Monday, January 21, 2013

Gili Trawanagan Part 2: New Year's

Tim:  The time just flies in Gil Trawanagan. Of anywhere we have ventured to this trip over 12 different countries, we stayed the longest in Gili T (8 days). Gili T is a big destination for New Year's as the island has a reputation as a party destination.

It was interesting to watch the number of foreigners in Gili T significantly increase as New Year's Eve approached. For the first three days at our bungalow, 1 of 9 bungalows at this property, we were the only customers. It wasn't until the 29th that we saw the bungalows start to fill up. We were getting a good deal at $20 USD per night and we were happy to stay here until January 2nd when we planned to leave for Lombok. We were notified the morning of the 30th that all of the bungalows were reserved for New Year's Eve and that we would have to move out the next morning by 10:00 am. This came to us as a shock as even then all of the bungalows were not full.

We spent the afternoon walking around looking for a new place to stay for the following evening. Everywhere was completely full. Of the forty or so places we checked, two said they possibly had a room for the following evening, but the price was $40 - 85 USD per night. We walked around for more than an hour and decided that we would just have to try again in the morning after we checked out.

We did find a place eventually. We stayed at a home-stay for $35 USD per night. The home-stay had just seven rooms. It seemed to be a close crowd with most of the guests sitting outside on the small porches. Next to us was an older hippie couple from the San Juan Islands who were smoking marijuana from a 1.5L plastic water bottle. Turns out the long term guests across the way for us were local drug dealers. We watched them prepare marijuana joints in preparation for the evening's celebrations. The owner of the guest house was a middle aged Austrian man who had spent much of his life in Australia. He was partying with most of the guests. Apparently it was the Indonesian manager's birthday and we offered cups of Sangria when we returned from the beach.

In another one of the rooms were two ladies in there mid to late 20s. One was from Russia and one was from Germany. The Russian girl appeared to be very sick when we first arrived as she was crying about a sore throat even as she continued to smoke cigarettes. We had a very interesting crowd, but everyone was in good spirits and we enjoyed ourselves.

For New Year's Eve, Amber and I walked out to the main road along the beach on the east coast of the small island. We ate dinner at the night market again. We topped off our fried noodles with chicken and egg and spring rolls with a chocolate pancake.

We drank a few Bintang beers, and sat on the beach to watch the surf in the moonlight. For New Year's many locals come over to Gili Trawanagan from the neighboring Lombok. By midnight they number of locals had increased 10 fold from the day before. Where there are often more foreigners than locals on the small island, now there were significantly more locals. Most just come over on a boat for the night and do not have a place to sleep. Many of the locals just sleep directly on the beach or wherever they can find a place. We saw one family of six with four young children just sitting on a straw match four meters from the main road. It was interesting to see all of the locals who brought their children to the party. And it was a party! There were likely more than 10,000 people along the main stretch of road that usually is host to not more than 500 people.

At midnight we saw many amazing fireworks shows. Many of the bars and restaurants along the beach purchase a pallet of fireworks. These are similar to the smaller fireworks that we can by in the USA that have a bunch of cardboard pipes and shoot off fireworks one after the other. These pallets were covered in more than 100 mortars. You only had to light it once and then a firework display would go off for several minutes. Amber and I were sitting so close on one occasion that we were covered with firework ash as they exploded above our heads. Once that display was over we just had to walk down the beach a few hundred meters to another great firework display. From the beach we could see Gili Air and Gili Meno Islands close by with Lombok off in the distance. Everywhere we looked we could see fireworks going off. It was a really awesome experience and our New Year's was one of the most memorable we have ever had.

We are in Myanmar now, and the internet connection is usually very very slow, so adding pictures is difficult.

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