It had been a bumpy boat ride. A group of us had travelled in a van from Ubud down to the port of Padang Bai to get the fast boat across to the Gilis. We’d decided on Gili Air out of the three Gili Islands because although it wasn’t the party island Gili Trawangan was known for, it was holding a rave so there was bound to be some partying regardless.
The water was a bright blue and as the boat hummed over the water I tried not to breathe in the petrol fumes and instead imagine the paradise that lay ahead. We dropped other guests off at Gili T and Gili Meno before pulling up to our final destination – Gili Air.
Even from the shore I wasn’t disappointed. This, indeed, looked like a mini paradise. The sand was white and palm trees dotted the beach. In between, pink tourists sunbathed on sun loungers, waving waiters over to deliver them cocktails housed in coconuts.
The island with no vehicles
As we docked, we studied the large map at the end of the jetty and went off to our respective accommodation, making plans to freshen up and meet for dinner.
The beauty about Gili Air is that the entire island is walkable and there isn’t any motor traffic. After the hectic hubbub of continuous scooter traffic and noise pollution of Ubud, this was a welcome relief. Horse drawn carts delivered visitors laden with suitcases to their bed and breakfasts, but carrying a small backpack, we decided to walk.
Most of the roads were dirt and we weaved in and out of the crowds, which dispersed the closer we got to the centre of the island. Our homestay was modest but perfect for a two-night stay. We went for a refreshing dip in the pool and then headed to the beach to meet our friends.
A relaxed reunion
We met in a bar and ordered some beer and cocktails. The sun was setting over the water and dark purples and blues lit up the sky, reflecting off the ocean. The sea was the temperature of bath water and had barely a ripple so we went in with our drinks and sat on the soft sand, watching the sun set.
Time to dance
As night fell, we freshened up and headed to the rave. Fire twirlers lit up the sky with flames, DJs spun decks with music booming and everyone was dancing in bright lights. The rave spilled over to the beach and we lost each other in the crowd, finding each other again before dancing together in a big group.
Most left their shoes in a pile and danced on the sand, feet thumping the ground as the beats got faster. A cool breeze came in as the hours passed and as midnight passed and the morning arrived we bid goodbye, stumbling back to our accommodation and collapsing on the bed, slumber engulfing us within seconds.
The next morning, we gathered at breakfast and recounted stories of the night before. Some friends had got lost coming home across the island without their shoes, others had stayed out until the sun rose. After a meal and a fresh coconut, we were feeling restored and prepared for a day of relaxing on the beach and enjoying the views of the water with the mountains in the distance.
As I sipped the last of my coconut water and looked at my newly-found travel buddies, I smiled. This was paradise and I was happy.