Alison and I left Ubud at 7am, just a 1-hour drive and a 1.5-hour boat ride from the beautiful Gili Islands off the northwestern coast of Lombok. Our plan was to sample each of the three islands.
Gili Trawangan is the biggest Gili, the farthest from Lombok, the most heavily touristed and the only Gili with an ATM. Lonely Planet calls it party-boy Trawangan for its vibrant night scene.
Arriving at Gili T:
The scenery is spectacular. Paradise-colored beaches lead out to blue ocean and the lush mountains of Lombok to the south. Lombok’s distant and towering Gunung Rinjani, which stands at over 3,700 meters, is sometimes visible when the clouds roll away. And the restaurants are right on the beach.
We set out to find Scallywags, a restaurant my friend and fellow ETA Kal had suggested, for a late breakfast. It took a few minutes walking south from our beach landing, but before we knew it we were steps away from the sand, sipping drinks and feeling like a million bucks:
There were resort rooms priced in dollars on the shore, so we moved a little inland to find cheaper housing. This was when we first learned that pretty much everyone on the island uses a mixture of saltwater and rainwater for showers. And by a mixture of saltwater and rainwater, they really mean straight up saltwater. So if you’ve never taken a saltwater shower, and you’ve always wanted to, the Gilis are it.
Renting bikes and pedaling around the island was definitely in order, so after a couple scoops of gelato we started exploring. The Gilis are made very peaceful by the total lack of motorized transport. Horse-carriage rides and bicycles are the fast ways to go. Notice the cow behind me:
Our later visits to Gili Meno and Gili Air would be sort of like living on a farm or going to camp, with all the agriculture and livestock present on the islands. Even Gili T, the most resort-like and party-happy Gili, has cows and agriculture just moments away from the restaurants. We paused briefly to take a stroll on the beach and admire the crystal water:
Riding around the island was mostly wonderful, though the path occasionally became just sand and was impossible to pedal through (especially on near-defunct bikes). About halfway around it started to rain a little, then all of a sudden it was pouring. Gili T has terrible drainage on its main paved thoroughfare, so when it rains hard, you frequently have to ride through giant puddles a foot deep or more.When we had gotten most of the way around, we stumbled upon a turtle conservation center. They had young sea turtles sitting in open glass tanks. I think this was my first time seeing a sea turtle. Their anatomy, especially the long front feet, is really different from the painted turtles and box turtles I grew up with in New York.
By the time we returned our bikes the rain had ceased. We took a quick change of clothes and grabbed dinner – at Scallywags! – which was delicious. In fact, this meal marked the beginning of an obsession. I had their grilled snapper, and it was the best fish I have ever eaten. They had storm beer and delicious ice cream for dessert. It is the first restaurant I can remember falling totally in love with – and I had only scratched the surface of Scallywags’s greatness! They make their own fresh bread, they have seats right on the beach, they have a great BBQ menu that comes with an excellent salad bar, they have fun entrees and a huge variety of creative sandwiches and wraps, and of course, as is all the rage right now, their food is “organic” and they market themselves as being “green.”
We went out on the town, contemplated a movie-by-the-beach, where they put you in a little seating area and you pick a movie and order popcorn. But the place was booked. There was plenty of thumping music coming from the string of restaurant bars, too.Our room on Gili T:
The next morning we were off to Gili Meno (the middle island of the three and according to Lonely Planet the most rural), but not before a token horse carriage ride (to the ATM) and breakfast at…Scallywags.
It was a gorgeous morning. Lombok’s mountain peaks were visible above a low layer of clouds. Meno awaits.
On the island-hopper: