Gili Trawangan vs. Gili Meno

It didn't take an entire week on the Gili Islands to realize Gili Trawangan (the largest of the three Gilis) and Gili Meno (the smallest) share little in common besides their surrounding waters.

Gili Trawangan is busier, dirtier, and full of too many locals harassing you to buy mushrooms, marijuana, cocaine, or whatever else it is they have for sale. They don't take no for an answer until you tell them three or four times. By my final day on Trawangan (and I spent only one night and two days there, and even then only because I needed to be there for the boat back to Bali) I'd respond to every compliment or passing remark, with, I don't need anything, because I knew that, after, Nice tattoo, the next thing out of their mouth would be, What do you need?

Gili Meno is a quiet paradise. Unfortunately it runs the risk of being in a few years what Trawangan is today. But for the time being it's wonderful. When people speak with you, they're nothing except curious and complimentary, and maybe occasionally a bit clingy if they're older kids interested in something that you have. Many of the local kids asked me if they could have my boardshorts and plain black t-shirt. They wanted to buy them, trade for them, have them outright, whatever they could do to get their hands on them. Same for my cheap sunglasses. When I explained they were my only ones, they offered to trade, and when I laughed and said no thanks, they laughed and usually let it go, at least until I saw them again an hour later.

When I walked through the village on Gili Meno, strangers would offer me drinks of fresh water, or invite me to sit with them and share their food, their drink, or just their time. I never bothered to walk the villages on Trawangan. Mostly I tried to avoid the drug dealers, who were obnoxious, and the party-minded travelers and ex-pats, who often were even worse. I met a small handful of longtime Trawangan residents, ex-pats who could afford the Rp 20,000 public boat to hop from island to island, who had never left Trawangan because, paraphrasing, There is nothing to do on Meno. In every country I've visited, I'm amazed at the number of travelers I meet who are interested in little more than the next happy hour. Why would you travel all the way around the world just to go to the bar, considering every bar in every city in every country is pretty much exactly the same: from Busan to Bali, Shanghai to San Francisco, they're all the same.