BALINESE GETAWAY#1: NAPIER PRISON REUNION
Bali has been on my mind for a few years now. Often you can hear the word ‘paradise’ associated with ‘happiness’, ‘culture’, ‘peace of mind’ and ‘amazing landscapes’.
That’s why when Gina asked me to come with her to Bali, on her stopover to fly back to Germany, I cheerfully answered YES. I jumped with joy when I figured out that Selena will be coming as well: I’m going to be reunited with my Napier Girls!
I worked hard as a Kitchen Hand, then as a Banana Girl to afford the plane tickets (almost 1000$ return ticket, what a kiwi would call a good deal) and decided to enjoy this getaway fully when I booked to stay there for THREE WEEKS.
Later on that day, we hit the road towards Padang Bai, this little village upon the shore that leads to the Gili Islands. Larissa is coming with us, the Gili Islands were also part of her trip.
PADANG BAI: THE GATE TO THE GILI ISLANDS
We spend a night at the Bamboo Paradise Hostel, a cosy, cute and without pretention hostel, where we get free fresh drinks at our arrival. We’re advised to go to a hidden beach, Biastugel Beach, just behind some junkyard, passing by some cows and then a hill… And it’s definitely worth the walk.
We spot some little fish in the clear water, sticking themselves to our boobs, and most of all we meet Wayan, the best massager in Bali! Wayan is his own boss, and his wife is making the coconut oil he uses. He’s coming every day on this beach talking with tourists and locals. He’s extremely sweet, and his massage is simply divine. As he says, Wayan’s massage is ‘bon pour le moral!’ (which means in English that it’s cheering you up – there’s no proper translation of this French idiom, not one that I’m aware of, though.)
Padang Bai is about taking it slow. It’s not that much touristy because most people are only passing by on their way to Lombok or the Gili Islands. I’m glad I stopped here.
The Gili Islands are three little islands belonging to Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the most touristic one, with lots of parties and nightlife, while Gili Meno is the lover’s favourite one, quiet and laid back, and Gili Air would be a delightful mix of both.
Belonging to Lombok, the mentality and way of life are different from Bali. Starting with religion. It’s important to mention that Bali is the only island in Indonesia which is not Muslim but Hindu. As a reminder, Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world. But in Indonesia, religion is not (necessarily) a political matter, the government even acknowledge six official religions in its country: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism. Yet, there are still some tensions from one religion to another, as in Bali they despise Muslims a lot. Inter-religious marriages are still forbidden. It’s even forbidden to be an Atheist for you have to fill up a form to declare yourself officially part of one or another religious community. Indonesia is on its way to becoming an open country, but yet it’s still far from a true freedom of cult.
But let’s come back to our Gili Islands. On those islands, you’ll find Mosques singing, really often. Some women are wearing headscarves. And signs are kindly reminding the tourists that even though they’re on holidays, it could be nice not to wear your bikini around the Mosque. I even saw a note in a restaurant asking the waiters to focus on their work instead of looking at the women’s bikinis -I must admit it made me laugh! I talked a bit with two Indonesians working at our hostel and they both confessed that they wanted to go back to Lombok, for it’s hard for them to live a ‘good Muslim life’ when you’re living in the middle of bikinis, parties, alcohol and drugs. Bloody tourists.
On Gili Islands, you won’t find any car or scooter (only electric ones) so it’s a real bless for our ears not to hear any more honks all day long. Locals use bicycles or small carriages drawn by donkeys or horses. Those islands are perfect for experimenting the feeling of being like Robinson Crusoe living an insular life, because the biggest island, Gili Trawangan, is only 3 km long and 2 km large (it’s easy to make the tour of the island with a bike in about one hour!) Since it’s kind of isolated, there’s no police around… And that makes alcohol, drugs and magic mushroom consumption quite easy. That’s the favourite island for Australians who come here to party hard. Although Gili T is a good pace to party, it’s nothing like Kuta. It’s easy to escape from the ‘city centre’ turmoil to enjoy a quiet beach or a relaxing cocktail bar.
We spend two nights on Gili T, at the Calypso Hostel, a hostel still under construction and owned by a Belgian guy who loves comic books (but that’s a kind of pleonasm!) In Gili T, we enjoyed eating Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng, Gado Gado, Curry and… Pancakes. Since there are loads of Australians in Bali and Gili, Pancakes became a kind of traditional dish here… Which I find both funny and kind of sad. They’re delicious, though.
I try snorkelling for the first time, and I end up swimming with sea turtles. Yes, man, I’M SWIMMING WITH BLOODY SEA TURTLES. The water is so crystal clear here and the marine life is so rich, that my underwater adventures are just incredible. Corals are bright coloured, so are the fish. And there are so many of them! I could stay hours contemplating what lies underwater. And at the end of the day, the sun slowly setting down, the turtles are coming. Peacefully. I would have never imagined living such a blissful moment.
In Padang Bai, some dive instructor recommended me to go to Gili Meno. Quieter, fewer tourists and wilder that Gili T. Even though it’s the lover’s island, its quiet and laid back side seduces us. We spend two nights in a lovely (and cheap) cottage, with a little terrace and a nice garden in front of us.
With Selena, we embark ourselves on a snorkelling boat trip, which leads us to a corals’ wall, a sea turtles’ spot and a little wreck called Bounty Wreck. The trip was exhausting, yet fascinating. I feel like I could go snorkel every day for the rest of my life.
On our little escapade around Gili Meno, we stumble upon abandoned hotels. This is such a surrealistic scene like we are in a science fiction novel, where the jungle would have been recovering concretes in a not-so-far future. Meno is a quiet island. When the party is getting started on Gili T, the bed is calling you on Gili M.
But this calm suits us. The girls are almost ready to their separate roads, Gina towards Germany, Selena towards Australia, and some relaxing time is mandatory when there’s so much confusion in their heads.
We’re about to slip up back in Padang Bai. And this time, it’s going to be much more difficult for us to meet again, for we’re about to be scattered in three different countries. We promise each other trips around Europe, around Canada, around Australia. We promise to learn how to cook Satay sauce and have a chicken satay feast soon enough. One day.
Back to Padang Bai, at the Bamboo Paradise hostel. Girls are going to hit the road to Denpasar airport. We hug each other while we still can’t believe we’re saying goodbye. My friend Clémentine just arrive at that moment. She witnesses our teary eyes, I put my head on her shoulder and she tells me it’s OK to cry my eyes out. I’m lucky she’s here, my friend from Te Anau. The transition is easier.
And my goodbyes to Selena and Gina are no farewell. I can let them go. There will be more adventures to come…
You can read my Balinese adventures in English on Selena’s blog: SelenaInNZ
LET’S GO THERE! :
BAMBOO PARADISE, Jalan Penataran Agung, Padang Bai
BIASTUGEL BEACH, Padang Bai
CALYPSO, Jl. Karang Biru, Gili Trawangan
MENO SMILE COTTAGE, Gili Meno