In north Lombok I travel to Bangsal to catch a boat to Gili Trawangan, one of three little island north of Lombok. Bangsal is the cheapest place to leave from, but it’s also a squalid little port town known for scammers and con artists.
I’m dropped off at the boat terminal, a small shack, and I’m told I need to hurry because the boat to leave for Gili Trawangan is about to leave. This is a con. Boats are never in a hurry to go anywhere in Indonesia. There are departure times certainly, but usually a boat leaves when it’s full or when the guy driving it is done with lunch.
I’m quoted a price. I get up and walk out to the entrance of the terminal and see on the price board that he’s doubled the price for me. So I go back in and ask for the normal price. They tell me it’s more because I’m in a hurry. See the unending scamming that can take place? But I refuse to pay it and they charge the normal price. As I finish getting my ticket other guys run up to me with goods cradled in their arms: mosquito coils, mosquito spray, water bottles, cigarette papers. I push past toward my boat.
30 minutes on choppy waves and we arrive at Gili Trawangan. The island consists of a dirt road going around the island and about a half mile long strip of paved or brick road with dive shops, restaurants, bars, and beach spots. The rest of the island is quiet and secluded, with a few restaurants dotted all the way around, and absolutely no motorized transport, only cidomos (horse-drawn carriages with tinkling bells attached to them) and bicycles. The pace is slow–even though it’s known as the most lively of all three of the tiny islands known as the Gilis (gili means island) and the mood is laid back. I stay there for nine days and don’t feel the need to actually do anything until the 7th day. My place is right on the beach and every night sees spectacular sunsets with the volcano on Lombok towering in the distance.
Originally published August 4, 2007