An adventure on Gili Meno, Indonesia
It’s been a magical month on Gili Meno and I am really sad to be leaving in a few days. When we first arrived I thought it was going to be a very slow month but the time has flown by far too quickly.
It’s a lovely little island, it is very quiet and the pace is relaxed. No loud bars and everything shuts up shop pretty early. There are no roads, only relatively narrow pathways, no cars or motorcycles, only bicycles and horse drawn buggies and the very occasional silent electric moped. There is a tale of the neighbouring island elders throwing a motorbike that was surreptitiously brought over, into the ocean where snorkelers can see it becoming a part of the reef.
We’ve spent our time on Gili Meno staying at Tropical Hideaways (TH) a short walk inland, in spacious one room bungalows with a tile floor, extra wide bed, desk and sofa, and outside a little verandah with another sofa, perfect for relaxing. It is good clean, comfortable accommodation. The only real gripes we’ve had have been the frequently non-existent wifi and that there is no fresh water, even in the shower, it’s all salty including the pool. We got around the lack of it by buying five gallon water bottles from Debby’s, which is conveniently across the path, and decanting it into smaller bottles to rinse off with after showers, wash our faces with etc and at 25,000 IDR or approx £1.25 we weren’t breaking the bank by doing so. The pool, albeit small and salty, has been a most welcome retreat from the fierce sun and the restaurant has served consistently delicious food. The included breakfast is extensive and tasty with the option to pay for even more variety should you so wish. The massages as I mentioned in a previous post are superb and Karl, the owner and all of his staff have been warm, friendly and helpful and we’ve really enjoyed staying here.
Other than Tropical Hideaways there are many places to eat on the island, the few we visited included Sasak which is on the west side of the island and owned by our lovely dive instructor Sulman and his family. It’s the perfect place to relax at a table or in a bean bag chair and watch the sun go down over Gili Trawangan. They have the best peanut curry J’s ever had and, like many places on the island, you can choose a freshly caught fish from the catch of the day and they will barbecue it to perfection for you. We spent a fair few evenings relaxing there.
Mallias Child is on the east of the island overlooking Gili Air, it is next to the only ATM on Gili Meno and has pretty good wifi and a row of beachfront cabanas as well as a covered restaurant. All of the restaurants are either totally open air or open sided. We loved their noodle soups and I loved their Chicken Marry Land (typo as read) a flattened chicken breast coated in THE most yummy sauce which comes with delicious mashed potato, it may well have been my most eaten meal if the mie goreng at TH hadn’t been so addictive.
To the other side on the east coast is Karma, which I’ve mentioned before, great cocktails and the best wifi on the island and the food is extremely tasty with Ibiza style surroundings.
We made the trek (ok fine nothing is really a trek on an island this small but it was hot and one of the further places we tried) to Ana Warung, having repeatedly heard good feedback. Sadly we were utterly underwhelmed. Our iced lemon tea was lacking any lemon at all. My meatball soup could have been made with dish water it was so bland, Ma’s Nasi Goreng was greasy and J’s meatballs in sweet and sour was so salty as to be practical inedible. So no return trip there then.
Another place we heard rave reviews about was MahaMaya, which thankfully lived up to them and was worth the walk, it’s almost as far as you can get from TH on the island. It’s a beautiful laid back beach chic resort and the food was exceptional. J had pumpkin risotto which was fantastic, I had a wonderful chicken Caesar salad and Ma had delicious sweet and sour chicken. Sadly we only made it there at the end of our time on Gili Meno and so only got to go there twice, this could well have ended up being our favourite place had we discovered it sooner.
One particular highlight was the women carrying plastic storage boxes on their heads from which they would unload a whole host of delicacies. Our favourites included pandan doughnuts, fluffy little pancakes with jam in and gado gado, served on huge crackers (like a giant prawn cracker) it consisted of rice noodles, beansprouts, water spinach and for everyone but me a fiery peanut sauce and shaved coconut and chilli. I had mine with a thick sweet soy and it was utterly delicious and at 10,000 IDR (50p) a person, by far the best value food on the island.
Twice we hired a boat from the lovely Mr Dean to go around the island snorkelling with Ma, like pretty much everything on the island it was expensive but we had a great time and stopped at several different locations where Ma saw turtles and all manner of lovely fishes. J and I had the most amazing snorkel in strong currents where we saw shoal after shoal of large fish and some wonderful coral formations, our best snorkel by far and our free diving has improved dramatically as a result of these trips.
The physical act of getting on and off the island is an adventure in itself. The only jetty is not used and the boats pull up to the shore and you disembark in still water onto sand if you are lucky but usually have to wade a few feet out on a rocky bottom and in the waves. I’ve fallen, our friends have fallen, J has almost fallen. It is not for the faint hearted and I can only imagine it is even more of an ordeal for people with children. Who, not only as they are noisy nuisances, should probably stay on Bali or Lombok. Rumour has it that plans are afoot to build a jetty out to the deep water, which would be a welcome addition however there is a lot of building work going on and there is the danger it could turn into its noisy party neighbour Gili Trawangan, for everyone on Gili Meno I hope that never happens.
When we change location every few days we don’t really end up talking to many people and it’s been a welcome change to hang out with some really nice ones here, tourists as well as locals. We spent the evening with Michelle and Neil, a lovely Australian couple, a few times and on the last occasion Michelle mentioned they’d been over to Gili T and she’d bought the really pretty dress she was wearing. Which was the exact moment moment Ma and I made the plan for a shopping trip to Gili T. A few days later we caught the local boat over for the sum of 50,000 IDR each, wading through a few feet of water we climbed aboard, luggage filled the bottom and we all sat knee to bag for the short journey. Getting off was much easier than getting on as Gili T has a lovely sandy beach (note to the Island council of Gili Meno, you too could have someone clear the loose rocks and dead coral from the beach making it much easier for all boarding and disembarking from boats). The moment we arrived it was clear we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Crowds of people, walking, on bicycles, in horse drawn buggies. People and noise and ugh! What had we done! Everyone on Meno has been wonderfully helpful, the man at the Trawangan harbour ticket office could not have cared less. Double ugh! Resolved that we weren’t going to stay long and would get back to Meno by any means necessary we started exploring the few interesting shops. Mum ended up buying one very nice floaty dress and I bought two dresses, a gorgeous turquoise and white beachy one and a beautiful strappy number and a tiny pair of shorts. I have made room for these by shedding a bulky pair of cargo shorts that are now too big for me (woohoo!) and a shirt that shrunk, as well as sending Ma back with two dresses.
As well as a few clothes we all fell in love with some paintings by a local Lombok artist, Lalu Syaukani that were on display in an interesting little gallery of shops attached to the Amor hotel and restaurant. We pretty easily persuaded each other to buy one and ended up walking away with two not so small paintings. Of course we forgot to photograph them so now they are snugly wrapped up and it will be a total surprise unwrapping it in a year or so’s time.
Art and clothes bought we had a quick bite of lunch and thanks to the helpful receptionist at the Amor were soon headed back to Meno on a private speedboat. Expensive, twenty pounds and nothing glamorous about it, but it got us off Gili T and back to Meno in the fastest possible way.
One thing that is definitely notable is the complete absence of dogs and the cat domination. They are everywhere. Of course if you don’t like cats they are easily avoided but as committed cat lovers (whatever J says) we loved it. We were even lucky enough to be able to help out the Gili Meno Cat Foundation who held a free neutering and spaying clinic while we were there for which we volunteered as cat catchers and handlers for. Due to the heat we were pretty poor cat catchers and it seemed somwhow that the cats had been notified and laid low while the clinic was here.
At the beginning of the month we were followed by a little grey and ginger tabby we named Esmeralda, who soon became a permanent fixture around TH. She’s utterly adorable and Ma would have taken her back to the UK if she thought she’d have been happy there but as it is she seems savvy enough to get looked after and she has a gentle friendly disposition. Anyway maybe she’d prefer travelling around Asia with us than a long flight to England, note to self, pack Esmeralda when no one is looking.
As well as the most relaxing, by far it has also been the most expensive month of our travels, not only because we have done a huge amount of diving with the lovely crew at Blue Marlin, but also because everything on the island is on average three times the price of anything on the mainland. They have a captive audience and they do not forget it. Also Ma joined us for two weeks and we always seem to spend a lot more when we have visitors.
The joy and the sadness in travelling is you are always going somewhere new and always leaving somewhere behind. But as sad as I am to be leaving Gili Meno and the Blue Marlin Dive family and of course Esmeralda, I am leaving it with fabulous memories Xx