The Gili islands are a set of three (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) situated on the northwest coast of Lombok. The largest and most popular one is Gili Trawangan, and that’s where we decided to go.
After a rough end to my trip to Thailand (more on that later) in December, all I wanted to do for my next vacation was to go somewhere relaxing, isolated and devoid of people. When most people think of Indonesia, Bali is the first and only thing that comes to mind. Now that I’ve been to Indonesia, this truly blows my mind as the country has over seventeen thousand islands and is the fourth most populous country in the entire world. There’s a lot of ground to cover other than Bali.
A bit of research turned up Lombok, referred to by many as “what Bali used to be”. We booked our tickets for $200* round trip to get there from Shanghai through AirAsia, with the standard layover in Kuala Lumpur.
For our first few days, we booked a nice villa for $40 per night near the township of Senggigi. It was near a private beach, accessible by a walkway lined with palm trees. Here’s the view at sunset. Not bad, eh?
For our first full day on the island, we rented a motorbike ($5 for the day) and explored.
We were on the hunt for peresean, a traditional stick fighting festival that was supposedly taking place on the island that week. I say ‘supposedly’ because we kept stopping to ask people and got a different answer every time. But hey, it’s all about the journey not the destination (spoiler alert: we never found it). We did however find Kuta Beach, and not unlike Kuta Beach in Phuket it was pretty touristy and grimy. This was the first sign of tourism I had really seen on the island so far. We didn’t stay long because it was a 3 hour journey back home, but I found out later there are a couple of nice surf spots there.
This was my first time visiting a Muslim country, incidentally the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world. Many women wear a hijab and many don’t; there’s an interesting article about that here. There are call to prayers throughout the day (starting at 5am) and you can hear the chants and prayers reverberating through the entire island via loudspeaker.
The following day, we booked a private car to see some of the sights around the island. For $30 a day and 4-5 hours of driving, it’s not a bad deal. Our first stop was the Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep waterfalls. It was a fun little hike (approx. 1 hour long) and a little more challenging than I expected.
Let’s take a look at some great places I visited in Japan, based on one roll of film on a disposable Fujifilm camera I bought at a 7/11 in Tokyo.
I’ve got a lot more photos that I took on my DSLR, but you don’t get such a luxury with a disposable camera. You really have to pick the special moments, and I think these photos encapsulate some of the most beautiful times.
First, a day in Tokyo. Lots of cute girls in kimonos walking around. A quick hop on the shinkansen and we are on our way to…
A rare sighting of a beer vending machine. I really enjoyed walking the streets of Osaka, especially at night. We befriended some cool moms at a local coffee shop, some Korean tourists and some skaters on our cruises around at night.
A quiet and clean street right near our Airbnb.
A quick train ride away from Kyoto. I recommend renting a bike around the train station, as many nice places are easily accessible and there is a lot to see. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial is lovely, and so is Hiroshima Castle (pictured above). If you want to see the Miyajima Floating Shrine make sure you get there early, as the last boat rides end around 5pm every day.
If you’ve just got time to see one thing in Kobe, Nunobiki Falls is a lovely hike. It’s quite close to the Kobe Herb Gardens; walk or take a gondola to the very top for some pretty spectacular views.
6. Takamatsu & Naoshima Island
This is one of the rare, pure and untouched places left on this earth and I hope it remains that way forever. What we did is stay in a cheap hostel in Takamatsu and take the ferry over to Naoshima Island, but it is possible to stay directly on the island in an Airbnb. While you could just be satisfied trying local cuisine (they are best known for their udon) and cycling around, if you’ve got the chance I highly recommend visiting the Chichu art museum. Naoshima is known as the art island, after all. I’m personally a big fan of going to art galleries but Chichu can convert even the biggest skeptic.
7. Nagano & Obuse
For the final leg of the trip I stayed in Nagano, a wholesome northern Japanese town with great sushi and kooky, friendly people. I took the bus out to the Jigokudani Monkey Park in the morning, spent a few hours there and then took the shinkansen back. On the way I made a quick stop in Obuse, a quiet town with some art galleries and temples.