The first time I heard anything about Gili Islands, was when I was on my way to Bali. I was travelling to China for a 19 hour stopover , before getting my next flight to Bali, when I met a girl on the plane called Ellie.
She was on her way to Malaysia and had already visited Indonesia, so was giving me all the tea on what to do when in Bali. I listened attentively and took notes. She explained that Gili Islands was a MUST-VISIT destination when visiting Indonesia and I was like....
If that's where it's happening, then I'll give it a try. Initially, I had planned to visit Gili Islands, but honestly, I was really unimpressed with the prices I was seeing. I needed a little more convincing to spend that amount of money visiting Gili Trawangan (Read: 9 things I wish I knew before visiting Indonesia here).
The second time I was told about Gili Islands and how amazing it was, was at my cooking class in Ubud. I made friends with my cooking partner - Hemla, who also told me about how amazing Gili Islands was. She urged me to visit and after seeing a few of the pictures she showed me from her experience, my mind was totally made up. I WAS HEADING TO GILI ISLANDS!
The pick up
On the day of my scheduled trip to Gili Islands, the driver picked me up from my hotel in Ubud and we set off on a 1.5 hour drive down to the harbour. Here I'd be picking up my physical ticket to get on the boat to Gili Trawangan.
Once I got to the harbour, there were some aggressive sales taking place which was already a little irritating. All I wanted to do was get my ticket and not be asked a million times if I wanted to buy some glasses or snacks.
Anyway, I finally got my ticket and made my way to the boarding area, where I would be catching my boat to Gili Islands.
After a little while of figuring out which boat I was on (because there were like 7). I tracked down my boat, gave them my luggage and hopped on after receiving a warm welcome onboard from the staff.
The boat ride to Gili Trawangan
I've been on many boat rides before, so I didn't think that this one would be any different but boy, was I wrong.
At first, the boat sailed off quite calmly and continued that way for all of ten minutes. Then, it started getting extemely rocky. So rocky, that I decided to sleep instead, to avoid the stress of sea sickness.
Needless to say I woke up wanting to throw up once we had arrived at Gili Trawangan. I'm honestly not sure if my nauseau was caused by the rocky ride, or because I was recovering from malaria that I caught in Nigeria? or if it was both. Either way, the show had to go on.
I arrived at the beach shore in Gili Trawangan, not knowing what to expect. I was so desperate to get to my hotel and just freshen up, especially after what I went through on the two hour boat ride.
I used whatever strength I had left to drag my two suitcases off the shore and was so exhausted that I ended up getting on the first form of transport that I saw. I hopped on a horse and carriage that was waiting near the shoreline to take customers to their accommodations.
I had no idea where on earth I was going or how far it was. All I knew was the name of the hotel - La Bella Villa Hotel & Spa. The horse and carriage driver quoted me 100,000Rp for the journey which is nearly £6, so I agreed because I assumed that it might be quite a distance away.
No joke guys, we trotted down the road for exactly TWO minutes and had already arrived at the accommodation. I got a bad feeling about the place already after paying that much for a simple ride.
I finally got to my hotel around 11am and was excited to finally check in. However, my dreams were crushed when I was told I had to wait until 1pm for check in. I seriously wasn't feeling well and honestly just wanted to shower and sleep as soon as possible.
The staff at La Bella Villa gave me a lovely welcome drink, which cheered me up and I sat at the reception, eagerly waiting for the room to be ready.
After a while of waiting, I got my key and was super impressed with my room. It had a balcony view looking onto the beach, where I'd be able to see the sunrise at 6am every morning. Read full review here.
I freshened up and decided to get some rest. When I woke up I was super hungry, so I went to look for food. I also took that opportunity to do some exploring.
First, I spotted a 24 hour kebab shop and got a delicious takeaway, which went down a treat. The meal cost me at least 150,000 Rupiah, which is nearly £10. I wasn't used to these prices after spending so long in Bali, where food is actually dirt cheap. I thought to myself, "first the horse and carriage, now this? Man, these people are robbing me blind."
Anyway, I stumbled across a tour operator that was selling full day tortoise snorkelling tours for 100,000Rp, so I didn't feel completely ripped off. I booked a Tortoise Snorkelling Tour that was taking place the next day, before retiring to my room and calling it a night.
I woke up and had breakfast on the beach before getting ready for my snorkelling tour. It took me a while to find the meeting point because all tour operators look exactly the same... but I finally found it and set off.
I hopped on the boat and set sale. This was my first experience snorkelling and definitely one for my bucket list. I saw a ship that had capsized under the sea, swam with tortoises, visited other nerigbouring Islands like Gili Air.
Unfortunately, I didn't make any friends on my tortoise snorkelling trip, because I just didn't have the energy to talk to anyone like I usually do. I was still recovering from having Malaria and couldn't even drink alcohol with the medication I was taking anyway, so even if they invited me out, I probably wouldn't have gone which wouldn't have been a great start.
So after the trip, I reitred to my room for an early night because I was exhausted from all of the swimming I did.
I woke up and had double the breakfast, because the food was just TOO good at my villa.
I was supposed to be leaving Gili Islands this day, but since I got a ticket with open return, I decided to stay a couple more days. Truth be told, I just wasn't ready to do that rocky two hour boat ride back to Bali yet.
So I rushed and booked my next stay at Les Villas Ottalia. I didn't read any reviews (BIG MISTAKE), I just saw a couple of nice pictures, a decent price and then booked it.
I ordered a horse a carriage to take me to my next villa and when it came, they tried to charge to 150,000Rp. I managed to haggle it down to 100,000Rp, but goodness me. This was now getting a little expensive for just one person. I thought, "how nice it would be if I had someone here with me to split the cost of these wretched horse and carriages?"
There are no cars or bikes on the island for obvious reasons, so I learned that the only way to get around was by horse and carriage, foot or bicycle.
I reluctantly hopped on the horse and carriage and set off for my next destination.
The driver explained to my next villa was in the middle of the island. I didn't think much of it until the journey to the villa progressed. As we got closer, more and more shops and restaurants disappeared, until eventually there was nothing left. I was literally heading into the middle of nowhere and started questioning myself as to why I chose this location?
I knew it was too late once I got there anyway, because the booking was non-refundable. So instead of dwelling on the negatives, I decided to try my best to make the most of the positives. After all, the villa had a beautiful room and poolside area, as well as really good picture spots.
After a while of hanging out and filming some content for my YouTube channel, I started getting hungry and I knew that I wouldn't find anything around the villa. So I visited the reception area to find out how I could get around without the expensive horse and carriage that I was no longer willing to pay for.
Luckily, there was a nearby bicycle hire place which allowed me to hire a bike for 50,000Rp per day. They gave me a lock and key chain for the bike, warned me of the fines involved for loss or damage ofthe bike and I was good to go!
I set off riding down the rocky and sandy village roads, trying to regain my confidence on the bicycle. Not only had I not ridden a bike in YEARS, but in those conditions too? Man, I really had to concentrate.
I knew where I wanted to go, but I wasn't sure if I was heading in the right direction. So, I kept stopping and asking for directions to the beach as time went on. The friendly locals helped to point me in what I thought was the right direction and I continued riding.
I felt like I was riding for ages... literally for 30 minutes and I was getting really tired. At this point, I was really looking forward to devouring the kebab that I had on the first day after all of that exercise. However, once I reached this 'beach', it appeared to not be the one that I had in mind.
On the one hand, this side of Gili Trawangan was absolutely gorgeous. It had horses and swings on the beach and a small crowd that had gathered to watch the beautiful sunset to a band playing some chill music.
On the other hand, this side of Gili Trawangan didn't seem to have as much of a variety of restaurants and shops, as the beach I visited on the first day at all.
I tried to ask passersby where that side of the beach was and I was advised that it would be about another 30 minutes on my bike to get there. Pfft. Straight away, I knew there was no way in hell that I was riding my bike any further. So I found a restaurant that was serving decent food nearby and settled there.
I'm not sure if it's because it was that time of the month, or whether I was genuinely just very stressed out, but when I finally sat down to eat...I randomly just wanted to burst into tears. I was thinking, "why is life so stressful? why did I come here alone? It's getting dark already, how will I find my villa in the middle of nowhere on my bike? Why do I even have to ride a bike? Like why me?!"
To top it off, the restaurant I was at, had barely any staff that spoke any English whatsoever. This meant that my food was delayed even more and I was just ready to get back to my villa... ASAP.
Once I finished eating, I knew damn well that there was no way that I was riding my bike for another 20 minutes in the dark. So I mounted a horse and carriage and managed to bundle my bike onto it too. The driver agreed to take me back to my villa for another 100,000Rp. Yep, more money down the drain. But to be honest, it was absolutely necessary. I didn't feel comfortable or safe riding back in the dark.
At one point on the journey back, even the horse and carriage got lost. So I was thankful in that moment that I didn't even attempt to ride my bike back on my own.
I finally got back to my villa, retired to my room, showered and slept off.
This day I decided to take it very easy after what I had experienced the day before. I hung out by the pool at the villa and even decided to order breakfast from the restaurant to avoid venturing out again on my bike. It wasn't the cheapest option, but it was definitely the least stressful and I was here for it.
I decided to do some more filming for my Youtube Channel (which by the way you should subscribe to ;)). After a few hours of doing this, I got hungry again and was determined to find the 24/7 kebab shop that I visited on my first day seeing as the previous day was a FAIL.
I took my bike again and rode off to find it. This time around, instead of asking for directions to the "beach" which I learned could land me anywhere on the island, I decided to ask for the "harbour". I rode my bike for about 15 minutes and I believe I was getting closer to the harbour, which meant closer to my kebab.(Yes, I'm a foodie). But then, I was stopped in my tracks.
I was riding through the village and came across some chickens on a narrow walkway that I was supposed to ride through. I knew there was no way that I was about to risk riding through their territory, to risk getting pecked to death. So I backed up on my bike and tried to find another route.
While going through this other route, I stumbled across a diving club that was pumping some loud music and appeared to serve pizza for a decent price. I rode in and to my surprise there was a whole traveller community inside.
This place was called Jati Village and appeared to be a hostel. It had a pool table where people were playing snooker, a little jacuzzi-type pool and various other forms of entertainment. For once, I was actually able to vibe with people while I was in Gili Trawangan.
I had my dinner here, socialised with a few of the travellers and they kindly invited me to beer pong. However, because of my malaria medication, I didn't want to risk drinking any alcohol so I passed up on the opportunity. (of course I didn't tell them I had malaria before they looked at me like I was contaminated lol). I just told them my villa is a bit of a way away and that I have to head back before it gets too late, which wasn't a lie either.
I really didn't want to leave to be honest. Jati Village was such a great vibe, but it was already getting late and I was dreading having to find my way back to my villa in the dark. Especially because there were no horse and carriages in this area to rescue me this time. So I rode back in the dark alone.
The village roads are very poorly lit and I was literally riding in the dark and couldn't see anything around me at all.
It felt like a horror movie, I was just waiting for someone to grab me off of my bike, off the pathway and into the bushes. But, thank God that didn't happen because I'm able to tell the story today.
After getting lost about ten times and my heart pounding out of my chest. I was able to locate my villa by following the sound of the prayer that was taking place at the mosque. The mosque was virtually next door to Les Villas Ottalia, where I was staying. So I was able to exhale again, once I saw the entrance sign.
Since I was leaving the next day, I decided to drop my bike off at the bike-hire place before heading back into my villa. I just wanted to get it out the way so that I could lie in a little the next day. I retired to my room to rest, feeling a lot better than I did the day before because I got to speak to humans! Lol.
Day 5 - Home time!
I woke up in a great mood knowing it was time to head back to Bali, where things were a lot more solo travel-friendly.
Although Gili Trawangan wasn't all bad news, I was definitely excited to leave and get the HELL up out of there.
I missed having access to cars, motor taxi's and even affordable local foods. Honestly, Gili Trawangan really ate more into my budget than I expected.
After clearing my final hotel bill that had accummulated from the stuff I drank in the fridge, I ordered my horse and carriage to take me to the shore. I wanted to make it just in time for my boat. So, when I arrived at the harbour 20 minutes early, I discovered that my boat was delayed by 2 more hours.
This wasn't the best news, but I did see it as a window of opportunity to have that delicious kebab that I had been tirelessly trying to find for the last two days.
I happily wheeled both of my suitcases to the kebab place and rounded up my trip quite nicely with the delicious kebab that I was looking forward to having.
Once I was done, I made my way to the shore where I waited for my boat. It didn't come for another 30 minutes or so, but I used this as an opportunity to film some more content, take in the beautiful scenery and bid Gili Trawangan farewell.
The boat ride back to Bali
When the boat finally arrived, I eagerly hopped on and managed to bag myself a seat near the window to ease the claustraphobia. I enjoyed the first 20 minutes of sailing back to Bali, but after that everything went downhill.
Water was splashing onto the boat and I was being told by the passengers behind me to the close the window because they were getting wet. The boat was really stuffy, so I had to go and sit by the entrance doors that were open because I felt like I was going to be sick.
Thankfully, a kind passenger gave me a bag to throw up in which I didn't even end up using, but it was definitely a rough journey back to the shore and once I arrived I was over the moon to be bali on Bali turf.