After spending seven months traveling throughout America, New Zealand and Australia, I wasn’t so sure that I was ready to leave behind the golden beaches of Bondi or the views of Sydney Harbour quite yet. However, with a ticket booked (and a change in date costing a precious £50!) it was time for a whole new adventure to begin in Asia. Little did I know just how far that £50 I saved would get me.
I spent the whole day traveling. I woke up at 4am and got to Brisbane after two hours, to join the biggest queue of my life to check-in for my flight to Singapore. Forty minutes of queuing with my bag later and I’d finally checked in and headed through to departures to get a coffee. Of course I forgot about security so had two sips of it then had to throw it away; I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve done this. Despite the distinct lack of caffeine in my system, I boarded and as expected, Singapore Airlines was incredible. The stewardess uniforms were beautiful two piece suits, and varied in colour depending on the particular stewardess’s rank, but all had the iconic batik pattern that has been a constant in the ‘Singapore Girl’ visual since 1972. Arriving in Singapore and adding in a mad dash for a connecting flight later, I got into Denpasar, the capital of Bali, at around 7pm.
When you get to your accommodation you get a gut feeling that it will either be good, bad, or just okay. Continue reading
Having already experienced some of what makes Bali an incredible place to explore, I was keen to pick up where I had left off and discover some more of the arts that Bali had to offer. I had already learnt about the sacred monkeys of the Ubud forest. I had also sampled the delicacies on offer, including the fresh seafood of Jimbaran Beach and Balinese coffee made unconventionally from animal waste. To experience another aspect of Balinese creativity, our guide Wyan took us to a play-come-dance in which the actors dressed in traditional Balinese clothing, performing an age old legend depicting a battle between good and bad spirits.
I can’t say I was 100% clear about what was happening, as the translation sheet didn’t offer much help. However, I can say that the play featured the Barong, a lion-like creature in Balinese mythology. The Barong is the king of the spirits and the bringer of good. His enemy is the Rangda, the king of the evil spirits. The fight between the Barong and the Rangda was central to the play that I saw. More incredible that the mythology were the traditional costumes worn by the actors and the music played by the ten piece band.
The Gili Islands, in Indonesia, are a group of three; Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. I can’t say that the speedboat ride from Bali to the Gili Islands was particularly relaxing. We were headed for the largest of the three, Gili Trawangan, or often known as Gili T. Gili Trawangan pulls the largest crowd and has the most accommodation and attractions, though that’s not to say that Gili Meno and Gili Air don’t get visitors.
When we arrived after around half an hour of heavy seas there was no dock, instead we disembarked by taking off our shoes, rolling up our trousers and wading to the beach. After picking up our bags we were soon being offered accommodation by the many reps of the bungalows that waited for the boat to arrive every day. The man who got to us first seemed nice enough, so we followed him one street over to the shore, where three bungalows were situated with a small outside seating area. After seeing some other accommodation it was clear that the bungalow we were in was pretty standard, and at 100,000rp (roughly £5.00) a night between the three of us there was really nothing to complain about.
The next few days were spent relaxing and following a strict routine of waking up whenever, eating on the beach whenever and napping whenever.
It had been seven months since I had left the UK and I was finally beginning to feel like I was on more of a holiday. After spending time in the USA, New Zealand and Australia flitting between working and travelling around on a packed schedule, I was very much enjoying the time to take things slowly in South East Asia.
I had settled in comfortably to the Gili Island lifestyle of relaxing, eating and sleeping and I was fully embracing the beautiful atmosphere that Gili Trawangan had to offer. What I hadn’t expected was to be staying longer than originally planned!
Rumours spread quite quickly around the little island. Since mostly everybody used the same fast boat company to get between the Gili Islands, Lombok and Bali, everybody was in the same boat (excuse the pun) when we found out that weather on the other shores had not been good. When you looked out to sea you could see how rough the water was; we’d been told that a ferry had sunk off of Lombok just the day before. Due to this, all fast boats were suspended until further notice. For me, this wasn’t such a big deal; I was more than happy to spend a few more days on Gili T and definitely had space to accommodate a few more cocktails. However, the others I was travelling with at the time had a flight just three days away.
Taking in the natural beauty of Bali and the Gili Islands, soaking up the historical heritage of temples and forests and experiencing the cultural diversity that Indonesia had to offer, had been an experience which was completely juxtapositional to my prior travelling endeavours.
There are many differences in travelling in South East Asia, as opposed to travelling in the West, but one in particular struck me the most – the incredibly gentle nature of the Indonesian people. That isn’t to say that people in the West aren’t kind and generous, but the relaxed and laid-back attitude I had experienced in Indonesia felt like something different, something more genuine.
These attitudes were also present in my next stop, Vietnam. Landing in Ho Chi Minh City, my first impressions were that, compared to Denpasar, the city was more subdued. The roads were still over-populated with scooters carrying more than I thought possible, but rather than the weaving lack of rules of Indonesia, the Vietnamese transport seemed to adhere to rules more readily.