After the day long trip to Gili Trawangan with my new Finnish friend, Matti, we found a cheap hotel and passed out. Another important travel tip I have learned, the closer to the beach, the more expensive the hotel, so we pretty much just started walking inland to find a hotel and it worked. The hotel was awesome, family run and I felt like part of the family by the end of my time. I played chess against two of the sons, had breakfast with them almost every morning and even had a FEAST of a meal when they let us eat part of their catches from a day of fishing. Twin Gardens was the name and I loved it. They even did not raise the rates too much around the Christmas and New Years holidays because I had stayed there so long, about 2 weeks total. I shared a room with my new Finnish friend Matti and became good friends with my neighbors. Fozzee and Tegan, 2 Aussies and Erik and Raya, 2 Canucks. Erik and Raya are from Vancouver so I asked them if they were going back home for the Winter Olympics. They had rented out their apartment to some corporation for 2 months and that money paid for their rent for 10 regular months and paid for their trip to Indonesia while it was rented…AMAZING
Gili Trawangan (GT) is one of 3 islands that are called the Gilis. Everyone knows I love islands and beaches but I think this might have been the best. When I would tell people where I was, I would the word paradise. The island was very small, I biked around the whole thing in about 30 minutes and that includes walking my bike through the sand for about 5 minutes. Bikes were one of 4 transportation around the island, biking, walking, taking horse drawn carriages or riding a bike and holding on to a horse drawn carriage (my favorite). No cars, No motorbikes. I have been on other islands before with no cars or motorbikes but GT might have been the most populated and most developed. It was also a major change from places like Seoul, Beijing, Jaipur and Bangkok I had visited along the way. Motorbikes are EVERYWHERE in Asia and have made transportation available to many people who could not afford a car or the fact that the motorbike works better in most situations. There was one main road that followed the beach all around the island and about 5 in the middle. It was a tourist spot for partying backpackers and Indonesians because of the beaches. I have never enjoyed snorkeling a 1 minute swim off a beach so much in my life, awesome coral and sea turtles. Once I spent one day in GT I knew I wanted to stay here until I ended my trip. I could have seen more of the Indonesian islands but because it was a vacation in a vacation. I received that advice from one of the first backpackers I met on my trip, Tom the Belgium.
I have not really mentioned throughout this entire blog the varying numbers of random travelers and backpackers I have seen along the way, had small conversations with, met at a bar, met in a bus or wherever. People all travel for different reasons but I always am fascinated by somethings that draw people together from all corners of the globe. For example, cards, people play cards everywhere. I have learned new games from friends, sometimes learning by watching and played with people I have NOTHING in common with in life but cards. Same for pool. I have played doubles pool 2 Americans against 2 Tibeten monks, played cards with 2 Indian locals and a Russian businessman ( I think mafia). Played cards for 4 hours straight on a ferry with 3 Finnish kids who leave their home every year because they NEED to see the sun more.
Anyways, since I was staying in GT a long time I signed up for my first dive package, dive 4 times get the 5th free. Of course every dive shop on the island offered the same deal and charged the same prices but I was happy with the one I went on. I went on 3 awesome dives and 2 decent ones, all in a 10 mile radius I bet. GT had so many great spots, I did not even see all the dive spots and then there are special ones that are down around 100ft, I am not certified to do that because there is even a different chemical in the air you breathe. I have dove with many people now, people who run out of air way to quick, people who kick up dirt, people who spend half the dive looking at one thing but these 2 French guys I dove with were outrageous. They took about 20 pictures of them doing handstands, pretending to kiss underwater, flying like Superman and didn’t care about seeing anything but they had a great time and so did I as I laughed at them the entire time.
I rented a small BMX bike for about 10 days, it was a great way to travel around the island but it only took 15 minutes max to walk anywhere. However, those times when I was sitting in my room sweating and I could be in the ocean in less than 30 seconds or go to the store and slam a water then a beer, it was well worth it.
I have already mentioned how awesome the family run guesthouse I stayed were and my great Canadian and Aussie neighbors but I also must mention Vish and all the other crazy Australians I met, The crazy Finnish Vikings who bought a live goat and roasted it over a fire on Dec 24th (Finnish XMAS), Rudy, whoever you are your bar is great, the harbor master and everyone else on that crazy little island.
I spent XMAS on GT, a strange one I will always remember indeed but left on Dec 30th, before the crazy New Years Party. My plan the entire trip was to make it to Vietnam (and make my money last) for the start of 2010 and I stayed on track. The reverse full day trip back to Kuta, boat, van, long ferry ride (where I was stuck with a Swedish family that would not shutup and I could not understand half of them) and van ride back to Kuta for one night. Airport the next day, Kuala Lumpur for a layover (there was a Dunkin Donuts I had to stop at) and next stop, back home in Hanoi.