Bali to Gilli Islands
With a heavy heart we bade farewell to Ubud and got into a mini-van that had been arranged by Wahana Travels to pick and drop us off at Padang Bay, from where we were to catch the fast boat to Gilli Islands. The one hour journey to Padang Bay was uneventful.
There were loads of people at the bay awaiting the boats run by different tour operators, to take them to Gilli Travangon, Gilli Air or Lambok. A hot, sunny day – it was the first time in 6 days that I felt the scorching heat and sweat trickle down my back. There were loads of vendors selling chips, fruits and water at the bay. Having just come from the hotel, we were neither hungry nor thirsty. But the ones who were returning from the islands, made a beeline for drinking water and ice lollies and fruits that the vendors sold at 10 times the price.
As the boats arrived, the people waiting rushed with their baggage to grab the best seat on the boat. Its best to carry light as there is no porter to help you here. The luggage is kept in the lower deck.
Until I got onto the boat, I wasn’t sure how it would be able to house all the luggage sitting outside and the people standing in queue. With most people (the ones who try hard to get tanned) heading for the top deck, there were seats below for us (who happen to get tanned with the least effort). With fewer people on the lower and windows kept ajar, the one hour forty minutes journey to the islands was pleasant.
Arrival at Gilli Travangon
There is no port at the island.
The boat came as far as it could into the shallow waters after which we had to get off, into the waters, socks, shoes and hand baggage in hand. The luggage was carried from the lower deck by the boat men and passed on to their counterparts who carried it, wading through the waves, onto the shore. There was nothing remotely specialized about this process. Pure human effort and energy is all that is there to prevent the suitcases from getting wet. Dragging our wheeled suitcases on the sandy beach, we made our way to the waiting horse-carts that were to take us to our hotel. The island of Gilli Travangon is totally 34 kms in diameter. There is just one road that runs around the island along the beach. On one side is the blue sea sea and on the other are the restaurants, resorts and shops selling beach-wear.
The resort was barely 500 meters away from where we got off the boat and could easily be walked (which is exactly what we did after our holiday in Gilli ended, 2 days later).
The resort had around 10 villas with a very European feel to it (we got to know later when we met the British owner why that was so), white in color with wooden flooring, a swimming pool in the center. Each villa had a wooden porch, a sit-out area, and is two-floored. Breakfast was the only meal provided at the resort and was served in a common open area overlooking the pool.
Gilli Travangon island
The island is a hub for snorkeling, scuba diving and surfing. There are basic beginner classes provided for the activities as well as advance courses for those who wish to improve their skills.
As none of us was keen in spending our only day on the island at sea, scuba diving or snorkeling, we decided to hire bikes and cycle around the island instead.
Cycling on the island was fun. The only road on the island, is used by pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and horse carts. All throughout the ride, on one side are stretches of white sand beach, scattered trees through which one can see the blue waters and specks of boats, on the sea. The charges for hiring a cycle are 50000 Rupaih for a day. Having taken it at 7 a.m. the charges are until 7 a.m. the next day.
The things we saw while riding around the island
Tied to trees either on the beach or in shallow waters, there are swings throughout the island. It’s lovely to sit on them, and watch the seas, mountains and boats with your feet in the soft sand. Unlike the swings in Bali, these are free and are not managed by anybody. They also do not go high up like the Bali swings.
Beautiful places to take pictures
A fallen, rotting tree trunk, roots on the beach, branches in the shallow waters of the sea, constantly washed by the waves makes for an amazing picture, so said my husband. ‘Insta-worthy,’ was the term. Seeing one such tree trunk, we headed towards it.
With hubby on the edge of the beach where the roots were and camera in hand, I stepped down to check the part of the trunk, in the water. I wasn’t expecting to find anything. I just wanted to ensure the waters weren’t too deep and it was safe…safe from what…that wasn’t on my mind.
Other than moss and weeds on the trunk, it seemed ok until the eyes spotted something black and gooey inside a hole in the tree trunk. I’m not sure if it was because I wasn’t wearing my glasses or because it was just something in the trunk, that wasn’t clear. To take a better look, I decided to wade in the water and get closer. And there it was a few centimeters from me … a sea-krabi!
When I posted the picture, a lot of people came back to tell me how lucky I was because a yellow-lipped sea krabi is extremely poisonous. I can only say, ‘My time had not come.’
Learning Never go to tree trunks close to the waters because water snakes like the krabi come there to digest their food or to lay eggs.
Getting out and as quickly as our legs could peddle, we got as far as possible from our discovery.
By the time we had cycled around, stopping only for ice-creams and photographs, it was close to sun-set.
We spent the evening sitting on bean bags sipping iced- mojitos and waiting for the sun to set on Gilli Travangon. There were around 30-40 people stretched out on the sands after a day of diving, snorkeling, cycling or just hanging around in the room; in silence. It was like meditation – all of us facing the orange sky, our eyes in one direction, we watched the sun make its way down- with measured steps, gracefully into the welcoming waters. And after a few moments, it was as if the spell cast on us had been broken and people began to move and make their way back to their hotels or cycles like we did.
With loads of restaurants on the beach, live bands playing until midnight, a young crowd, the island is a perfect place to party. It looked like L.A. to me (No, I haven’t been to L.A. but I say it based on the movies.) With restaurants closing and music ending only close to the early hours of the morning, the island is very quiet in the mornings. There is a sign of life at around 11.00 a.m. in the morning and it gradually picks up pace and reaches a crescendo just before sun-set.
The lovely weekend on Gilli ended with a reality check which came in the form of the return journey to Padang Bay. It was sadly, the worst experience I had had. We returned by the same boat that brought us to the island. Yet it proved to be memorable for the wrong reasons. The 10.00 a.m. boat reached the island only at 11.00 a.m. and by the time all the passengers had entered the boat and the luggage had been uploaded, it was 12.00 p.m.! The afternoon sun was too hot for anyone to want to go to the upper deck. This meant that everybody, that is around 120 people had to sit on the lower deck. As it was a fast boat, there was no way the windows could be kept open while it sliced through the water, sending jets of spray upto the top deck. With the only fan in the boat not working and the doors closed, we sat, legs touching, dripping in sweat. The heat was unbearable. Those who had little children fanned them vigorously to stop them from crying. The laughter that was there at the time of getting on to the boat had died down and the cheerful after-holiday expressions had been replaced with one of ‘ when-will-this-end,’ look.
The end analysis is that Gilli islands is a fun place to go to. But please check the travels you’re booking to take you there – ensure the boat is air-conditioned.
For previous posts on Bali, you can check the below link and for what happened after Gilli, don’t forget to check my next post.
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