Monday, July 20, 2015

My days in the island in the sun - Gili Tarawangan

Gili Tarawangan
Two groups of us went to a small sand key (quay if you're English) in the middle of the Bali Ocean. There are three small islands to the East of Bali - Gili Tarawangan (Key Tunnel), Gili Air (Key Freshwater), and Gili Meno (Key Middle). The first group was made up of Daisy and Will (the young English couple), Lauren (the Scot), Ludo (the Italian), Kira (the Indonesian-English), Alex (English - Midlander), Richard (Irish-English - Midlander), Luke (Londoner), and me (Korean American). There were also 7 or 8 in the other group, but I didn't know who they were.

The day after we all took a speed boat to an island called Gili Tarawangan. On the boat, we sat on the top of the boat as it cut through the dark, deep, and blue waters. It was sunny. So, a few of us took off our shirts, including myself, and baked in the sun.

We just chit chatted about nothing to pass the time, while the wind ripped through our hairs. They asked me questions about Los Angeles. None of them ever been. I told them it's a stressful place, and in my life, people are always asking why I'm not living up to certain expectations - mainly having more stuff - like a house, better car, better clothes, or watches.

After I stated my thoughts on the matter, I also realized for the first time how often what people say can take hold of my thinking and affect me. It shouldn't matter, but somehow thoughts can bury itself in your mind.

After arriving on the island in the sun, we immediately sat for drinks and food. I ordered a cucumber juice with lime and pineapple. Everyone else ordered a beer. (You could already see where this was all going.)

We didn't have a place to stay. I felt a bit annoyed by it. Kira, who later became known as Queen Bee, found us a dingy hotel that had four full size beds in a shabby hotel room - which had cockroaches, mice, and a toilet that wouldn't flush. (Someone named the cockroach - Jimmy - I believe after the cricket in the Disney movie.)

It wasn't the worst place I've ever stayed at, but it was rather bad. We all had to share a bed, and Queen Bee took the biggest bed for herself. I don't think this is what I was quite imagining what my holidays would turn out to be.

I found "Gili T." to be rather trashy. It was infested with young British and Australian backpackers - all looking to do drugs or drink or have sex with random people. Indonesia is rather strict with drug use, and I remember one time they sought the death penalty against an Australian girl bringing in drugs. But there are no police on the Gilis. That doesn't mean crime doesn't happen. It means the police have to come from the bigger islands though, and so in general, the Gilis really aren't policed. So, drugs abound.

Whenever a few of us walked on the streets, peddlers asked if we wanted marijuana or magic mushrooms. Now, magic mushrooms are legal in Indonesia because it grows rather abundantly on one of the islands.

I smelled them. They had a strong smell. Definitely, not fresh. (And in case you're wondering, I was sober throughout this entire vacation.)

So, people in the group 'shroomed and smoked out. Then everyone went out to drink and drink. While we were waiting though, Ludo - the Italian - offered me a cigar. And I smoked it and smoked it because I was getting bored. I usually don't smoke. And around 10 PM, I started feeling unwell. I realized I had nicotine poisoning and didn't feel so good. I stayed in and slept.

It's Ludo's fault, the whole nicotine poisoning. Even though I didn't feel like smoking, he would keep offering it to me.

I told him, "You are diablo (Devil)." All he did was tempt me.

He retorted, "We all need a devil in our lives, Paul."

I smiled.

One of them laid out on the bed next to me. I asked, "Are you doing ok?" He was obviously on something.

The rest came roaring in, drunk, at 4 AM - all of them - except Queen Bee - who found someone. I woke. I tried to sleep again. I was still feeling unwell from the nicotine.

I thought to myself, How did I end up in this group - again?

Daisy and Will also came in early. I think we were the early birds, that's Daisy, Will and me.

* * *

The next day, I woke up at around 9 am. Luke woke too. I said, "I'm getting breakfast. Wanna come?"

He said, "Sure."

Ludo saw us and said, "I come too."

So the three of us walked around the strip. I found a cafe that reminded me of a place in Los Angeles - so I picked it. I ordered a cappuccino, Luke a cappuccino, and Ludo an espresso. They both ordered a typical breakfast of eggs and meat, while I ordered lox - which is bagel and smoked salmon with cream cheese. The food was really good. We enjoyed it, except the cream cheese was not the best. I'll settle, after all I'm in the island in the sun - in the middle of nowhere.

Then the three of us walked around the entire sand island, stopping about every hour for a fruit drink or coffee. We would order a juice and sit and watch the ocean. It was nice. I felt like we bonded. In fact, Luke and Ludo and I had breakfast together every morning at the same place.

On Hammock in Gili T.
It took us four hours to slowly walk the island, with lunch and breaks. (I later ran the entire island in an hour; so it's not that big.) When we came back, the group, who had just woken up from their hangover asked what we did.

We told them we had a wonderful breakfast and that we had enjoyed walking around the entire island. They looked at us jealously. But they were so hung over, breakfast was not a possibility for them.

We took a nap. After our nap, we went out for dinner at the local night market - where the locals cooked street food. There were plenty of open grills with fresh seafood, prawns (shrimp), lobster, crabs, and clams laid out for the people to see. The food merchants shouted, "Fresh fish here! Good food! Cheap food."

Luke was sitting next two girls - one American and one Australian, early 20's. They kind of looked like punk-rock-chicks. The American was loud and very forward. In fact, she started following Luke wherever he went. I teased him and told him, "You just picked yourself up a stalker, didn't you."

She even followed Luke back to our hotel, but when the girls laid eyes on her, they gave off a catty vibe, and it was clear she was not wanted in that room.

I joined them at the Irish Bar later. I played beer pong with Luke and Richard. Richard was very good. I was very bad. (I hardly play the game.) I did end up getting one ball in the cup though.

I was getting bored at the bar. Around midnight, I went back to bed. Will was in bed. I was in a bed far from him.

Then all of a sudden, Queen Bee came in with a man. I think they wanted to have sex while we were in the room. I hope my body language made it clear that would not be appropriate.

Kira was very drunk. Very, very drunk, in fact. She looked like she was going to vomit. I told Will, "I hope she doesn't. Not in our room. It'll smell foul."

Her man went to the restroom, dumped out the trash can, which was full of pubic hairs and toilet paper wetted with menstrual blood. There were also cockroaches in the toilet.

I just watched all this happening. Luckily, Kira never threw up. The man took Kira back with her. That was good because I didn't want her vomiting in our room.

I went to bed. Even after they came back drunk, I didn't wake up. That was good.

I woke up in the morning. Luke woke up too. Ludo was up too. We were going to get breakfast. To my great surprise, however, the whole group woke up and wanted to get breakfast too, hung over or not. I can't stress enough how surprised I was. The whole group woke up and got breakfast.

So, the lot of us, all eight of us, went down to the same cafe and ordered. This time, we sat in the patio, which was built right over the ocean. It was nice - all eight of us sitting there and eating and drinking coffee.

Every morning, I shared more of my life with Luke and Ludo - telling them my war stories of being a litigator in Los Angeles or personal stories about my life. In fact, I told many and many stories on this trip. I even told Will and Daisy a bedtime story - to put them to sleep.

On this day, I decided I wanted to go scuba diving. Four people decided to go with me. The others decided to join us on the boat ride and snorkel in the water.

We wanted to dive the day before, but the storms from the Philippines ruined our dives because it made the conditions too dangerous. We had an Australian woman dive instructor. She was a control freak and stressed to us three times that we weren't ever to pass her in our dive. My group was with Richard and Alex. We dove an intentional shipwreck.

I found a sea slug on the dive. It's called nudibranch. I touched it. The dive instructor saw me touch it and she scolded me underwater. What a bore - I thought of her.

To be honest, it was the worst dive I ever had in the tropics. There was nothing there. No big animals. No sea life and dead coral.

The best part was coming back up on the boat and joining the girls at the top - who seemed to be having a gleeful time, bathing in the sun, on top of a boat that sat on top of sapphire sparkling waters. I whispered to them how our dive instructor was a Nazi. When she surfaced and arrived on the boat, I changed subjects - so she wouldn't hear what I was talking about. Soon after, Richard and Alex joined us at the top of the boat. We sailed back to the mainland.

Daisy and Will didn't join us for our dive. Somehow Will ended up losing the group and in the rush of getting a scuba dive into the day, they were forgotten. They didn't seem pleased upon meeting us in the hotel room.

For dinner, we went back to the night market. I ordered grilled squid and noodles. It tasted good. Ludo, Luke, and Lauren joined us. I asked Luke where his stalker went. He said she added him to Facebook, then left him alone.

We talked about not having a smashed up evening again. So, Luke bought a bottle of tequila and played a version of poker with Ludo. Every time one lost a game, one had to drink a shot of tequila. When I came back from the Irish Bar, Ludo had already drank 9 shots of tequila. Remembering what Queen Bee was like the other night, I was getting worried about Ludo. I said, "Maybe, you should stop, Ludo."

He said, "No. no. I'm ok. Really."

I thought, Oh, I hope so.

Soon, Lauren, Will, Daisy, and I joined the poker game. I told Luke though I wasn't drinking. I don't like tequila. He said he would drink all my shots then, if I lost.

I turned out to be a skilled poker player though. Luke never had to drink a shot because I never lost a hand in the thirteen rounds we played. Two of those rounds, I should have lost, but luck saved me. I really just got lucky and drew the right cards. The other 11 rounds was more about skill.

I played poker like I litigate. You just make the best decision you can at the time; hence, it's not like you'll win each time, but you control the bad luck with a bad hand and you increase the odds of good luck with a good hand.

I couldn't control myself and at one point I taunted one of the players and said, "I'm gonna make you lose this game." I flashed an impish grin, the kind that children show when they think they're getting away with something.

At one point, one of them told me, "Screw you, Paul! I hate you and that little smile of yours."

Lauren laughed and said, "I just love how he smiles to provoke people." (Probably something I picked up in litigation.)

Sadly, he did lose whenever I provoked him and he had to drink. He couldn't handle the strong tequila and his skin turned grey after getting drunk. He looked like a heroin addict from the movie Train Spotting.

Having the others join the game gave Ludo a break. He didn't have to drink so much. He, thus, recovered.

Some had to vomit from drinking too much tequila.

It was time to sleep. They wall wanted to hear a bedtime story. So, I told them a love story. They all fell asleep - and so did I.

That was my last night on Gili T.

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