“A few days in Bali,” the Senior Chief said. Life onboard a US Naval Carrier can be rough, but there are some perks. “Join the Navy, And See the World” are what the recruiting posters said and so far, my experience had led up to it. With those five words bouncing around in my head I went up onto the flight deck to enjoy the sunset and thought of beaches, waves and relaxation.
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We had left Perth on Australia’s west coast and were heading to Bali. A place I had been once before and I was looking forward to a return trip. After a few weeks at sea, I just wanted to be as far away from the chaos of life aboard a ship with 6,000 other men as I could get.
I’ve stayed up on Bali over the years and it’s just gotten better.
Located just over 1.5 miles from the easter tip of the island of Java and west of the Lombok Island, Bali is home to about 4 million people. 90 miles from east to west and 50 miles north to south, Bali has landscape and vistas for everyone: hills, mountains, rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides are all within easy reach.
Bali means The “Island of the Gods” and it can still lay a serious claim to be paradise on earth, World class surfing and diving and many cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, along with a wide choice of where to stay make Bali a great place to visit.
My destination was the Gili Islands — or just ‘the Gilis’. You can only get there once a a day by taking the shuttle from Senggigi, so I got there early, paid for the ticket and set back to watch the seagulls swoop, careen and dive for anything they could find.
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The sea that morning was a little rough. And for 45 minutes I missed the steadiness of the carrier as the shuttle was tossed up and down and back in forth — usually in all directions at the same time.
As we got closer to the Gilis, the waves got bigger and the foam on the waves turned into miniature white caps, so I held on with both hands. Staying in the seat wasn’t my main concern, I just didn’t want to get tossed from the boat, yah, it was rocking and rolling that bad.
The Gilis were a backpackers Mecca in the 80s and 90s. Now, numerous beachside cafes, restaurants and bars, but there’s still no scooters or cars.
The environment is the focus today. Driven by a new acknowledgement of the need for clean air and water which feeds a paradise lifestyle as well as a thriving tourist trade, the Gilis are one of the cleanest tourist destinations in the world.
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Gili Trawangan Island
With no scooters or cars on the island, Gili Trawangan is where I was headed. Peace, quiet, solitude — that’s what I was after and that’s what I would find on Trawangan.
Trawangan is the largest of the three Gili Islands and has an estimated, permanent, population of about 800 folks.
In the 80s, it was quiet and laid back, a perfect place for backpackers and anyone that just wanted to get away from jammed streets, noisy nights and crazy neighbors. In the 90s it developed a reputation as a wild party destination with plenty of cheap places to stay, plenty of drugs and no police.
Today it’s matured as a destination and has activities and services to please a far wider range of tastes — although there are still plenty of secluded beaches for the backpacker.
As on the rest of the Gili Islands, diving is the main industry. As the sports popularity grew, so has the development and there’s been a boom with many upscale places to eat, sleep, drink and party being open. Bali-style villas are available for about $400(US) a night — but the beach is still free.
There are still no vehicles on Trawangan, not even a scooter. It was perfect for me then and it makes the island even better now.
Bali’s main industry is tourism and it has it’s flip sides like many places. On the island’s South Coast, the paradise of Kuta has become a maze of concrete with plenty of scammers eking out a living by overcharging tourists. The island’s visibility also drew the unwanted attention of terrorists in 2002, but still, Bali has managed to hang on to its magic. It’s a great destination with something for everyone and even though it can be crowded, there’s still plenty of space for peace and quiet.
Outside of Christmas and New Year, Bali can be surprisingly quiet and great discounts on places to stay are available.
Bali is a paradise and I’ve got just one request from you. When you go, take me with you.
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Based in Argentina, Jerry writes about social justice issues throughout the world and his work has been picked up by major media outlets globally.
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