Gili Meno, a little island near Bali, Indonesia.
When you land in Bali, you think that you have arrived to the real paradise, not one of those that are shown in any catalogue that look like they are made of plastic. This Indonesian island still ooze an exotic air of paradisiacal and colourful beaches, of palm and coconut trees, and all that marketing stuff used to sell deodorant brands. Or at least, that was what we thought until yesterday, when we realized that the idyllic image that we had has nothing to do with the reality.
This is the best evidence that marketing works. We don’t know what they did to put in our heads that image of Bali; if it was some VIP’s wedding. Or maybe it was those advertising features about posh mermaids wearing low-cut swim-suits and flowers hanging form their ears. Whatever it was, the truth is that we swallowed it, and that’s the problem with publicity. When the product doesn’t make the grade, it is worse than a trying to do it and not being able to get it up. Bali’s beaches are not worth it. The water is anything but crystalline, and even the weather is not nice. During the rainy season you get soaked through your underwear and the rest of the year the humidity is such that you sweat so much that your cheap shirts discolour on your body. But not everybody will tell you the same story, because most tourists don’t notice it. They have them locked in their “all-included” hotels, which they don’t even leave to smoke, lest opening the door the paradise will turn into a pumpkin. The strange thing is that, in spite of everything, we liked Bali. The inland scenery is beautiful, mainly the rice fields surrounded by palm and banana trees. Besides, if you are into decoration, don’t go to Ubud, because you will spend all your savings in their stores. A town, they say, with the most expensive hotels in the world. Ours is not one of those, but it’s wonderful.
Nevertheless, we came to Bali to enjoy and being amazed by its beaches and not to buy furniture or walk around the fields. That is why we took a map of Indonesia and, we asked the first Balinese who passed by to point at the wildest island in the country. Gili Meno, a place so small that doesn’t even have bicycles. In ten minutes we bought the tickets. The skiff that took us there, unloaded us in the middle of the ocean, 100 meters from the shore. It was just the both of us, by ourselves in the middle of the night. After searching for a good while, we found the owner of some cabins hidden under the coconut trees. Fifteen Euros was the price to rent the closest cabin to the sea, only 10 meters, made of bamboo and just with a mattress and a ceiling fan. .
That was really like arriving to paradise. We swam in front of our bungalow. The water was so clear, that even at night we could sea the bottom of the sea with an amazing clarity. Still wet and barefoot, we walked along the beach to the Yaya Warung place. Only dish: grilled fresh fish with garlic rice. Everything, including two cold beers and a pergola made of palm trees where we ate lying on our towels, was six Euros. The next day we went to dive to Turtle Reef, five minutes in a boat and one hour surrounded by giant turtles and coral gardens. On our way back, we ate fish again at Yaya Warung.
It sounds well, doesn’t it? For us, it was like paradise, but we don’t recommend it. The sand is made of pieces of coral that sticks into your feet, the water is full of jellyfish remains, and the sun starts burning your skin even before you get up. Paradise, as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. We don’t know if it is Gili Meno, Formentera, or the living-room of your house or ours. Paradise is not one place or another. It is about moments that come up, some times when you least expect them, with a special colour and flavour. But you cannot sit around and wait for it to come to you. You have to get up and find them. And do it quick as they are few and they last even less.