Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 3, The Gilli Islands, oh the disappointment!


10 October 1997, Gili Trawangan:
Went on a joke of a boat to Gili today. Since there was no boat by the dock, we had to be taken by a small rowing boat. Four passengers with luggage and two crew were a bit much for the little boat, and several times we almost fell overboard. Actually, someone did fall into the sea on trip two on the same boat. The bigger boat that took us to Gili wasn’t much to talk about either, but we got here in one piece. Glad we didn’t book the trip to Komodo – same type of boat, only slightly bigger – NO WAY. Everyone on the boat were departing on Gili Trawangan except for Ørjan and I, so we decided to depart here as well. But what a disappointment! Well, we did have a nice day at the beach and did some snorkelling in crystal clear water, but this place is so dirty with garbage everywhere and lots of mosquitos, which we’ve hardly seen at Lombok. The place we’re staying doesn’t cost more than around NOK 30 (GBP 3) per night, but it’s not worth much more either. The bathroom is disgusting, uugh! Will only stay this night, then leave by boat to Gili Air at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Hopefully Gili Air is nicer, if not we’ll head back to Lombok. Lots of Norwegians here, and we’ve met some nice English girls and a Scot. Going out later with them and some Danes. If you’re looking for a party this is probably the place to be, but that’s not really what we’re after. I’m surprised at how open minded everyone seems to be towards drugs, many have tried “mushrooms”, marijuana, opium etc. I’m definitely not going to join that “club”.

The transfer boat second before it lost one passenger

Rise and shine to get the boat to Gilli Air. First, we had to get into a much smaller boat from the beach to the bigger boat. It was the smallest dinghy loaded with 6 backpackers and luggage. A small wonder that we did not flip over and sink! On the second run they filled up the small boat with even more people and luggage, and a Danish boy fell off and had to be picked up from the water, we laughed hard and long. The bigger boat was a typical Indonesian narrow boat with a large superstructure that made it less than stable. To make the boat go in a straight line we had to move around so that it was balanced. It was an enjoyable boat trip and we made friends with some English people and a wet Danish boy. Everybody was getting off a Gilli Trawangan, so we thought we might as well do the same and check out that island. On shore we were met by horse carriages, no cars or mopeds on the island, and the carriage we got onboard, they Shanghaied us and drove off to a remote part of the island. I was sure the horse was going to lift off the ground with the weight of the small buggy we sat in, poor horse! After a small argument, the horse man took us back to civilisation and we proceeded with a short shopping around for a room for the night. We found a hotel that looked ok and left our luggage there. The price was 30 kroners (2 dollars). The island itself we thought was a huge let down, very dirty, garbage floating everywhere, structures half torn down. Nothing is clean or tidy. A run-down former has been of a place. I would not recommend this to anyone. The beach is ok but nothing to shout about. Water is crystal clear but there are no corals left and thus no fish since the corals have been destroyed by anchors and dynamite fishing. We will stay here for 1 night and then move on to Gilli Air tomorrow. We spent the evening together with our new friends drinking beer and eating food, first at a bar that had only warm beer. After the warm beer we went to “Rudy’s” who had “free popcorn and a spliffin` good time”. Loud and varied music, free popcorn as advertised. I did not feel very well after a few hours, and we decided to go back to our hotel and room. The flat we got was full of mosquitoes, the bathroom was a disaster area with water overflowing and the mattresses on the bed looked like someone had been murdered on them. I found it very hard to fall asleep, and around midnight the disco next door fired up and blasted music that rattled our teeth. After what seemed like a little eternity without sleep, I started suddenly to vomit like a fountain. I felt ok after. Not sure what caused the projectile vomiting but could well be the shrimps I had earlier. The tooth rattling disco ended at around 3am, then the buzzing of mozzies took over until the roosters found out it was time to get up, just in time to the morning call of the Minaret up the street….. happy to be leaving this hell hole in a few hours.

One of the few photos we took at Gilli Trawangan
11 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After the most horrible night ever we took a boat to Gilli Air. At the “dock” that was really the beach there were 15 boats, we got told what boat we needed to board. We asked them if they were going to Gilli Air “yeeees” they said, and by now we know that a hesitant yes is an uncertain yes. We asked a few ladies that were on board, and they claimed they were going snorkelling. And when the boat proceeded in a totally different direction that Gilli Air, we had to ask again. “Gilli Air later, first snorkelling” was the answer. I kind of lost my shit, wanting to sleep after a long sleepless night, and having a rabid viking on board was not what they desired, so they took us first to Gilli Air. Same story on the docks with horses and willing transport providers. I left Tanja at the dock with our luggage and searched for the accommodation farthest from any disco I could find. A poor horse and his handler took us to the Indah, and again the accommodation was a let-down, the same as the island. Dirty, filthy, no running water and a non-functioning toilet. We walked around the island to see what it was like, and it was just as disappointing as Gilli Trawangan. We decided to go back to Sengiggi beach the next day. We had heard that the Gilli Islands were paradise from other backpackers, and we are bitterly disappointed. I cannot understand how the locals cannot take care of their environment, dispose of their waste, clean up and make sure the coral reefs survive for the next generation.


12 October 1997, Dharma Hotel, Lombok:
Lying in bed, just relaxing. Fresh from the shower, good bed, Bon Jovi on my Walkman, eating some biscuits and most of all feeling happy about being back in Lombok. Gili islands were a big disappointment! We had pictured some paradise islands, but our experience was that it was dry, full of garbage and just awful. But maybe we’re a bit spoiled? Left Gili Trawangan yesterday after getting almost no sleep at all. We went out with the English girls and the Scot (a doctor), had something to eat and then disco. Left around 11.30 p.m., but the disco was just around the corner from where we stayed, so there was loud music until 3 a.m. Ørjan got sick and had to vomit, which made me feel nauseated as well, had to go to the toilet, but turned when I saw it, dirty as hell! The mosquitos were at us all night, and we woke up with bites all over our bodies – and we’d been so happy about not having had any bites until now. Hope we haven’t managed to get malaria now – the Scot – aca the doctor – said it would take 14 days before it would show, and we’ll be in Australia by then, probably better health care than here. Hopefully we’ll be fine. We were happy to get on the Perama boat to Gili Air, but soon realised there was some misunderstanding. The two lady passengers onboard were on a day trip from Lombok to Gili islands, including snorkelling, lunch, and then a visit to Gili Air. The crew wanted us to snorkel, too on the reefs they stopped at, we tried to explain that we had booked a trip straight to Gili Air only, and although they didn’t speak much English we made ourselves understood and were taken there. As usual there were lots of people wanting us to stay at their place, Ørjan went with one of them on a horse carriage, but when he didn’t like the place, they wanted him to pay for the ride… We booked ourselves into Gili Indah by the harbour since it looked ok – a big bungalow. First impressions can’t always be trusted though, the bathroom looked ok, but the shower didn’t work, the toilet wouldn’t flush and there was no water in the tap, and it was very dirty – hair on the floor, sticky and dusty. We told the receptionist who came over with a dirty cloth and started “cleaning” without any soap or warm water. Lights and fans only worked during certain hours of the day, which no one told us of course. And the price for this was 55,000 rupi per night which is quite expensive around here. We felt cheated, but at least the beds were good, and we got some hours of sleep before we went out to have something to eat. And we had no better experience of the place, ok, the beach is ok, the sea is blue, and there are probably some ok corals, but 10 metres from the beach there was garbage everywhere, which is just so off-putting! We each had a portion of fries before heading for Perama where we booked the trip back to Lombok and Sengigi – we had no wish to stay at Gili at all. Slept until 6.30 a.m., then on the boat at 7. When arriving in Lombok people came running towards us asking if we were with “Perama” and grabbed our luggage when we confirmed. We assumed they were working for Perama, but no – they were “porters” and started to make signs with their hands in front of our faces saying “money”. We’d had enough by then, carried our own bags, which we always do and want to do, and didn’t give any money. Then they were offended and wanted to take our luggage back to the boat. They only wanted a little bit, and are probably poor, but we just don’t like the way things are done, and feel we support the community by paying for transportation, stay, shopping and food, although I did feel bad afterwards. Happy when we arrived in Sengigi again, Ørjan looked around for a place to stay, but we soon realised we just wanted to go back to Dharma. So here we are in a new bungalow costing us around 45,000 rupis per night; comfortable beds, a good bathroom, nice and clean, think we’ll probably stay a few nights before heading back to Bali.

Hand painting the road!

Up at 06:30 to get the boat from Gilli Air to Bangsal at Lombok. When arriving at Bangsal there were hundreds of people at the dock who wanted to “help us” with carrying our backpacks from the boat to the bus. There was a while when both our backpacks disappeared in the chaos, and I had to wrestle my backpack from a man who just took it, I told him to put it back in the boat where he had taken it from, he proceeded with demanding money for dropping the bag back into the boat! Pandemonium! Tanja had similar problems with her bag being kidnapped, and she had to run after a man and tell him to give the bag back, he proceeded to ask where she wanted the bag to be delivered…. And demanding cash. The bus ride from Bangsal to Mataram and Sengiggi was nice. In the mountain we saw monkeys and the local highway patrol who hand painted the stripes on the road!

We had to stop in a small village, and we had a short walk, the kids and elders of the village were so fascinated with Tanja’s blonde hair, she caused quite a stir. And when we said that we both were from Norway, they would not believe that since our complexions are very different. Back at Dharma hotel again and we splurged on a nice hotel room, clean, crisp sheets, working toilet and a nice staff. We will be staying here a while longer.

Local girls facinated by Tanjas hair

Those few days in the Gilli Islands still are some of the most horrendous days on a trip we have ever had. In the 90s everybody who came back from the Gilli Islands said that you just HAD to go there. We guess we came at the end of an era, we can read how dissappointed we were, and we can still feel that.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Coming up next; part 4, Back at the beach and leaving Bali with an amoeba.

Categories:Around The World 1997, Travel


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: