I just happened to be in Padangbai, saw the Perama boat about to leave for Gili Air, and thought I’d try it out for a few days. I ended up staying there 6 weeks! This photo probably give you a hint as to why it was sooooo hard to leave...
After hearing lots about the Gili’s on the Thorn Tree forum, I expected it to be like an island Kuta, and that I wouldn’t like it very much. But, I loved Gili Air. I wasn’t there in peak season, when it might be much busier, but I found it such a relaxing place to stay, with very friendly locals and not too much touting from salespeople. Gili Trawangan is much busier and more built up so that's really the party island. Gili Air and Meno are much quieter.
The boat trip to the Gili's was beautiful. We spent around 4 hours just crusing up the east coast of Bali, saw dolphins, got fed and then approached the Gili's as the sun set. It's a long trip, usually taking around 6 hours, but I really enjoyed it. I can't remember exactly how much it cost, maybe around 200,000 rupiah. There are Perama buses from Kuta and Ubud that come to Padangbai to connect with the boat.
I stayed one night at Luckys, which is on the West Coast. They had 50,000 bungalows, and air-conditioned ones which were 100,000. I stayed in a 50,000 bungalow which was basic, but OK. (The bathroom had a shell-shaped sink that hadn’t been moulded properly and looked like something out of Alien. I nearly screamed the first time I saw it, it looked like it was going to jump up and eat me!!)
The food at Luckys is really lovely – some good Lombok dishes, cooked very well. The problem with Luckys was that it was a little bit too far, for me, from other restaurants and the few shops on Gili Air – a good 20 minute walk. So, I moved to Gili Air Santay Bungalows. They are on the east cost, looking directly over to Lombok. The views from the restaurant are fantastic – I spent many an hour lazing in the cushion or the hammocks just looking over at the mountains of Lombok. This is a photo of a section of the restaurant.
The bungalows range in price from 50,000 to 120,000 – but that’s low season prices. They go up a fair bit in high season. The bungalows are basic but clean and well-maintained. They have hammocks and mosquito net and a shower. Here is a photo of one of the bungalows.
The internet on Gili Air is terrible. Really, really slow – if it’s working at all. So, if you have any serious internetting to do, or airline tickets to book etc – do it before going to Gili Air!!