A Hairy Spider in Gili Air

Gili Air is tiny. I get of the ferry and have to choose which way to go, left, right, or straight. I’m looking for a bungalow. I decide to go left. There are a few shops, a resort, some bars and a couple of home stays.I stop at a bar to eat something and a mother and her three little kittens welcome me to the island. I immediately feel much more at home.

After my cat feeding and cuddle session I walk back to where the ferry arrived and go straight. It seems to be a better choice,there’s lots of accommodation and locals are trying to get me to see theirs. I check out a few rooms. Eventually I find a beautiful, bamboo cottage with a big balcony and a private, open air bathroom. It’s pretty and I’m very happy with it.

That afternoon, a friend is coming over to meet me and I go back to the ferry terminal to pick him up. I wait around for 2 hours until I finally receive a message that he has arrived. He gives me the name of the bar he’s at, and the directions on how to get there. I follow his directions but his descriptions don’t match any of the places I’m seeing. I’m puzzled and wonder if there’s anything I misunderstood. Suddenly something clicks. I ask him if he’s sure he’s on Gili Air. “ Yes.” “ Are you absolutely positive?” “Yes, I think so.”  I hear him asking someone.  “ What island is this?” “ Gili Trawangan.”. Mystery solved.



I stop in a reggae bar on the beach for a drink. A tall, skinny waiter with dreadlocks comes over to take my order and asks me if I’m looking for a boyfriend for today or tomorrow. How about no? A beer maybe?

The next day my friend has made it over and we explore the small beaches, play with the cats and stop at some of the bars. We discover that mushroom tea is a better alternative to cocktails here, and we try some. It doesn’t taste as good as a cocktail though, somewhat bitter and gritty , but we have some good laughs.


When we come home to the bungalow there’s a huge spider waiting for me in the corner. She has long hairy legs and is hanging out right above my clothes and most of my stuff. I’m terrified. Thankfully we have slippers. She’s just too large to be a roommate. Sorry spider. In my mind I’m communicating with the spider, because I feel guilty. “ Maybe next time  I’ll be more brave so I can put you outside.”

On my last day I go looking for turtles. I see a lot of colorful fish and nice coral, but the turtles have stayed in today. And that’s always a good reason to come back another time.


Sanur’s Empty Beach

It’s Sunday, late in the afternoon. While I’m walking to my guesthouse I get a first impression of Sanur. I pass a small market, right near the beach with a lot of activity. Restaurants, massage shops, souvenir shops, tour agents, all seem to be fighting for a little bit of my attention. There is a walkway next to the beach which makes it easy to walk. I understand immediately why this place is popular with families and older people.  Life is relaxed here. A bit slow as well.


After sunset I walk to the beach to get a drink. I walk past all the lounge bars and restaurants and there are so many that it’s hard to choose. Sanur is not a backpacker place and it feels like everyone is on a family vacation or retired. I feel a bit young here too. I end up in the store, buying a can to drink on the beach, somehow that feels better than drinking alone in a bar surrounded by families and older couples.

The next day I decide to take a look at a black beach that is at the end of the tourist strip. I’m intrigued by this beach. It’s very long, clean and has nice waves but it doesn’t have any people on it, while all the other beaches are relatively busy. On my way I pass a few statues with violent scenes depicted upon them. I’m curious about their meaning.

I walk down the stairs to get to the beach. A group of local guys are hanging out. They look poor and a bit threatening. One of them comes up to me and asks me for money. I refuse. I start walking down the beach and they keep staring, but nothing happens. I get it. They are just hoping to intimidate me so that I’ll pay. Apart from me and them the beach is completely empty. And beautiful. Maybe most tourists don’t want a black beach? I still don’t understand why there are no people on it.

That evening I go out for a drink with a new friend. It’s dark and we walk through a big resort to get to the street. We end on a small, dark road. Dogs start barking and make clear that it’s their street and not ours. They growl angrily: “we were here first, go away now, we’re showing our teeth.” They can have their street.  We make it to the bar alive and we’re the only guests. The bartender is happy to see us and we have a chat. He’s from Lake Toba, and gets very excited when I tell him that I’ve been there. We talk about the differences between Bali and Sumatra, and Medan and Sanur. On the way back to my guesthouse I make sure not to take any dark streets.



Missed Manta Rays in Nusa Lembongan

Ubud, Bali. 8.30 in the morning. Me and my friend Peter are waiting for the minibus to Sanur from where we’ll be taking a slow ferry to Nusa Lembongan.

The ferry is full, and slow indeed, but it’s not an unpleasant ride. The sea is relatively calm and the island slowly gets bigger as we get closer. The ferry stops on the main beach and when we get off locals start approaching us to get us to their hotels.One guy keeps following us trying to get us to a guesthouse. We keep on walking and tell him that we want to look around by ourselves. He keeps following us. We ask for a room somewhere. The pushy guy says something to the staff and tells us that they’re full. We’re not really sure if it’s a scam, and if it isn’t about his commission, but the staff in the place doesn’t speak English. We go somewhere else. Our follower surprisingly turns out to be the manager of this place. The room is okay. He wins.


Now we can start exploring. We seem to be in the main village of the island. It looks a bit more basic and less developed than  Bali. Because it’s an island a lot of  stuff has to be carried in by boat and we watch how fast the locals carry big, heavy items such as rice bags, ice, and even scooters.

A bit later I walk all the way down the beach and pass a seaweed farm. A woman is collecting seaweed. She waves at me to come over and take pictures. She is a bit pushy. I smile at her as I keep on walking and she keeps on calling and waving. It’s probably her way of making some extra money. She isn’t too charming in the way she presents her request, but I decide to be nice, take a picture and hand her a small amount of money, just because I want to be out of this situation and my life is probably easier than hers.


I continue my walk and end up very close to the mangrove forest. It’s hard to walk here, so I go back and decide to explore more of it later.

There is a beautiful sunset that night and the atmosphere is quiet and pleasant. We watch the boats coming in, see big birds flying above the ocean and listen to the sound of the waves.20151019_183453

The next day we rent a scooter and drive around the island. Some of the roads are quite steep and others have lots of cows on them. We get a good impression of the island. There are a few smaller beaches around. Some of them have very high waves and it doesn’t seem very safe to swim.

We drive up to the cliff that can be seen from our beach. This place is known as Devil’s Tears. We walk up to the edge of the cliff. We watch the waves crushing aggressively on the rocks. The sea is angry here, making clear she’s the boss and in control. I can’t stop watching all this destructive beauty around me and something inside of me just wants to stay here forever, watching the waves coming and going, crushing up to the rocks.


Thankfully, another part of me wants to see more of the island and we continue our little trip. We end up at the mangrove forest where we decide to take a small boat tour. The boat is very low and it smells like mud around us. There isn’t much to see, just mangroves and green water. After we get back I feel somewhat relieved our little mangrove tour has come to an end. It’s time for a drink.


The next day Peter spots a manta ray while I’m still asleep. He’s all excited when he gets back from his snorkeling trip and I feel like I’ve slept through all the fun. We decide to go to a luxurious  resort with a swimming pool and very big nice chairs for the afternoon.

I spend hours sipping my small beer while I enjoy the pool and observe the people who stay at the resort. It’s a luxurious place. Unfortunately I can’t look into the rooms. As a budget traveler I always fantasize about luxurious places with private infinity pools and rain showers and I always enjoy to take a peek at what I can’t afford. The next day we find out that the resort has closed it’s bar (and chairs and swimming pool) for outside visitors who are not eating. We were just in time!