Yeah, I know, I am a huge complainer for someone with a pretty kush life. But, I truly am the Goldlilocks of the Beaches. Problem is that now I found a perfect beach location in Myanmar, the search is over, and nothing else will compare.
On its surface, the Gili Islands should be paradise to any normal person. Three small islands nestled between Bali and Lombok, there is a party island (Gili Trawagan), a completely chill island (Gili Meno), and the one in between, Gili Air, which to me sounded just right.
After checking in and out of three hotels, trying to find the one perfect fit, we settled on Sunrise Hotel, for its wi-fi, swimmable beach access, comfy beach front bales, and pool.
But, things did not go perfectly. It was not like anything inherently bad happened while we were in Gili, it was just that things did not always go right.
First, the wi-fi was down from the moment we checked in (or more likely before), until the moment we left. With blogs to be published and tweets to be sent, that is stressful for me. And, more so for Eric who was waiting to hear back about a deal. We were left with occasional and spotty access at some of the local beach bars, allowing us at least to check email on our iPhones.
The beach access was touch and go. Some days the water was calm and swimmable, although always with a touch of seaweed, coral, shells, and natural debris. I know there is no blaming nature, but after a big rain and rough waters one day, all the man made debris joined the top of the beach, making it slightly unwelcoming.
I learned a few things talking to people about the beaches here in Gili. First, the population in neighboring Lombok tends to use their rivers as landfills, and when it rains all of that trash flows into the surrounding waters, and over to the Gilis. Second, there used to be a clean up guy who would take care of all debris and trash on Gili Air, and haul it away by boat. When asked where he took it - to Lombok? Was it burned (a common occurrence throughout Southeast Asia)? He replied that he just took it a ways out in the water and dumped it. Talk about job security. Imagine being paid to clean a site, to only have the currents bring that same trash back to the same beach within a few days, so that you could clean it again.
As for the natural debris, and in particular all the broken coral bits, I thought you can’t blame nature, can you? No. But, you can blame man. I was told that up until a few years ago, the Indonesian fishermen would use dynamite to blow the coral reefs to pieces. They supposedly stopped it, but all the coral bits made their way to land. The north side of the island had so much coral that my flip flops crushed it as I walked, making the sand sound more like broken glass. Now, every scuba diver needs to pay an extra $5 dive fee, which goes to the local fishermen to encourage them not to destroy the reefs with dynamite.
More Than a Feeling?
In the end, I was happy we did not pick the most chill island, or the party island. Gili Air should have been just right. We even purposely chose a more built up part of the island. After feeling isolated in Ubud, and having spent all of our nights the last two months just the two of us, we were looking forward to being surrounded by people.
The straw topped bales, or beach huts, at the hotel worked pretty well, although as the days wore on there was increased competition as our little beach became a parking lot for day trip snorkelers. The first morning we felt a little like we were under attack by a group of Koreans, who approached the beach in 4 different boats, all the same speed, and pulled into park. They popped out, took over every available bale, got suited up in snorkeling gear and life preservers, snorkeled for about 25 minutes, popped back out, made some more noise, and were off, with the Korean flag proudly flying on one of the boats. It was quite surreal.
As for the pool, it was a perfect temperature, and a decent size, but every afternoon was taken over by the local dive school for lessons. Usually it was not a problem for us to share the large pool with 4 or 5 divers, but one day the group of 5 took over the entire pool. We were left with a little corner of the pool, and even then I almost took a fin in the face.
But more than all of these little inconveniences, there was just a feeling about the place. The food was fine, and we even scored some great fresh grilled fish. Most of the servers were nice, and some of the hotel staff were friendly. The music at the local beach bars and restaurants was pleasant enough and never blaring too loud.
There was just a feeling I got, though. I felt a uneasy. A little like I did not belong. The other island hoppers included couples and some families, mostly European. It is not a backpackers’ island, like Gili T. Our age fit in well. We should have felt relaxed and at home. But, it just did not feel as welcoming as Ngapali Beach or Thai beaches or even Malay beaches. There was just something about the place that I could not put my finger on. We met a Polish couple on Gili Air, and she said the same thing.
There was just a feeling about the place, that was just not right. So, I remain the Goldilocks of the Beaches.