travel bite: Gilli Islands, Lombok

TUCKED down one of the alleys leading to the island’s market, shooting off from the main strip on Gilli Air’s east coast, is Warung Kampung. There are few other warungs and small shops along this road, but Kampung boasts the best setting (and the best food according to signs nailed onto trees around the island.)

I am the only seated customer during my visit. The lady serving (and cooking) offers friendly help with the Indonesian menu, though her ‘English’ is practically indecipherable. I settle for the Soto Ayam. Chicken Soup. The staple dish of every nation.

And then I wait.

You cannot come to Bali (or the Gillis) and forget to bring your patience. Never go to eat or drink when very hungry or dying of thirst; you will be agitated, starving and parched by the time your order has arrived. But this is island life. And when embraced, makes a pleasant antidote to the expectation of immediacy within the Western world. Why hurry? Simple relax in your seat and watch the world go by, enjoy the company of those around you, and absorb the sights, sounds and smells of your immediate environment.

Which is exactly what I do at Warung Kampung.

Sloping sunbeams illuminate the colourful homes opposite. Hanging decorations of dried coral sway gently in the refreshing breeze, dangling from the roof of a bright green and blue veranda. Further down, outside a white stone house with lilac window frames and green curtains, young boys play on the front steps, in part obscured from view by a large cactus and shrub adorned with coral flowers.

A vibrant yellow tree marks the entrance to a local grocery shop. Up pulls a little girl on her bike. She stops briefly to wave at a blond child walking past before flinging her bike to the ground and rushing inside to buy something.

The blond girl continues walking towards me. Her sister in the pushchair next to her dangles a ginger kitten by its tail above bare knees. The animal makes no sound. No screech. No howl.

A breeze brushes past.

At intervals, above the relentless tweeting of chicks, a cockerel crows. A child squeels. Horse and cart softly trot by, the thud of the hooves absorbed into the soft, damp earth.

I can smell my food cooking in the kitchen.

An elderly man enters the warung. His order – wrapped in a banana leaf – is left on the counter whilst he disappears to run other errands. Off he cycles, his primary blue t-shirt and serious demeanour contrasting with the Barbie pink bicycle that he rides.

My soup arrives.

A spicy broth with a hint of lemongrass is laden with thin glass rice noodles. Beansprouts and shredded cabbage are mixed throughout. Shredded pieces of chicken are scattered on top, dressed with sambal (a chilli based paste) and freshly squeezed limes. A solitary egg bobs at the edge of the bowl. When broken open a glorious burst of perfectly gooey yolk pops out to say hello.

Just moments ago I had been sitting at a tiny coffee bar on the seafront, watching the eerily still grey green water merge with the sky above. Coloured boats drifted on the sea’s surface. Dramatic views of Lombok’s hills were visible. But I was frustrated. Bored. Feelings of restlessness and captivity interfering with my enjoyment of the calm scene before me.

But being transported to the midst of island life relieved my stress. The peace and general goings on of day to day tasks soothed my soul, lulling my mind into appreciating the moment.

My soup is finished. I have sat and continued to observe my environment. But I must now go in search of what looks like small moon-shaped pastis that I couldn’t help but notice all the locals clutching in clear plastic bags when passing me by. I wonder what they are filled with…

view of Lombok from Gilli Air

the calm sea surrounding Gilli Air

fresh fish is dropped off near the pier on Gilli Air every day

there are no cars or motorbikes on the Gilli islands, horse and cart is the mode of transport instead

watching the boats go in and out of the 'harbour' on Gilli Air

walk south of the pier on Gilli Air to find deserted beaches with azure waters

Scallywags - on both Gilli Air and Gilli Trawangan - provides a place to lounge in comfort with relatively good free WiFi access

fresh food at Scallywags has a Western slant, with gazpacho and goats cheese salads on the menu, though prices are high as a result

hop on a shuttle boat service to visit other Gilli islands

unloading produce from the shuttle boat on Gilli Meno

hire a bicycle for 24hrs to explore the interior of Gilli Trawangan and narrow strips of hidden beaches

boat moored on the seashore of Gilli Trawangan

yellow carts are used for public transport on Gilli Trawangan, blue ones are used on Gilli Air

eat at the night market in Gilli Trawangan for freshly cooked food at bargain prices

if you bargain hard you can find return tickets to the Gilli islands for 500,000 rp (though bear in mind you get what you pay for - Sea Marlin wasn't exactly exemplary as a carrier...)

Stay at: Banana Cottages on Gilli Air – 150,000 rp per night for two people, bright, clean, comfortable and including breakfast

3 Responses to “travel bite: Gilli Islands, Lombok”
  1. Emily says:

    Your pictures are so vibrant! And you have great informative captions. I especially love
    The picture of fish and the horse and cart. I also love the humorous way you made your point about patience and the line: “when embraced makes a pleasant antidote to the expectation of immediacy within the Western world ” Thanks for a great read!

    • ah thank you! it really is refreshing to have to wait but know it’s for a good reason as it generally means all your food and drinks are being made completely from scratch and aren’t pre-prepared. I had a shock at the difference when I stopped over in Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days…I missed the laid back island attitude!!

  2. thehaleyway says:

    Oh my gosh! these pictures bring back so many memories! I backpacked through Bali and Lombok 5 years ago, and Gilli Trawangan was one of my favorite spots (I was unable to visit Gilli Air). The water and people and food in Indonesia are so special, and your pictures captured it all so beautifully! Thank you so much for sharing. I am officially following your blog!

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