Monday, December 22, 2014

Gili islands paradise?

Well if you want to find island paradise you ought to try and get to the Gili islands.. says almost everyone. The Gili islands comprise of three small islands archipelago that falls under the Lombok region. With it also comes the Muslim faith, a sharp contrast to the Hindus of Bali.  I did actually meet some people that didn't like it before I left, and they said it was the culture they didn't like, I took note. I commenced the hour taxi ride, and and hour and half boat journey from Canggu with caution and an open mind.

I booked myself into a place called the Exile for a week, a 10 minute bike ride from the center of Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as I called it. It's the biggest and most populated island and also known as the party island. I figured staying at a place called The Exile I would be far enough away from any madness.
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It took me the boat ride to Gili T before the unwanted harassment of the boat guy started and he even went as far as to caress my arm. I asked him how his wife and children are and he shut up. It didn't stop the whole time I was in Gili T. Constant cat calling, some may have been more innocent but the best sum up of this behavior I heard from an expat living on Gili T is muslim boys gone wild. Alot of them look like they want to be Bob Marley, it was quite impressive actually how many of them pulled it off. They are everywhere running amok, not sure if they are actually working or not but they seem to think this way of objectifying women is alright. I am sure that the party scene of young inebriated tourists really doesn't help maybe build of their egos and feel like anyone is fair game. So culture. This is strong reason why I travel. I did not get the genuine friendliness that Bali had, or any really for that matter except from a handful of younger men. People refused to give me directions when I got lost on the back roads trying to find a yoga studio, I even got dirty looks from some local women, that being said my shoulders or hair were not covered in the 35c+ heat. I met a women that got spat at by a local women. So it seems like a weird contrast of mother's who don't like tourists yet let their sons behave like rasta machismo hustlers, but maybe it's ok to treat a women like this if she isn't covered up? Anyways if you know me, you know of I am not a fan of being treated any differently for what I choose to wear or what you choose to wear. It ruins a culture for me. I didn't experiment with covering up, mainly because I was already dripping in sweat and couldn't bear wearing more clothes.
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I also couldn't believe how dirty Gili T was. There was rubbish everywhere, the local homes looked third world, and people just didn't care. Of course this is a sharp contrast to Bali where the people spend their whole days sweeping and grooming their homes, and adorn them with beautiful items and gifts for the gods. There was also less care around sustainability or future planning. I went on a snorkel trip which was great, and saw a couple of turtles, but not once did our crew say not to touch the correl. I saw a lot of destroyed correl so I don't think these reefs will last that long at this rate.
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I did do a scuba dive refresher and a fun dive with some awesome folks from Australia and India.  It was great but the rainy season also meant the worst visibility they had ever seen during the dive.
The food was mediocre at best. Breakfasts were small compared to the feasts of Bali but that's ok. Everything is brought in by boat from Lombok. I had plans to explore this bigger island to the east but decided against it after my experience on Gili T. I have thick skin but I don't find it fun being treated this way while on holiday, so I cut my week long stay short and went back to Ubud. As you can tell I didn't love the Gilis but it actually wasn't that bad. The roving people only talking about "getting wasted" and asking for hallucinogenic mushrooms are fascinating but I have to remember what it's like to be young and carefree. There were lots of tourists watching sports on the television as well which is something I have not seen in awhile. Our 'culture' isn't really that much better or richer when I see who comes to a place like this just to party.

I cut my week long stay short and went back to Ubud. As you can tell I didn't love the Gilis but it actually wasn't that bad, just different.  I returned to my hotel in Ubud and they are so sweet that they left a petal bed of flowers welcoming me back. That's what I am talking about. A sense of caring.. this is what I value in my travels.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

First Impressions - Ubud Bali

1. Bali is one tripped out place! If it isn't the insane animalistic Hindu gods that you find at every corner it's crazy ass real bugs and lizards that make all sorts of new sounds. Plus the greenery smells so good, and the flowers are beautiful. Sometimes I think I see something out the corner of my eye but it's just a statute of some crazy half animal half human god or goddess.
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2. The people are kind. They are happy. They aren't poor or suffering. They love children and their families. The biggest question I get from the locals are "Are you travelling alone?" and when I answer "Yes", thats all I get. I dug a bit further on this a couple of times because its not common for a Balinese women to travel on her own, she would always go with someone, either her husband or friend. They are happy for the business so do not care if you are on your own. I have never felt unsafe, but have gotten cat calls from construction men. Maybe they just wanted to practice their English.
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3. The food. Amazing. Fresh, local, organic. I took a a local cooking class and I am so happy I did. It was vegetarian and we did a walk through of the market, went to the farm and picked fresh vegetables for the lunch, and made it.. with the help of 3 other women. I learned how to make coconut oil and milk, something I just take advantage from the cans and jars that get exported. Indonesian people eat a primarily vegetarian diet, and eat meat on special occasions and always thank the animals (different from say Indian Hindus who don't eat meat at all). The ingredients are all very simple and seem to be always complimented by coconut sugar. On the other side is the expat restaurateurs meeting the needs of the millions of tourists a year that come through Bali. A lot of them are Australian and if you know anything about the Aussies is that they are doing a pretty spectacular job at creating international dining options and design within this setting.  I don't have a favourite yet because they are all my favourites.
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4. Rituals / Religion.  The Balinese probably spend a third of their life shopping for and creating blessing for their Hindu/Buddhist ritualistic offerings, a big section of their local market is just for gifts to the gods. I think it must be working because if you can afford these offerings, life must be good! If you know anything about Hinduism you know that there are millions of gods. So everyday there is a blessing, today I made blessing for our lunch we picked from a fresh garden and made with some local women. There was blessing at the end of my driveway today, and I was told it was made in general to the staff and guests of the hotel. I'll take it! Even my bicycle had an offering with a burning incense, to protect me and everyone else. I find them to be good fly distractors but also a very beautiful part of their culture. A way of honoring, and taking great care in something that is really quite beautiful. I am able to understand a lot of the stories as well because of my Yogic studies over the decades.

I have now been in Ubud for a week which has included two massages, a pedicure, two banana rice flour pancakes, four yoga classesone astrology reading, one tibetan bowl meditation, one river rafting experience, a local cooking class, a bike ride through rice fields and villages, a visit to the second biggest and active volcano in Indonesia. Off to the coast now..

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