After our five days in Ubud, we left the luscious, mountainous countryside and headed for some island living over on the Gili Islands in Lombok. We were ready for some beach time and chilling out on an island paradise.
There are three Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Labak and Gili Air, all of which are located off the coast of Lombok and about an hour and a half away from Bali’s Padang Bai harbour by fast boat.
When deciding on which Gili Island to visit, we opted for Gili T because it has a reputation of being a fun island and houses some of the nicer hotel accommodation of all the Gili’s.
We were collected early from our hotel in Ubud by our fast boat company, Blue Water Express, and I really couldn’t recommend them enough. From our transfer from Ubud to Padang Bai, on to Gili T, then back again and our transfer from Padang Bai to our hotel in Seminyak, the whole process was seamless, comfortable and enjoyable. The staff were very friendly and professional, and made everything so easy for us. All we had to do was show up!
Anyway, we arrived on Gili T around 13.30pm in the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to explore the island throughout the day. We only had one night on Gili so we wanted to be sure we had time to enjoy it.
When you first step off the boat on to the beach you are greeted by a big colourful Gili Trawangan sign with lots of people drinking, hanging out and watching the world go by. Waiting for you to come off the beach are swarms of locals who immediately start haggling prices with you for a lift to your hotel in the only used form of transport on the island, a horse and cart. It is both charming and crazy all at the same time.
We agreed a price then hopped on board our cart and began the short journey to our hotel, Aston Sunset Beach.
The horse and cart ride was one of those experiences where you kind of pinch yourself to see if it’s really happening. The horse carts are decorated in the brightest, colourful silks and Pom Pom’s, and our driver was super friendly and chatty. As soon as he found out we were Irish, he spent the next ten minutes saying ‘What’s the craic?!‘, delighted with himself that he could greet us in our own ‘language’! I taught him a few actual Irish words like Slainté, and told him any Irish person would know what it means. His enthusiasm was infectious and he kept us laughing the whole way to our hotel.
When we arrived at our hotel we checked in and were brought to our room. Just as we had begun to settle into the relaxed island life, we were quickly shaken back into reality. Oh, dear, god!
The room was dark, dirty, and worst of all the burgundy colored sheets had very questionable stains all over them. Certainly a step down from our Ubud mountain oasis. We decided to forget about it, and head out to the pool for a swim and a cocktail. Again, oh, dear, god!
The pool was filthy, and after a quick dip we had to abandon ship for fear of what we were swimming in. At this point, we just started laughing because what else could we do other than make the most of it. At least the cocktails were good. There and then we decided the only thing for us to do now was get drunk and enjoy it!
We made our way down the beach to the Ombak Sunset Hotel and the famous swing in the sea. I have been dreaming of sitting in that swing in the sea for many, many years now and if I’m honest, is probably the only real reason I wanted to visit Gili T. But the minute I saw them everything else washed away and I was just bursting with excitement.
I made my way out to the swing as the sun was starting to go down, and got some amazing photos. I also somehow managed to convince Dave to swing on the double swing with me, and a lovely German girl took photos for us. While Dave wasn’t that enamoured by it all, I was in my element and it was definitely a highlight moment that I won’t forget.
Following our swing, we found ourselves a cosy spot on the beach where we sat on beanbags, ordered more cocktails and just as we were about to settle, realized there was a wedding about to take place right beside us and we had a front row view. So now we had the beach, sunset, cocktails and a wedding – a full night’s entertainment, what more could you want?!
From the bride walking down the flowery isle, to their personalised vows, drinks reception, group photos, dinner and later the speeches, we got to be part of it all and it certainly made for a memorable evening on Gili T. Kim and Steve, if by some weird coincidence you ever happen to read this, thanks for letting us crash your wedding! Oh and Kim, your vows were hilarious!
I wish I had some cultural wonders to share with you all about the island, but our culture that day and night was alcohol. The beach and the alcohol saved us, and if I’m honest there’s not much else to do there.
When we did finally return to our hotel room, no amount of alcohol could help us stomach the thought of sleeping in the multi-stained bed and so we upgraded our room to the highest level available and managed to get a few short hours of sleep.
After a quick stroll and bite to eat the following morning, it was time to say goodbye to island life and make our way back to Bali.
So should you visit Gili T? Definitely if you’re not fussed about accommodation and want to party the night away. There are also a few nice boutiques and some hotels have spas, they are pretty basic but what you would expect from an island I suppose.
The other Gili islands are apparently much more chilled out so they may be your best bet if looking for a quieter island escape. But be warned, the accommodation is 3-4 star at very best. I think even saying 4 star is a push to be honest.
All in all, we had a great time on Gili T, mostly because it gave us a lot to laugh about, and many funny (and weird) stories to take home with us.
Sure what is travelling for if not to make memories and tell stories?!