Travelogue: Gili Asahan

October 24, 2014

If there is a more idyllic place on earth than our little slice of Gili Asahan, I would tell you that you are lying.

This place lives up to every notion of paradise you can imagine. I have so much to say about it, but not enough words to adequately say it all.

Instead, I will lie here on the beach and look at the sea of stars above me while the Bali Sea sweeps over my feet.

October 25, 2014

There is nothing negative to say about this little slice of Gili Asahan where we are staying. Well, perhaps two things: first, that the portion sizes for the meals are perhaps too large, and second, that I can not live here forever.

Other than that, this place is pure perfection.

Whereas our time in Ubud was busy, filled with culture and activity, our time in Lombok will be the opposite: nothing by stillness and contemplation.

Getting here took a while — two hour car ride, forty minute flight, two hour car ride, forty minute wait for the boat, fifteen minute boat ride — but the travel was worthwhile. The island of Gili Asahan, just off the coast of the Sekotong peninsula of Lombok, has three groups of inhabitants: the travelers, like us, staying at the Pearl Beach Resort; the villagers in the tiny Sasak village nearby; the cows and goats that gaze freely in the abandoned pearl farm village and numerous hills that wake up the rest of the island. I highly doubt that there are more than fifty humans — travelers and villagers combined — on the island at any one time.

There are no vehicles, and boat traffic through this part of the sea is sparse, so you can hear the rustle of the water against the shore at all times. Even the people at the resort (twenty of us, including staff) are quiet, mostly speaking in hushed tones as they keep to themselves. You can hear every sound from every bird, every insect, every gecko.

The resort is essentially a few bungalows and cottages right on the beach. Our bungalow has a porch with chairs and a swinging day bed — we watched the sun rise over the sea from that porch this morning. A few feet into the water (a thousand shades of blue) is a gorgeous coral reef; we plan to snorkel there this morning. Just past the reef are some prime diving spots — we occasionally see dive boats, and most stop not far away — and then, the expanse of the sea and more small islands.

Last night, we climbed one of the hills behind the resort and joined the goats on the hill to watch the sunset in a fiery pink sky. Apart from that, our short time here has been spent swimming, reading, writing, relaxing.

Not having electricity has not been an issue. The breeze is cool and the sun is bright. The generator starts in the evening and provides enough power to give us the light we need before we eat dinner and drift off into a starry slumber.

It is possible to circumnavigate the entire island by foot (of course, as there are no vehicles) in under an hour. This can only be done when the tide is low, as the rising tide covers the shoreline beach, leaving only a trek through the water. Luckily, the water is bathtub warm, all day long.

The afternoon sun is hot, but the breeze off the water is refreshing. My feet are once again in the sea, my butt on the sand, my notebook clutched closely so it doesn’t fall out of my hands and into the rolling surf. Some thoughts:

  • There is a whole world of life just beyond my feet, in the coral reef. Our snorkel this morning revealed an entire ecosystem of coral and urchins and starfish and eats and shellfish and schools and schools of fish of every shape, size, and color. It is magical.

  • While I do not enjoy the taste of Bintang, they make a Bintang lemon radler that I can’t seem to get enough of while I am here. So refreshing.

  • The sea shells on the beach are of a wide array of shapes, textures, sizes, and colors; new ones appear with every slow roll of the water onto the sand. I could spend hours searching for new ones, and could come home with a suitcase full of the most glorious collection.

  • In six days in Ubud, I read about forty pages. In a day and a half here, I have completed two books.

  • This place also seems to prescribe to my rule that everything tastes better with an egg on it; our lunches on both days have featured eggs where they were not to be expected. I am delighted and give my wholehearted seal of approval.

I seem to have lost the urge and the need to fill the silence; Lise and I sit, reading, writing, contemplating, often saying nothing to each other for long stretches of time. We enjoy the silence, and the cacophony of sounds of nature that make the silence anything but silent.

“If I were to write a novel here, I would title it ‘Sunset Over Sekotong’.”

I loudly proclaimed the above statement as we floated in a boat on the water at the tip of Lombok’s southern peninsula, watching the sky turn a violent pink as the sun set behind the hills of the Sekotong peninsula. It’s a contrived, boring title, I know, but at the time I was so smitten with the stillness of the sea and the redness of the sky that it just felt right. Lise, justifiably, laughed.

I will not be writing a novel here, or anywhere, but this place has written its own story all over my body, from my feet burnt from standing in hot sand, to my ankles bitten by ants from lying on the beach, to lips salinated from snorkeling in the sea, to my fingers calloused from writing sixty postcards, to my shoulders sunburnt because of my stubborn reluctance to wear sunscreen, to my arms darkened from the unending sun, to my belly filled with fresh fruit juices, Bintang radlers, and overly-large-but-quite-delicious meals.

A corporeal novel, in a sense.

We sleep early, here. It is one of the luxuries of not being beholden to time, to not ever needing to check a clock: we wake up just before the sunrise, eat when we are hungry, nap when the sun is directly above us, swim as it rises and falls, and sleep after we have supped, not long after darkness has enveloped the entire island.

There are more stars scintillating in the sky than you could count if you took a week of nights. I will never tire of staring at the sky before we sleep.

October 26, 2014

I will never tire of the intensely pink skies over the water every dawn and dusk.

It seems as though there are many things here I will never tire of; we seem to have found a place of perfect idyll.

The heat, however, has finally caught up with me: I awoke at sunrise with a dull ache in my skull that persists even now, six hours later. I shall seek refuge in the shade and drink copious amounts of water in an effort to recalibrate my internal temperature.

This morning, we went snorkeling around the coral reefs of Gili Lea and Gili Rangit. I should say, Lise went snorkeling while I either waded in the water near the shore or stayed in the shaded boat, nursing my head. She saw and array of sea creatures (including, sadly, a dead turtle) but also go stung by plankton. The stinging passed quickly, thankfully.

Now, she is napping on the beach while I read and hide from the sun. Soon, time for lunch and some Advil.

I would like perhaps, to try my hand at fly fishing, one day.

We have seen fly fishermen in the water near the shores of every island along the peninsula. The practice of fly fishing seems almost meditative; ti feels as though it would be a good activity to calm the restless mind.

We are in our final afternoon on Gili Asahan before we head to Gili Meno tomorrow morning. I will miss this place and all its tranquility, very much.

The Lonely Planet guidebook to Bali and Lombok describes Gili Asahan with gusto:

“…the wonderful Gili Asahan, where soothing winds gust, birds flutter and gather in the grass just before sunset, muted calls to prayer rumble, stars and moon beams bathe the night in sweet tenderness, and silence is deep and nourishing.”

The flowery description seems laughable, but it is a valiant attempt to describe the indescribable restorative properties of this island. I will be certainly sad to leave. 

(You can see my entire travelogue, with doodles and sketches and notes in the marginalia, over on Medium.)