past the busy smattering of backpacker hangouts and small upscale poolside hotels to the much quieter and sparsely populated northern tip.

We found a room in a brand new stucco and thatch-roof villa decorated in eggplant and amethyst with a second-floor verandah looking out to sea.  This handful of bungalows is owned by a pair of friendly, laid back Dutch women and is staffed by an equally friendly local crew.  The menu is an unusual combination of muesli with canned milk, tapas and sangria, Bintang beer and banana pancakes.

The beach is beautiful, it’s got the clean white sand and blue-green water that Mohit was holding out for. The sand is scattered with driftwood, seashells, and coral bits.  There’s a reef directly offshore, about 50 meters into the ocean wading through thigh-high water.  We’re looking forward to a few days of nothing more than reading, napping, and enjoying the aqua-colored views, especially since Mohit’s suffering from a queasy stomach, our first bout with Traveller’s Belly.

This island is not luxurious at all.  Many bungalows have only cold salt-water showers (we are lucky to have cold fresh-water showers).  After sunset, we smother ourselves in DEET to keep away flies threatening us with Dengue Fever.  The island is powered by a noisy generator we passed on our way (and which we thankfully can‘t hear from our slice of beach), and the power cuts off unexpectedly several times a day.  Our room has no AC, and I laid awake sweaty last night even with two fans pointed at us and the white sheets thrown off.  But the views are restful, the pace of life is at a standstill, the water is warm, and snorkeling beckons.


  1. Hey guys...would you share the name of your island hideaway? It looks fabulous! We plan on being there towards the end of our trip to relax and sun before heading home. Thanks!!

  2. Hi Gillian! Our hideaway isn't much of a secret, since it's the "our Pick" in Lonely Planet. It's called Karma Kayak, on the north side of the island. We've looked around and are really happy with our choice. Hope you enjoy!

  3. Derek from CanadaMarch 6, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    this is good information! I am in that area right now contemplating either gili or Lombok!


  4. If you are traveling alone, make sure you start planning ahead, especially when it comes to airfare arrangements.

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