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Two Tickets to Paradise

Lombok, Indonesia

We are digging out toes into the sands of Gili Trawangan, a small island off the coast of Lombok (Indonesia). This place has by far exceeded our expections and landed on the top of our "Holy Shit, This is Amazing" List. You'll have to excuse my language, as I've been hanging around backpackers for over 3 months now. Oh, and there are no police on this island, so there is a sense of freedom that slightly outweighs my desire to be politically correct. Isn't it marvelous?

So what is it that qualifies this place as Paradise? It seems it would be a magical blend of ingrediants that can only come together under special circumstances. For instance, I'm sure Gili T. would be near perfection without considering our fellow travellers, but because the stars lined up just right, we managed to find this place alongside a group of very, very cool people. They know who they are, and fortunately for us, they find us to be quite brilliant as well. Not brilliant like Einstein, but like... well, like London. Whatever the case, it's quite nice being seen as briliant and I might just have to incorporate the word into my daily jargon.

Paradise... ingrediants include:

1. Water. On all sides if possible. You surf there. Snorkeling is best over there. Swim just across from the guy that sells the woven bracelets. Diving is just a boat ride away. And it sparkles, no matter where you stand. A brilliant blue with hints of the reef below. A jellyfish sting isn't particularly fun, but the waters are sheltered and warm with a whole other world to discover just below.

2. Locals. These guys are textbook friendly and the bartering can be a whole experience in itself. Full of smiles, history and good recommendations, they are intoxicating. And they don't at all seem the type to steal your sunglasses while you take a swim. According to Rafael, there isn't much theft here because any such incident would be reported to their president and they would be promptly asked to leave the island. Maybe he'd like to run for president of the USA?
3. Nightlife. The restaurants and bars have agreed to take turns hosting a late night party a few times a week. We happened upon the dual-DJ party at the Irish pub earlier this week and only returned to our room once to get more storage for photos and again after watching the sunrise over a chain of volcanoes in Lombok. We drank and danced and laughed and met fellow partiers from across Europe and beyond. We saw at least 3 people fall off the bar and boogied down as our friend Joe took a go at the turntable... and to think that I almost didn't rally for this one. Tonight, the party moves to Rudy's, known for it's killer pizza and mushroom shakes. Will I be able to pull another all-nighter? Probably not, but one can try.
4. Cheap digs. We did not go for the $6 rooms, cuz for less than twice that, our room is generous for the price, with air con, a patio and hammock, a table for letter writing and a king size fanned lounge bed. We shoo away mosquitos in our outdoor shower, but it's absolutely a perfect place to lay our heads after a long day of doing close to nothing. And breakfast is included with oh so strong Bali coffee. Yes, paradise. And for those that want to really do it up, there are 5 star accommodations up and down the main drag for $45 - $100 US a night... something for everyone.
5. Yummy food. It's cheap, well-cooked and available until after midnight. They have huts set up right on the beach with lounge pillows and romantic lighting - just the two of us or smoosh in with friends, they are lovely. You can get a banana split for $1.80 and there are no lack of funny waiters... we've found the shorter the better for some reason. And just in case we need a break from the curry and fried noodles, we've got a can of pringles, a pack of oreos and 4 large bottles of water in our room. Lots of cold water for sale, so we are careful to hydrate in the humid heat.
6. Sun. Up in the sky with a place to escape it if necessary - a hut, a fresh water pool in the fancy hotels, floating under the pier a few feet off the beach, swinging in a hammock, in your air conditioned room. And cold beer helps too... friends, meet Bingtang. Bingtang, meet friends.
7. Shopping. Enough shopping to pass the heat of the day, but not so much that it's distracting. Cheap sarongs, surf shorts, hand-made art and jewelry.
8. Quiet. There are no motorbikes here like the mainland. You can walk, rent a bicycle or hire a horsedrawn thinga-ma-gig. The air and sea are clean, except for your occasional horse pooh and empty beer bottle. You can easily escape the bartering and drinking scene by walking in any direction... or simply lounging in front of your room. You can also pick from shelves of movies to watch in the comfort of your own cozy hut on the beach. While Tim often likes to be in the middle of the party, I sometimes prefer to listen to it's echos from afar... we can both have our way and our comfort here. And watching the sunrise on the beach - nothing but the sound of the waves and the jingle of the boat lines. Priceless.
9. No bonehead tourists. This place is just a tad off the track, and the tourists, therefore, are perfectly laid back, friendly and not in a hurry to go anywhere. I wouldn't describe it as hedonistic, but perhaps in the way that you are highly encouraged to do whatever it is you please. If you love sun and surf, you hit the beach. If you want to explore the reef, take an intro dive course and have a gander down below. If you are trying to escape the job, the divorce, the family obligations or stress of the city, grab a book and chill by yourself in your room or by the pool. And when you are feeling satiated with whatever it is you seek, you shower, shave, prop a flower behind your ear and wander the strip for a meal at dusk. There is a soft buzz in the air and everyone is happy to see you. One Love.
10. My best friend. I get to experience this magical place with my best friend Tim. How frigging cool is that? We gush over each other to friends we've met or simply gaze into each other's eyes before sleepy time. We wake up intertwinded and excited for a new day of exploration together. Love feels stronger here and closer to our fingertips with a multitude of reminders around us. And I am hopeful that I will be able to feel this long after we've left.

Now don't you all rush off at once to find the next boat to Gili T... there are pockets of paradise in our own backyards. I would certainly recommend a trip to Indonesia, if not just to stand at the shore with your toes dug in the sand. Dyann - you would love this place... and if we call you from Rudy's at 3 o-clock in the morning, it will be noon in Santa cruz and you will know exactly how we are feeling - blessed to be right here, but missing you all Very, Very Much.


permalink written by  TwoSouls on March 14, 2008 from Lombok, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Indonesia: So many islands, so little time
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thank you for bringing me to Indonesia today. jen, love you. be well and keep seeking the state of mind that results from those intertwined bodies, souls, and beach-sand covered toes. or rather keep passing that state you have found along to us all. --kates.

permalink written by  kates on March 19, 2008

Hi there you two!
So excited to hear about the travels. I'm jealous and proud and so happy for you both.
Got to spend Easter here yesterday with your mom, Jen. So fun. She even went swimming with the kids.
We're super excited about Julie and her little one to come. It's going to be amazing.
We love you and miss you and pray for safe travels and frequent updates.

permalink written by  Angie Ten Napel on March 24, 2008

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We are going to explore the unknown and there's no turning back now. Why explore? Here are a few reasons why we start on this journey...

- To breathe deeply, appreciate the moment and SLOW DOWN
- To let go of our fears
- To rebel… prove that we can live outside the system
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