Indonesia: Magic Mushrooms and More at Gili Trawangan
By Billie Tyler
Gili Trawangan is an infamous backpacker island located off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia.
It’s an island known for its nightlife, boat parties, themed events, western food, cheap booze and hostels crowded with young faces, a kind of ‘mini Ibiza’ of Indonesia if you will.
But don’t be put off by this stereotype, take a step off the backpacker route and you’ll find the island has much more to offer!
Transport: Bali - Gili T
When traveling to this area of Indonesia you will most likely be landing in Bali (Denpasar) due to low airfare costs. Bali has an unlimited amount of travel agents, street sellers, and booking offices that organize buses and boats to Gili T daily.
You have two options, take the fast boat (2hrs) or the slow boat (4hrs). Sadly I was on a time limit and booked within the first office I stumbled across.
They charged me 350’000IDR ($26) for a minivan pick up from my hotel, drop off at the pier and a two hour (fast boat) direct to Gili T. Whilst on the boat I overheard a girl saying she paid only 90’000IDR ($6.75) so make sure to shop around and haggle or you’ll end up paying big bucks like me!
Boat from Bali
On the day of my departure it was stormy and raining like crazy, I expected the boats to be called off but of course not, it’s Indonesia! They packed forty of us on a tiny boat.
There wasn’t any leg room, ventilation, windows or outside seating area, just a hot sweaty box with sick bags hanging up in every corner (they came in handy a fair few times!).
I’d like to say it was the weather that caused such an uncomfortable journey but I genuinely think it was the size and temperature of the boat. Just don’t expect a grand entrance onto the island and you won’t be disappointed.
Welcome to Gili T
Whilst walking the main town area for the first time you could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived in Jamaica.
Bands playing Bob Marley covers, Jamaican flags plastered on every wall like shrines dedicated to Bob himself, local dreadlocked men offering bouquets of marijuana and magic mushrooms, shops displaying signs like ‘’No Woman No Cry, No Mushrooms No Fly!’’ pushing their specialty mushroom shakes as a ‘’Ticket To The Moon’’. Cocaine and crystal meth are also sold publicly.
This is what I found the most incredible. Indonesia has the harshest penalties for drug use, the smallest amount could land you life imprisonment or the most common punishment, death.
Yet this island promotes drugs loud and proud! The Island itself is Muslim, drug and alcohol use should be frowned upon but it’s actually a large part of their culture, which they cherish.
Police don’t operate on Gili T, but when they do make a random appearance they normally hang out with the dealers anyway!
On the flipside, you can also find incredible vegan and vegetarian restaurants, PADI certified diving schools, five resorts, a turtle conservation and quaint French-themed bakeries. The contrast is staggering—crystal meth to vegan burgers!?
Exploring the Island
Transport on the island is limited. They have horses and carts which I personally didn’t use as they’re clearly malnourished, or a bicycle, which everyone has!
The locals prefer the sound of a passing bicycle bell as opposed to the sound of a car horn in the morning, therefore there isn’t a single car or scooter on the island.
Renting out a bicycle is extremely easy, you pick your bike, pay the man and off you go! No passports or details are wanted. The average daily cost is 50’000IDR ($3.75) but as we stayed for ten nights we haggled it down to 35’000 ($2.60)
The island is only 15 km by two, meaning you can take a slow relaxing ride around the whole island within an hour. The main road trails the coastline, giving you a beautiful ocean view along with locals waving at you to buy their freshly pressed coconut oil.
Along the seafront, you’ll find plenty of beach bars with multi colored bean bags where you can relax under umbrellas, drink watermelon shakes while watching the locals practice their ukuleles.
Early morning yoga classes commence as paddle boarders, scuba divers and snorkelers head out to spot the turtles feeding on the coral.
Shops sell handmade patchwork clothes, cosmetics, knock-off Havaianas, and various small trinkets to take home as gifts.
Food glorious food, what more could you wish for?
From corn on the cob and pizza to falafel and local cuisine. The choices are endless. Budget travelers tend to grab dinner at the food market.
Three dollars will get you a serving of rice with five toppings of your choice, mostly vegetables, tempeh and tofu, a vegetarians dream! Holiday-makers and honeymooners tend to graze in five-star restaurants with bands performing covers of their choice.
Sunsets are amazing on Gili T. There are swings out at sea you can sit and watch the sunset from, it makes a beautiful picture, too! Horse riding on the beach front is my personal favorite.
It’s 100’000IDR ($7.50) for twenty minutes. You trot in the sea and gallop across the shore while the sun is setting, a truly magical experience! These horses, by the way, are not working horses, they have western stables, vets, and owners, no problem on that front.
Tracing the shore line are comfortable deck chairs, candles, fairy lights, bean bags, vibrant colored umbrellas, fire shows and so much more. The locals don’t hold back on decoration!
The Down Side
If you’re someone who enjoys running into the sea diving in head first without the risk of head-butting a huge lump of concrete then this island may not be for you.
Don’t get me wrong, the beaches are good, but the excessive use of anchors and tourists incorrectly scuba diving and snorkeling have meant that the corals have died and are now washing up on shore in large amounts.
I’d suggest buying aqua socks/sea shoes as getting in and out of the sea is an awkward task.
Overall, Gili T is one unique, exciting, paradise island populated by the kindest of locals.
Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or first-time holiday goer this island will suck you in and treat you like royalty. Just grab your bags, book that flight and experience the music, mushrooms, and magic!
- Try to search for rooms on foot, you’ll find better rooms for cheaper prices.
- Ask for imported alcohol when drinking, methanol poisoning still happens in Indonesia.
- When traveling long journeys buy individual tickets at the main bus stations/ports. Tourist centers overcharge you, significantly.
- Download Maps.me on your smartphone, it's an offline, detailed map which will come in handy!
Boat to the Gilis - www.Gilibookings.com
For the ultimate beach bums: Horse riding on the beach, my favorite!!
Billie Tyler is a 23-year-old traveler from Somerset, UK. She has been traveling for the last four years, managing to explore 40 countries. During her time abroad she started blogging her experiences and personal encounters. She is currently based in Thailand training as an aerial arts teacher until her next big adventure.