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 Could this tiny island be the new Ibiza?

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Gemma
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PostSubject: Could this tiny island be the new Ibiza?   Sun Jan 03, 2010 11:04 am

Could this tiny island be the new Ibiza?

Raw, unpretentious and hedonistic, Indonesia's Gili Trawangan is the sort of magical island Ibiza used to be


I've been visiting Ibiza for years, captivated by its bohemian character,
music scene and relaxed cosmopolitan vibe. I liked the island so much I wrote the original Rough Guide to Ibiza,
a wonderful, intoxicating and exhausting project that must rank as
about as much fun as you can have on planet Earth in the name of a job.But
times have changed and my love for the White Isle has faded as bling
has replaced boho and the club scene has become increasingly
predictable. It has also become insanely expensive: entrance to Pacha
cost €64 (£57) on my last trip, and a beer was €10.I have been increasingly drawn to Indonesia,
first to Bali and later to the tiny tropical island of Gili Trawangan,
whose zeitgeist is right here, right now. Just as Ibiza's halcyon days
were in the early 60s (when the first wave of beatniks arrived) and the
late 80s (when acid house exploded), this tiny island off the
north-west of larger Lombok is shaking off its reputation as a
backpacker hangout and starting to register with a hip crowd from Asia and Europe.The
scene is quite raw, unpretentious and hedonistic, with stylish bars,
vibrant nightlife, a hip hotel or two and very decent diving. Designers
from Hong Kong and fashionistas from Tokyo mix with travellers from the
UK, scuba nuts and Indonesian creative types.A veritable speck
in the tropics – the island is just a couple of miles long and a mile
across – Trawangan is an hour or so by fast boat from Bali. (It's also
1,500 miles from the earthquake-hit Padang area of Sumatra and was
completely unaffected by the devastating quake there three months ago.)All
the desert island clichés are present and correct: dazzling white-sand
beaches fringed by coconut palms, turquoise waters and a coral reef.
It's still possible to live the tropical dream – snorkelling, feasting
on fresh seafood, then lounging or dancing under the stars – for a
fistful of Indonesian rupiah. But if your budget is bigger and your
comfort zone narrower, there are some superb new accommodation options.
Seriously stylish thatched-roofed cabins (most built in local "rice
barn" style) are replacing creaky old A-frame huts. Expect polished
timber floors, hand-carved beds with gorgeous linen, and open-air
bamboo-walled bathrooms. Those at Dream Village (around €50 a night)
have front decks facing the island's best sandy beach.

Of course, there are plenty of idyllic islands in south-east Asia with decent hotels
and a lively bar or two. Gili Trawangan's trump card is that there is
no traffic: no cars, motorbikes or motorised transport at all. Not one
moped. Nada. This is not accidental; locals have opted for relatively
sustainable development, determined to avoid the mistakes that have
turned southern Bali's paddy fields into a traffic hell. The only way
to get around is aboard a cidamo – a kind of horse-and-cart
"taxi" – on foot, or by bicycle. You can walk around the entire
shoreline in a couple of hours along a delightful path that meanders
between coconut palms.Trawangan may be increasingly prosperous
but the atmosphere remains bohemian, with a sandy high street where
magic mushrooms ("Take you to bloody heaven and back – no transport
necessary") are on sale alongside hand-made jewellery and sarongs. The
main drag has rickety timber warung (canteens) rustling up nasi goreng
(Indonesian fried rice) juxtaposed with sleek bars such as the
über-stylish British-owned Horizontal, with its decadent cocktail list
and modern menu.At night these beachfront bars play lounge music
and chilled electronic tunes next to the waves, while later the action
gravitates to one of the designated party venues – Friday nights at
Rudy's are a blast, the dancefloor bouncing to pumping house and
trance. There are no entry fees to these low-key raves, which are
packed with an unlikely mix of living-the-dream travellers, Asian
clubbers and long-haired Trawangan beach boys.Until a year or
two ago, a party night in Trawangan meant an excess of industrial-style
repetitive beats courtesy of a local DJ of dubious repute. Times have
changed, and now DJs over from Bali often spin the discs, with the odd
superstar turntablist dropping by – Timo Maas played here in 2009.
Globally renowned DJs are prepared to play the Gilis for free,
revelling in the joy of playing to a relaxed crowd on a dream beach.During
the day, most people gravitate to the coral reef that fringes Trawangan
and its two neighbouring islands. Trawangan's marine environment is on
the road to recovery after years of overfishing (and the effects of El
Niño in 1997-8, when soaring water temperatures bleached the coral).
Four years ago the islands' six scuba diving schools cut a deal with
locals to safeguard the reef. Fishermen would be paid not to fish in
the area, and it was hoped that marine life would recolonise the coral.
The effects are remarkable. Not only have the top predators
(metre-long white and black-tip reef sharks) returned in numbers but
smaller species (including ghostly looking pipefish and several types
of sea horse) are prolific, too. Scuba-nuts can be fairly sure of
spotting turtles, and vast schools of lumbering bumphead parrotfish
cruise by on full-moon evenings, gobbling up coral spawn. The sea is
usually so clear that it's possible to pick out individual grains of
sand as you snorkel offshore.In tandem with the fishing embargo,
a reef regeneration project called Biorock ensures that stray or loose
living corals are collected and transplanted onto frames beneath the
sea. Electrodes supplied with low-voltage currents cause electrolytic
reactions, accelerating coral growth and ultimately creating an
artificial reef. These Biorock installations are just off the main
beach, at a depth of about eight metres, and make a great snorkelling
experience, with clown fish darting in and out of the coral and
purple-and-yellow nudibranch sea slugs clinging to the embryonic reef.The
fishing moratorium has been a great success but it has created a
cultural conundrum. Trawangan was uninhabited 50 years ago; the first
settlers were Bugis fishing people from the island of Sulawesi. Their
descendants' way of life is now very much tied to tourism rather than
fishing. Virtually all locals are Muslim, and it's good to respect
sensibilities. Bikinis on the beach are fine (though topless sunbathing
is a no-no) but it's best to wrap a sarong round your waist for
strolling around. Alcohol is widely available and though most locals
fast during Ramadan, and parties are suspended for the month, visitors
are free to consume food and drink (including alcohol).Party
head or not, the island remains a delightful place to kick back for a
week or so, spending days horizontal in a hammock, or suspended over a
coral reef, snorkel in mouth.And if Trawangan sounds a tad too
developed, consider one of the other two Gili islands: Meno is totally
tranquil, with a population of just 300 or so, while Air has a little
more going on, with a strip of beach restaurants, though no nightlife.Observer Article
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PostSubject: Re: Could this tiny island be the new Ibiza?   Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:42 pm

And would that make Bali the new Majorca? God I hope not. But the similarities are striking. I lived on Majorca for a while in 90/91. At that stage it was about where Bali is now with overdevelopment and cultural impact. And Ibiza. What a way to ruin an island. Sad
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PostSubject: Re: Could this tiny island be the new Ibiza?   Sun Jan 03, 2010 11:05 pm

The article is referring to Gili T rather than Bali. And though I have never been to Ibiza or Gili T I think the article is very good which is why I posted it. Lots of positive information.
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