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THE FAST BOAT:
My arrival in Bali went without any problems.
I was given two prices:
As promised, the minicab picked me up from my hotel in Kuta Bali at 07:00 on the dot.
We spent another 20 minutes picking up others from other hotels until all 8 seats were taken. The drive from Kuta was uneventful and we arrived at Padang Bai at 08:40.
There were just over 30 minutes to wait at Padang Bai; Which would have been plenty to sit down in one of the waterfront Warungs to have that breakfast that you missed at your hotel.
Breakfast ranged from 25k to 40k and coffees from 25k to 35k.
The boat was perfectly adequate with seating for about 80 people. Ours was slightly over-subscribed so they put a few youngsters up on the roof.
I managed to get out of the stuffy seating area and up on the roof. At that time of the day it was nice and pleasant with a cooling breeze. I think that they choose the youngsters for the roof because on a not-so-calm day you will get soaked.
By 11:00 we arrived at the Gili Air harbour; only 30 minutes later than they said back in Kuta. So, that was good.
LANDING AT GILI AIR:
You hop off of the boat into shallow (warm) water about 1 foot deep and paddle to shore. They transfer your bags to the shore for you.
You run the usual ‘gauntlet’ of hawkers selling you ‘horse and cart rides’ to your accommodation or accommodation itself (if you need it).
As usual, I ignored the hawkers and walked on. I found a Warung nearby and stopped for lunch (30k chicken curry that was average) and a large bottled water (5k).
The island is so small that I had already decided to walk around it to (a) check out the Dive Shops and (b) spot a hotel that I liked… with the intention of negotiating a good price for both…
Many horse and cart drivers passed me by and asked if I wanted a ride. Most quoting a silly price of 100k to get me to Manta Dive (which I already knew was less than 400m around the corner). I offered them 20k but got no takers. 😉
The Dive Shops have collaborated and agreed set prices throughout the island (I believe that this is the same on Gili T and Gili M as well). They have agreed NOT to discount below these agreed prices.
The Open Water PADI/SSI is 4.2m (NZ$420) which takes 3 days and gives you 4 dives down to a maximum depth of 18 meters.
The Advanced course is another 3.3m (NZ$330) which takes 2 days and gives you 5 more dives down to 30 metres. You can choose which 5 so I Included a night dive. Manta also gave me a 10% standard discount on the price.
That evening, I talked to some locals who seemed friendly and honest. They said that:
- Manta Dive is the best
- Ocean 5 is 2nd
- Blue Marine is 3rd
You also have a choice between PADI or SSI certification on this island. My research indicates that there’s nothing between them… so I decided to go with the best Dive Shop & Instructors… and get whatever certificate they did. Manta Dive here I come.
I was, effectively, on Gili Air in ‘Mid Season’. It was actually ‘Low Season’ but also ‘High Season’ because of Christmas and New Year.
As I walked along the waterfront, hawkers were offering ‘cheap accommodation’ at 150k to 200k a night… I walked by until I found somewhere that I liked the look of.
I chose Gita Gili. They have a beachfront restaurant and Bungalows. They normally charge 400k for a Fan Bungalow and 600k for an Aircon Bungalow and 900k for an Aircon Family Bungalow.
I was staying 3 weeks, so I used my ‘negotiating power’. They offered me 200k for Fan and 300k for Aircon. I took the latter. It included a simple free breakfast
- Banana Pancake; or
- Scrambled Eggs; or
- Toast & Jam; and
- Either Tea or Coffee.
They have free WiFi but only in the restaurant. It’s not that fast… which is what I was expecting anyway (and why I bought my own TelKomSel simPATI card back in Kuta).
You can get cheaper accommodation (off the street) if you go inland around the village. It is only 5 minutes walk to the village and similar rooms there were going for 150k to 200k. But, I wanted to be on the waterfront with more of the ambience and more of the action.
Lessons Learnt: As long as you are on the south side of the island near the waterfront… don’t worry about booking hotels and bars with WiFi. Just get a simPATI card. However, when I went into the village, I lost my signal.
BARS & RESTAURANTS:
In my view, these sorts of places can change weekly. What was good a couple of months ago when someone else was there may not be true today when you are there. Just walk around and find the ones you like.
As a perfect example, I asked my Gita Gili waiter (and latest ‘friend’) where the best Indonesian food was on the island. He told me to go to Warung Eazy Gili in the village and have the Olah Olah (whatevever that is). He lives on the island and should know. Anyway, they had changed their menu and did not do Olah Olah anymore.
I stayed anyway and had a delicious chicken Nasi Tempong (25k) with a large ice cold Bintang (35k).
I wandered around the village to find the most expensive Indonesian dish on everyone’s menu… I was going to treat myself to it the next night… I could not find any local dish above 45k. However, you could pay up to 80k for a western dish. You can double that latter price on the waterfront – but you will get better quality / more meat.
In fact, the next day, I had a very nice Gado Gado for lunch for 20k (the spicy peanut sauce made the dish).
The standard price for a large Bintang beer on the island seems to be 35k. This can drop to 25k in a very few places during Happy Hour. The odd waterfront bar charges 40k.
Most Happy Hours exclude beer but give you 2 for 1 cocktails made from local alcohol – which I tend to avoid because I have heard that some places in Indonesia lace the local stuff with methanol (which is not a healthy option); there have been a few hospitalisations reported in Bali. Cocktail prices start at about 60k.
Food along the waterfront is westernised with BBQs and Pizzas etc. You can find local dishes on the waterfront at OK prices but, I would suggest that, the village is where you go for the best Indonesian cuisine at the best prices.
I came with my Travel Plug and a set of accessories in My Luggage fully expecting that I would be well covered. I was not.
The power sockets in Indonesia are deeply inset so my Universal Travel Plug could not get in far enough to connect properly.
In the village I found the Yunik Shop (when I first walked by, I thought it said the Junk Shop – which was how it looked)… anyway the guy inside was great. I explained what I wanted and he took me to the back of the shop where he kept plugs. He says ‘12’ for the normal plug and ‘15’ for an Indonesian Travel Plug… I chose the latter.
Well, back in NZ you buy Travel Plugs for NZ$20 (200k) and up, so I assumed that he was saying 120k and 150k. When I got to the counter to pay I was surprised to find that it was, in fact, 15k (NZ$1.50). He said 15 and he meant 15. A bargain. My power problems seemed to be solved.
P.S. The next day I needed to buy some new jandles / flip-flops. Obviously, I headed for the village… the main village store had them for 50k but I could not find my size (UK size 11) and no-one seemed interested in helping me… so, I went back to Yunik’s. He helped me straight away (with a great attitude and a pleasant smile) and even put himself out to go around the back to get a better colour for me… his price?… 15k.
In a country where everyone you meet seems to either ‘have an angle’ or be ‘trying to screw you’, coming across a friendly, honest chap like Yunik is an absolute delight.
THE DRUG SCENE:
There is a drug scene on the island but it is very VERY ‘low key’ and no where near as bad as Gili T. You also quickly notice that many of the men smoke cigarettes in Indonesia… as do a lot of the tourists
Yes, on the very rare occasion, you can sit at a bar a smell marijuana drifting through the air… so what.
My ‘friend’ tells me that a ‘hit’ of magic mushrooms is about 150k-200k, a ‘joint’ is about 100k and a ‘tinny’ of pot goes for about 500k.
I stayed on Gili Air for 3 weeks. For more detailed Gili Air Information click here.
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