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INDONESIA FIVE- GILI AYER – New Year…

As a fillip to this holiday we planned to spend three days around New Years in the Gili Islands, off the coast the island of Lombok, east of Bali… 2.5 hours by a fast boat over the Bali Sea. The ride was mostly comfortable, with views of Agung, Bali’s sacred  mountain, dancing with clouds like our Tahoma. This is deep sea so it can be rough, as we were to discover on the return trip. The windows were a bit high, to protect from the high waves, so making photos was difficult.
Gili is simply the word for island, of which there are many around Lombok, but these three are known as beach destinations, each with individual reputations, lively to quiet. We chose the side farthest away from the dock of the quietest island. 
The Gili Air Resort happily facilitated a wonderfully laid-back time…
These islands have no motorized transportation… only bicycles [of which a few are electric] & sweet quiet pony carts! Which is how we got from the boat landing across the island to the hotel with our packs & the single bag we shared for the minimal beachwear we would need.
A cat welcomed us at check-in…
We had lunch of the traditional fried rice bowl with vegetables [one can add fish, chicken or beef as desired] under an open thatched roof right on the beach, with happy staff ranging in scuffs between the several pavilions functioning as bar or service stations spaced at generous distances from the kitchen, close to the breakfast space [with bean-bag seating]. We were convinced we could be satisfied with the kitchen. 
We returned that first evening to the smell of a grill set-up on the crushed-coral beach sand with trays of fish displayed on ice. We were enticed to order the combination platter of fish… one each of the wide variety of which we learned… grilled deliciously, but ours could have fed four! A buffet of fruit, some pickled vegetables… & lots of very fresh salad.
All to be eaten at open bamboo platforms called couches, with a small table between cushions, arranged along the beach close to the surf. 
Or… our choice of a similar platform under a thatched roof… 
a lovely way to dine.
The resort, being on the beach, shares space with the public, 
who are constantly walking, jogging, running, cycling 
or being carted along at a trot!
We followed this path to our duplex abode, being the left half…
There some 30 of these duplex cabins spaced along… near, but not too close… to the busy beach, nicely spacious & cool, with deep shady porches. I loved sitting on ours to write, listening & looking up into the coconut grove. 
One morning I heard chopping & went out onto the walk to discover a group of young men harvesting the coconuts, one of them 60 or 70 feet up cutting the heavily husked fruits to drop with loud whumps, along with the flutter of some fronds. 
I’ve been practicing making videos, getting one which showed the climber coming down the tree barefooted, wishing I been there to see him climbing up. 
Stephen made his own… & he combined both our views into this:

One of the guys brought one to each of us, cut open to drink the deliciously fresh water, then whacking them open to pry the sweet flesh out with a ‘specially sharp-cut piece of shell as a scoop… “traditional way”,  he explained. 
It’s deliciousness was enhanced by the show which produced it!
Does not one go to tropical beaches with hopes toward romance?!?

From the first lunch on our arrival we noticed a young server always working busily with a graceful confidence, moving between various functions, from taking orders to cleaning or sweeping. One momentary but highly improbable notion was that his broad efficiency might link him to management. He easily became a favorite, if for no other reason that he was so winsomely cute. To our pleasure he seemed to attach himself & we were happily tended… along with other guests, of course.

Aman had an intuitive sense for service & we learned he was an intern, studying food service in high school on Lombok. He obviously enjoyed taking on responsibility & practicing his nicely developing English. I found him admirable.
Being there only for the holiday week, precociously ready for more, he repeatedly expressed sadness that he would be going home after the New Year’s Eve celebration. 
As I am easily attracted [& sometimes thus collected] by soulful young men, I enjoyed his energy. New Years evening, while he was in his element of turning his charm toward many other guests, yet he did check-in at our “sofa” several times & we collected sweet final goodbye hugs.
In preparation for what was to become quite a large New Year’s celebration of several hundred guests the staff spent the afternoon setting-up four rather large canopies with richly colored fringed borders. 
We joined the lively scene with numerous families of several generations, mothers & grandmothers nodded in headscarves while watching their youngsters dance lively to a fine reggae group.

There were also fireworks set off over the water before we went to our cabin at 11:30, listening to the music & many more fireworks until 3AM… 1917 began with a tropical bang!

Our adventure on the year’s first day was to walk around this small island… which only took a couple hours… plus some beers!
I liked this bar… with swinging seats1
Did I mention the beach is wave-crushed coral 
looking often a lot like chicken bones…
We saw several versions of this holiday note 
made with the local beer bottles.
A deep mix of styles became evident… 
 wide contrasts can be captured in any frame.
A few steps along the street offers two peeks into the same property…
showing its steps along history!

 I’ve become fascinated by the aesthetics of Muslim women’s fashion.
I refrained from obviously making photographs while wishing
I’d been at least as bold as the Muslim schoolgirls, wearing wonderful colors,
were at Pramanan that first morning on Java…
These women were the epitome of comfortable presence.

Almost back to our cabin we got waylaid by
two-for-one watermelon cocktails…
The breakfast pavilion brought together a diverse, yet mostly European, Australian & American guests to make peace with its exuberant bean-bag seating… dropping one down close to the floor… tricky with a cup of “Lombok Kopi”… a spoonful of fine grind into the cup, adding hot water… like french-pressed, without the press!
A subtle story in silhouette. 
showing we can no longer escape
 connectivity… even on tiny islands 
where we all presumably wanted to get away…

The salt water pool was large & lovely
On the boat back to Bali I was in the very front. Because the ride was so rough I wedged my bare feet against the metal wall to brace my butt a bit above the seat, I joked afterward that I needed another jeep ride as a massage! 
We arrived late because the trip took 3+ hours instead of the usual 2, plus the taxi ride we shared with another couple from the boat. We got acquainted spending another hour getting through traffic to our hotel. He was a Brazilian musician who grew-up in Italy, she was Parisian. They live in Australia. Travel!
Stephen had made plans with his old friend Michael G for dinner. I’d not yet met his partner Jati, who grew up on Java. They live rather close to the port where we landed, but the long cab trip foiled our hopes for a nap before they picked us up for sunset cocktails at their favorite bar on the beach…

It was cloudy enough to fear only grey, but a wild burst of color kissed us as we were leaving for dinner… 

… at an airy lovely bamboo & lighted canvas palace
 called Merah Putih. I suggested that Jati order, 
which proved to be delightful.

 I like Jati… in spite that the hotel he choose 
was just quite a bit too pink for my taste! 
Gusti [Villa Vajra’s manager] picked us up for one last drive back up to Ubud for our “last supper” with Joel & Nirgrantha…
I rediscovered the aptly named Snakeskin fruit (Salak) which we’d brought back from Java, a gift from our driver, knowing the small area at a particular altitude where the sweetest ones are grown on the volcano’s slopes.
Now I had time to make better photographs of
its complicated texture.

Joel took us “next door” to a resort, owned by a friend,
to swim in a pool of Zen…


The entrance to the spa offered a fine stage for casual portraits…

Going deeper down-slope into the spa the atmosphere
became so moist that my lenses began fogging-over…

One last exuberent offering on the parking…
Back to Villa Vajra for lunch
to be welcomed by the Ganesha… blessing new beginnings… 
in our case, going home to digest.
Passing the bamboo I first shared at the beginning of this trip, 
when it was about 3 feet tall… now it is standing out of easy focus at 10 or 12.
 The table frequently features napkins fancifully folded by Saba. 
Stephen exuberated wearing this simpler one
The red vine bloomed a quite exuberant farewell!
Gusti booked yet another driver taking us back 
to the airport for another very early flight 
beginning another very long exhausting 
travel episode, 
but now to be home is totally happy! 

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