After a relaxing few days on Gili Air, I was more than ready for my next stop, the party island of Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as it’s locally known. Although I had no idea where I was staying (all of the hostels had been closed for a month, and although they were beginning to open up again, absolutely no information was available online), I was fortunate enough to meet Arnold, a Dutch guy that was also travelling to Gili T, and so we agreed to find somewhere together.
On stepping off the boat straight onto the sand (there are no fancy piers on Gili T!), I was immediately struck by the laid back, welcoming atmosphere of the place. There were no obnoxious Brits waving fliers for club nights in our faces, no aggressive tuktuk drivers (the island is totally free of cars and bikes, woohoo!) and no groups of ‘LADS’ on tour that I wanted to punch. The island was still buzzing with people though, and the vibe was how I imagine Koh Phi Phi to have been before tourism took such a massive hold.
Arnold had read online about a hostel called La Boheme, and after wandering around the island aimlessly for a while, we eventually stumbled upon it. It was just reopening again, and so we were lucky enough to get a bed for half the price that all the other guests would eventually pay.
I’m not sure that I can, with good conscience, recommend La Boheme. It has MANY positive points: the staff are amazing and do their best to make sure everybody socialises and feels welcome; the common areas are great and the fact that guests are able to make unlimited free pancakes at any hour is a definite plus.
However, while I was there, the water kept cutting out, meaning that the toilets wouldn’t flush (and when everybody has Bali belly, that isn’t great, believe me), the bum guns wouldn’t work (in Asia, toilet paper isn’t usually provided because you wash yourself with an aptly named ‘bum gun), and of course, showering was also impossible. This resulted in disgusting bathrooms and disgruntled guests.
The bedrooms were also not great, and I wasn’t too impressed with the lack of security – the doors did not have locks and the only safe I was made aware of was a communal one, to which everybody had access to. Not only that, but a girl I knew had trouble with one of the male staff sexually assaulting her – not exactly ideal.
That said, I don’t want to leave too damning a review because I did have a fantastic time at this hostel and despite the negatives, I would still stay at La Boheme if I were ever to return to Gili T.
After Arnold and I had dumped our bags, we grabbed a beer and went upstairs to the empty common area to play cards. It wasn’t long until we were joined by a few other travellers, and soon the card game turned into Ring of Fire and we were all getting steadily more tipsy. After a while, somebody suggested that we go to the night market for some food, and so we ambled down to see what was on offer.
My thoughts? Amazing. The market is full of stalls like this, where you fill your plate full of everything that takes your fancy, and the stallholder charges you whatever it all costs (or whatever they feel like charging you). Armed with stacked plates and ice cold Bintangs, we all sat on a long picnic bench and tucked in, before heading back to the hostel to drink some more before hitting the town for our first night out on Gili T.
Now, although Gili T is known as the party island, you have to bear in mind that this is only relative to the other two Gili islands, which are incredibly sleepy. In actuality, all the clubs apart from one close at midnight on Gili T. One club stays open until around 3am, and this rotates every night to give every club a fair chance at pulling in the customers. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing though: not only does it stop the island from turning into some sort of Indonesian Magaluf, but it also means that everyone ends up in the same place, so if you have friends at other hostels, you can be sure that you’ll find them wherever the party is at.
This night the party was at Evolution, a bar that prides itself on having a million and one beer pong tables. I didn’t mind it, but my friends from the hostel weren’t impressed, so after I’d grabbed Thilo, the boy I’d spent time in Ubud and Gili Air with, we all headed next door to Sama Sama where a reggae band was playing.
The following day was spent on the beach with my friends from the hostel, before I split from them to go for a meal with Thilo and drink with him and his friends at their hotel. That night was a full moon party, and I’d be lying if I said I remembered much more than sitting on the beach with Thilo watching fire dancers. And so my time on Gili T is summed up.
Although I stayed here for a total of 8 days, I did nothing more productive than read books on the beach, eat seafood and drink at various bars. I met a beautiful Jared Leto lookalike (hi Tim!) who I had a million good conversations with, I watched more than a few sunsets at Paradise Sunset Bar, sat around a campfire with everyone from my hostel, played beer pong, and heard a lot of crazy rumours about people’s sexual kinks! I also took the obligatory Gili T swing picture (see below), went on a lot of lone walks around the island and stroked a lot of cats with funny tails (a sign of inbreeding, dirty bastards).
Did I enjoy my time on Gili T?
Of course I did!
What’s not to love about spending every day on the beach and every night drinking cold beers and dancing with friends? Gili Trawangan is everything that I imagine the Thai islands used to be. It’s busy enough that you can have a damn good time, but it has yet to be ruined by hedonistic backpackers in the way that Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan have. If you want to experience beautiful beaches with an authentic backpacker vibe, then head to Gili Trawangan – it won’t disappoint!