Let’s talk about Bali and Gili Air
I haven’t taken many vacations over the course of my life. But after 9 years of working, a solo trip was well-deserved. The vacation spanned 10 days. from the 17th of June up to the 27th of the same month, not too long, not too short either.
After much reading, I decided to head to a specific island in Indonesia, Gili Air. Trivia, Air is pronounced as “a-yer” in Indonesia and actually means water. It is accessible via a 4-hour boat ride from Serangan port in Bali, and a 10-20 minute boat ride from Lombok. There are no flights from the Philippines to Lombok, which makes flying to Bali the best option. Boats depart from Serangan port at 8am and 11am. There are a variety of boat companies that can take you to the island, but the one I took was the Bluewater Express.
Upon arrival in Bali at 11pm, I proceeded to a nearby hostel to spend the evening. The weather the following morning was rather gloomy with sudden rainshowers, still I spend the day to have a look at their temples.
Offerings like such are made as part of their culture
I didn’t exactly enjoy the one day I spent on the Bali Mainland due to the rain, but I was hopeful and looked forward to clearer skies in Gili Air. The next morning, I set out to Serangan port for the Boat to Gili Air. The 4-hour boat ride was a mix of calm and choppy waters. There are portions where the boat would just glide across the ocean and others where the sea was less forgiving. People with sea sickness should bring their own medicines to counteract possible dizziness.
Much to my dismay, the weather in Gili Air was not too different from that of Bali. The first day there was also gloomy and a bit lackluster.
Over the following days, the weather showed significant improvement with bluer skies and clearer waters. On a good day, you will get too see the Island in its true beauty.
And evenings on the island are equally beautiful
Gili Air is a small island, you can actually walk the entire coastline in about an hour or so. Bikes are available for rent on a per day basis, it is quite safe on the island and you can park your bike on the side while you swim, eat or just sit around.
There is a wide selection of local and international dishes on the island. The most common cuisines available are American, Mexican, and Italian, and you will see most tourists enjoying the food being served. In the evenings, almost all the restaurants offer grilled seafood. Dishes are served on a per 100gram basis and your fish / crab / lobster / squid is weighed prior to cooking. It is then grilled to your liking and served with either rice, mashed potatoes or a baked potato.
Personally, I prefer local food. Part of travelling is to appreciate local cuisine, and I won’t get that from dining in higher tier restaurants. Local food is also a lot cheaper, ranging around 20k IDR up to 60k IDR (80-250php) per meal. Whereas, the food in the restaurants start at around 100k (400php).
Nasi Campur is a local staple and is composed of rice, tofu, tempeh, and chicken or fish. You can always ask for more of the viands at an extra cost. Be careful with the word “Spciy”, as it take a completely different meaning for the locals. I made that mistake, and had to buy a sweet cake (Photo not available, I had to eat it right away)
This dish, I bought from a local who spoke very little English. I don’t think we understood each other, and I ended up with rice and a miniscule portion of viand
I quickly went back to her, and bough just the viand without rice and ended up with this.
When speaking to locals with little English, it is best to simplify the statements, avoid prepositions and extra words. I learned that the best way to order food was to simply say, “Nasi Campur, chicken, tempeh, tofu, vegtable, no rice, not spicy / little spicy”
Food such as this can found near the harbor. There you will see people in pushcarts, and all you have to do ask what they sell. It is a hit or miss thing though since they won’t be in the same area everyday. Apparently they roam around the island selling their food and finding them can be challenging.
Plated local food is also available, but I find that the ones from the peddlers are far more flavorful and delicious
My personal favorite would be satay. Priced at 10k IDR (40php) for 10 sticks and rice, you cannot go wrong with this. In one sitting I can usually consume 30 sticks.
You can swim pretty much anywhere on the Island
I like to swim in the secluded areas, away from the harbor and restaurants. There you will find peaceful waters with little or no people at all. The tide is a bit odd though with the hightide coming in early in the morning and late in the evening, leaving the afternoons with a very low tide. In general the water is very clean and clear, but do watch out for rocks when the tide is low.
With the high tide being early in the morning, I made it a point to wake up at around 5am everyday just to swim. 5am would still be dark, but it is wonderful to swim and watch the sunrise at the same time.
The tide recedes by around 10am, the perfect time to have breakfast. As the sun is quite hot from 10am-3pm, I usually take this time to stroll the island or take a midday nap.
Sunsets are around 6pm on the island and you are greeted by majestic golden hues
Other activities on the island are snorkeling and scuba diving. You will get to see a variety of fish, and some turtles even if you just snorkel. For a snorkeling activity, you will be placed in a group and together you ride a boat. The boatmen know where the best spots are and will take you there. Snorkeling is a half-day activity which starts at 9am and ends at around 3pm
Should you opt to scuba dive, there are numerous dive centers in the island. I do not have a PADI license so the only dive program available to me is the beginner’s one, wherein they teach you all the basics. You can also acquire your dive license with them. It will take about 3 days, with 5 dives in the ocean.
Diving is a completely different experience from snorkeling. With the latter, you only get to see the fish and turtles from a far, whereas diving allows you to get close to them. You will also see corals of different colors and so much more!
Overall, Gili Air is a wonderful place to travel to, unwind, and relax. It is a bit difficult to get to as you will probably lose a day of travelling to get to and from the island, but it is well worth it.