Together with my friends from Canggu, we took a ferry to Lombok and we stopped in Gili Trawangan. I was supposed to spend there my last two weeks in Indonesia before going to Australia. However, this plan didn’t really work out because getting my Australian tourist visa took much more than I expected. I ended up staying in Indonesia until my visa expired and then flew to Kuala Lumpur.
Lombok is a bit different from Bali and the majority of the population is Muslim. This means that you can be woken up at 6am by the nearby mosque and see many local woman with their hair covered. Alcohol is harder to find and bacon for your burger rarely available.
What do you call paradise? A place where the sun is shining, the beach has white sand, the sunset is unforgettable and… illegal things are legal. Run by local mafia, these three small islands quickly became very touristic. Even though in Indonesia you get death penalty for drug consumption, on these islands you can buy everything you want very easily. There is not even police on the islands.
The most popular are the local grown mushrooms (yeah, those mushrooms), that you can pick yourself in the morning or buy from street vendors. For around 5$ you can get your ticket to wonderland!
There are other bizarre things about Gili. The main way of transportation on the islands are horse carriages and bicycles. Motorbikes or scooters are banned. Also, hostels are not allowed to be called hostels and dorms can have no more than three beds. Why? Because the hostels became so popular and locals were not getting any tourists in their guesthouses. One good thing, no stray dogs on the island! You can easily deduce that these islands are run by the local mafia.
Out of the three islands, the most popular and party island is Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as everyone calls it. Gili Air is has a more chilled atmosphere, while Gili Meno is mostly for relaxation.
Less popular than Bali, Lombok is another big island in Indonesia. The main city here is Kuta Lombok, located two hours away drive from the ferry port. It is used by tourists as a hub to visit the surrounding beaches, cliffs and surfing spots. However, Kuta Lombok is much smaller and less developed than Kuta, Bali. Even finding a good hostel or accommodation can be problematic.
The best way to explore the island is to rent a scooter and ride as far as you can. You will find empty beaches to chill, amazing cliffs to see the sunset and some villages in the countryside. During night, there are some popular bars where the surfers go party, but don’t expect anything too crazy.
In the middle of the island there is an active volcano that you can hike. Mt Rinjani has an altitude of 3,726m and it is the second biggest volcano in Indonesia. It last erupted in 2016. The expedition usually takes three days and you need to be prepared with proper equipment. I obviously didn’t do this hike, but looking at the pictures I wish I was able to hike it.
Drugs in SE Asia
After visiting almost all the countries in SE Asia, I think I have a pretty good idea of the drugs scene. I am not the kind of person that does drugs, but if I had 1$ for every time I was offered drugs in SE Asia I could have travel for another month.
The most popular and common drug is marijuana. It is illegal everywhere in Asia, but you can easily find it in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Places like Reggae bars, Happy Pizza shops or Amsterdam bars are known to sell joints or bags of weed. The quality does not compare with Europe or America, but it is good enough to chill your evening.
When it comes to other drugs, the situation is a bit different. In general islands are the best place to buy party pills. Koh Phangan in Thailand during full moon party and Koh Rong islands in Cambodia are well-known for drugs consumption. It was relatively easy and cheap to buy Ecstasy even in Sri Lanka.
Cambodia and Laos have a very worst reputation when it comes to drugs. Every tuk tuk driver is a dealer and can sell you LSD, ecstasy and other pills that will mess up with your brain. The fact that you can buy them so easily can give you the false impression that is also safe to consume them.
One common scam is that minutes after you buy drugs from someone, the police will show up and threaten to send you to jail for the rest of your life (or even death penalty in Malaysia). Of course you don’t want that and your freedom will cost you somewhere from 1000$ upwards. You get your freedom, the police most of the money and the dealer some commission and everybody is happy.
Worse than loosing money is when you loose your life. There are many stories of young backpackers that never woke up after of consuming drugs. The main problem is that you never know what you buy. The quality is very bad and when mixed with alcohol, it can be deadly.
Not really a drug, but something that you have to be careful when travelling is methanol poisoning. Some bars that sell cheap cocktails or shots are using counterfeit alcohol made from methanol. Compared to ethyl alcohol, that is found in wine, whisky, vodka, etc, methanol is highly poisonous. I’ve read some stories about methanol poisoning in Gili T and even in Europe where people lost their sight or even died. A good advice is to avoid the free shots at the pub crawls since those are most likely to use the cheapest alcohol available.
As I said earlier, my itinerary changed in the last-minute because of visa problems. I could not transit or visit Australia, so my only option was to fly north to Kuala Lumpur and from there go to New Zealand.
Disclaimer: All the stories and references to drugs in this post are purely fictional and definitely never happened…