When I Got Bitten by the Travel Bug: Gili Trawangan

I’m sure that most people who got bitten by the travel bug have their own story of what or when or why they started traveling. This is my story of where and when I first fell in love with Indonesia (and traveling).

Somehow I’ve never taken a personal vacation trip in Indonesia. Until the year 2005. A buddy of mine won a doorprize at the office which included 2 airfare tickets and a hotel room in Lombok, and so a few buddies and I decided to take a 3-days vacation together. We didn’t do any planning for the trip aside from buying additional plane tickets and deciding that we’d check out the 3 Gili’s. But everything came together on the spot easily and by much luck.

The first day, we took a rented car including driver to take us to Kuta Lombok and Mawun Beach. Mawun beach is a beautiful quiet bay not far from Kuta Lombok with almost no people in sight and only a few stalls which sell fresh coconuts. We had the chance to taste the local culinary specialty, Ayam Taliwang (Taliwang Chicken) and Pelecing Kangkung (kale). Plus, Lombok coffee which became my favorite coffee for the next few years after I sipped it in one of the warung’s (food stall).

But the moment I got struck was when we went to Gili Trawangan the next day. I’ll never forget that moment. We took a small boat from Senggigi, and as we were nearing Gili Trawangan the waters became a degradation of turqoise crystal clear and clearer, the land in sight was a stretch of beautiful white sand, around us the sea with a backdrop of hills, and the sky was bright blue with warm sunshine, wind breezing softly to my face. I’ve never witnessed such gorgeous scenery before. Looking around me, I felt moved and peaceful and excited. It’s like something clicked in my head. I just now realized.. how beautiful this world is! And how breathtaking Indonesia is. I couln’t believe it took me this long to realize it. To be honest, I’ve never been what you call an optimist, so it was kinda groundbreaking to feel this sudden breath of optimism inside me, haha. I fell right there and then (in love, of course).

Landing on Gili Trawangan, we decided to take a Cidomo (horse-carriage) ride, which we shouldn’t have taken because apparently we could’ve gotten around the island by walking. It was okay though, we had a nice ride around the little pretty island while the driver was pouring his heart out about the tourism industry that has changed the island and its people’s culture. The atmosphere was so laid back, people were walking barefoot with only swimwear on. I even saw a horse being bathed in the sea, only its head and neck peeking out from the light blue waters. It was so surreal. I kept thinking I was in paradise. We had a blast, lots of laughs with the local “brothers”, I did my first snorkeling ever, and I strangely felt comfortable at sea.

However, it also struck me that I didn’t see any Indonesian tourists beside us and most of the tourists here were divers. Morning and noon, people were coming and going on a boat to dive the underwater world of the Gili’s. It made me think, people from all around the globe come here to dive and appreciate Indonesia’s beauty. Whereas here I am in my own country, and I’m just watching from the sidelines.

Right there I made a promise to myself, that the next time I came back I would be diving. And indeed a few months later I was back, and finally got to explore what most people were there for, the underwater of the Gili’s. It was a small promise that somehow came through without much thinking or planning. A small step that snowballed into what is now diagnosed as the travel bug. And you know what they say.. once you got bitten, there may be no cure for you. Guess I gotta keep going, then.

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