Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gili T

Our last night in Ubud we found our way to a tiny little restaurant in an apparently remote part of Ubud. We were dropped off at the bottom of a long flight of stairs and the driver pointed -- "go up there." We climbed and climbed, and got to the top and turned right then walked and walked, and finally came upon the little restaurant. We were a bit wary because the food was billed as especially healthy :) but it was also said to be fresh and delicious. It was steamy and still, and they weren't serving a menu, just a buffet. We ordered two coconuts and fixed our plates, and the food was just fine. Not the most delicious we had in Ubud, but just fine.

a tasty melange
We left Alam Jiwah so early the next morning that I didn't get to have coffee and missed my slow lovely morning routine, so I never really got with the program. Boarding the boat was a scene, and not the kind I like. We were crowded onto a pier, and people were shouting and directing us and we didn't understand what was going on, weren't sure if we were in the right place or on the right boat, but we were ushered in. While the boat was still sitting at the pier, a young woman started vomiting into a bag. I was not thrilled. The boat ride was indeed fast, but still an hour so I snoozed a bit and Marc went up top and reported that it was amazingly fast.

beautiful scenery
sunny and splashy

Lombok is a large island to the east of Bali, part of Nusa Tenggara. Off the coast of Lombok are three very small islands collectively called the Gili Islands -- Gili Trawangan (Gili T), Gili Meno, and Gili Air. All the action happens on Gili T, which means Gili Air and Gili Meno are really the places to be. We had no interest in being part of the "big loud diving dudes" scene, or the "young people who get drunk and get dreadlocks" scene, which was our idea of Gili T (and we were mostly right). But the beautiful hotel we stayed at in Ubud has a property on Gili T, and since we loved the place in Ubud -- Alam Jiwah -- we decided to book with Alam Gili, even though it's on Gili T.

We took a horsecart to Alam Gili, because no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. I kept feeling like I was going to be thrown out of the cart, it was such a rough ride, and I bruised my right rib in Ubud so it was painful, too, but we finally arrived at Alam Gili. From the road, it looked like the other property -- lush landscaping, the same kind of decorated stonework on the sidewalks. But as we were checking in, it became apparent that it wasn't quite the same, it wasn't as friendly, it wasn't as nice a place. Marc asked if a smaller room was available (when we made the reservation from Ubud, we were told they only had the biggest room available) and the manager said no, there were no other rooms. The room we had was a giant two-story house, dark as can be inside (seriously gloomy) and with very poor air conditioning. And on the bed was a giant hairy spider. It was sweltering inside the dark house, and with so much space the small air conditioner was never going to be able to cool down the place. Marc walked a short way down the beach and found a different hotel and we decided we'd stay one night at Alam Gili and then move to the new place. The moment he informed the Alam Gili staff, they became extremely cold and rude. In fact, the next morning as he stepped out the front door, Marc smiled and greeted one of the staff and he glared at Marc and turned away without even acknowledging him. When Marc was telling the manager we'd be checking out the next morning, he asked Marc why and Marc said we just wanted a smaller room (partly true but we also really didn't like the hotel). So the manager said "well, what if I could get you a smaller room?" And in that moment I didn't care because they had clearly lied to us about the availability of a smaller room just to make more money off of us.

beautiful -- and see those mountains on the other island in the distance?
windblown trees hung with coral bones
horse cart ride BLURRY and bouncy!
choppy water -- no snorkeling for us :(
The side of the island we're staying on is very quiet and low-key; all the diving-dude party-kid atmosphere is on the other side of the island. And that's where the restaurants are too, so for dinner we walked around the island to find the night market, where we'd planned to get dinner. I was so boiling hot, we stopped to get something to drink at a place with a big upstairs pavilion, and from there we could see the market. We identified the busiest-looking stall and then headed there for dinner. I'd lost my appetite from being so hot, but Marc got a grilled red snapper and a couple of chicken satay kabobs, and I got three satay kabobs too. The food was really great; we were worried that they were overcooking the fish, because it was on the grill for a very long time, but Marc said it was outstanding, maybe the best fish he'd had. As we sat at the long tables, people started carrying out tray after tray after tray of luscious-looking desserts and my eye spied trays of donuts with chocolate frosting and chopped peanuts. They looked wonderful, but I wasn't expecting them to be as good as they looked. And then they were better than I ever dreamed. The best yeast donut I've ever had, even better than donuts at the Donut Plant in NYC. The Platonic ideal donut. An amazing, brilliant, perfectly wonderful donut that I will surely dream about for months or even years to come, and I am not even kidding.

that's our stall -- grill on the left crowds all around
grilled fish, satay, and rice
amazing sweets. donuts 2nd from the bottom. AMAZING.
So we passed a hot and miserable night in our dark sweltering room, then checked out after breakfast and walked to our new hotel, which is everything Alam Gili isn't: bright, friendly, welcoming, significantly cheaper, great air conditioning, a beautiful pool, sweet staff who want to make sure that our time here is special because it's our holiday, and free bikes (Alam Gili charged for them). We checked into our cool, bright room and then wandered around to find a snorkeling outfit -- even though the wind was high and the water was rough and choppy. Dom, the extremely sweet guy at our hotel, said that ordinarily the water is like glass, so we thought we'd find a place that would take us out on a boat the following day, and just spend the day relaxing around the hotel. We lay by the pool, we swam, we napped, we walked on the beach, Marc rode a bike to the other side of the island to do a little shopping, and we swam some more. We walked back to the night market for dinner, to go to the same stall (I'm not kidding anyone: I wanted those donuts again, you know that), and the sky was getting heavier and gloomier as we walked. Our little stall had set up a tent over their tables -- the only stall to do so -- so we took a seat near the edge and ordered our fish. Just as we finished eating, it started raining and everyone from the surrounding tables ran for ours, and we were SO glad we'd finished eating so we could get the hell out of there. But not before getting four donuts. :)

i LOVE this photo. everything about it. period.
beautiful sunset
happy birthday xo
our final sweet room here on Gili T

This is Marc's 63rd birthday today, and I'd planned a little surprise for him, something I do every year with little notes. I'd schlepped Post-It Notes with me from Austin, moved them into my backpack for the trek to Gili, and had it all planned in my mind that I'd get up in the middle of the night and put them around the bathroom so he saw them when he got up. But we're so lost in time, we have no idea what day it is, and after breakfast we were walking on the beach when I suddenly realized that today is his birthday. I ran back to our room and hung all my little notes for him, and after he saw them we went out for a walk. When we came back, the cleaning staff had just finished our room and as they left, they wished him a happy birthday which was so sweet and surprising. The three men smiled at him and shook his hand and it was adorable. So we changed into our bathing suits and lay by the pool for a while, and then took the laptop into the lobby (the only place there is wifi) and apparently the cleaning staff told everyone it is Marc's birthday, because the next thing we knew, there they all were, standing around us with a big cake, a candle on a plate, and Dom playing guitar. They sang happy birthday to him a couple of times and we all clapped, and then one by one they shook his hand (and mine too), and wished him again a happy birthday, and all the best. It nearly made me cry, even though Marc really hates that kind of attention. In fact, when I saw them coming I hurriedly said "I didn't do this" because I know he doesn't like it. But they were just so sweet and kind, and warm, and it was a seeming genuine expression of happiness. I loved it and Marc smiled and didn't seem too embarrassed.

But we never did get to snorkel, which is a shame because it's why we came to Gili T. And I was especially hoping that today, on his birthday, we'd get to go out. It started raining and now it's a tremendous downpour, a monsooney kind of rain, so we watch it from our cheery room, through the walls of windows, and tomorrow we return to beautiful Ubud.

Happy birthday, dear Marc.

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