Wow, I’m falling so behind! I just sorted all my pictures this morning to find that, including this post, I have at least 5 others simply to conclude the Indonesia/Kuala Lumpur adventures. More for Jack and Grace’s visit and subsequent jaunt to Koh Jum and Tonsai. One more for our strange but exciting adventure to Krabi with a Thai friend (as tagalongs on his IT company getaway? I feel like it’s fine.). Nevermind that, to draw from that old Muse ditty, our time is running out from a “have-to-go-to-school-but-not-actually-do-anything-school-oriented” perspective. Have picked up extra classes at a local learning academy, maybe start our adult classes back up today, begin teaching the local policemen this Thursday, and real classes resume next Thursday. Oh free time, I hardly knew thee…
So without further ado. After five-or-so glorious days in Bali, it was time to explore one of Indonesia’s other 16,999 islands: Gili Trawangan. The Gili Islands had come strongly recommended to us from a number of sources, particularly if we were keen to do some diving, which we most definitely were. Though “Gili” simply means “island” in (one of) the Indonesian language(s), “the Gilis” refer to three little islands between the larger islands of Bali and Lombok. Of these Gili Trawangan is the westernmost, the biggest, the most happenin’, and contains the most syllables so henceforth will be called simply “Gili T.”
We (read: Wayne) had done some research on the best way to get from Bali to Gili T. Judging from the map above, it doesn’t look too bad, right? Well, sure… we could have done it in +/- 2 hours direct (I never ever ever saw or heard of an option to do it in 1 hour, 15 minutes, despite what the map suggests)… if we had a profession other than teaching, in a place other than Thailand, receiving a currency that was even moderately desirable to the Indonesian moneychangers. And you know, even with all these factors in place, I think it would have been likely we’d have dished out double fare for the “fast boat” if anyone in Bali had been honest with us about what the “slow boat” would entail. But we don’t, and they didn’t, so we didn’t. Twice.
(In layman’s terms, we paid half price for what turned out to be a 12 hour journey, having been assured it would be no more than six. And before leaving the first time, were conned into upgrading our one-way tickets to return journeys; they swore tickets would cost more on Gili T and this sounded logical to us. As it turned out Gili T was surprisingly affordable in almost every way, considering that everything, including fresh water, must be imported.)
So how, exactly does that seemingly itty bitty journey take up half a day? I guess, really, it’s a problem of semantics. It’s just that “slow boat” is a bit of a misnomer. “Slow boat that leaves two hours late, takes four hours, drops passengers on Lombok + Rickety ‘taxi’ to take passengers on a tumultuous hour-long journey to another pier on Lombok + Another hour wait at that pier + Longtail boat that drops passengers at Gili Air before proceeding on to Gili T” would be more accurate, but I suppose it is quite a mouthful.
Still, it was an adventure, we met a nice English chap on the first boat who works on yachts and had lots of entertaining stories, and got to see snippets of Lombok (even it was just briefly and slightly terrifying). I guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly.
Oh! Jeez, before I forget I have to share another example about why the whole trip was a big boatload of bizarre (no pun intended, the alliterative opportunity was too much for me to pass up). We sat up front in the air-conditioned section– a privilege one man tried to suggest was not free when he came around taking a collection. He had no uniform and didn’t push the issue when we raised our eyebrows at him in skepticism, so we figure it was a con. Next thing we knew there was a horrible racket coming from the un-airconditioned portion of the boat that we couldn’t identify. It grew louder and louder until a man entered our room– simply shouting and making horrible, indistinguishable noises with his mouth, and asking for money. We couldn’t tell if he was demonstrating deafness (honestly or otherwise) or if he was just hoping people would pay him to shut up. Eventually he left but it was a very strange series of minutes. Also there was a food-selling woman outside as we were waiting for the boat to arrive who kept insisting that Wayne and I kiss each other and offering us discounts on bottles of water for each kiss (I can’t remember if she made good on such promises or not). Weird, wild stuff…
Then we went through these flooded streets:
Not pictured: Stopping to pick up the driver’s sister, brother-in-law, and baby nephew on the side of the road (the van was already quite full).
Also not pictured: The stomach-churning hairpin turns of a brief mountain journey, or the monkeys seen along the road that served as the silver lining.
The biggest problem with our longer-than-expected journey was that our friends weren’t teachers in Thailand and so had no qualms dishing out the big bucks for the quicker journey; we’d arranged to just meet at 3 o’clock at the pier. Unfortunately we only arrived at 7 o’clock with no way to contact them. The island’s quite small with only one main road, so (after settling for a room in the first guesthouse we came across [henceforth known as “the Stank Room” for self-explanatory reasons but with a charismatic owner named Romi who consistently referred to us as his “[expletive] best guests!!!!“]) we figured if we sat in a prominent place it wasn’t unlikely that they might come strolling by at some point.
What luck! We’d just finished some delicious fish and a happy hour mojito (happy hours generally last a long, long time in Asia) when Greg appeared just down the road. The girls apparently were tired and wanted to stay in, but Greg was happy to stay out with us for the weekly Wednesday night bonanza at “the Irish Bar” (it had another name but knowing it wasn’t necessary… you just had to follow the crowds to find the party). Luckily he had a convenient way to shoot back quickly to relay this information to his companions…
Just what we deserved after a long day traveling!