Gili Asahan – Gilligan’s Island Indonesia Style

We booked a week on Gili Asahan, on a whim, and a recommendation from a stranger; a week with no air conditioning, no internet, no hot water, rustic conditions, and limited fresh water supply (to be fair, we only found out about that upon arrival). What were we thinking?

Transportation to the “port” was arranged by our hotel; it went smoothly, albeit slowly. Our driver seems new to both driving and to a stick shift, skills I thought would be obvious, and somewhat mandatory for a “professional driver”. But this is Indonesia, land of few rules, at least on the roads. There are moments as we inch our way up one steep incline after another, in third gear, and Chris muttering under his breath, “first, man, first”, where I hold my breath in anticipation, wondering if we will make it to the top.  I don’t think we hit 60 km/hour (30 km/h seems to be the driver’s comfort zone). We were faster on our scooter the previous day, navigating the same treacherous route, cruising at a cool 35 km/h most of the time. Finally, an hour past our scheduled arrival, we make it to our “port” which was no more than a bamboo hut, a boat on the beach, a few guys hanging around, and a very small handmade sign that announces “Gili Ashan Eco Lodge”. 

It is a quick jaunt to the island in a local style boat.  It appears very solid and stable, although it lists to the side where Chris sat. To be fair, our heavy packs may be leaning to that side too.  A young man greeted us from the beach,  Fantasy Island style, except in knee high water, telling us to just jump off and he will take care of the bags. The calm, turquoise water is clear as crystal and warm as a bath.

It turns out Ari, the boat greeter, is one of two managers at this eco lodge.  Later we meet his colleague, Janna, an engaging young lady from Germany.  Ari speaks perfect English that he learned as a child when an NGO group landed in his village in Sumatra and set out to teach the local children how to speak English. It was a skill that has opened doors of opportunity for him.  But he is far away from home, and misses his family.

Ari shows us around the lodge: the restaurant that serves double duty as the (only) place to hang out, and the accommodations. At least we had the wherewithal to book a “proper” room/bungalow, and not a “bale” style space which is quite literally a bed on a platform, with roll down blinds all around. The bale is designed to help tourists experience the simple, basic life of a local. We both agreed we didn’t need to go that far.

Our bungalow features a lovely front porch, complete with a couch/day bed (over which hung a mosquito net if needed), a coffee table and a hammock.  Two coconut drinks and wet face cloths are neatly laid out for our refreshment.  There is a sliding glass door, with a lock, giving the illusion of security (my main concerns being insects, reptiles and other critters), but I do notice the windows and ceiling are open to the elements (thus the illusion). I can see the sand through the slits in the wooden floor planks and try not to think about what might be lurking in the darkness below. (Spoiler alert: we find out a few days later). Our bathroom is out back, private, but open to the fresh air.  Ari tells us we have the best bungalow because it has a big tree in the back yard/bathroom area – the value is somewhat lost on us. 

To be sure, our accommodations are rustic. It seems as if everything from the furniture to the light fixtures has been upcycled from local materials. While I love the idea of upcycling, recycling and just being plain creative and “McGyver-like”, I also respect the old adage “form follows function”. So while our fish light in the bathroom looked rather cool during the day, it cast a very dim light after dark. On the positive, we both looked great in the bathroom at night.

It is at this point we learn about the water problems. We are already aware that we are nearing the end of the dry season, and many areas in southern Lombok are experiencing a drought. So it isn’t a surprise to learn that the water in the sink and shower is going to be a little saltier than normal. Turns out, it is full on sea water.

With the tour complete, Ari leaves us to settle in and to enjoy our refreshments on the porch.  Without a doubt, our accommodations are rustic, and we are a little worried about how well we will sleep in the heat, but as we sip our coconut water on our verandah, with views of the shimmering ocean all around us, sounds of birds in the trees, and a gentle breeze cooling us down, we couldn’t help but feel we may have landed in a Gilligan Island style of paradise.  

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