After a minibreak on the Gili Islands off Lombok, I will never again complain about having to keep my finger on the button on the hairdryer in a hotel room.
When I said I wanted a non-commercial holiday destination, with traditional Indonesian accommodation and an untouched landscape, I imagined arriving at an idyllic resort, carefully moulded, manufactured and marketed to suit the expat visitor. I imagined the promised bijou accommodation would possibly have a large terraced area to the rear along with an infinity plunge pool or at very least a temperature controlled outdoor Jacuzzi. I imagined the promised mosquito nets were to add romantic effect and that these would be seductively strewn around the bed, but not used, I also pictured a handful of pink rose petals scattered round about for further effect. I imagined top of the range silent air conditioning units, invisible to the naked eye but effective in creating the perfect 21’c temperature throughout the bedroom, dressing areas, lounge areas, entrance and bathroom spaces. I imagined large double, even treble doors, opening out onto the breath-taking sea views, I imagined it was on this balcony we would drink our Eu 3.99 bottle of Torres whilst listening to the local girls playing music on coconuts while the local men hummed a hypnotic mantra. I imagined a selfie with all this in the background as the perfect profile picture for my blog.
When the skipper of the ‘private fast boat’ we hired from Lombok to Gili Air asked us which accommodation we were staying at and steered the boat accordingly than I began to realise, either the harbour on Gili Air was closed or our accommodation had its own private jetty!
Neither was the case, there was no harbour and certainly no private jetty. Pulling right up on the beach, he grabbed a large piece of cardboard and with all the experience of adept boatman he was able to carry off the luggage case by case. Not being a boatperson myself, I imagined the cardboard was to wedge the boat in place in the sea or it may have been to display our names, like a chauffeur at an airport.
When five minutes of fluttering my eye lashes and smiling didn’t get me off the boat, I understood I was going to have to get my flip flops (leather uppers) wet and step into the water knee deep to disembark. Paid in advance, the boatman was gone before I stepped onto the smooth white dry sands. It was here I could see what the cardboard was used for, it was set down on the fine sands and the cases were left on top. Dragging my wheelie case through the sand was going to be my problem not his. The concierge was nowhere to be seen.
Twenty minutes later, after a domestic over the luggage, the need for a buggy in the sand and whose ideas was this in the beginning, we arrived at the hotel / accommodation / house/ cottage / shack. Primary construction: bamboo, all finishes: grass / banana leaf. No glass, no stainless steel no smooth flagstone terrace. The shower which promised to look at the stars, did indeed, as it was outdoor, no TV, no Minibar, no phone, no Wi-Fi and I had the sneaky suspicion that the mosquito net was going to become my closest ally.
It took a while to get over the initial shock of the true definition of simplicity and the embarrassment of hauling a red patented suitcase across the sand, passing back packers who had travelled the world with 8kg on their backs.
The town centre of Gili Air was equally an eye opener, no motorised transport, no road, just a sand pathway being hosed here and there to try to compact it for any passing taxi, i.e. 30 year old ass cart with an eighty year old donkey pulling it.
On the family package, dinner was simple fresh fish on a beachside cabana. Breakfast was fruit. Entertainment was conversation and nightlife was sleep. And the Torres….. Non-existent. (I was thinking of Tenerife)
The single package was different, all night reggae for twenty-something year old backpackers from all over the world, the absence of police on the island enabling perfect breeding ground for every kind of weed.
Making Gili Air the right island but at the wrong time.