A digital nomad's guide to spending 25 days in Bali and the Gili islands
This is a live blog entry that will be updated almost daily until the end of my trip, on August 29th. It includes a day-to-day description of my stay here that digital nomads, and those who work while they travel, might find useful.
Every day I included an all-you-need-to-know about a certain topic that is called Things you need to know.
Too long; didn't read
If you're looking for the TL;DR summary of this guide, it is the following.
I am spending 25 days in Bali and the Gili Islands, Indonesia. I am not doing too many activities because I am working a full-time shift remotely, but I have visited many things.
This guide is NOT for:
- Backpackers on a very limited budget.
- Couples or people looking for a romantic trip in high-standard hotels.
- People 100% on holidays.
This guide is for you if:
- You need to know where can you get work done every day.
- You know how to have fun when time is limited because of work.
- You want to be able to travel around regardless of the two above.
- You want to get a taste of everything in Indonesia, regardless of the budget and/or prejudices.
Table of contents
This guide is not structured per se. I might do that for a second version if there's enough traction.
However, I will link you to the parts that mention the following subjects:
- Part 0: Generic Advice
- Airport Transfer
- Changing Money
- Walking Around
- Moving Around
- Beaches and Sunsets
- Eating Healthy
- Working Remotely
- Language Basics
- Travelling on a Budget
- Pokémon Go
- Bali Belly
- Travelling by boat
- Dating and Hanging out
- Working out
- Open-air cinemas
- Island style
- Part 1: Bali
- Part 2: Gili Trawangan (and here)
- Part 3: Gili Gede
- Part 4: Gili Meno
I have compiled my daily expenses in a downloadable PDF file, so you can see the costs of the restaurants. With the day number and the name of the restaurant, you can browse this post to see the review.
Day 1: Arrival & Checkin
As you might remember from my last blog entry about the 24h layover in Doha, I flew from Barcelona to Denpasar (capital of Bali, Indonesia) to spend 25 days of mixing work & holidays.
I booked everything last minute, but I thought it would be a great idea to request a transfer from the airport to the hotel (in Canggu) since I was arriving at night and had never been in the area.
While it wasn't entirely bad, I could've saved almost 20 USD on getting an Uber right on the spot. My airport-hotel transfer cost 350k rupees, the equivalent of 25 USD, while an Uber would have cost barely 8 USD.
It took over an hour and a half to cover barely 40 km because traffic jams are a constant in this island. Most roads are wide enough for a car and a motorbike while some aren't even fit for the two of them.
The hotel is Kirana Hotel Resto Spa, that might not fit travellers on a budget, but is not as expensive as big resorts. Plus, there are very good Booking.com last minute offers. The hotel is great if you're looking for a comfortable room, with a pool, breakfast included, 24h service, bikes to rent and other facilities. The downsides are: wifi is everywhere but quite slow, the food is overpriced and the gym hasn't been maintained since the early 90s.
Once checked-in, I asked the driver to take me to a money exchange, where I changed the equivalent of 200 USD. I never change that much at once, but I decided I'd be spending heavily in buying all my stuff in the first two days, plus I had to pay the transfer twice thus amounting to 50 USD (long story short, I told them I arrived the previous day to my arrival. My mistake.).
I, then, proceeded to go to the local market to buy some things I did not bring (sunscreen, mosquito repellent, toothpaste & other stuff) & headed out to have dinner right across the street to Fika. While overpriced - I paid almost as much as I'd pay for a dinner in Barcelona - I found it extremely delicious.
Wifi password is fikalicious.
Things you need to know: Changing money
- Never change money in the airports. Go to the city instead.
- Some places will give you different rates according to the note size (for instance: 5 USD at 12000 rupees, 20 USD at 12200, 100 USD at 12900). Keep looking for one with unified prices.
- Only change in places that are facing a main street by daylight. You never know who's around.
- In Indonesia, they'll give you a better price for USD than for euro. Check whether changing from euro to USD and then to rupees is worth it and go for it.
- A place whose rates are way better than the majority is probably a scam.
- Never change too much money at once. Change as you need.
Day 2: Exploration
After not having rested properly in the previous three nights because of flights and a busy social life in Barcelona, I set out to explore. After all, Sundays are lazy days and I assumed everything would be closed, so I took the chance to explore the area.
Breakfast is included at Kirana, so unless otherwise mentioned, you will assume I break my fast every day at the hotel. Hands down, it is a very tasty menu with three options: Continental, American or Indonesian breakfast.
I strolled around the area to find the basics: restaurants, shops, money exchange, pharmacy and the like. Canggu is a quiet area with a couple of party spots and a coworking space. The latter is great if you like coworking spaces. I do not, and will therefore not use it unless I struggle to find wifi. But so far, most of the wifis I've found are stable enough to do Skype calls.
Most of the roads aren't paved and they don't have a sidewalk, so walking around when there's traffic can be sort of dangerous. At night, one must be really careful, as in addition to aggressive Indonesian drivers there are heaps of drunken idiot tourists driving like crazy.
I decided to try a new place for lunch and walked 100 meters further to Ithaka Warung. Very tasty European-Indonesian fusion and definitely a whole deal cheaper.
The wifi is also great for working and doing calls, and the password I have forgotten, but they will give it to you gladly.
One of the main attractions this side of the island has is the sunset, as we're on the Southern side of the island. I wanted to see the entire sunset, but it clouded up last minute and that's some of the pictures I took:
At night, I decided to meet some people from the Digital Nomads community Nomadlist and we went to grab a bite to Old Man's which is good albeit too expensive for the area. This seems to be one of the places of choice to get some drinks as well, but only for tourists. Same as other bars in the area, like Deus Ex Machina, where we found a nice reggae concert and about three million drunken tourists (approx.) on a Sunday night.
Things you need to know: Walking around
- No one walks in Canggu or Indonesia per se.
- Traffic in Canggu is not very intense, but it's aggressive. Watch out at all times.
- Scooter is the way to go (International driving license required!).
- Be aware of scooters, as some of them have a support on the side for the surf tables that sticks out too much and might hurt you if they're close enough.
- The streets in Canggu are being paved and have no sidewalk. Some parts are under construction, so mind your steps.
- If you're watching Google Maps, streets are not 100% accurate. 90-95% are, but the newer ones might not appear.
- The more I walk, the more I get tired of stray dogs. They're harmless but they bark all the time.
Day 3: First working day
After a day of exploration and getting things right, I realised that wifi in the hotel wasn't working, but it was because I had the Google DNS activated. Once I removed them and accepted the ones set by the DHCP server, I was good to go.
If you did not understand the previous paragraph, you might want to read this: Google DNS setup.
Once I got the Internet fixed, I worked on some stuff from the hotel until lunchtime. I went again to Ithaka, like on my first day, to taste the Indonesian tapas and the fruit salad, which were awesome.
I am attaching a couple of pictures for you to observe the awesomeness of the food there. These two tapas, plus a drink and a HUGE bowl of fruit salad + yoghurt + honey, roughly 5 USD.
Because it was also a cloudy sunset, I did not even bother going to the beach, so I ventured forth to find another cool spot to try for remote working, and decide to go for a semi-Australian place called Little Flinders. Tried the tea and the fruit juices and found them good. Wifi was also working fine (password: yourname) but I found the food very expensive as well.
Finally, went to have dinner a little bit to the north, and found a shady place where no one was eating called Waroeng Nonii which was OK considering how cheap it was. Don't expect too much quality for the ridiculous prices. Plus, the wifi was good enough to sustain Skype calls (password: mengkudu).
Things you need to know: Beaches & Sunsets
- Beaches in Canggu are for surfers. If you're into surfing, this is the place to be!
- These beaches have black sand. You will find no white sand beaches in Canggu.
- Since this part is facing towards the west, you will enjoy fantastic sunsets here.
- You can walk along the beach, north or south, for kilometres. Enjoy the walk!
- Easy to spot crabs in the sand. They're harmless and will run away from you if you get close to them.
- Canggu beaches are good places to stargaze.
- Red ants bite hard. Take care!
Day 4: Work work work
I planned to stuff all my Skype calls of the week in just one day, so I could have more flexibility on the rest of the days of the week.
I decided to play it safe and went to Fika (remember from day 1?) to do them. In between, I had lunch. An amazing salmon gravlax omelette with feta cheese and spinach and a red quinoa fruit salad, which were amazing. The omelette was a tad too salty, but that's probably my fault. I don't use salt.
This brings an interesting topic I haven't covered: healthy food options. Most places, if not all, will offer vegetarian or vegan options. Unlike other Asian countries, where they don't understand these concepts we occidentals do, here they do.
I'm also trying to reduce the carbs daily intake to only the necessary, and I find plenty of options to follow this routine. One would think that all dishes have got rice, which is true for the most part, but there are sufficient dishes without neither noodles nor rice.
About half of the dishes are deep fried, which means your choice is limited if you don't eat fried stuff, but vegetables and fruit abound in the menu.
As for snacks and appetisers, or smaller meals to satiate the appetite while on the go, fruit juices, smoothies and other power drinks are the best options (and refreshing). Some places even offer protein extra for the juices, shakes and smoothies, like Grocer & Grind. This place has a really good wifi (password: coffeetime) and sockets all over the place. However, it's expensive. I paid the equivalent of 6 USD for a smoothie (4 euros, for the Europeans). I'd have paid the same in Barcelona.
Plus, this place is close to Dojo, the coworking space in Canggu.
Today I tried to catch a good sunset for the third time, but it clouded up last moment. I managed to create a cool timelapse video you can see here:
In general, I am not concerned about the quality of the wifis, which might have improved a lot in the last couple of years. Everyone told me that I wouldn't be able to find good wifi on the island. Of course, I'm not downloading terabytes of data, but I have been able to download entire repositories of code and upload videos to Youtube without too much trouble.
On the way back home, I stumbled a modest Indonesian restaurant, not fancy at all, where I decided I would eat. I ate very good, for a reasonable price, but I haven't understood what I have eaten (one of the sides smelled really foul, but I assumed it was supposed to smell like that). I can't find the place on any website, so I suppose they just opened.
It had no wifi and I got stung by so many mosquitos it's not even funny. Now, we'll just wait so see who dies first: the mosquitos or me.
Things you need to know: Eating healthy
- You can order always healthy options pretty much anywhere (vegan & vegetarian, mostly).
- They're very flexible to alter your order (no rice, noodles instead of rice, extra of this instead of that, etc.) so just ask.
- Smoothies, power juices and detox drinks are fairly popular in this area.
- Some places offer extra protein for the smoothies.
- Drink coconut water. It's quite the experience plus a healthy option that keeps you hydrated.
- Don't drink water from the tap. Always bottled mineral water. Don't put your holidays at risk.
- If you like a place, repeat. 25 days are enough to try new stuff.
- If you want to eat out at night, put on some mosquito repellent before.
Day 5: Last day of work
I am here for 25 days, and today is my last official day working for my company before the holidays break. Since I run my own company, MarsBased, I will need to keep an eye on it, and have to take a call every now and then or answer some emails. But for the most part, I am pretty confident that my business partners will take care of everything.
However, as I announced in the beginning, I will spend my days in a mix of learning and travelling. I want to learn new technologies and hone my blogging skills, so I will be spending lots of time with the laptop.
For the final day of work, I had to take some calls, so I researched some of the best places for wifi. Turns out, I had been in some of them already: Fika and Grocer & Grind, so I went them to work with my buddy Dylan from the Nomadslist community.
I decided to venture into another sketchy place for locals for lunch, and turned out to me mediocre at best, but I had lunch for about 5 USD (3 euros) plus they had wifi, so I best not complain. The place is Warung Cucu and the wifi password is pastinyaman.
For the fourth day in a row, I've tried in vain to get a good shot of a sunset but didn't succeed. It always clouds up last minute!
Things you need to know: Working remotely
- One can seem to work from pretty much anywhere. No need to pay for a coworking space.
- Wifis are pretty stable, but not all of them. Try a few before settling with one.
- Almost every place I have been to had available sockets to plug your laptop.
- There are many remote workers and/or digital nomads around, so the locals are used to see people bumming for a wifi and just drinking a milkshake during the entire afternoon.
- The area is safe enough to leave your laptop unattended while you go to the toilet.
Day 6: Ubud
I arranged to meet some friends at Seminyak to go together to Ubud. Turns out, from Canggu you cannot get an Uber because it's too far away from their operating area, so I had to go with the hotel's private driver. You can Uber to there, but not from there. A private driver is an expensive option and not recommendable at all, but at 8am no taxis are around. Even less so in the area I'm staying in, far from main roads.
Even though on Google Maps said it's an hour by car, the journey took almost three hours because of the traffic. Traffic is a huge issue on the island, so always plan your car rides with plenty of time, lest you lose a flight or other activities you might have arranged. We actually missed a local dancing celebration we wanted to see because of the traffic. That happened only between 9 and 10am and we arrived 10 minutes before it ended.
On the way, we stopped to check some tourist traps, like a traditional Balinese clothing factory, a particularly a-priori-displeasing coffee place, a silver factory and an allegedly famous place for their pork ribs. We did not like any of them, so you're better off ignoring them if you're not into this.
Just so you have more information, I will describe the places a little bit better.
Clothing factory - Bali Bidadari Batik
The place is on the opposite coast to Canggu. As soon as you arrive you're faced with a bunch of women working by the front porch of a big building, and a swarm of tour guides will approach you to take you around and explain the whole process.
After the tour is done, they will take you to the shop. The clothes seemed to be as expensive as you'd find them in the main cities of Europe. Luckily enough, not a single of them seemed to match my taste, so I bought none. Some illustrative prices: men's shirt 35-40 USD, ties 15-20 USD, shorts 20-25 USD. Sorry, ladies, didn't check the prices for women's wears.
The coffee place - Taman Ayu Luwak Coffee
Turns out, one of the traditional things in Bali is a kind of coffee that has been basically digested by an animal. The poor little thing eats the sweet coffee beans, and then it poops them. The local Balinese people extract the beans from the dry shit, boil them (to eliminate bacteria - thank god!) and then produce the coffee.
I do not like coffee, but that one seemed to please my palate just enough not to pull a funny face, as I do with black coffee. It's not bitter at all.
With the price of the coffee (50k rupees - about 5 USD) we were offered a selection of local coffees, teas and cacaos. About twelve of them, most of which were good - probably due to the high amount of sugar they contained. However, that was nice.
Albeit a touristic trap again, I enjoyed the place, as I could see the aforementioned animals, walked through the jungle, and got to see many plants I had never seen in real life, like cinnamon, lemongrass, vanilla and others.
By the way, if you're into responsible tourism, you should probably not do this. I did so I could say I have drunk something that's been shat by someone/something else. Off the bucket list, but I'm not entirely proud of condoning this cruel practice.
I would definitely recommend that you do this activity if that's OK with your beliefs, though. Check it here Taman Ayu Luwak Coffee.
Silver factory - Indarti Silver
Same as the silk factory, another huge tourist trap.
I know next to nothing about silver ornaments such as rings, pendants, or necklaces. Thus, I can't really relate to how different are prices compared to other countries.
However, I can tell you that they will offer you a base 10% discount for the piece. As opposed to other places, where you pay according to weight in grammes, here you pay for pieces, and most of the pieces - if not all - seemed to have a 92.5% of silver. I suppose that is good.
If you're good negotiating, you can get heavy discounts down to almost 50%. I have seen it.
That's all I can tell you about this place. I would definitely not recommend it, but each one to his own. Here's the site: Indarti Silver.
I didn't write down the name of this place. Never mind: it was not very great.
This was a big restaurant close to nature, like any auto grill you'd find on a regular highway. Nothing remarkable, just very convenient.
The food was nice enough, and we ended up paying 10 USD per person, but it was nothing to write home about. Grilled meat is their speciality.
There are probably a million places better than this one and much cheaper, so try to avoid places like this.
The reason why we stopped in the aforementioned places is because my buddies had agreed to do this daily trip on their way to Ubud.
I will explain how these things work because they didn't seem to know it.
Most private drivers, agencies, bus drivers, and the like, have an agreement with these places. They will always bring tourist to these places and they will get a commission. Depending on the country or the area, they get a fix commission for every group they bring, plus a percentage of how much you spend there. Business is business they say. Not complaining here, just describing it for your information.
Back to topic, once in Ubud, we went to the Monkey Temple. Another rather touristic attraction, but I really enjoyed it, as I got a taste of the real jungle, saw some beautiful nature and interacted with monkeys (REAL monkeys - not utterly incompetent people) for the first time in my life.
Entrance fee: 50k rupees. No wifi. Just kidding about the wifi.
The whole thing takes about an hour to see, or two if you're Australian and like to prank the monkeys, or Japanese and stop to take pictures every two steps.
Out of sheer curiosity, I fired up Pokémon Go to see if I would get special stuff there, but the game is not that intelligent. No Mankeys, much to my dismay.
End of the day. Negotiated a price to drive me back to the hotel, and ended up paying an insane 400k rupees (35 USD). I guess I could've found something cheaper, but the guy was nice enough, had a good car and let me play my music loud.
I set out to try a new place for dinner, as after almost two hours in the car I was starving. I went to GYPSY Bali.
The place is conveniently located close to many interesting things: a temple, the coworking space (Dojo), my hotel, the beach and many other cool bars. The food was great yet a bit overpriced. I ended up paying for two dishes and a fruit juice 236k rupees (22 USD give or take), which is the most expensive meal I've eaten in Bali by far. The staff were nice enough and they had a really stable & fast wifi, so it paid off, but I will not repeat.
Oh, the wifi password is gypsybali. Quite an imagination!
Things you need to know: Prices
- All prices are shown as 50, 70, 120, but need to be added the thousands, as rupees work like that. Example: an espresso might cost 30000 rupees.
- Most places include service tax & official taxes.
- All places in Canggu are obliged to give a receipt. If they refuse to give it, you can have your stuff for free. This is not so on the islands.
- If it looks like a tourist trap, it's definitely a tourist trap.
- If it does not look like a tourist trap but it's in a touristic area, it's a tourist trap.
- Pretty much everywhere, negotiation is a skill that comes in very handy. Never take the first price if it's not written anywhere.
- Restaurants close to high-standard hotels are pricey as fkuc. Walk a little more.
- Likewise, walk away from touristic attractions to see prices drop heavily.
- Eating cheap does not necessarily mean it'll taste better. Works exactly for expensive places.
Day 7: Wandering around
It rained during the night, and the forecast for today was rain.
So I decided I would go around walking to check the area. I'm that kind of person.
Of all the things I want to visit in the Canggu / Seminyak area, only two are within walking distance: the La Laguna beach bar and the W Spa jungle-like entrance.
I ventured into the Balinese crazy roads by foot, which is actually rather dangerous. No one walks around in Bali. Everyone takes the scooter or the car. There aren't even bicycles around. I was the centre of everyone's attention while I walked an adrenaline-boosting dangerous road of almost 5km.
Perfect timing, I arrived at La Laguna when it started to pour down.
La Laguna is a beach bar that is very nicely decorated with old waggons and cartwheels. The prices are expensive, but they have good wifi, and they were most attentive. It was worth the walk. Too bad we had the dullest day outside and could not take good shots of the sea. I remained there until the rain stopped.
Close to it, lay the W Retreat & Spa, famous for its junglesque entrance, worth many pictures.
However, I must admit my defeat. On my way to W, I got struck by the heaviest rain I've seen in a while and had to look for shelter. I tried looking around the W building but found no entrance. It is a huge building and I arrived through the beach. I assumed that entrance must be from the road, which was rather far away. So I withdrew.
On the way back, I chose to walk the beach, which was not only shorter by a million times safer. Why does Google map not accept that people can actually walk on sand?
Since it was pouring the fuck down, I got rained on the entire way back home. Luckily enough, I had a raincoat with me that I used for the first time since I bought it ten years ago.
I stopped for lunch at Cafe Canggu, just beneath the Old Man's Beach Bar. Nice surprise: Cafe Canggu served very good food at one fraction of Old Man's. I had an entire meal, with a drink and dessert for 75k rupees, which is what you'd pay for a smoothie at Old Man's, give or take.
Wifi password: bananajus.
Another nice place I've found, later for dinner, is Warung Bu Mi. They serve pre-cooked food for ridiculous prices. I had an enormous dish of mixed meats & vegetables and a mineral water for 37k rupees (3 USD, 2.5 euros).
Full disclosure, the food might not be warm and they have no wifi, but it's a really good place to go if you're on a budget. You're welcome!
- Pack a raincoat.
- When the monsoon hits, it hits hard. However, it does not last for long.
- I had a little bit of rain in 70% of my days in Bali. Not a single drop on the islands.
- Never trust the weather forecast.
- Weather changes multiple times a day, so you better make the best out of it.
- Even if it rains, temperatures do not drop, so no need to pack for winter clothes/accessories.
- Bring a torch as well. Sunset in August is at 6-6.30PM and most streets don't have sufficient lighting.
- Temperatures are pretty constant. I had between 25-30 degrees every single day.
Day 8: Full relax
I checked the weather forecast the night before, and it was rain the entire day. Thus, I planned to stay in the hotel for a full day of relaxing and catching up with stuff like email, or those chores you always put off indefinitely.
However, it has not rained at all. My entire day has consisted in relaxing at the hotel's pool and planning the next steps of my journey.
An alternative to staying in, if you're on the lookout for something great, you can go to Tanah Lot and Uluwatu temples. They're kind of far apart from each other. In the morning, you go to Tanah Lot to watch the sunrise, and in the afternoon to the other one to watch the sunset.
Things you need to know: Nightlife
- As a metalhead, I find the parties to be too commercial & mainstream. Others might enjoy it!
- There are plenty of bars with live music everywhere I go, both in Bali and on the Gili islands.
- Most concerts end at about 11PM, in Bali and in Gili Trawangan. In the other small islands, at about 9 or 9.30 tops.
- Some restaurants have different prices for dinner (more expensive) and lunch.
- Foursquare is a little useless down here. Most places are new and don't have enough reviews.
- Gili Trawangan is so touristic that you can eat food at pretty much any time of the night. Past 2am only a couple of places remain open, but one does not need to hurry to get food before 9PM lest everything closes as in many countries.
- FC Barcelona matches in Gili Trawangan? Go to Warung Warna.
- Walking around at night is even more dangerous than by day. Drunken motorised idiots everywhere.
- I have not had any single incident in my whole stay, but I've read that down in Kuta and Denpasar, some local gangs can get you into trouble or pickpocket you.
Day 9: Full relax
Same as the previous day, but I decided to plan the next days.
I wanted to go to Tanah Lot temple, but I could not get hold of any taxi that would get me there. Later I have found that some areas of the island, taxis, ubers and the like can operate in a very limited way. In these limited areas, they can only drop off people.
I have been recommended to use this company (from Asturias, Spain) called which allows you to hire private drivers on demand. Kinda like Uber but without being Uber, so they're not yet banned. I haven't tested it myself, but I've been told it's great.
Therefore, if you're in one of these areas, your only way to move around is to have the hotel personnel call a private driver for you, which is more expensive than finding it yourself, obviously.
Otherwise, if Uber operates where you are, do use it. It is ridiculously cheap.
I spent most of the day learning Gulp in order to make this website faster. Because I have been on a developing binge, I haven't done any sightseeing.
However, I checked three new places! Another cheap pick-your-own-food just next door to my hotel, called Warung Varuna (wifi password: makara12). As opposed to the one I ate on the sixth day, this one's good and the food was kinda warm. Plus, it didn't give me any side effects on the next day! Yay!
Afterwards, I went to Betelnut Cafe, as it is one of the best-rated places on Foursquare. I could see why: the place is really lively, the selection of food & drinks is great and it's a cool place to work from. It's got plenty of sockets and the wifi holds well enough. The password is batubolong. I definitely recommend their power smoothies to recharge batteries! I did not order food, but looked great (although not at local price).
At night, I went to Pizza House. I had been passing by all these days, and it always looked lively.
No wonder: the pizza is really good (it was full of Italians, to prove it!) and they have live concerts every night. The band played some rock & reggae versions (Santana, Marley, Eagles, etc.) and they were quite skilled. I definitely enjoyed both the pizza and the concert. Ah, the wifi was not very fast, but here's the password: 07232016.
Prices are ok-ish. Somewhere between local & tourist price. However, it's well worth it.
Things you need to know: Drugs
- Drugs are strictly prohibited in Indonesia, and they're really serious about that, especially in Bali.
- They seem to be really concerned about cocaine and weed.
- Alcohol is ok, and they have their national beer (Bintang).
- In the Muslim part of the country, it is strongly advised not to drink outside of bars, especially in underserved areas.
- On the Gili islands, though, since there is no police, drugs abound.
- Some cafes and bars sell mushrooms, and it seems the thing to do around here.
- No, I haven't checked the prices: I don't do drugs alone.
Day 10: Seminyak!
I decided to move forward and leave Canggu behind. I feel like I've been two days too much. Not that I go very far, but I wanted to see a different part of the island.
Contrary to the calm & chill Canggu, Seminyak is fully touristic. Prices go up accordingly and there's way more traffic. This area looks lively, and taxi drivers (they can operate fully here) are very aggressive and won't stop honking at you if they see you walking.
I got a very good deal at Aria Villa for a night (my mistake, I thought I had booked for two!). I have spent a day in an amazing villa, close to the beach, with private pool.
I have been walking around the area and looks like there's everything around, but I had work to do and couldn't see much.
I've had lunch at The Fat Turtle, which I think it deserves a better ranking on Foursquare. At 7.9 out of 10 does not do any justice at all.
The place is cosy, the food is extremely good and the personnel are very charming. I had a very nice meal for about 10 USD and worked from there for a couple hours (wifi password: redvelvet).
At night, I explored Foursquare once again, only to be overtaken by an uncontrollable craving for Japanese food. I went to Rayjin Teppanyaki and had a nice meal including one of the best tuna tartares I have ever tasted and a plate of king prawns: absolutely delicious. The place, however, is classy yet very loud (the crew chant and sing and toast all the time), so you might get a headache as well. However, the place is well worth it.
Back in the hotel, I booked my stay for my next stop: Gili Gede. One of the most remote & non-touristic islands out there.
Things you need to know: Travelling on a budget
- Indonesia is a country where you can really travel around for super cheap. Always ask for discounts.
- Pick-your-own-food Warungs are the place to go or food markets.
- If you want to play Russian roulette, you can also save some bucks eating at food stands in the street.
- Always negotiate the price with taxi and private drivers. One easy trick to negotiating a fair price from A to B is saying "I came from B to A yesterday for half the price".
- Travel agencies (for boat tickets) will always say different prices. Try going to at least five of them before buying the ticket.
- Walk away from crowded and touristic areas and try to find out where the locals eat.
- As for accommodation, book everything on the spot. Go around and ask. Avoid Booking.com or AirBnB.
- Avoid ordering starters. Main courses are usually big enough to satiate any appetite.
- If any hotel or guesthouse gives you (i.e: not for shared usage) soap, toilet paper and/or other personal hygiene items, you might want to take them with you. Most places don't give them.
- Some backpackers and budget travellers use the snorkelling trips to jump from island to island. This, like all things in Indonesia, can be negotiated.
Day 11: Seminyak with friends
I decided to book another night in a Villa, as I knew I had some friends in town and wanted to enjoy another night of good sleep before going to the Gili islands, where the quality of the lodging is way lower than on Bali.
I booked The Amasya Villa also through Booking.com. The villa was also nice, but the wifi wasn't working for shit. I could not even log in from anywhere in the venue. Check some pictures here (Coming soon).
For lunch, I went to a grill place called Chandi, and ate a marvellous seafood & fish grill platter for about 12 USD (10 euros). The food was really great and well worth its price. Also, the wifi seemed to work great as I streamed a couple of John Oliver's videos (password: chandi72).
After lunch, we took a walk along the beach down to Bali Beach and wrapped up the day at Mano Seaside Beach Club watching the sunset. The bar was nice enough, I really recommend it: tasty food, a vast selection of healthy drinks and fair prices. Oh, the wifi wasn't anything to write home about, but it served to upload the Instagram picture of the sunset (password: sunset2016).
At night, since some of my friends were on a budget, we decided to go for the real Balinese experience and have dinner in the outskirts of town. We walked about 20-25 minutes in the opposite direction to the centre and found a place called Warung Bunana, filled only with locals. The selection wasn't especially diverse, but the food was nice enough. We paid not even 2 USD (1.5 euros) per person for a couple of dishes per person and a drink. No wifi here and they hardly spoke English. But, hey, can't complain for this price!
Things you need to know: Pokémon Go
- Cities in Bali are quite crowded with pokéstops and gyms, and also with wild pokémon.
- Islands lack all of these. In compensation, rare Pokémon tend to be appear more.
- Plenty of Electric-type Pokémon, especially Magnemites and Voltorbs. I rarely get any in Barcelona.
- Since you're going to walk around a lot, use it to hatch eggs.
- Bali is all around excellent to play. Gili Trawangan is good. Gili Meno & Air are not enough, and Gili Gede is just deficient.
Day 12: Off to the Gili Islands
The day before I arranged my trip to Gili Gede with the Villa I was staying in. They were kind enough to arrange my transfer to the port plus the fast boat ticket for a mere 650k rupees.
Since the fast boat from Bali to Gili Gede was already full for the next day, they arranged a fast boat from Bali to Gili Trawangan and then one from there to Gili Gede.
However, I got lied to, as they assured me that, on my arrival to Gili Trawangan I would be taken to Gili Gede on a fast boat that I never found when I arrived there. The guys at the local office told me this boat never existed, as the last one leaves at 11.30 in the morning, exactly my time of departure from Bali.
Some insider's tips for the boat transfer that you definitely need to know.
First of all, book only through your hotel of local agencies. No sketchy places hidden around corners. I know you know this, but just in case.
Secondly, book with enough time in advance. A couple of days might suffice, but it might not. One day is almost never enough. Even less so if travelling to a destination different than Gili Trawangan (where everyone goes).
Thirdly, don't schedule stuff for after the boat. The departure time is never respected. My boat was supposed to leave at 12.30 and we left at 14.30.
Also, you will be waiting under the sun with shittonnes of strangers without a clue of whether that one is your boat or not. Be alert at all times and try to place yourself at the beginning of the queue at whatever cost necessary. I might have stayed in Bali if I hadn't done that and got noticed by one of the workers there that saw my sticker and urged me to board (yes, you're tagged with stickers of different colours according to the company you booked your trip with and your destination).
Because of that, bring plenty of water and food. The trip is not long (one hour and a half, briefly), but the wait can be very long.
Once there, you will be tempted to travel on the rooftop of the boat. However, take into consideration that abovedecks the sun will be scorching hot, whereas belowdecks you won't get sunburnt and if you're lucky you'll have either AC or a fan.
Also, if you are wearing sneakers or shoes, have your flip-flops at hand, for once you arrive in Gili you will be required to get off the boat in the beach, thus in water & sand.
Oh, you also brought a suitcase like I did? I am sorry: Gili Trawangan isn't very suited for suitcases (see what I did there?), so hopefully your hotel, bungalow or homestay will have a transfer or will send someone to fetch your luggage.
Since there was no boat for me until tomorrow, I had to book something last minute and I booked Bukit Kharisma Bungalow. It's a bungalow in a quiet part of town (read: dark & unkempt) but the personnel are really nice. The place is quite barebones and not classy at all, but I really didn't want to pay much, considering I am waking up early tomorrow to get my boat to Gili Gede.
Once in Gili Trawangan, you do not want to miss the sunset. Walk southwards to the Sunset Point. It's gorgeous.
Last tips for the day: go to eat dinner in the market. You can get stuffed for a mere 20k rupees, plus the food is great.
There are bars aplenty to go out and have drinks. Not quite my style, but looks like you can heaps of fun if you're with the right company. It is very touristic here, but the mood around is much better than in Seminyak. I am enjoying it here.
Things you need to know: Travelling by boat
- The boat trip will take you all day long. Don't plan anything for the day.
- Bring provisions for the day, as it can be a long one.
- You will feel disoriented due to the lack of information. Because Bali.
- The boat stops in Gili Air first, then goes to Gili Trawangan. Just so you know it.
- They might tell you to stay on top, but you want to go belowdecks where there's a fan and you won't be frying.
- If the sea is not calm, you might experience sea sickness. There are medicines on board, but you should bring your own.
Day 13: Cockroaches!
As an insomniac, waking up after all the difficulties I have to catch sleep is quite a bad thing.
Even more so if you wake up because a cockroach is gnawing at your fingers. This rather unpleasant surprise almost screwed up my night. When I went after the roach, I discovered the many insects in the room.
After I smashed the roach, the toilet was full of ants, marching en masse all around the bathroom. I had to borrow the anti-bug spray and then pump water all over the room to wash away the dead bodies. Leave no trace.
If you did not like this part of the story, rest assured: neither did I. Do not rent that place. Also, wifi did not work.
After all the bug catching, I slept a few hours more and had breakfast (included), which was a cup of tea and a nice vegetarian omelette with toasts. The omelette was good, truth be told.
Then I set out to the port to leave for Gili Gede (finally). I was there on time and needed not to wait. There were very few of us, and the boat was considerably smaller than the one taking us to Gili Trawangan. In fact, the trip was short, with one stopover in the Senggigi port in Lombok.
I paid 450k rupees for the fast boat, which is kind of expensive, but well worth it. In just one hour I arrived ashore. Gili Gede is beautiful from afar. More than from close, as I will disclose in the next lines.
The island is one of the non-touristic southern Gilis (as a matter of fact, Gili means small island). It's inhabited mostly by fishermen and pearl collectors. It is a working island: no tourists.
Walking around you will come across some villages. Try not to hang around in swimwear to pay them some respect. Also, children in the villages will follow you around and say hello. Be kind to them!
Gili Gede is also a Muslim island, much like the northern Gilis. This means that you will hear a mosque at pretty much every hour of the day and certain hours of the night.
In the most recent years, the island has seen some bungalows and hotels settle in the island, but it's light years away from being a tourist attraction. The island itself has got nothing to see. You can walk around it in the span of 4 hours, but it's dirty and unkept.
They say that the most beautiful beaches are up north, but my hotel lay far south. I walked up to one hour and didn't find any beach worth mentioning. To summarise my stay in Gili Gede: the snorkel trip was cool.
I stayed at Secret Island Resort (one star by Booking.com, two by the owner's opinion), which is a very rustic place in the southernmost part of the island. Reachable by boat from the main and only port (in front of Kokomo Resort) with a private boat for 75k rupees and a 10 minutes boat trip.
The place is charming, yet not for all kinds of travellers.
Secret Island sits atop of a hill, with many steps, which is not suitable for suitcases. It's got no electricity between 5AM and 5PM, and the wifi is laughable. Actually, it is not only super weak, but it's got a daily quota.
The true Indonesian experience continued when I was shown to my room.
The room consisted in a log cabin in the middle of nature, with not a single window that could be closed and no equipment whatsoever save for the bed and the mosquito net (I am most thankful for these two!). The bathroom featured a salt water shower and a bucket of non-salt water to rinse off the shower gel. The sink was hard to look at and didn't almost have water (depended on the day).
To top it off, the wood would creak and crack with every step I took inside there. Now, that's solitude.
On the bright side, however, I got to experience true peace over there: no sounds but nature, a most beautiful view of the sea that allowed me to see kickass sunsets and much to my surprise, I found no insects within the cabin.
The best thing about Secret Island, however, is its owner Peter, the nicest American expat ever, and the main room where the food was served. The main room had also a pool table, musical equipment (Peter and I jammed guitar and harmonica for almost three hours one evening!) and board games. Everyone hung out there until 10PM, eating, drinking a cold one, and playing pool before calling it a night.
All in call, one can't complain for the price he paid. It was truly memorable.
Alternatives to Secret Island? There are some bungalows scattered around the island, but I could not find them on any major booking site. However, my perception is that Secret Island is the cheapest place to stay (around 30 USD a night).
If you're splurging, you might want to check out Kokomo Resort, a four-stars resort in the middle of the island. As mentioned above, right in front of the port. That one is about 400 USD a night, though, but the venue and its facilities seem to deliver, as I discovered one time I went there to scrap some wifi to book my next stay.
As you might have imagined, there's not much to do on this island besides walking and doing the snorkelling trips. For a mere 12 USD, I was able to do it on my next day. Details later.
In Kokomo, the price went really up for, I guess, the very same trip.
Let's wrap this day with the key lessons learnt!
Things you need to know: Dating apps & hanging out
- Bali, the Gili islands, and Indonesia in general, is a very touristic area. Lots of people passing means lots of people.
- Although some parts are definitely for couples (the smaller Gilis), in Bali and in Gili Trawangan you will come across many singles and lone travellers.
- Dating apps aren't banned in this country, so you can use pretty much all of them.
- I have met the most people by using Tinder. The rest of apps didn't report many people around.
- Distance measuring (most of these apps use distance to find new people) is tricky when you're on an island. You don't want to get people from nearby islands.
- On Tinder, you will find way too many not free girls. Some of them have it written on their profiles. Some don't. In case of doubt, swipe left. Unless, that is, you actually want to pay for that (not judging here!)
Day 14: Snorkelling in Gili Gede
The alarm went off at 8am to break our fast on scrambled eggs with toast & ginger tea. That would serve for the upcoming snorkel trip.
As I mentioned above, I took a snorkel trip with 4 other people from Secret Island that took us around Gili Gede, Gili Layar and another island I can't remember the name of. The trip lasted for almost 4 hours (we then stopped at Layar to have lunch) and was really worth it. Although we did not get to see any turtle, the underwater landscape was very rich and - I guess - most virgin.
Tonnes of coral, fishes of sizes and colours I had never seen, crabs & other sea creatures made my day. As the water is very shallow in these tide-ridden beaches, the boat would stop at about 50 meters from the shore. Just so you know it.
Back at Secret Island, I decided to walk up to Kokomo Resort to bum some of their internet off and book my next stay. I also ate a magnificent fruit salad platter and drank a young coconut for 100k rupees (expensive for local standards, but damn well worth it). That, and buying the ticket back to Gili Trawangan, earned me the right to take a swim in their swimming pool, which I diligently accepted and obliged.
I tried wandering around the island in many other places and have found it dirtier and uglier. Definitely, not worth coming down here, unless you want a real disconnection from the world. I don't regret my decision of going to Gili Gede. It was a true experience.
The walk back made me miss the sunset by about ten minutes because we were walking on the opposite site of the island to where the sun sets.
Come dinner time, I took the guitar and started jamming some of my favourite tunes. It was a really nice acoustic Yamaha guitar, almost perfectly tuned and not very used. Allegedly, there's a guitar maker in Bali, in Canggu, that you should visit if you're looking for nice guitars.
The jam went on for almost three hours when Peter joined me with his harmonica and started singing some bluesy songs (full disclosure: I'm a mediocre player, at best. All I know is chords) whose lyrics he completely improvised. That was a fun night, topped off with a couple of games of billiards.
Oh, by the way. Geckos are freaking HUGE in this island. If you've got them in your cabin's walls, that's both a blessing and a curse. They will eat all the insects, but they drop poo everywhere. I take gecko poo any day over cockroaches and spiders.
Things you need to know: Snorkelling
- Everyone, literally, offers snorkelling trips. Negotiate your way around them before picking one.
- Use tonnes of sunscreen in your back before going snorkelling. Else, you'll burn it badly. The sun burns like a bitch down here in Indonesia.
- No need to pack your snorkelling equipment (glasses and fins) as everyone offers them for rental and they're decent enough.
- The smaller the group, the better, as the boat will be less crowded and you'll have more interaction with the driver / instructor.
- Nothing to fear out there: no sharks or deadly animals out there.
- Just don't touch animals, some of them might be poisonous.
- I have only seen jellyfish one day, and I've snorkelled pretty much every day.
- Don't step on or break coral.
- Underwater bags, where have you been all my life?
- As soon as I go back to Barcelona, I'm buying a GoPro.
- You don't need to go on paid trips to see turtles in Gili Trawangan.
Day 15: Bally belly & Back to Gili Trawangan
After exactly fifteen days, the infamous Bali belly got me alas.
Otherwise known as traveller's diarrhoea and a bunch of other bizarre names, it is a good way to screw up your trip. Long story short, it makes you use the privy every two minutes and usually goes away after four days. Luckily enough, I've got a strong stomach and that didn't make me lose my appetite (thus not getting dehydrated or malnourished) and a handful of medicines for the treatment. Yet I could not find the medicines until I arrived at Gili T.
That kept me up for most of the night, so you can imagine that I didn't really look forward to taking a couple of boats the next day. But I eventually collapsed, exhausted as I was.
I had to run and tell the private boat driver to speed the fuck up to reach the Kokomo port in time, as he arrived 20 minutes late to pick me up and I almost missed my fast boat.
I left Gili Gede behind happy to have enjoyed it, and dead sure that I won't recommend it to anyone. Too much trouble to find it and it does not pay off, in the end.
Back in Gili Trawangan, I went straight to my new temporary home. I had booked two nights at Gili Garden, just to make sure I visited Gili Trawangan properly while I pondered the option of bouncing to Gili Air or Gili Meno. Both of which had been recommended very positively to me in the previous days to my arrival.
Gili Garden is expensive for its worth. The best thing is that it has got AC, but the rest is really basic. However, a step up in comparison to where I come from.
The personnel are super nice, and one of them happens to play guitar very beautifully all day long. I really enjoyed listening to his music.
On the flipside, it seems to me that because this place is buried deep within the city (6-7 blocks from the beach), it actually stands in the middle of a very poor region. Much like I found it to be with my previous accommodation in Gili T, this place had also insects galore.
Upon entering the room for the first time I found a spider. Not larger than 3-4 centimetres, but that was just the beginning. Then a couple of cockroaches followed, yet none of them woke me up at night.
Actually, I did sleep like a baby, indeed, both nights. Perhaps it was the Bali belly.
I spent most of the day in the room, researching my next destination, and decided to go for Gili Meno. I had a day and a half to explore Gili T, then. The wifi here really sucked and couldn't get much done (password: garden098). But with the mobile data, I got all the required information.
I gathered some strength to go out to the supermarket and buy some liquid yoghurt (works like a charm to recover your intestinal bacteria) and found I could actually stay out for almost an hour. Since I had a couple of friends in town, I set out to watch the sunset with them.
I went again to Sunset Point, to a beach bar called Malibú, where I drank a fruit juice to regain vitamins. The sunset was really cool, but then again, cloudy as usual. After that, we went to the Night Market to eat dinner and get an ice-cream from the famous always-copied-never-matched Gili Gelato (there are many around town). Well worth the price (25k for a single scoop, 35k for double).
We also hopped from bar to bar until we decided not a single of them was to our liking. All of them were too loud and full of drunken tourists, while we were shooting for a laid-back live music experience. Because it was late, all of them had ended. However, all day long Gili Trawangan offers a very good selection of live concerts.
Since my football (Americans read soccer) team, FC Barcelona, was playing the opening game of the new season at midnight, I stayed in a bar to watch it.
The coolest thing happened just then: they were actually closing and wouldn't serve me, but they told me to stay to watch the match. A few of them sat with me for the first half of the game, and we actually chatted about football and politics, which I found cool.
Come the second half, and unbeknownst to me, all of them were actually sleeping on the tables behind me. I noticed because I heard a couple snoring. One of them, half-awake, signalled me that I could stay and enjoy the match and that I should turn off the TV when I left.
I found this actually marvellous and totally brightened up my day. I took note of the place and decided to repay it the day after.
Things you need to know: Accommodation in Gili Trawangan
- Gili Trawangan is the most touristic island of the three northern Gilis (Trawangan, Air, Meno).
- There are sufficient accommodation types for everyone: resorts, bungalows, homestays, etc.
- Personally, I would avoid the first line on the beach, as it's the main road and full of loud tourists all day & night.
- I also would avoid going too deep into the island. Maybe after the first block is ideal.
- If you stay for long, I would only book the first night, so you've got a place to keep as a basecamp, and then walk around to find better deals and better places.
- In Gili Trawangan, and in the Gili Islands, the level of the accommodation venues drops significantly. The differences between the photos online and real life can be outrageous.
Day 16: Gili Trawangan in depth
How many times have you actually walked around an entire island? Turns out, Gili T is walkable in its entirety in about two hours at a mid-fast pace.
Since my Bali belly had improved lots, I decided to give it a go for the following reasons:
- I spent most of the previous day indoors. I am an outdoors creature and needed fresh air.
- It would allow me to see the island in its entirety. At least the coast.
- It would allow me to find good beaches.
- It would allow me to find another spot to watch the sunset from.
- It would allow me to play Pokémon Go, which I could not do in Gili Gede nor with the Bali belly.
- I could cross that off my bucket list. Yes: I had that on my bucket list.
It took me about two hours, give or take, but I got all the information I needed. After another yoghurt & ice-cream lunch, I set out to relax on the beach for a while.
From the port, I decided to walk up north, as I had seen that the best beaches are up there. Halfway to my destination, I spotted a sign that read turtle point in between two diving agencies. I thought to myself that the turtles would actually be found only diving, at a respectable depth.
Turns out I was so wrong.
The beach was actually nice enough, and after the first walk around the island, I had bought an underwater bag (when you travel alone and you don't want to leave stuff unattended on the sand - works like a charm!), so I decided to give the bag a go (after performing a security check first).
Lo and behold, not even a minute in the water, I came across a turtle! The darn thing was big. The only turtles I had ever seen in the wild, in Europe, were no larger than 10 centimetres. This one must have been at least a meter long, I reckon! I did not get very close to it because I did not know whether they are aggressive or not.
Self-reminder: Buy a god-damn GoPro to immortalise moments like this one or the snorkelling in Gili Gede.
Again, off the bucket list! Turtle sighting was one of the things I came to Indonesia for. Another included dolphins, but since I did not go to the north part of Bali, that would not be possible.
Then, I resumed the walk to another beach up north, and really enjoyed it as well, even if it was windier than in the east coast (winds coming from the west).
Time passed by, and it was almost sunset time, so I walked counter-clockwise to catch the sunset in the western part of the island (it's the place to be) and found myself halfway through my second walk around the island. So not only did I walk around the island once. I did it twice.
Because I needed to do some stuff with proper internet, I went to a beach bar called Serene Sunset (wifi password: lovelife) where I drank a banana smoothie to calm the stomach. The wifi was quite decent and I got to stargaze for a while. No shooting stars for me, however!
Wifi for remote workers or digital nomads isn't really easy to find on this island, neither on any of the Gili islands per se. So if you happen to come across any, stick to it and don't risk going to other places. Else, buy a SIM card here (more expensive than in Bali) so you can tether your connection and get stuff done properly. Gili Trawangan has a decent coverage of 4G around the main town and other populated areas. Not so much on the other Gilis.
For dinner, I returned to the aforementioned restaurant, Warung Warna, where I watched the Barcelona match the previous night, and it was quite crowded. They actually had a live band performing really nice renditions of Daft Punk, Oasis, Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and many other bands I dig.
It took me an hour, literally, to order. Every time I signalled one of the waiters, he told me that his colleague was coming. However, I had the wifi password and my laptop with me, so I decided to blog for a while and go through my email for the first time in days.
The tuna steak I ordered came also late, rather cold and way overcooked. However, since they had been so kind to me the night before, I decided to eat it up. Plus, I had gotten some work done and I enjoyed a live concert! A good night, altogether.
Despite this experience, food is great on Gili Trawangan, and I've been recommended many places by my friends, so I wish I had stayed longer to try them, as I wasn't exactly lucky with my own choices.
Also, Foursquare is kind of useless around this area, as the majority of restaurants have neither reviews nor a rating. And I am not a TripAdvisor guy, to be honest.
Things you need to know: Activities in Gili Trawangan
- Walking around the island is so cool. It takes about two hours to complete the round trip.
- Plenty of diving & snorkel agencies available.
- As any touristic village, it offers plenty of things to do, from massages to shopping, or cosmetic treatments.
- At night, some bars offer beer pong and other drinking games.
- Some concerts will allow you to jam or sing with them. Others just take song requests. The rest are just cool players!
Day 17: Gili Meno
The day started early, at about 8am, in order to go to the port and catch the boat to Gili Meno. I paid 120k rupees for a fast boat, but I have heard prices go up and down depending on the urgency you seem to have for the trip. Since I booked the trip the night before, I might've paid a little bit more. However, I heard people that paid 200k the very same day.
The indications as to where the check-in was were not really clear. I kept asking people and they would send me up and down the port according to a very broad range of criteria of diverse nature. That is: bollocks. Be ready for that.
The boat ride is about ten to fifteen minutes long, as Gili Meno is the island right next to Trawangan. Some people stay in the boat to go to Gili Air.
I went to my next stay, Turtle Gili Meno Bungalows, which is a mere five-minutes walk from the beach.
The place is calm and cosy, not along the shoreline, as many of the other accommodation options, but not far. It is clean enough and the employees are super nice as well.
The wifi is really bad, and one can barely browse through the email. I am not doing any work from there.
Alternatively, you've got a very vast selection of hotels, bungalows and homestays all around the island, for all kind of budgets and travellers. I had no trouble booking the night before, but looks like in the Gili Islands, the best thing is just arriving there and booking on the spot after you check two or three of them, if you've got the time for it and don't mind some walking carrying your backpack.
Gili Meno is the smallest & calmest of the three northern Gilis. There's not much going on besides the diving & snorkelling and strolling around.
In a sense, it reminds me of Gili Gede if it were not for the fact that Meno is really clean and well kept.
As for the size, it is somewhat smaller than Trawangan. Crossing it horizontally took me about 15 minutes. Walking around it should take no longer than 90 minutes.
Eating & going out
Because this island is more laid back and relaxed, I haven't seen any place with live music or celebrations. There are no more than 10 places to eat in the main village, and a few others scattered around the rest of the island.
Contrary to Trawangan, you should have dinner before 9PM, or else you won't find anything open. Just a very fancy & expensive restaurant.
The locals know that not so many tourists come here to stay, but because the variety of places is so scarce, the prices are "expensive" for Indonesian standards. As a matter of fact, I've just had breakfast for 70k rupees, more expensive than what I'd pay for a breakfast in Barcelona.
One thing that has really surprised me is that the local speciality seems to be pizza. Every place has a stone oven and cooks its own pizza.
I spent my first day checking out the northern half of the island, where I found the best beach so far.
Looking for white sand & crystal clear waters? This is your place.
I spent the entire morning snorkelling by myself around the northern beaches and ate at Ana Warung. The food is good enough and it's located right in front of the sea. I couldn't get the wifi to work (it did not even load the login page), so go figure. I do recommend eating there just because of the views and because the place is cool, though.
To watch the sunset, you should go to the part of the island that faces Trawangan (west, obviously) and sit in one of the many cafès over there, as they all look kind of cool.
Things you need to know: Gili Meno Trivia
- The entire island can be walked around in one hour and a half tops.
- Don't expect to find dinner places open past 9PM.
- There seems to be a lot of bamboo tattoo places on this island.
- Check out the salt lake, both by day and at night, to get real nice pictures.
- I'd wager that the best places to eat are actually outside the main town.
- There's a turtle sanctuary south of the port with small turtles. Make a donation to keep them alive!
- Right next to it there's a big "MENO" sign to take cool pictures. Don't leave without it!
Day 18: Exploring Gili Meno
I started off the day needing to check some emails and set things right for the next Startup Grind Barcelona, so I googled where's the best wifi in the island to no avail.
Close to the port, I stumbled upon a place called Bibi's Café, where surprisingly I found a decent wifi. This will be my choice for Skype calls and important stuff. The breakfast itself wasn't anything extraordinary, but it served its purpose. I paid 70k rupees for some scrambled eggs with toast, a fruit salad and a tea.
After that, I worked out using 8fit, which is my fitness app of choice. Because of the Bali belly, I hadn't worked out in a couple of days, but today I felt good enough again.
After that, I decided to get something off my bucket list.
As I did with Gili Trawangan, I decided to circle around the island by foot. This time, however, I stopped to enjoy the places, instead of doing an exploration trip first and then stopping in the second round, as I did in Gili T. Otherwise, the entire walk would've taken me no more than an hour.
I snorkelled in the four cardinal points of the island, starting with the south, which was the richest by far, in terms of fish & underwater stuff to see. The sand and the beach itself were really clean, and I really liked this part of the island best. I was truly the only person in maybe half a kilometre around and didn't even need to take my waterproof bag with me.
I then proceeded to go east, where I went back to the main town. North of town it is quiet enough to go snorkelling, without having to worry too much about the passing boats. I think I caught glimpse of a distant turtle, but couldn't chase it.
At that time, about 3PM, the sun was hiding behind the trees, so I moved to the north, where I had been the day before. It was exactly the same experience, with some extra insights now: the southern beach had not as many bugs as this one here.
"Bugs" means flies, ants and - most importantly - this little white flea-like insect that bounces around you all the time. They're called amphipods or sand flea. They come in great numbers, sometimes, and they can be a real pain in the ass.
As the tide went lower, hence making the waters shallower by the hour, I stopped snorkelling and moved to the western side of the island, pretty much where I started, and watched the sunset from one of the many beach bars there, sipping coconut water. Hydrate yourselves, kids.
It is also worth mentioning that the island does have a salt lake in the middle. It is a cool spot to go during the day to take photos. Close to it, there's a small natural reservation for birds and local species that some websites seem to recommend visiting.
I wrapped up the day by eating like a m*therf*cker in the Rust Waruna that's by the port. Ate an indecent amount of fish & seafood for about 25 USD. Not really the best quality, but can't complain, given the copious amount of food on the dishes and the price. Don't order western food, as it's of the worst quality. Try to get only local dishes.
The wifi here is actually quite good (password: freshjuice), so I'm adding it to the list of wifi worth working with.
Holy cow! This thing has been growing too much. I might have to chunk it up in parts or else publish it as an ebook. No one's going to read something over an hour long.
Things you need to know: Language basics
- Pagi - Good morning!
- Halo - Hello!
- Silakan - Please.
- Sampai yimpai - Goodbye!
- Terima kasih - Thank you.
- Terima kasih kembali - You're welcome.
- Ya - Yes.
- Tidak - No.
- Air minum - Mineral water.
- Merdeka - Freedom.
Day 19: Relax & Books
After almost two years and twenty books in between, I finally finished the A Song of Fire and Ice book saga. That means I can watch the Game of Throne series.
On day 19th, I realised that I was getting more and more bored on Gili Meno, which is precisely what I wanted to do in this trip: reach a place with nothing more to do than sitting on the sand and let time pass.
I liked this feeling so much that I extended one day my stay here. Six days on an island like this one is quite a challenge for an active person such as me, but it also helps me get shit done like finishing books.
My entire day consisted of trying new Warunas (Indonesian food places) while finishing the book. Nothing remarkable: not a single acceptable wifi and the places I tried were quite average.
I was so fixed finishing the book, that I inadvertently missed the dinner deadline. Remember that all restaurants close at 9PM? I didn't.
For good or for bad, one restaurant was open. Karma Beach Club is open until 10.30PM. It's pricey, but the place is worth it. I ate a tuna tartar and a Portuguese Cataplana while enjoying a nice acoustic guitar concert. The wifi wasn't too bad (password: karmareef123). I really recommend this place for that special night or for when you just want to treat yourself to a very good dinner.
I wrapped up the day by playing billiards at Kura Kura Beach Resort. Their wifi is rather bad, but the place is comfortable enough to be patient.
Things you need to know: Moving around in Gili Meno
- You'll spend a lot of time walking around, so keep Pokémon Go open and hatch those damn eggs!
- Don't rent a bike unless you only move in the inner part of the island. There's too much sand to make it worth it.
- You can always travel with a horse cart, but it's expensive and there aren't many around the island. Chances are when you need them, you won't find them.
- You really do not need to walk around the beach. There are plenty of paths and streets that cross the island vertically and horizontally.
- At night, make sure you bring a torch or you'll find yourself walking into horse dung or puddles of mud if you're outside of town.
- Lots of frogs and crabs crossing your path at night. Watch your steps!
Day 20: Snorkel trip
I freaking love the people at Turtle Gili Meno Bungalows. They're making my stay unforgettable.
They are super attentive, nice and always there, offering help here and there. For instance, with a snorkel trip.
At first, when they said 500k for a private trip, I was quite sceptical. Public trips (20+ people) cost 200k, so I decided to pay a little bit more and have it just for me. Boy, was I right about that.
In about an hour and a half, we checked four points: the turtle point, the coral garden, a sunken ship and a nameless spot. In the first two of them, we stopped close to the other boats (public, most of them) and saw them swarming with people. I would not have enjoyed that.
Another thing I liked about my boat is that this one had safety jackets and other equipment (the one in Gili Gede did not have it!).
The turtle point was really nice. Turtles must've been about 15-20 meters deep, too much for me, but you could see them clearly. On the way to the turtle point we saw a couple coming to the surface and once there, one of them came relatively close to us.
The coral garden was easily the best spot of all four because it was shallower and one could get through the coral and very close to cool things. Same with the nameless spot, but I didn't find it that interesting save for a couple of weird fishes and a squid (first time I see one alive!).
Both the turtle and the sunken ship spots were cool but too deep for one to snorkel around. Diving there would've been quite an experience, though. Around the ship, I saw so many divers, so I guess that's the thing to do!
My afternoon adventures brought me to find one of the coolest places with the best food. It's actually called Diana Cafe, and I found the best people, really refreshing fruit, milkshakes and a super tasty cheese & vegetables omelette (big, really big!) and one of the coolest setups to watch the sunset. A priceless finding!
At night I decided to return to Rust Restaurant because of its good internet but found that it wasn't working nearly as good. In fact, I couldn't even get Gmail to load. Maybe it was too crowded by the time I arrived, so I blogged instead.
Things you need to know: Working Out
- Working out while you travel can be difficult. I, for one, use 8fit. I get no commission out of this. I'm just a happy user.
- 8fit gives you high-intensity workouts that last no longer than 20 minutes, so you can take your daily dose of exercise while having time to enjoy everything else.
- In Bali, there are enough gyms for you to choose from. Most of them have daily passes.
- High-class hotels tend to have their own gym. On Booking.com you can actually filter your search to get only facilities with a gym.
- I saw a gym on Gili Air but didn't really notice any on Trawangan. I'm sure there's one or two, given that it is the biggest and the most touristic of the three northern Gilis.
- I haven't seen any gym on Gili Trawangan.
- If neither gyms nor apps are your thing, walking is pretty good exercise.
- You'll also swim a lot, especially if you dive or snorkel.
Day 21: Working from Gili Meno
As my flight back is on the 29th, I've resolved to plan my way back to the airport and work a little bit to tackle some of the tasks I need to take care of next week. Since I will be travelling a couple of days, I need to tackle some stuff before the flights.
After having exercised with 8fit again, I resolved to go to Malligan's Cafe to go and taste their pizza. After all, Gili Meno is famous for their pizzas, and Foursquare seems to agree that here's the place to satisfy my pizza needs.
The pizza is not great. It's average, at best. But it's pizza, and as many say: good pizza is good, and bad pizza is still good.
This is actually a good place to work, as they have sockets. It's the only place I've seen that they have got sockets available. But we're talking that all the bars/restaurants/cafes on the island are on the beach, so I don't know how well fares that with electric installations. The wifi, however, was not working today, but the password is uni123456. Will try again another time.
Yesterday, I booked my boat passage back to Bali through my hotel, which was super easy. The trip cost 450k rupees and includes transport to wherever you need to be in Bali.
I checked out another place that I have been seeing for days: Cafe Gili. It must be a really new place, as it is not in either Tripadvisor or Foursquare. So I linked to their coordinates on Google Maps instead.
As most places on the south-western side of the island, it has a really nice swimming pool. The wifi is quite good (username: meno password: 123) and the food tastes amazing. A real good discovery, plus the pool is just too cool to wash off the salt from the sea.
I wrapped up the day having dinner at WeBe' Cafe, where I had a seafood kebab (kebab is a skewer, not that pita-wrapped thing we eat in the west!) and enjoyed another great acoustic concert.
Things you need to know: Island style
- Things take longer on the islands. It's a pretty widespread tendency everywhere, but on the Gili islands, some things seem to take a lot of time.
- There's a general sense of "I don't give a fuck" about stuff that is both cool and frustrating at times.
- When you arrive at a cafe or restaurant, do not expect them to notice you. Wave at the waiters when they look in your direction.
- Waiting for an hour to get your food is seemingly accepted here.
Day 22: Daily excursion to Gili Air
In my last day on Gili Meno, I decided to do a quick trip to Gili Air. If you go to the port and ask for the "Island Hopping" ticket (35k rupees one way), you can experience 5 hours of Gili Air.
The boat leaves at about 10AM and returns at 3PM.
The island can be walked around in about 45-50 minutes, depending on your pace. As I had a really windy day, sitting on the beach wasn't really comfortable. Instead, I just walked about and then grabbed lunch at Mowies, which is the highest-rated place of the island on Foursquare. That must be a thing.
The tuna burger was really freaking good and overall the place was dope. A beach bar with a really cool vibe The wifi wasn't very good, but enough to check some websites and maybe email (username: aali password: 123).
The boat back was rocking too much because of the wind and some people got seriously seasick. The situation worsened when we couldn't make port because the sea was so wild, and the 10-minute boat trip turned into a 40-something-minutes wild ride! I kept on reading on my Kindle, but at times it felt like we would drown!
Back to safety, I decided to return to the comforts of Gili Café, where I went yesterday, to write this, eat some fresh fruit (overpriced but tasty!) and relax by the pool. I've also witnessed my last sunset on this charming island.
As it was my last night on the island and the weather forecast for tomorrow is windy I decided to eat well tonight. If I die tomorrow on the boat back to Bali, I will die with lobster in my belly.
I went back to Karma Beach Club and ordered Grilled Octopus as a starter, and 350g of lobster. I topped it off with a chocolate mousse.
I cannot recall any time in my life where I ate an octopus as good as this one. It was just delicious: tender as it can get and crispy where needed. It was a real delicatessen. As for the lobster, I can only recommend it. I cannot recall whether I had eaten lobster before in my life, so I found it magnificent.
If death should find me in my sleep tonight, or tomorrow on the boat, I will face it with a grin.
Things you need to know: Movies
- I have found a very interesting culture of open-air cinemas in both Bali and the Gili Islands.
- Some bars will project a different movie every night that you can watch for free (provided you are a customer at said bar).
- Movies are in English with English subtitles.
Day 23: Back to Bali
Power had gone off during the night. I noticed when the AC stopped working as I was reading before falling asleep. When I woke up in the morning, there was no power yet.
Turns out, something had broken and left the three Gili islands without electricity. Luckily enough, my devices' batteries (iPad, phone, laptop) were almost full, and I had a SIM card, so I didn't need to depend on wifi.
I packed up under the constant glare of a big spider (half an inch, this time) which, judging by the size of it, might be the next tenant of the room.
If you're to leave Meno direction Bali, you'll go with the fast boat that first stops in Trawangan. Check-out time, 10.30AM in the port, and departure time at 11.30AM.
The boat arrived on time, but because the bad weather rendered a very windy day, we had to board the boat in turns. In Gili Meno, the fast boat doesn't reach the shore (I think it's due to the coral reef that surrounds the islands, hence water not being sufficiently deep), so a floating platform transfers people from the shore to the boat. We did it in two turns and, boy was the sea raging!
I took the first turn and hoped that waiting in the big boat for the second turn would be safer, but the boat rocked heavily. At times, I felt like the waves would turn either the platform or the boat upside down. Or both.
Once we had been all loaded, we set off to Gili Trawangan (barely 15 minutes ride) to exchange some passengers. I don't know how they do it to unload the proper luggage all the time, and hope mine will make it to Bali.
Loading in Trawangan, with a more clement weather, was easier and thus fast. In less than 20 minutes we were headed towards the northern part of Bali (Padang Bay), where the transfer to the hotel and my suitcase (hopefully!) would meet me.
It took one hour from Gili Trawangan to Padang Bay, but the boat took almost another hour to park in the port, as there seemed to be a lot of traffic today.
Once there, you will be swarmed by tonnes of taxi drivers telling you that the bus is "long ride" which will take "three or four hours". Screw that. It only took one hour and a half to reach Kuta and we had some traffic.
In Padang Bay, there's a public toilet (3k rupees) and plenty of stores to buy food, in case you didn't bring it from home.
Once in Kuta, I was barely 1km away from the hotel, so I didn't even bother taking a taxi (they leave you in some big bus stop).
So I left Gili Meno at 11.30 and arrived at J4 Hotel at 17.30. Six hours from door to door. Luckily enough, the bus trip was kinda fun playing Pokémon Go (lots of Pokéstops along the road!).
This hotel is really incredible, for the price I paid for a room (40 euros). It's got a rooftop swimming pool, the facilities are really good (I'd say it could be a 4-stars hotel), the wifi works very well and the bar & restaurant prices are very affordable. Furthermore, the food is really good. I cannot recommend this place enough.
I just spent the rest of the evening at the hotel, eating at their restaurant and chilling in the pool, to charge batteries for the flights on the next day.
Things you need to know: Down in Kuta
- If you happen to go down to Kuta, you'll be amazed on how more intense it is compared to Canggu or Ubud.
- You will feel as a complete tourist and be treated like that everywhere.
- Pickpockets happen to be frequent, sadly.
- Everyone will offer you a ride, drugs or other kinds of services as you walk down the street.
- The city centre looks like a massive shopping mall. You can buy anything.
Day 24: Back home
Before I went to bed, I discovered the only downside to having chosen this hotel: it is located between two nightclubs. Two loud nightclubs. However, nothing that some earplugs cannot solve. I slept like a baby, and this hasn't changed my opinion about the hotel at all.
I am amazed at the value they provide for barely 40 euros a night. The free buffet breakfast was nothing short of exceptional, and being able to sunbathe and chill by the pool until checkout (12PM) was really great. I am extremely thankful for this experience.
I took (alegally) an Uber to the airport. From where I was, taxis would ask for 100-150k rupees to take me to the airport, which was a robbery. I paid 31k rupees with Uber.
When I arrived in Denpasar, it was already dark and I was kind of tired. I failed to observe how beautiful this airport is. It is built with the style of a traditional temple and there are gardens and paintings everywhere.
Because I went to the airport six hours prior to the flight (I had nothing better to do), I decided to explore it a little bit. I found it quite expensive, and it could offer more sockets to visitors, but overall it's a good airport.
And thus, this guide ends. Finish. Finito. Ende. Fin. EOF (for the geeks!)
Things you need to know: Denpasar International Airport
- Expensive as fuck!
- Beautiful, however, and worthy of some photos.
- Use Uber to get to it from Kuta. You might not find Uber if you're northern than Seminyak.
- Because of traffic, make sure you leave for the airport fairly early. You don't want to be stuck in traffic when your plane is taking off.
- Albeit expensive, the food is great in most places.
- There's a nice selection of shops. I really liked the business & management section of the bookstore and felt tempted to buy all of them!
- There're a Pokémon Go gym and some stops so you can pack up stuff before your flight!
- There's free wifi but I didn't get to test it, as I used my SIM card to tether my last megabytes.
- Sockets are hard to find unless you're in a restaurant or cafeteria.