After 3 nights of being lulled to sleep by a chorus of “geckkkkkkkk-ooohhhhhh”, “geckkkkkkkk-oooohhhhh” we traded in our geckos (and kindly ceiling bat) in Amed for a rousing and intense chorus of “COCK-A-DOODLE DOOOOO” at 4:30am. We left Amed via Amed Sea Express which I “recommend” if you want to have a 45 minute heart attack and then later feel sheepish about being that scared. Sure, we arrived safely. They had life jackets, used GPS, and had safety radios. However, a 19-year-old was driving our 20 passenger speedboat making an open ocean crossing, so it’s bound to be bumpy and a little panic-inducing. During our journey, you could tell who had read about this company and who were sitting in their seats enjoying the ocean spray.
With Bali behind us (much to Dave’s delight) we arrived on Gili Air and immediately had large beers with lunch which was a) NOT nasi goreng (HOORAY!!!!) and b) at Freedom Beach Bar, which became our happy hour spot of choice on the island. Every day (a few times a day, even) we greeted the owner with his guitar with a smile as we walked past.
We stayed at Coconut Cottages in one of their Jasmine cottages. It was a bit dark, and the salt water showers got old after a few days, but Kamil the owner was an affable, kind guy who was fun to chat with. A long-time resident of Gili Air (he said he arrived when he was 9 and spent his childhood and adolescence hanging out with Australian surfers) he was also a healer. He treated me for “stress” by having me sit down in the lobby with my eyes closed. He put his thumb on my forehead and then began to wiggle it in a tiny circle for about 2 minutes. It got VERY hot and after he was done he told me that the heat was stress releasing. He also said I needed more treatments. It had helped him overcome his shyness, he said. It’s hard to imagine him as a shy guy. He also made me a shell necklace which I wore the entire time we were there.
Coconuts was right on a village in the island and a coconut plantation. Chickens ran around everywhere (the roosters were CRAZY loud) and there was a rumored Komodo dragon on the premises but I was actively avoiding him.
Gili Air was like nowhere we’d ever been before. There are no vehicles on the island — only bicycles and cidomo (horse carts which had a vaguely Guatemalan flair). You can walk around the Island in just over an hour and the place is just chill beyond belief.
Every day we’d wake up, have breakfast in the cafe, and then Kat would go to yoga at H2O Meditation Centre (REALLY loved this place — very friendly, great easygoing vinyasa classes suited to a variety of levels, and excellent instructors) and Dave would hang out in the hammock. Then we’d get ready for the beach, pick up some snorkeling gear, and eat lunch with our toes in the sand. We’d beach until about 5 and then head home to shower and then head back out for happy hour/dinner. We’d be asleep by 10:30 and ready to it all over again the next day.
Poor Dave couldn’t snorkel, really– glasses got in the way of a mask. I hadn’t really snorkeled before and was blown away by what I saw. The water in the Gilis is so clear, so warm, and so blue you can see EVERYTHING. I saw the whole cast of characters from Finding Nemo (mostly Dories!) and even saw a HUGE sea turtle. I would swim around and then find my way back to Dave and tell him about all the things I saw. He is really over me talking about that sea turtle but it was CRAZY to see it like, 5 feet from people swimming and munching around on the coral reefs.
We were ready to head out after 6 days on Gili Air, though. It was super fun but we were ready for some more comfort — and a hot, freshwater shower. We took the “shuttle bus/ferry” you see advertised all over the island which was arranged by our guesthouse. It was a decidedly “Asian” experience.
We arranged for a cidomo to the port. Then we boarded a wooden boat with an attachable motor which took us to Bangsal, Lombok. What was never explained to us is where to get the bus. There is a bus station, but it was about half a kilometer from the port. We were directed by a police officer (after shaking free from a variety of scammers) to a cafe which we did not like the looks of. We refused to buy food/drink which irritated the whole cafe who spent 30 minutes staring at us and smoking cigarettes. One dude came to chat with us but I didn’t really trust his intentions. Finally, a shady dude in a beat up van picked us up drove us about an hour to the Sheraton, Senggigi. That’s right, after our adventures in beaches and relaxation, we retreated into luxury for one night at Lombok’s only five star resort. We spent a whole day online catching up on 8 days worth of internets, taking hot freshwater showers every hour on the hour, and slept like rocks instead of beaching it or hitting their nice pool.
Then we took a car to the brand new Lombok airport which was about an hours’ drive from Senggigi beach. There isn’t much about this new airport online – flights are mostly domestic and only serve Kuala Lumpur and Singapore internationally. When our car pulled up we were overwhelmed — hundreds of people were outside camped out selling things. We had to say no to about 20 “porters”. We couldn’t find the check-in counters! It was more like a train station than an airport. There were tons of sales counters outside and a guard asking for “tickets” where we could see bag drop off. After a little walking around and a coffee inside a shop with a door to keep the fray at bay we figured out you just show the guard your itinerary and then you can proceed to check in. Add plenty of time when you fly through here — no one is in a hurry. Check in lines were 20 minutes, customs lines were 20 minutes. The only short line was for the departure taxes (which are 100,000 IDR per person for international flights). The airport has four gates and once you are through check in there is a food court, indiomart, and a few other stalls so don’t think outside is your only food option. Also get used to Indonesians not being sure about how to properly wait in a line or to listen to any flight attendant instructions. Once we hit the ground in KL, half our plane was up and getting their bags. The crew had to get up and get them all to sit down again.
We write this from Melaka, Malaysia. Happy Holidays! We’re back to KL for New Years and then off to the Cameron Highlands and Penang!