Throughout my travels, almost everyone I’ve asked says their favourite place in Indonesia, or even South East Asia, is the Gili Islands. All different types of traveller, all talking as though they alone stumbled upon this paradise.
Gili Trawangan (“Gili T” by the time you’ve been there a few hours) is the famed “party island” of the three Gilis – the others being tranquil little Gili Meno and laid-back Gili Air – and, though this isn’t the 70s anymore, is definitely up there with the world’s greatest backpacker paradises.
I call this a “nightlife guide”, but that’s not to say the party on Gili T stops during the daylight hours. I was there during Ramadan and still managed to only crawl in at 10.30 the next morning.
Look out for a “vodka joss” – a local speciality, illegal almost everywhere else in the world – made from a shot of vodka and a sachet of energy powder.
The Nightly Parties & Where to Catch Them
Some of the major bars on Gili T have a kind of oligopoly over the island’s late-night nightlife, with “the party” doing the rounds every week. Don’t miss out on the action. Unless you’re there for Ramadan, when things are a bit different, this’ll be your bible for the season:
- Monday night – Blue Marlin
- Tuesday night – Trawangan (Beach) Cottages
- Wednesday night – Tir Na Nog (“the Irish”)
- Thursday night – Sama Sama + Pool party at Gili Hostel + Quiz night at Trawangan Dive (Bar)
- Friday night – Surf Bar + Rudy’s
- Saturday night – Sama Sama
- Sunday night – Evolution + Ladies’ night at the Irish
If in doubt just hit the strip, ask around or follow the flow.
Must-dos for a Night Out on Gili Trawangan
All of this is on pretty much every night (except the boat party, which is three days a week) and should not be missed while your on Gili T:
- After sunset, start a night at the night market. There’s amazing food all over the island, but this is by far the cheapest and most authentically Indonesian.
- Pre-gaming from 8 pm ’til midnight at Jiggy Jig’s - home to the “Jiggy Jig’s Drinking Challenge”, where if you can drink selection of signature cocktails and shots fastest than anyone else (the current record is at around 17 seconds) it’s free!
- Bonfire on the beach at Horizontal (they say from 5 pm, but actually it’s whenever it gets dark)
- Shisha at Horizontal or Pesona
- Live music at Sama Sama almost every night
- The pool bar at Gili Hostel (best on a Thursday – see above)
- The Irish hosts silent discos, pretty much every night during Ramadan.
- Walk around the island for sunset and drinks at my favourite spot, the Exile.
- There’s even a full-moon party on Gili T.
- Also, don’t forget the Drunken Monkeyz (DMZ) yacht party!
Other Cool Shit to Do on Gili Trawangan
Here’s some stuff to do that doesn’t (necessarily) involve getting drunk:
- Movies on the beach opposite Jessica Homestay and also Vila Ombak. You can check showings a day in advance. Expect the likes of Eat Pray Love and The Hangover 2. You also get a free can of Bintang, popcorn, or a toblerone or whatever.
- Climb to the viewpoint and World War Two bunker.
- Swim in the impeccably beautiful turquoise waters.
- Snorkel. (The best spot, if not taking a boat or tour, is the corner of the island, anywhere beyond Coral Beach 2.)
- Dive. (Gili T’s one of the best places to learn in the world. If interested, look up Enrique.)
- Save yourself you trip to Meno or Air and walk around the island for some secluded beach spots and great sunsets.
- There’s a turtle conservation centre.
- Take a horse and cart, the only form of transport on the island.
Where to Stay in Gili Trawangan?
Gili T’s the kind of place where you can usually just rock up and find a place, though prices do go up in the high season. When you land, go inland a couple of blocks and you’ll save a fortune.
One place we can vouch for is Three Little Birds homestay. It seems to be run by a Norwegian girl and three Lombok Rastas, one of whom cooks the best eggs and pancakes I’ve ever had. It’s somehow clean to Western standards, really laid-back and only 150,000 (£7.50) a night for the room, in the high-season. They’ll let you fill up your bottles from their drinking water for a small charge and give you candles when the power goes out, which it will. From the boat, turn right down the strip, take left at Cafe Gili and it’s just down the second right, after the mosque. Look out for these signs:
Methanol Poisoning: A Word of Warning
Just remember, this isn’t Bali; it’s Lombok, where the locals are mostly Muslim. Also, with Indonesia being the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country, taxes on wine and spirits have been driven up, prompting many bars and shops to cut their alcohol with methanol, leading to the deaths of many tourists. This is a plain example of how foreigners are treated in Indonesia.
Rudy’s bar, for one, has been caught red-handed on several occasions and yet shows no signs of stopping, despite several deaths directly attributed to them. As you can imagine, in my “line of work”, I take this kind of thing very seriously and ask you to join me in boycotting Rudy’s and any other bar implicated.
Sorry to put a downer on things. You’ll have a blast!