Wednesday 29 March 2017

Snorkeling at Gili Meno

Our last day in Gili Trawangan, we decided to bring the kids for snorkeling around the islands. Lombok and the three Gili (islands) namely Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno dan Gili Air are famous for their crystal clear water , white sandy beaches and a variety of sea life.

We booked our boat a day earlier at a nearby booth for Rp 750,000 (about RM250) for a 2 hours boat ride. Normally in a shared boat, it only costs Rp100,000 (RM33) per person for a  4 hours snorkeling trip around the 3 islands , inclusive of the rental for the snorkeling equipments. However,  taking into consideration that we have 3 small kids and a baby, who might be tired after an hour or so, we decided to a charter boat to ourselves for the flexibility of time.

Gili Trawangan on a sunny day

For those who are interested to go for snorkeling or even diving, I would recommend to shop and ask around for best prices. There are services provided by the Vila Ombak Hotel but at a slightly higher price. There are usually men from the boats who will be around the hotel entrances offering the snorkeling or diving trips services. Do bargain especially if you can speak a bit of Indonesia language.

I really love snorkeling and I have been snorkeling in Krabi, Koh Lipe, Redang Island, sea walking in Bali etc, so I was looking forward to a brief underwater Disneyland experience in Lombok as well. But as there would be no changing area on the boat, my clothes would be wet and my baby would be uncomfortable should he needed to nurse, I had to forgo the idea.

I usually bring 3 types of cameras when we travel, and the GoPro is a must as I can record the beautiful fishes in the sea while I snorkel. Just so happen , about 10 minutes after we left the pier, the GoPro went into a "coma" and unable to be revived! The battery must be so old that although it has been charged overnight, it went off after a couple of photos taken. Lucky enough I brought my mobile phone in a water proof casing, so I could take a few shots of the  kids having a blast

That expression on Uwais' face is just priceless hahahah

Azur blue kinda water

Me selfie-ing with Uwais on my lap

The cloudy day was perfect as it was not too hot

Family photo

I think the highlight of the trip was when we had a glimpse of a sea turtle in its "home" on the sea bed. The 3 older kids and daddy had a swim while I took care of Uwais. Alhamdulilah only my eldest girl had a bit of sea sickness (like mom) , but the other 3 kids were ok.

The glass bottom in our boat was a consolation for me, as at least I got some view of the sea bed. 

We got back to the hotel at 11 am, had a quick shower, packed our stuffs and checked out at 1 pm after we prayed Zuhr and Asar together. Although the check out time was actually at 12 noon, they were very nice in allowing us to take an extra hour so that we could pray in peace

Gili Trawangan was a very special island indeed, and leaving was hard for me. In shaa Allah we would love to come back years from now.

Us on the boat crossing the sea to the Lombok main island

After our short speed boat ride towards Lombok main island, we were greated by Pak Eka our tourist guide, and we went for lunch at a nice restaurant by a paddy field. The food was included in the package and was yummy! But Uwais started to have a "hunger strike" where he refused solid food except fruits and milk only! Yikes! 

The beautiful scenery of paddy field by the restaurant 

Fish pond at the restaurant 

From there, we took the scenic route via Malimbu, towards Senggigi where we would spend our last night in Lombok.

This place is called Malaka, and it offers a view point where you can see the 3 Gili at the background. Gili Trawangan being on the left, Gili Meno and Gili Air

At Senggigi, we stopped by for some souvenir shopping before checking in to our hotel, Hotel Jayakarta. We went to Lombok Exotic shop for T-shirts and souvenirs, and then to Lestari food shop for their speciality food such as sea weed dodol.

You can try all the delicacies here for free 

In Hotel Jayakarta,  we were given 2 bedrooms for our family. The room is small but comfortable, with nice wooden flooring for my baby to walk around.

After sunset, we went for a dinner and another round of souvenir shopping. This time we stopped by at the shop called Sasaku, just next to Hotel Jayakarta. The shop is bigger, with larger variety of t-shirts, gifts and toys. The price is cheap as well, for Rp12,000 for 4 fridge magnets, and about Rp120,000 for a good quality t-shirt (collared) .

The next morning, we had breakfast by the pool at the hotel, had a morning stroll around the hotel while the kids having a splash, and then checked out at  10 am.

The triangular treats was like kuih lopez in Malaysia, and the green ones were similar to onde-onde

He was trying to get into the pool hahah 

I don't know how they could stand the cold water!

The journey from the hotel to the airport took 45 minutes, but Alhamdulillah we managed to check in 45 minutes before departure. Uwais was a bit cranky throughout the flight, testing our patience, but Alhamdulillah he was manageable .

This is Pak Eka our tourist guide. He is only a couple of years older than us. He said, "in Lombok, everybody can be Doctors" (note the car plate number hahahah). Lombok Indonesian has Bali dialect and they are as soft spoken as Javanese in Yogyakarta
He was asleep as we boarded the plane, woke up the minute the plane started taxing, and stayed awake till the last half an hour of the flight! 

Show him a camera, and all is well! hahahah

Safely landed after the 3 hours journey, we took an Uber home.

"Home sweet home" can't be more appropriate after a long 4 days of travelling. It is tiring but the experience was totally awesome. All I can say is Lombok is such a wonderful place for my kids' first proper overseas trip. 

The halal food, the ambiance, the polite people, the beautiful scenery, they were all perfect. 

I am already planning my next trip with the kids!

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Exploring the Island

This is the first time we travelled to a foreign country with a baby, but Indonesia is anything but foreign to us. 

I have Javanese roots from my ancestors and majority of the locals in Gili Trawangan would speak Malay when they knew we were from Malaysia.

Morning prayers is quite early, starting at 4.50am, finishing at 6.40 am, we woke the children up at 5.30am.

After prayers, the boys & me being wide awake, we went for a mourning stroll to watch the sunrise. The girls & daddy went back to bed.

The hotel area at dawn

There is a unique sense of calmness in the early morning , when everything is quiet. The sunrise is beautiful and the ocean was solemn. Umar recited his Quran memorization while playing with the sand. Uwais drank the scenery like a professional photographer, storing the memories somewhere special in his heart

The pier in front of the hotel

The lobby. These bikes are for hire 

The main pool & the restaurant beside it is the one that serves breakfast

The map of Lombok 
Creating some "core memories" I hope

My 7 years old boy took this shot. Nicely done, I must say

At 8am, the girls woke up & we went for the buffet breakfast at the hotel. Vila Ombak Hotel is a halal certified hotel so all food are halal and no pork served. The food variety is good and the restaurant being next to the hotel pool is a plus, where I could feed my baby his breakfast while having a stroll by the pool side.

Next stop?  Splash time! The water was warm and the biggest pool provided steps around it , so it was children friendly despite being about 1.5m deep. Even Uwais had fun in his floater. However it is not advisable to leave the children unattended albeit the pool being kids friendly

Uwais having a swim

Lunch was a bit of a challenge. After mid day prayers, we wanted to walk around to look for lunch. Unfortunately it was a bit too hot to do so, and a lot of the restaurants around the hotel were not halal. To cater for non Muslims tourist,they serve pork alongside halal chicken ,so we decided to find a truly halal restaurant. As the kids were famished from swimming earlier & their ice cream all melted and sticky in their hands, we took the cidomo or the horse carriage to a nearby halal restaurant.

The cidomo ride was quite expensive, for Rp 100,000 (about RM30) per ride of 1-2km. But believe me or not, it is worth it as the kids enjoy the ride so much!

Pics of the cidomo from Google

Our lunch was at a restaurant called Oda Cafe, it is situated near the public harbour . The food was decent (a bit too much MSG to my liking ) but cheap at Rp120,000 (RM40) for the 5 of us.

After lunch, we had a quick stop at the turtle aquarium in front of the cafe, before returning to our hotel by cidomo (which costed another Rp100,000).

Turtle Sanctuary

Afternoon was for us relaxing ,the boys and I had an afternoon nap while the girls played at a nearby hammock & chess set with the daddy.

Just before sunset, we took a cidomo ride to the sunset beach to watch the sunset and take photo at the famous swing set. The cidomo ride was rough as there were no proper road, I wouldn't recommend the ride for pregnant tourist. This cidomo ride is longer,about 4km from our hotel,towards the other side of the Island

It was quite cloudy but the beach was as picturesque as described by people who have been there. What surprised me was that the sea was shallow for about 1km from the beach so people could actually "walk" on water!

The famous swings at Ombak Sunset

After night prayers at the hotel, we decided to have dinner at the hotel , as the baby was tired & cranky. It was a seafood BBQ dinner,with free buffet for every purchase of fresh seafood.

We had squid, fish and prawns, and it costed us Rp575,000 (about RM190) for buffet of 2 adult & 3 kids. The ambiance of candle light dinner by the sea , listening to the waves while having fresh seafood grilled to perfection, without having to walk around other restaurants and asking if food  were halal , it was priceless indeed.

The lil guy is cranky!

Candle lit dinner

Freshly grilled

The night life in Gili Trawangan

Having been traveling with 4 kids, as contrast to our previous holidays where it was just the two of us, I realised I haven't actually took a photo of hubby & me.

So this is the only selfie of the two of us,before we called it a night

I'm crazy about this guy, but shhhh... don't tell him :) 

Monday 27 March 2017

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan from the front of our hotel, Vila Ombak

I think the name called out my name a few years ago. More than Lombok itself, Gili Trawangan is in a league of its own.

After visiting Bali in 2014, people keep telling me, that if I love Bali, I would love Lombok even more

2015 is the year I was busy being pregnant

2016 : The year of me being a super paranoid mom in protecting my premature baby.

Till the end of 2016 when we went to Kuantan for school holiday, and it made me realised that my baby is old enough to travel

Gili Trawangan it is then!

I booked the holiday package during Matta Fair at a random booth I selected. They offered half board arrangements with free upgrade to deluxe rooms , so I took it. It costed about RM4000+ for ground arrangements, hotels, food, boat fares etc.
The package from the company WSF Travel and Tour

Perhaps you can get cheaper deals elsewhere , or if you travel on your own but I am a tourist with a tourist attitude in mind haha! I'd rather have people greet us at arrival & wave us goodbye at departure hall, so holiday packages  suites me well.

I booked the ticket quite late,but I have been surveying the tickets for quite some time ,and they are quite reasonable . Costed me about RM4000 for 2 adults, 3 kids, 1 infant, 5 luggage of 20kg and 5 meals included. Knowing my kids, you can have lunch half an hour before boarding & the minute the Air Asia stewardess push that darn cart with nasi lemak, they are going to whine as if they have been fasting for 3 days!

I'd rather take Malaysia Airlines as they give priority boarding for passengers with small kids but as Air Asia is the cheapest option, we'd settle .

The flight took 3 hours, luckily my baby slept half an hour after take off & only woke up half an hour before arrival. The bad news was he was latching all the time so I had to hold him for 2 hours straight ,but the good news is I'm pretty sure I built some serious biceps during the flight

One of those rare moments that the baby is not attached physically to me hahahah

The Lombok International airport is small with a single luggage belt, but it's convenient enough with a prayer room & few shops around.

Our "supir"or driver cum tourist guide greeted us just outside the terminal.

The first leg of the journey is about an hour drive through picturesque villages and paddy fields , toward the restaurant where they served traditional Lombok chicken and fried fish. 

The restaurant was so peaceful with the sound of Quran recitation  from a nearby mosque .

The food? My husband nearly had to drag me back into the car. I refused to leave a single morsel of food because I thought my life would never be the same again now that I have tasted REAL Lombok food!

The famous Ayam Taliwang of Lombok. 5 star!

Lombok is also known as the island with a thousand mosque as it has a lot of mosques,one in every village. With 80 % of the population being Muslims,you can rest assured that halal food is not a problem , and finding a place to pray is easy as finding a bottle of mineral water. So no excuse to pray on time!

From the restaurant,it took us 45 minutes through windy roads in the midst of high,forested roads, to reach the harbour. We reached the harbour at nearly 8pm, and we could see lights on the three Gili Islands across the open sea.

The lights on Gili Trawangan Island from across the channel

A small speed boat took us towards Gili Trawangan and the 10 minutes journey was one of those life changing moments of your life. As the boat sped towards Gili, the stars was shining brightly and I swear that was the most magical, the most astoundingly beautiful starry night I have ever witnessed in my entire life. Subhanallah you cannot help but praising Allah the Creator of such wonderful creations . Even my baby was quiet during the journey, as if he knew how I felt inside.

As the boat slowed down towards the jetty,I was surprised to see how lovely and lively Gili Trawangan is.The hotel was gorgeous and the staffs treated you like you are a  royalty!
We got a free upgrade from a superior room to a deluxe ombak villa, so we had 1 king size & 1 queen size bed.

Spacious room for our family, Alhamdulillah 
The bathroom had an open concept so it was nice and breezy. Quick showers, soothing tea as welcome drinks and night prayers done, all 6 of us then snoozed at a drop of a hat!