Gili Trawangan, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my favorite places I’ve visited.
It’s easy as a tourist to come here and spend too much money. It’s easy to completely isolate yourself from the locals. Hotels on the beach could cost 100 dollars per night or up to 450. If you value luxury that money might be worth it, but if you can handle a cold water only shower, no pool, and only a fan instead of air conditioning the price easily goes down to $8-$20 per night. Local meals can cost as little as $1, water as little as 40 cents, and even a full cooked chicken for two costs about $8.
In theory this could put my living costs around $20/day. I’m spending more like $30-40 because I’m not as obsessed with scrimping on my budget as it may sound. Instead I like to find the best value options and know that they’re available. If I want good coffee I’ll pay $2-3 for it, but if I’m fine with just caffiene I’ll pay 80 cents. Similarly if I need water right that moment I have no issues paying $1 for a bottle but I also like to know which stores offer it for 40 cents. My consumption tends to vary according to energy levels.
What makes me like Gili Trawangan so much is not the low minimum prices. It’s that local culture is easily accessible. Gili Trawangan has no cars or motorcycles: only bicycles, horse and walking. The whole island is an easy hour or so walk across. In the process of walking across the island I got to see things that I’d bet few tour magazines will show you. While this is not as “authentic” as a rarely travelled city like Bandung, Indonesia — it’s awfully authentic feeling for a tourist destination with nice beaches.
I took that walk yesterday, out past town, through the woods, and across to the other side of the island to see the ocean. A few of the roads are paved with bricks, the rest are packed dirt that the locals water in the morning to keep dust low.
In the center of Gili Trawangan is a dumping ground overrun with cattle. It was one of the most fascinating sights I’ve seen. The cattle are emaciated, often covered with flies, and don’t seem to have much grass to eat. They were digging through the town’s garbage eating discarded coconut husks and flowers. One of them looked like he was eating a trash bag.
I felt awkward and a bit afraid approaching this sight. It doesn’t show the town in a good light. On one hand it’s good that the cows are eating food that would otherwise rot. It’s also sad that they’re lowered to the point of eating garbage from a pile of refuse full of broken glass and ashes.
The island is a hair over a kilometer wide. If you come visit I’d recommend taking the walking path around the island, it’s a pleasant hour long walk, and also considering a cut through the center of the island to see how life is outside the main tourist areas.