From Lombok we took a 30-minute fast boat to Gili Trawangan, one of the three Gili islands off of Lombok’s northwest coast. Each Gili island has a reputation: Gili Trawangan the “party island”, Gili Meno the “turtle island” and Gili Air the “honeymooner island.” Because of the island’s size (3km x 2km), people get around by cidomos (horse drawn carts) or bicycles. There are no motorized vehicles on the island.
Two cidomos picked us up from the harbor and took us to Alam Gili, our accommodation on the quieter northern side of the island. Water on the island is scarce (it must be imported) and the days are hot. These horses work all day in the heat, pulling heavy loads of people and luggage behind them. Not once did I see them being given water…some were clearly undernourished…
Alam Gili is a beautiful place to stay. “Alam” means nature and “Gili” is a reference to the island. The grounds are covered with vegetation unlike other accommodations on the island which have more a “open beach bungalow” concept. Not to mention, 30 meters in front of Alam Gili is the best snorkeling spot on the island. We saw everything from pufferfish, parrotfish and trumpet fish to three spot angel fish and moorish idols. On our last day, I swam alongside a gigantic green turtle (100 years of life and good luck). Thanks to the lack of current I was able to keep up, surfacing and diving when he did-definitely a highlight of the trip.
In our room at Alam Gili we discovered a guest book which discussed the local culture on Gili T. Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, including this small “party island.” In their information book, they ask that tourists be respectful by covering their shoulders and knees, speaking softly, and being mindful of pointing as all are considered rude and impolite. While locals will never say anything to your face (saving face is a part of their culture), they find such actions deeply offensive.
That being said I found that 99% of the tourists on Gili T. are either oblivious to these customs or downright ignore them. Tourists walk and bike around in bikinis while locals are clothed head to toe. It is quite the contrast…I even saw a tourist walking down the street in a thong bikini. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a good time but be respectful and cover up a little. This is their home, not yours!