They flew into Singapore first, so we did what I've been looking for an excuse to do in months and took them to Club 55 to devour plate after plate of cheese and chocolate. Club 55 is so reasonably priced at $48++ for all-you-can-eat. This time was even better than the last as they had a huge wheel of raclette bubbling away onto little individuals portions of fried potato croquettes, pickles and salad. Food heaven.
Not that anyone would need another reason to go there, but the view at Club 55 is also pretty special. It's on the 55th floor (if you hadn't already guessed) of Marina Bay Sands Hotel and I love seeing the expression on people's faces when they see the bay from a height for the first time.
After one night in Singapore, Phil's pals flew off to Bali whilst Phil and I counted down the days until the weekend when we were to head over to the Gili Islands to meet them. We were up at 3am Saturday morning to catch our flight to Bali where we then caught a taxi and a boat over to our first stop - Gili Air.
Advice for anyone travelling from Singapore to the Gili Islands: Don't do it this way as it's a right faff. Instead fly from Bali to Lombok then hop on a quick boat to the Gilis. We arrived a bit stressed and tired after around 10 hours of travelling, but any bad feeling melted away instantly the minute we arrived on the island.
The first thing I noticed was that there are no motorised vehicles anywhere. Instead of cars and motorbikes, everyone gets around by walking, horse and cart or bicycle which meant the whole island was quiet and peaceful. The other thing I noticed was that as there aren't really any street names. Instead the island is filled with colourful painted signs nailed to poles at the side of the streets directing visitors to the nearest villa, bar or beach.
I was expecting the Gilis to feel a bit like Bali, but it's different kettle of fish altogether.
We stayed at a place called H2O Yoga which was a lovely, idyllic little air bnb full hammocks and very fit looking yogis! Unfortunately we ran out of time to do any yoga or meditation practices, but I'd recommend H20 Yoga to anyone staying on Gili Air - yogi or not.
We spent the first afternoon on the beach and in various bars; finishing the evening with a delicious rendang curry (me) and nasi goreng (Phil) and an early night before a day of diving on Sunday.
The Gilis have got to be THE best diving I have done. We saw black and white tipped reef sharks, hawksbill and sea turtles, rays, trigger fish, unicorn fish, parrot fish and about a hundred other types. The visibility was about 20 metres and it felt incredible.
We were on such a high after diving (and the espresso martinis we had afterwards) that we then spent the rest of the evening dancing and singing along to a band called Old Town who were playing in one of the restaurants. Old Town are one of the best live bands I have ever seen or heard (sounds like an overstatement, but I'm not kidding)! I don't remember how many drinks were drunk, but I do remember feeling zero embarrassment when dancing barefoot in the sand in front of a restaurant full of people for hours on end.
We met the guys on Gili T the following morning - just a 30 minute, $4 boat ride away. Gili T has a slightly different vibe; a younger crowd, a little busier, and a few more loud bars and souvenir shops. Someone summed the three islands up perfectly: Gili Meno is perfect for honeymooners, Gili T is perfect for young backpackers, and Gili Air is a perfect combination of the two.
We spent the day snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and spotted another huge sea turtle just 20m out from the shore.
We rented bikes and cycled the whole circumference of the island, stopping on the west beach to watch the sun set and take a few obligatory swing photos...
We didn't meet the couple that own the air bnb we stayed in on Gili T, but it was so beautiful and their bio has inspired Phil and I. The owners are an Austro/Italian couple who upped sticks and left Europe, and moved to the Gilis to start their air bnb - Rumah Cahaya.
It just shows; when the 9-5 job (or more likely, 8-6 job) and city life ever gets too much, there's always an option to leave it all behind to lead a relaxed life on a little island in paradise.