I’m planning to head back to the Gili Islands for New Year to meet some mates from back home, so I figured I should check out one of the other so I could decide which one we should agree on. So I spent my last day on the islands visiting Gili Air – which was so peaceful it made Gili T seem like Bali. And I loved it. It’s even smaller, being just over an hour to walk round, and like Gili T is mostly developed on one side. It also has even nicer beaches – and in places the coral starts a bit further out, which makes swimming a hell of a lot easier.
In fact, it’s pretty paradise-like, and I knew as soon as I arrived that it was where I’d want to spend New Year with my friends. Having been to a virtually untouched, perfect beach in Colombia (Tayrona National Park), I actually realise now that I prefer somewhere like Gili Air – it’s all very well having perfect scenery, but it’s quite nice to have a handful of small restaurants and bars as well to keep me amused (and my stomach happy) come evening. One of the bars in the north of the island will be having a party with a big fire on the beach come the 31st – and right now I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.
Fourth and last stop on my mini-tour of Indonesia’s beaches was an unscheduled one. I left Gili Air bright and early on Saturday morning to meet Victor, one of the swedes I’d met on the way to Gili T, in order to start a four-day boat trip to Komodo. But when we got to the pier in Lombok, we were told that we wouldn’t now be going til Tuesday. Or maybe Wednesday. They tried to persuade us to go back to the Gilis and wait there, but their vagueness was rather worrying so the two of us were forced to get angry and refuse to leave until we had a guaranteed departure date (preferably Monday, the day we’d been told the next boat was) and a free lift to the nearest beach town, Senggigi. It took us about an hour of arguing (and them trying to separate the two of us for some reason) but we eventually got what we wanted and headed down the coast. Senggigi is supposed to be one of Lombok’s main beach destinations – the island has been marketing itself as the next Bali for some while now – but it seems no-one appears to have noticed, as we arrived to find a rather forlorn looking town, and headed to the beach to find ourselves the only people there. This of course made us an instant magnet for every hawker on the beach, and we were soon surrounded by a horde of trinkets, sarongs, fresh mangoes and masseurs. We eventually cracked under the relentless pressure ( we felt a bit sorry for them, considering that’s how they make their living, and we were the only people in sight) and had a mango and a massage, the first of which was delicious, and the second the worst I’ve had in my life, as my neck and back actually felt far stiffer afterwards. After we’d persuaded the others that, no thank you, we wouldn’t be parting with a single Rupiah more, we had a swim, and soon realised one of the reasons the beach was empty – there was a huge amount of plastic and other rubbish in the sea. It was impossible to swim without getting entangled in it, which got a bit off-putting after a while. So there was only one thing for it – time for a nice cool Bintang in one of the beach bars, and it was from there that we got to see Senggigi’s best attraction, the sunset. I’ve seen a fair few beautiful ones since I left home, but the one we saw that night was easily the best. As the sun went down, the whole sky was lit up in a bright gold, and that was just the start. Once it had dipped below the horizon, the clouds began shifting colours, with pinks and golds giving away gradually to reds and purples. Meanwhile the sea, reflecting the clouds, began to look like a sea of gold. With the curve of the bay ending in a group of palm trees that were silhouetted by the fading light, it was breathtaking.