I’ve stayed in Gili T for about 10 days in total, having had a 4-night break in Ubud, Bali. There’s one thing I’ve noticed about local people – their honest hospitality – and I’d like to share 3 short stories about this.
Story 1 – hotels
I’ve already mentioned that the hotel staff are very hospital and friendly. They would always ask ‘How are you’ – and actually mean it. They would ask about your plans. On return, they would always welcome as ‘Welcome home!’. They always remember my name, and that is nice, too. But there’s more.
My initial hotel (really recommended, Island Beach Bungalow in Gili T) was fully booked, and I needed another place for the New Years. I wanted to stay a bit more central, so I started checking the hotels/bungalows/homestays by walking around, asking about availability, prices and to see the room. They would ask about my plans, my name, and where I’m from. Eventually, Rumah Purnama, who had a room of a slightly higher standard than the places near it for a good price (400K IDR, 30USD) for the NY.
When going to Bali, I left my large backpack/suitcase in the first hotel I stayed. Upon my return, I walked into the hotel, and the staff quickly brought my suitcase. Not only that – one of them, Hamsan, loaded it onto his bicycle and walked me to my new place, around 25 minutes.
Every time I would pass by the places where I did my hotel price check almost a week ago, the staff would recognise me, call by my name (!) and check how I was! When the staff from my previous hotel would stumble me on the street, they also always recognised me, thanking for my stay and wishing all the best. I’ve never had such experience before.
Story 2 – the bar
One night, I went to the bar closest to Island Beach Bungalow. I would say, it’s located in a middle of nowhere, and can be only recognised by some Christmas lights and people in it. It even doesn’t have an option to be ‘closed’ – simply because there’s nothing to close.
It is located in front of main entrance to Jali Resort if you ever want to visit.
In this bar, mainly locals would play acoustic reggae with guitars and drums. Anyone who wants to join and sing or play are welcome – it feels more like a home party. There’s 2 things what makes it feel even more like a home party.
They prepared some food and insisting on sharing it with everyone. One lady (Julie) brought some fruit and wine, and it was also shared between everyone. Some locals brought some arak (local moonshine) and offered it to everyone who wished to have a shot.
Another thing is how they charge – at least when I was there. They a had a beer bucket on a table, and one could drink at their own pace. In the end, you’d pay based on the number of empty bottles left – basically, based on honesty. Well, the price is also same as in a shop…
Or maybe I gate crashed at someone’s home party? 😀
Story 3 – SIM card issue
I ran out of 7Gb XL SIM I had in Gili, and went into a small shop to try and top up. I had to get a new one instead because my old card (XL) had some issues. The new SIM showed “No Service”, which is sometimes OK because it may take a few minutes to register or whatever. I had a catch-up with friends and couldn’t wait, and the staff in the shop told me I should come back if it doesn’t work.
On Gili, you never know if the SIM card doesn’t work because it’s bad, or because there’s no signal.. Well, in several hours and several places, it hasn’t started working. I went back to the shop. To be honest, I didn’t hope for much – their business is to sell… But they recognised me and tried another card, which didn’t work either. They tried restarting my phone, their phones etc – and it was clear something was wrong. I didn’t have the packaging with me, but they gave me the money back, asking to bring the package so they can complain to the provider. After seeing so many ‘no returns’ policies, and having even no receipt for my purchase, I felt very nice about their honesty. They also didn’t hesitate I would bring back the package… (I did of course)
Despite relatively low incomes and standard of life, Indonesians in Gili seem hassle-free, relaxed and happy people. Many of them can’t afford even going to Bali, and doubt they’d ever do. But they would play music on the streets for their own pleasure, not expecting (it seems) tips. They would chat with you, offer help, and even walk an extra mile with no mercenary intentions.
There are always exceptions to that, of course, – especially on the main street near the pier. This is where I felt I was overcharged (for a sim card, by about 1USD which isn’t a big deal), or where horse cart drivers can give you a higher price. The restaurants are also more mainstream there – I’d rather go to the smaller streets closer to the centre of the island. But overall, Gili feels like a very nice place!