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Gila for Gili

I used to get beach calendars every Christmas under the tree and as a child and I often wondered where all the beautiful places with clear blue water and white sand beaches were in this world. Turns out, Indonesia has its fair share.

Gila means crazy in Indonesian (one of my favorite word combos is bugil, bule (foreigner) + gila = bugil, meaning crazy foreigner). And after a long weekend trip to the Gili Islands off of Lombok, or Bali depending on how you see it, I was gila for the Gilis. Gili actually means small island in Sasak and three islands, Air, Meno and Trawangan, make up this paradise.

My friend Sam and I spent two nights on Gili Trawangan, which has a reputation as a party and drug island. As the biggest island, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and even ATMs on Trawangan. If you are looking for a party, you can find it on Trawangan, but you can also just as easily get some peace and quiet. Even in April, Trawangan was full of tourists. Sam and I both agreed that we hadn’t seen this many foreigners in one place in Indonesia before. And some of those foreigners are loud, scantily clad (this is still a Muslim majority island) and ready to party, “Let’s get shrooms after snorkeling,” said in Aussie accent. This creates an interesting dynamic with the locals. All of the Indonesians we encountered on the island were very sweet and most likely because we were speaking and bargaining in Indonesian, they were helpful and would lower prices — Rp 30,000 for a coconut(!) I couldn’t help but laugh. This dog was a smart one drinking coconut water:

One of the best parts of this mini-break from Jakarta was taking a glass bottom boat for a snorkeling trip. The boat left Trawangan at 10 a.m. and stopped at three snorkeling spots and on Gili Air for lunch (not included in the Rp 100,000 cost). There are advertisements all over the island for different trips, so pick one that suits your needs. The water is the perfect temperature — making for an afternoon well spent. I swam very close to a sea turtle for a few minutes, it’s good to commune with nature.

The main stretch on Trawangan is filled with bars and restaurants that most tourists flock to and some probably never leave. But, one of my favorite parts of the trip was walking through the interior of the island, away from it all.

In the interior, cows and goats graze in open fields and people bicycle around this car-free island. The Gilis became a popular tourist destination in the 1990s as backpackers began venturing off Bali, so many parts of the islands are still undeveloped, and I hope they stay this way.

If you want to get anywhere fast, a horse drawn carriage, cidomo, is a popular option.

Many people crowd to bars on the side of the island to watch the sun set, and it’s worth it. Sam and I sat with Bintangs (Indonesian beer) and watched the sky turn dark as clouds swirled and the tide receded revealing small tidal pools inhabited by long, black sea stars scrunching and contorting their bodies in an effort to get into deeper water.

On Sunday night it was ladies night at Tir Na Nog, the Irish bar (although besides the name, I have no idea why it’s considered an Irish pub), so after another delicious dinner of grilled red snapper, we decided to try the famous mojitos. A few drinks later, Sam and I were chatting in English and Indonesian with the bar tenders and one tried to convince us that peanuts are referred to as durian on the island. They were funny guys.

On Monday we returned to Lombok and spent a few hours on Kuta Beach. It was nearly deserted, so we sat, ate, dozed, and read some books. After several hours we hopped on some motorcycles and rode past green rice fields and dark blue mountains that jutted into the light blue sky. Our destination: the airport. All good things must end at some point.

Getting There: We flew on Lion Air to the Lombok International airport, Praya. You can also take boats from Bali out to the Gilis. If you fly into Lombok, a cab from Praya runs Rp 200,000 to Bangsal port. At Bangsal a public boat runs to the islands from morning to about 5. You can also charter your own boat for more, or buy package deals (that’s how we got to Kuta on Lombok the next day).

Accommodations: We stayed at Pondok Sederhana (+62 813 3953 6047). This small place was located in the “village,” a little further back from everything so it was nice and quiet. A room that sleeps three goes for Rp 150,000 a night ($16). There is no hot water and rooms have fans, not A/C. I would recommend staying here and ordering the banana pancakes, that are included in the rent, for breakfast.

Anyone have a recipe for these? I’m would love to make some for brunch.

134 Comments Post a comment
  1. wow! awesome Place!

    May 15, 2012
    • … fantastic pics! looks like indonesia is awaiting for me …

      May 16, 2012
  2. My son came back from 7 months travelling the far east and aus and said Gili was his fave spot. Must go. One day.

    May 15, 2012
  3. I really needed the mental vacation this post provided! Thank you.

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for reading. I look at the photos at work sometimes too when I need a break.

      May 16, 2012
  4. Photo Media #

    Nice shots…brings me back some nice memories. Boat trip from Lombok was pretty rough and not at all keen on the “party island” Gili Trawangan, enjoyed Gili Air but Gili Meno was the best :-)

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      I’ll have to check out Meno. Hopefully I’ll find time for another trip. Thanks for reading.

      May 16, 2012
  5. A #

    This looks fantastic! Indonesia’s at the top of my list for future trips over the next few years, and these islands look amazing. Thanks for sharing, adding to my list!

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      If you have the chance to travel to Indonesia – go! Getting around can be a bit challenging, but in the end it is so rewarding. Thanks for reading.

      May 16, 2012
  6. These pictures are absolutely breath taking :) my eyes needed this.

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Glad I could help :) After a day at the office I look at them too.

      May 16, 2012
  7. Very creative!

    May 15, 2012
  8. Love the photos! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Glad I found you!

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thank you! I woke up to a lot of emails and was a bit confused, thanks for checking out my blog.

      May 16, 2012
  9. Beautiful photos! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for stopping by.

      May 16, 2012
  10. Joe Labriola #

    Vacation time BD

    May 15, 2012
  11. Hey !
    Nice blog :)
    Just wanna tell xx

    May 15, 2012
  12. You got me falling in love with Gili at first pic–it looks so surreal, like a painting. BEAUTIFUL! Thanks for sharing. :) Love, Mish

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for checking out my blog.

      May 16, 2012
  13. Reblogged this on Makais Blog and commented:
    great pics! thanks for sharing

    May 15, 2012
  14. Nice digital pictures of the beautiful beaches from Indonesia. But since you and I are both from California, we have some beautiful ones here as well right in San Diego like La Jolla as well which I bet you could also capture well with your digital camera! Segmation

    May 15, 2012
  15. andreadevon #

    Years ago I spent a beautiful week on gili meno, and loved every second of it. One of the loveliest places on earth, and a welcome respite from the craziness of Bali, where I was doing my field work. Lovely photos… wish I had found a glass bottomed boat!

    May 15, 2012
  16. Amazing! I want to go!! Thanks for sharing! :-)

    May 15, 2012
  17. livestockmotion #

    Wow, bugil :)

    May 15, 2012
  18. Love the photos. Really inspiring and now I’ve added Indonesia as one of my future destinations:)

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      It’s a beautiful country to explore. Thanks for checking out my blog.

      May 16, 2012
  19. My husband Tony and I didn’t make it to the Gilis but intend to next time we go to Bali. Thanks for the pics, including the one featuring the, what seems to me, anamolous sign, quite amusing. I haven’t figured out how they make the wonderful banana pancakes, having made several attempts since we got back home; the banana always sticks to the bottom of the pan….. and in reference to your comments about clear blue water and white sand beaches; you’ll have to come to Australia. Most major cities are on the coast, and every coast has beautiful stretches of beach. I see you’ve written other articles about Indonesia and will go look at them, and thought you may be interested in a couple of articles I wrote about Bali on my blog.

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for reading. I’m hoping to visit Australia someday.

      May 16, 2012
  20. You got some great pictures there!

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thank you so much.

      May 16, 2012
  21. Dian Purnama #

    I’ve been there. The beach is great but I don’t really enjoy the cidomo and the situation. :-D

    May 15, 2012
  22. Stunning photos and I love that you covered a variety of regions. Beautiful place to visit!

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for reading.

      May 16, 2012
  23. A Walk In My Heart #

    Lovely photos of a paradise island. Terima kasih!

    May 15, 2012
  24. Kuta beach deserted? You must have picked a really good day! Love the photo’s! I will be going to the Gili’s myself in a month or so and will take your advise to go into the interior of the island.

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Just to clarify this was Kuta Beach on Lombok, not the ever-crowded one on Bali. Enjoy your trip!

      May 16, 2012
  25. Great Post – Great Photos – thanks for sharing! Congrats on being FP!

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for checking out my photos and writing.

      May 16, 2012
  26. I’m an Indonesian but I’ve never been to Gili myself! People say it’s super nice, so much better than your average Kuta / Legian Beach. Thanks for the review. I laughed when you say you like the abbreviation on “bugil” (bule gila) = crazy foreigner. Actually “bugil” itself is also a word, that means naked ;).

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Ha yes, I love all of the word play in bahasa. There is a group called The Bugils in Jakarta, made up of bule, who perform dangdut songs, you might get a laugh.

      May 16, 2012
      • just read an article about the bugils in jakarta globe. haha.. wow it’ll be interesting to see :D thanks for the info!

        May 16, 2012
  27. jesuskarto #

    welcome to Indonesia then…
    I myself so curious to go somewhere in 4 season country,
    we have to much sunlight and beach in Indonesia.
    I wanna see tundra.. :D

    May 15, 2012
  28. Great post! Congrats on being selected for freshly pressed.

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thank you, and thanks for reading.

      May 16, 2012
  29. there’s so much awesome places at lombok :)

    May 15, 2012
  30. thank you for loving Indonesia ^^

    May 15, 2012
    • Lydia #

      It’s a beautiful country. And with so many tropical fruits and sate, what’s not to like? Thanks for reading.

      May 16, 2012
  31. Wow.
    “I want to go to there…”

    May 15, 2012
  32. Jumping and running in coral beach is not a good idea. Some coral rocks can be sharp.

    May 15, 2012
  33. First time I saw a pull cart on automobile wheels drawn by a horse. I usually saw them drawn by a carabao [Asian water buffalo] for heavy duty work. Horse cart used to be horse cart. Thanks for bringing us there. Nice experience. :-)

    May 15, 2012
  34. Nice pictures and thank you for sharing.
    marg swarnabhoomi

    May 16, 2012
  35. Love your post about Indonesia…keep on coming..

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Will do! I’ve had a great time living in and exploring Indonesia – such a beautiful country.

      May 16, 2012
  36. hi there.. its a nice blog. thanks a lot for posting a good story from my country. big smile from indonesia.^_^ hoping you having so much nice momoirs ..

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Terima kasih! Thanks for reading.

      May 16, 2012
      • ^_^ terimakasih juga. terimakasih so much, gitu. hehehe..

        May 16, 2012
  37. igeacitta #

    it’s a pride when a foreigner fall in love with the beauty of my country and share a good story about it. and it’s on freshly pressed on WordPress. You should also see Karimun Jawa Island in Central Java and I highly recommended you to visit Raja Ampat island in east part of Indonesia if you’re a big fan of diving. Thank you for sharing.

    May 16, 2012
  38. have you visit jogya also?
    you should visit jogya and see another beautifull places and beaches here (it takes two hour for you to get there by motorcycle, but its really worthed). call me if you want a free tour guide * i’d love to be your tour guide to improve my english* :D

    May 16, 2012
  39. lijiujiu #

    Amazing! How beautiful the pics are! I love clear blue water and white sand beaches.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    May 16, 2012
  40. shacrbeach #

    you are great………..

    May 16, 2012
  41. Thanks for sharing your experience of staying two nights with your friend at Gili Trawangan Place. Awesome place as pics shows :)

    May 16, 2012
  42. Hi there… I totally agree!

    I once had been on Gili Trawangan and it is absolutely a beautiful place on earth! :D
    Even until now, I still think it’s the best nature I’ve ever been :)

    May 16, 2012
  43. Even though I live in Indonesia I have never been to the Gilis myself. Love your pictures! By the way, the actual meaning of bugil is naked or nude. But a few years ago this “bule + gila = bugil” term became popular due to a TV program with the same title. :)

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Ha, yes my friends told me it was a funny show. Love your photos of Lake Toba. Hoping to travel there soon.

      May 16, 2012
  44. Reblogged this on Too Much 21st Century.

    May 16, 2012
  45. Great Post Lydia!!! thanks 4 coming to Indonesia :)

    May 16, 2012
  46. wonderfull pics!

    May 16, 2012
  47. too funny! i’m in the middle of blogging about my own time on gili t. it’s cool to see the perspective of someone who’s spent some decent time in indonesia (enough to know a bit of the local language, anyway?), though. i’ve been living in thailand for a year and have found that living in a place can bring a different element to even the touristy places. congrats on being freshly pressed!

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thank you! Looking forward to reading your post. I just visited Thailand for the first time and it was interesting for me to compare it back to Indonesia.

      May 16, 2012
  48. Even though I lived in Indonesia for 12 years, it’s my first time hearing this place. It’s kinda funny but I though the best place in Indonesia was Bali but after seeing this pic I change my mind. Gili is the best place in Indonesia!!

    Btw nice pic!

    May 16, 2012
  49. Reblogged this on Indonesia Best Places and commented:
    Uuugh.. Really want to go there!

    May 16, 2012
  50. janeontheblog #

    I LOVE IT! next trip I will go there…

    May 16, 2012
  51. Wonderful photographs, sounds like an amazing trip!

    May 16, 2012
  52. Very nice place! We spent 4 days on Gili Trawangan and we love it! Here you will find some pictures http://siemprehaciaeloeste.com/2011/02/21/dia-233-%E2%80%93-bajo-el-mar-de-indonesia/

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Wow! Great underwater photos, love the turtles.

      May 16, 2012
  53. katececilem #

    lovely photos

    May 16, 2012
  54. Those flowers set off explosions in my brain! Back in Bengal, where I grew up, I used to visit my aunt during vacations. I had only one girl friend, a neighbour of my aunt, and the two of us would go out and away discovering odd little things in the long evenings. We visited the farthest edges of fields and woods, and I had discovered these flowers. Not that they did not grow elsewhere :) but your blog brought back a rush of memories – we’d pick the buds and squeeze them until they’d burst with a soft pop.
    Loved this!

    May 16, 2012
  55. That does sound like a lovely trip.

    May 16, 2012
  56. Thanks for sharing images of a land I may never visit.

    May 16, 2012
  57. nazarioartpainting #

    Really lovely photos.

    May 16, 2012
  58. sorrysoverysorry #

    All that sun, sand and water . . . how did your legs stay T H A T white?!?

    May 16, 2012
  59. Göransson's Photography #

    Beautiful, wooow!

    May 16, 2012
  60. What a joy to revisit that magical part of the world through you. I just discovered your blog now and look forward to reading more of your travels! We were in Indonesia two summers ago on an educational visa and loved it. My husband plays Gamelan so we were mostly on Bali (one of my favorite places on earth!) all summer but spent a lazy week on Gili T. This is a funny thing that happened there if you’re interested: http://writingyoga.blogspot.com/2010/08/that-life-jacket-will-cost-you-extra.html. Oh, yes, those banana pancakes bring back warm memories.

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      What a great story — extra charges everywhere. Glad you took a swim and thanks for reading my blog.

      May 16, 2012
      • Gili! Thank you for reading and writing. Your blog is terrific – enjoy the rest of your travels!

        May 16, 2012
  61. budihar7o #

    Indonesian should be more proud than anyone else..
    Love it much,

    May 16, 2012
  62. Love the pancake, and that sign about the bloody sexy fresh magic mushrooms is priceless!!!

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      There were a lot of those kinds of signs all over the island — mushroom milkshakes seemed to be the popular menu item.

      May 16, 2012
  63. Love your pictoral story, totally entertaining.I can’t imagine a mushroom milkshake though.

    May 16, 2012
  64. ururu5 #

    nice photos.. love em..

    Rp 30,000 for a coconut is quite expensive. i think. last time i went to Indonesia.. a coconut cost me Rp10,000 or less.. maybe bcoz my grandma’s a local. huhu.

    and isnt that pancake just ‘banana on egg’ pancake. take 1 egg, add sugar.. beat them together.. then pour the mixture onto a pan (make a thin or thick pancake.. doesnt matter).. then add your banana on top before your pancake dries.

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for the recipe! I am going to try that soon. And yes, I only paid Rp 10,000 after some bargaining. I’ve paid as little as Rp 4,000 on the Thousand Islands (Pulau Seribu) off of Jakarta.

      May 16, 2012
  65. catskye #

    Reblogged this on Catskye's Blog and commented:
    I live for travel stories, pictures and thoughts

    May 16, 2012
  66. Great post! I’m at work and I was able to take a quick mini-vacation to Indonesia. Nice pictures.

    Feel free to visit http://germch55.wordpress.com for virtual tours of New York.

    May 16, 2012
  67. Beautiful photo shots

    May 16, 2012
  68. WOW , nice shoot , beutiful :)

    May 16, 2012
  69. un loc minunat, chear magnific

    May 16, 2012
  70. actsofrebellion #

    i spent a week on gili T about a month ago! i absolutely LOVED it. everything looked like a it came from a postcard. i’ll be doing a post on my trip there soon!!!

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Look forward to reading it.

      May 17, 2012
  71. Glad you enjoyed your stay in my country. Have you gone to Raja Ampat? It’s become quite popular a destination now for people who love beaches. :)

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Not yet, it looks beautiful.

      May 17, 2012
  72. This post provides such a fantastic tour of the islands. The photos (and particularly their colors) are magnificent. I am jealous! I’m doing some long-term travel now but have not yet gotten to this part of the world.

    Also, congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Much deserved. (:

    May 16, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thank you so much. I love sharing my photos.

      May 17, 2012
  73. Amazing photos! So jealous, I’ve always wanted to go to Indonesia.

    May 16, 2012
  74. Nice place and excellent photos.thank you for sharing.
    marg swarnabhoomi

    May 17, 2012
  75. how wonderfull world lydia you make my day :) i feel fresh to see this photos…
    corporate logo

    May 17, 2012
  76. beautiful photos!
    thanks for sharing.

    May 17, 2012
  77. really beautiful!!! :))

    May 17, 2012
  78. We loved the Gili Islands…we have gone to Gili Meno for the last two years for a week…and took in much of what you did…although in a smaller quieter setting than Trawangen. We especially liked picking out our fresh fish each night to have grilled and served with Bintangs! Lovely! Check out our visit at:
    http://millayt.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/being-robinson-crusoe/
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    May 17, 2012
    • Lydia #

      I had grilled fish for dinner every night! A real treat. I can’t wait to return. Thanks for checking out my blog.

      May 17, 2012
  79. oh i so miss my country, looking forward to go back home.. i guess i know the banana pancake recipe :)

    May 17, 2012
  80. travellerkalpit #

    nice

    May 17, 2012
  81. Oh man, I love the Gili Islands… and so need to return! Thanks for the great pics and happy memories. =D

    May 17, 2012
  82. Love your photos and account of your travels! I was in Bali over the Christmas holidays, and after reading your post I wish I visited the Gili Islands while there!

    http://arabianmusings.wordpress.com/

    May 17, 2012
  83. Fabulous pictures, the Gily Islands must be wonderful!

    http://thezenit.wordpress.com

    May 17, 2012
  84. Ops, Gili Islands ;D

    May 17, 2012
  85. Personally, I’d be interested in tasting those “Bloody Sexy Fresh Mushrooms”. :) Did you?

    Love the photos, thanks for sharing your adventure, and congrats on being FP – MoSop

    May 17, 2012
  86. Hey! nice story +photos! I’m Indonesian and I’ve been there several times! The Gilis are indeed beautiful! :) keep on posting other stories! cheers!

    May 17, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thanks for reading. I’ll be posting more stories about Indonesia in the coming weeks.

      May 21, 2012
  87. This is so amazing! Thank you for giving me a little peek into this Island! your photos are wonderful and your words create pictures!

    May 17, 2012
  88. toemailer #

    We would love to post the 2nd photo from the top and/or the 2nd photo from the bottom at toemail if you do not mind? http://toemail.wordpress.com

    May 18, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Feel free to post it, but please be sure to credit me and my site.

      May 21, 2012
  89. What a lovely post! It’s great fun to see beaches from around the world… and the food that goes with them! I am always amazed with the striking colors of both the Indonesian sunrises and sunsets. ~Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    May 18, 2012
    • Lydia #

      The sunsets in Indonesia always amaze me. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

      May 21, 2012
  90. Some great photos! Thanks for sharing! :)
    Have been to Trawangan once, and would definitely love to go back! Sounds like things haven’t change much since we were last there. :)

    May 18, 2012
  91. www.macuisineetvous.com #

    very nice photos

    May 19, 2012
  92. Beautiful photography and blog! I love a good beach too; my all time favourite is Lake Mackenzie on Fraser Island. I spent the first 36 years of my life in the North of England, where beaches consist mostly of pepples, brown seas and litter…..so I emigrated to Queensland 6 years ago to live out my dreams instead!! Added bonus is that I’m also a lot closer to Indonesia now and even if I wasnt already tempted to visit there by your beach photos, like MoSop, the “Bloody Sexy Fresh Mushrooms” now have me completely sold!!

    May 19, 2012
    • Lydia #

      I didn’t try the mushrooms, so I can’t comment on them. But there were signs all over the island for them, so if you go looking, it’s easy enough to find.

      May 21, 2012
  93. Nice pictures.. beautiful beach. I really have to visit Gili this year…

    May 21, 2012
  94. What a wonderful pictures

    May 21, 2012
  95. Beautiful place and beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing,
    Artphalt (http://artphalt.wordpress.com)

    May 23, 2012
  96. louiseinbiz #

    I’m backpacking Asia soon. I will certainly put this on my to-go list. Thank you for the information. :)

    May 23, 2012
  97. I miss my country! :) Thanks for writing about Indonesia.

    May 24, 2012
  98. toemailer #

    they are posted now. Thanks so much for paqrticipating in toemail – it really appreciated!

    May 29, 2012

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