The Gilis

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After almost two weeks in Bali, I met up with friend from London and we headed to the Gili Islands which are located off of the island of Lombok.  Gili actually means small island, and there are several small islands surrounding Lombok, but there are three islands which have collectively come to be known as the Gilis: Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short).  I had only heard great things about these islands and that it is a must to do in Indonesia.  Their populations are small, they have no police here and they have no motorized transport, so you either walk, ride a bicycle or take a  horse drawn carriage around the islands.  Each island has a personality of its own and I only wish that I had had more time to explore each island thoroughly.

Gili Air is the closest to the Lombok.  I only did some small exploration on this island.  This island is known as the middle ground between mellow Meno and backpacker Trawangan.  It’s has a more chilled out atmosphere than Gili T.  It’s probably what Gili T was like 10 years ago.  When you go into the interior of the island, you can see the local villages and can get more a sense of their lifestyle than you can on Gili T.  The coral reefs tend to come right up to the island, so swimming is a bit more challenging off of this island.  If you are looking for a quieter more chilled place, then Gili Air would be a good place to rest your head.

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Gili Meno was completely different than both islands.  Completely not what I expected.  It is the least populated and has the least amount of tourists that stay there.  The beaches are better here, much easier to access the water.  The island itself is almost barren.  The most activity on the island occurs around the ferry port.  It has this amazingly eerie feeling to it.  It’s wild with jungle growing all throughout it with a lake on the north part of the island.  Parts of the vegetation are decayed and dying.  There are former resorts that have been abandoned and are crumbling.  You can’t help yourself from creating a story in your head as to what disaster could have possibly happened on this island to give it this feeling of a ghost town.

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Gili T, the backpacker island, is where I based myself.  The busiest of the islands with the most amount of restaurants and bars still had a chilled atmosphere.  Definitely a lot more chilled than Kuta Beach in Bali.  The best way to sum up the atmosphere of all the Gilis is when I went to rent a bicycle, I asked if they had a lock for the bike.  The guys response to me was “No one steals here.  If you lose the bike, then just come back and I’ll give you another one.”  Gili T has a small hill that you can climb and get a view of the Meno across the way.  When you explore the interior of the island, as you get further in, you see less homestays and start to see the locals homes and their farms.  The best way to spend the day there is riding a bicycle around the island, hopping off with your snorkel gear and going into the crystal blue water.  You can walk right out from the beach and snorkel around the island and see a variety of fish.

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Climbing pole- game that is played to get gifts down from top of pole

Climbing pole- game that is played to get gifts down from top of pole

 

 

Of course, there had to be some fun and adventure on the islands.  One night on Gili T, after dinner we went to have some drinks.  Being low season, the bars were quite quiet.  We went to this bar that was part of a dive centre.  There were 5  others there who were part of the dive centre. They were drinking and having a good time and then they started throwing each other in the pool.  My friend asked me if I had ever been thrown into a pool.  I said I’ve been thrown in water, but not a pool.  Maybe 10 minutes later we looked up from the bar and saw a couple of the people staring at us and then calling us to get into the water.  No way did I want to go in.  One of them came over to grab me but I lowered my body weight to the ground so that I couldn’t be picked up.  Then my friend, who was conveniently still in his trunks, decided to help them out and throw me in.  He undressed into his trunks before they threw him in.  When I came out, I was so drenched that water kept falling from my clothes every time I rung it out.  They (the dive people and my friend) I think threw me in 3 times.  But it was alright, I got some free shots out of it.  Admittedly it was a fun night.

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To Rafters Out There, Where The Rapids At?

Having had my first white water rafting experience being on the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe which was then followed a few weeks later by rafting on the Nile River in Uganda, it’s no wonder that I’m a bit of a rafting snob. So I find it frustrating when I find myself somewhere with with white water rafting and I can’t get the information that I need about the river.  Most of the time, the booking agencies can’t answer my questions: how many rapids? what are the grades? which is the best season? And sometimes the company can’t either.  Looking online doesn’t help much either. You can’t find this information easily but instead find reviews from people who have rafted the river.  You can’t go on this information because people’s perspective is based on their experience. For the first time rafter, a river with grade 2 rapids provides enough of an adrenaline rush for them. I’m looking for grade 3, 4.

In Bali, I found myself in the dilemma of to raft or not to raft? I had one fact down pact, the Ayung river was too tame for me.  If I wanted extreme, then the Telaga Waja River was for me. I still wasn’t convinced and I couldn’t find the information I wanted online, but for around 30USD, I thought why not.  There are two dead give aways that the river is benign. 1, there is no need for safety kayaks and 2 all the guides are local.  When I arrived at the river, I was able to deduce that the river was going to be benign.  The Telaga Waja river is mainly grade 2 with a waterfall at the end.  It was different from other rivers that I had been on as it was narrow and shallow.  The guide did most of the work and we just had to forward paddle on the calm bits, but most of the time we were instructed to hold on.  There were many rocks in the river and along the bank, so we found ourselves being bumped around by the rocks.  It was almost like bumper boats against the rocks. The rapids themselves were mild.  It was being thrown around in different directions by the rocks that provided any stomach flipping moments.  We never found ourselves in a moment when we had to paddle the life out of ourselves in order to get through rapids, or else, be sucked into an eddy.  However, there were a few memorable moments: the waterfall which sent my legs flying in the air; the boat getting stuck on a rock and taking on water so we had to use body weight to get us around; and I slipped off the boat when I let go of the rope when I shouldn’t have.  I was able to grab the rope again before completely falling out of the boat.  So just my back was out off the boat but I could feel the rocks underneath me.

For 30 USD, you can have some fun being bumped around by rocks and experience a waterfall.  If it’s grade 4 rapids that you are after and having to work hard in the boat to navigate a river, then the Telaga Waja river is not for you.

Waterfall.  Sorry no actual rafting photos of me.

Waterfall. Sorry no actual rafting photos.

Bali Impressions

When adding photos to this blog entry, I realized that I have fonder memories of Bali than I thought.

Marcia's Travels

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Here I am now in Bali. While traveling through South East Asia, I’ve only heard the most amazing things about Bali. So I had high expectations when coming here. But I have to admit that once I got here, I thought what’s the big deal with Bali? The following are some of my impressions of Bali.

1. My first destination was Kuta Beach and the beach was absolutely filthy. The beach is a dumping beach and known for good surfing.  However, there was so much garbage in the water that you couldn’t enjoy a swim without a plastic bag getting caught on you legs with every wave.  I was told that since this is rainy season, the wind blows the garbage in from Java. In the summer months, the beach is clean and the water blue and it’s actually a really stunning beach. But for now when you go in the…

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Bali Impressions

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Here I am now in Bali. While traveling through South East Asia, I’ve only heard the most amazing things about Bali. So I had high expectations when coming here. But I have to admit that once I got here, I thought what’s the big deal with Bali? The following are some of my impressions of Bali.

1. My first destination was Kuta Beach and the beach was absolutely filthy. The beach is a dumping beach and known for good surfing.  However, there was so much garbage in the water that you couldn’t enjoy a swim without a plastic bag getting caught on you legs with every wave.  I was told that since this is rainy season, the wind blows the garbage in from Java. In the summer months, the beach is clean and the water blue and it’s actually a really stunning beach. But for now when you go in the water, it’s not the fish nibbling at you that you worry about, but the garbage that gets tangled around your legs. Disgusting..

2. Walking down Legian St, the main thoroughfare, can be an exhausting mission even when only going 100 meters. “Massage,” “nails done,” “braid hair,” “transport,” “money change,” “taxi,” “tattoo,” “mushrooms,” “cocaine,” and “marijuana” are the things whispered or called out to you as you pass many of the locals who spend their day sitting on the side-walk trying to make a buck.

3. Changing money can be even more exhausting until you know exactly where to go.  Authorized money changers are advertised everywhere, but be careful because most of them are trying to rip you off. They will use slight of hand tricks to skim off some of the money after you’ve counted it. If you don’t allow them to touch the money again, then suddenly there are new taxes and fees that need to be applied or the rate was yesterday’s and surprise surprise, today’s rate is significantly lower. All a bunch of crooks!

4. There are nice beaches even in rainy season, but it seems that the nice beaches tend to be home to 5 star resorts. I went to Nusa Day, which is 30 minutes away by taxi from Kuta, and the water was shades of blue. There was calm water for swimmers and surf for surfers and no garbage.

5. Bali felt more like a holiday island than anything else. Independent travel was not at all promoted. Tours were expensive. If traveling on your own, you almost felt discriminated against because you’d have to pay extra money as there was always a two person minimum.

6. But not all my impressions were falling short of my expectations. When I went 1 hour north to Ubud, a different world awaited me. This town oozed with culture. You could see villagers in cultural dress. Everyday, women would go out with their woven baskets of flower petals, rice, incense and other objects and place them in front of store fronts and shrines. Every night you can take in some form of cultural dance. All over the town, there were Hindu temples and shrines, it was a bit unreal. The natural beauty of the area was stunning. Tropical forests with ravines and rice fields all over the place. I could’ve given up the beaches of Bali for this paradise.

7. If you continue further outside of Ubud, more nature and culture abounds. There are splendid views of terraced rice fields, volcanoes to climb, mountains, lakes, adventure sports and temples. I finally was able to see what it is that people must be referring to about Bali. The interior of the island is just gorgeous and breathtakingly beautiful.

8. Massages. Being a message junkie, I had only had 2 in the Philippines because I was still tainted by my Vietnam experience. Here, in Bali, I succumbed to the massages. Being trained in anatomy and possessing some basis massage techniques, I’m very particular about my massages. I prefer it when someone works out my knots. If I feel like someone doesn’t know what they are doing, then I stop going. So the massages in Bali have been alright, some better than others, and so far professional. Even  had a guy massage me and it wasn’t awkward. I’ve been pretty much going everyday for one. Why not, they are only 5 bucks.

9. Monkey Sanctuary: in the town off Ubud, there is a little area where monkeys live and you can go in and see them. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to this shameless exploitation of monkeys but I’d read that the forest was worth the money, 20000 IDR (less than 2 USD). When you get to the gate, there is a sign that says please help keep the monkey sanctuary functioning. Buy bananas. These ladies sit at the front gate with a stick to keep away the monkeys. The monkeys have learned to fear the stick. But once someone has bought bananas, they attack. They will grab from your hand, jump on you and even bite. Somehow people find this entertaining. These monkeys are well fed. They have potatoes to keep them satisfied, yet they still feel the need to be teased by tourists waving bananas at their face to then move it away quickly at the last second. This was the only thing with Ubud that I didn’t like. They shouldn’t be encouraging wild animals to rely on humans for food.

So Bali was an okay experience. Ubud was where I enjoyed myself the most. If I ever came back I’d try to do it in the dry season and see if Kuta Beach is any better and explore more of the islands beaches.

Sanur Beach

Sanur Beach

Statues everywhere

Statues everywhere

Balinese Cultural Dance

Balinese Cultural Dance

Terraced Rice Fields

Terraced Rice Fields

Full Moon Party Balinese Style

Full Moon Party Balinese Style

Sacrificial Offerings

Sacrificial Offerings

Monkey being head butted after it jumped on this man's head for a banana

Monkey being head butted after it jumped on this man’s head for a banana