Sunday, September 18, 2011

Summer 2011 - 4th Stop: Senggigi & Gili Air

**Spoiler alert** This entry is not going to be that interesting! We spent two days in Senggigi, four days in Gili Air and then the next two travelling to Borneo, so the majority of our time this week was either spent on a beach, or in an airport. On the plus side, if you like beaches and airports, you're in for a real treat!

We landed in Lombok on the evening of the 11th, ready for our lazy, lazy beach week, and it really did the trick! Most of our opening 10 days had consisted of early starts and busy schedules, and the final two weeks would be something similar, so it was nice to just have a few stress-free, sleepy days under the tropical sun.

Our first port of call was Senggigi, a seaside town on Lombok's west coast, which most people just seem to use as a gateway to the Gili Islands, but it's a nice enough place in itself, so worth the stopover. We arrived in town just after sunset, but it was still bright and beautiful enough to take a stroll across the beach, taking in the views from a small cliff-side shrine.

On the way, we were even asked by a local if we were on our school holidays!! (Although, I guess technically we are...)

The next day we went to Senggigi beach, and found a nice quiet spot along the stretch of white sand. And that's all I can say really! We just had a nice peaceful day, reading our books, soaking up the sun and watching some local fisherman at work.

There was even a girl next to us practicing the flute, it was like we had never left HK! Ok, I should probably explain that - the woman in the apartment next to us in Hong Kong got a flute (clarinet, maybe...?) for Christmas and she plays it every day, without fail, for at least 10 hours. She's after improving a lot, but considering how long she spends at it, you'd expect her to be incredible by now...

We walked back along the beach at sunset (an extremely orange sunset may I add), a lovely way to end our very brief stay here.

The next morning we were off to the Gili Islands, Gili Air to be exact, (which probably sounds more like an airline...) for our 4 day desert island experience! It's the closest of the three islands to Lombok, and only a 15 minute boat ride from Bangsal harbour (dump!), but the island itself is a world apart.

When we arrived, we were taken by horse and cart (horse and cart, I know!) to our accomodation, Juliantos, a lovely place on the waterfront, but a bit pricier than what we're used to. We had no choice really as most other places were fully booked. (In fact, we were originally planning to go to Gili Meno, but we couldn't find anywhere to stay there either!).

Hmmm... I'm trying in vain to think of anything of note we actually did here... we lounged out on deck chairs under the sun, we ate in beach-side huts under the moon, there's not much more I can say really. It was great though! I'm just sorry I can't be more descriptive...

Actually, we did go snorkeling on two of the days! As I mentioned, our accommodation was right at the water's edge, so just a hop, skip and a jump and you were in the sea! There was some nice coral and fish to look at too, considering how close we were to land. No turtles or anything exciting like that though...

The only bad thing I can think of about the place is that there's no fresh water on the island, so the sinks, showers etc, are just purified salt water, ironic really seeing as Gili Air actually means "Island of Water"- "Gili" meaning "island", and "Air" strangely meaning "water"... (Captain Planet must be a nightmare to watch over here...!)

(Actually, while looking up that picture, I just discovered that they're planning a Captain Planet live-action movie! Go Planet!!)

And that's about it for our stay in the Gilis! If you want to hear us talking about it, watch this!

We grabbed a boat back to Bangsal (again, dump!) on the morning of the 17th, and somehow found our minibus to Mataram airport. (Seriously though, Bangsal is the most disorganised place I've ever been. I'm surprised we're not still stuck there now!). We arrived at the airport a good 7 hours before our flight, but we had no choice really due to the boat times. So, we had half a day to kill in Mataram! We had a surprisingly fun time here though!

We dumped our bags at the airport (they didn't have any storage lockers, so we just asked could we leave them at one of the tourist desks) and headed to Mataram mall for the afternoon. First up, was finding something to eat. The thing was though, because it was Ramadan and everyone was fasting from 6am to 6pm, everywhere was closed! Well, almost everywhere... we were saved by good ol' Maccy D's! But as I said, because all the locals were fasting, we had the place to ourselves! I've never been in a McDonalds that was so eerily quiet...

(Actually, funnily enough Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world, with 86% of its 230 million people. Who'da thunk it?!)

After lunch, we found a small cinema (and I mean really, really small. 40 seats small!) to watch Kung Fu Panda 2, albeit a very badly pirated version. Also, as you can see from the picture, the projector was right in front of the entrance, so when somebody walked in, it didn't just make a small silhouette, they blocked out the whole screen!

Despite all of this though, we had a great time! I love going to the cinema in different countries, especially in tiny places like this, it's always such a funny experience! From standing up for the Royal Anthem in Thailand, to... well, this:

So, before the film, here in Mataram on the island of Lombok in Indonesia, they run clips of flowing streams, waterfalls, flowers in bloom etc., with Ireland's own Enya playing in the background. It made me strangely proud...

Once out of the cinema, we had to head back to the airport, collect our bags from the travel desk, make sure nothing was taken out (or more importantly, smuggled in!) and then hop on our flight to Denpasar. First on board, may I add! (We didn't try to be the first ones on the plane, but seeing as we were, we then tried extra hard to do it for every other flight we had!).

It would be another day of travelling before we actually reached Borneo, with nothing much of note happening in between. A night in Denpasar, a day in Jakarta, and then on to the third largest island in the world! That also meant the end of our time in Indonesia, an amazing country, of which we only saw a very small fraction. Hopefully, we'll be back here again someday, but for now, it's off to the rainforests of Borneo!