Gili Trawangan – a paradise lost

This story was updated at 15:56 February 13, 2013
Additional material in green type

Located only 35 kilometres to the east of Bali, the island of Lombok has long had a reputation for being the uncommercialised version of Indonesia’s best known tourism destination.

However while Lombok proudly hangs on to its Lombok – Primitive slogan, the primitive nature of its people, one primarily motivated by greed, dishonesty and jealousy, has seen Lombok’s tourism appeal reduce significantly in recent years.

Of particular notoriety amongst younger travellers and backpackers has been a group of three Gili’s (islands) located off the northwest tip of Lombok.

The majority of Gili Trawangan's original inhabitants make a subsistence living
The majority of Gili Trawangan’s original inhabitants make a subsistence living. photo: John Le Fevre

Named Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, the three developed a reputation due to their white-sandy beaches, crystal blue waters and low-cost accommodation.

Because of its wild nightly parties, easily obtainable drugs and the absence of police, Gili Trawangan in particular developed a reputation amongst travellers looking for nights of partying and days sleeping on the beaches in preparation for the next party.

Gili Trawangan was first populated by prisoners in 1891 following a failed rebellion against the Raj of Lombok. In the 70’s the government provided prisoners who had completed their sentences with parcels of land on which to grow coconuts.

These days the tradition continues. The difference is that the coconuts the locals harvest today are “white coconuts” – the local terminology for tourists, while not all of the criminals living on the island have ever seen the inside of a jail cell.

Sadly, what was once the epitome of a tropical paradise has degenerated into a grotty little island ruled by a greedy and corrupt group of a dozen intermarried families who live in extraordinary wealth and who treat the Gili Trawangan as their personal fiefdom.

Gili Trawangan mafia

A foreign “mafia” comprising a tight-knit group of English expatriates who own the majority of the Gili Trawangan’s diving schools and larger businesses, each having a member of the ruling families as a business partner, in turn supports them.

While the Gili Trawangan still has the same pure white-sandy beaches and crystal blue waters that attracted the first tourists 20-years ago, little else remains the same.

The once thriving Gili Trawangan reef has been decimated – bleached by the effects of El Nino and ravaged by dynamite fishing – considerably reducing the schools of fish that used to abound.

Accommodation on Gili Trawangan has also changed from what early visitors will remember.

The crudely constructed, rustic bamboo huts with open roofed, squat pan fitted bathrooms common in the early years, have now all but disappeared.

Those that remain are in such poor condition and have so many holes poked in the walls to cater to the voyeuristic tendencies of Gili Trawangan locals, that they are undesirable except to those on the tightest of budgets.

While there are still a few guest houses offering mid-range rooms for around Rp80,000 (US$8.60) per night, the trend in recent years has been toward bungalows and rooms with air conditioning and hot water in resort settings priced at more than Rp3 million (US$323.00) per night.

Early visitors to the island will have fond memories of the famous Gili Trawangan magic mushroom shakes and omelettes readily obtainable at many of the small beachfront caf√©’s. Also the plentiful supply of relatively cheap but poor quality Achenes marijuana.

Unfortunately now the pure mushroom shakes have been replaced by those with Arak and Red Bull additives, as Gili Trawangan locals try to find a more powerful and less enjoyable combination.

The result is tourists who often are unable to walk, while others stumble around in their own world, totally unaware of their actions.

More than a few tourists have had a less than enjoyable time as a result, often finding their wallet missing when the effects of the mushrooms have worn off.

Hedonistic Gili Trawangan parties fueled demand for hard drugs

The increasing numbers of tourists flocking to Gili Trawangan for its hedonistic parties also fuelled a demand for harder drugs.
In recent years ecstasy, “shabu-shabu,” or crystal meth, along with heroin has flooded the Gili Trawangan – courtesy of the two younger brothers of a senior Lombok narcotics policeman from the village of Bangsal, the jumping-off point for getting to the island.

Opok or "Dani" – one of Gili Trawangans nastier "beach boys"
Opok or “Dani” ‚Äì one of Gili Trawangans nastier “beach boys” after a little a little to much shabu-shabu and Arak

It’s at Bangsal where many foreign tourists first come to realise that the paradise they are seeking is not the same as they have read of in their vintage edition tourist guides, or the anecdotal tales told by previous travellers.

The official public fare for the boat journey to Gili Trawangan is Rp3,000 (US$0.32).

However a local group of hoodlums and thugs literally ambush visitors heading for the public ticket office located on the foreshore and on the pretense of being tour guides, extort payments of up to Rp200,000 (US$21.74) out of them for the 45-minute journey.

Visitors of either sex who challenge the high fees or claims that return tickets cannot be purchased on Gili Trawangan are often verbally abused, threatened and physically assaulted.

A separate group of thugs operate as porters in the harbour. The tactic is to seize tourists’ bags, load them onto the boats and then demand payments as high as US$ 5 per bag, compared to the local price of Rp500 to Rp1,000 (US$0.05 – US$0.10) per item.

While once Gili Trawangan was laid back and carefree, the huge number of tourists over the years has seen an ugly sub-culture fuelled by alcohol, drugs and sex develop.

It’s for good reason that mainland Lombokians, as well as those in Bali, warn tourists heading to Gili Trawangan to “be careful of the mosquitoes.”

However the mosquitoes euphemistically referred to are not the flying variety, but rather the long-haired “beach-boy” variety who derive their income from sucking tourists’ finances dry.

The ploy of the Gili Trawangan beach boys is simple. Describing themselves as “guides,” this group of lay-abouts befriend tourists and then guide them to particular bars, restaurants and guesthouses where they receive a commission on every rupiah spent.

The Gili Trawangan beach boys are also the primary distributors of drugs on the island, controlling the sale of everything from marijuana to heroin and crystal meth (ice).

Not all the drugs sold are what they appear to be though. Gili Trawangan is renowned for its “blue garuda” and “pink lady” ecstasy.

However the former is made from rat poison containing strychnine, while the latter comprises two, baby paracetamol fused together with water and an obscure symbol carved into it by the Gili Trawangan ‘beach boys’.

While the sale of drugs and commissions can nett the beach boys up to a million rupiah or more a day in the high season, their main income is derived from targeting unsuspecting female tourists.

The general Lombokian view – and Balinese as well for that matter – is that tourists visit Lombok (or Bali) to take drugs and party.

Western females are held in particularly low regard in both Bali and Lombok, with the general view being that they are all nymphomaniacs visiting to have sex with brown-skinned island boys.

The Gili Trawangan beach boys spend their days scouring the beaches and restaurants in search of female tourists – particularly targeting those who are older, less attractive or fat.

It matters little to them whether the girl is travelling alone, with her boyfriend or in a group.

To overcome obstacles such as this they will work as a team to break up a group of female tourists travelling together with one beach boy targeting each member of the group.

More than a few relationships have ended up on the rocks due of the efforts of the Gili Trawangan’s playboys.

After deciding amongst themselves who will target which girl, at night they go in search of their prey. By this stage they will already know the targets name and where she is staying.

Using a variety of charming, lame, goofy or childish means, or just plain persistence, they soon attach themselves to their intended victim.

Before long she is paying for her new “friends” drinks, food and even drugs, and often those of his friends as well.

Though Gili Trawangan business owners claim crime on the island is virtually non-existent, theft, robbery and sexual assault occur more frequently than those with a vested interest in keeping tourists on the island care to admit.

The increased level of drug dependency among Gili Trawangan locals, coupled with jealousy and greed, has seen many a tourist leave the island minus their mobile phone, digital camera, MP3 player and much more.

Theft is not just limited to expensive items. Even used sandals and cheap bracelets are often stolen from guests’ rooms.

Those items that are not stolen bur desired are simply requested.

When it comes to asking for things tourists quickly discover that Gili Trawangan and Bangsal locals are far from shy, and extremely persistent, in their requests for gifts.

Everything from T-shirts and sports shoes to mobile phones and digital camera’s are requested as “a memento” of having met someone. Foreign currency “for my collection” is by far at the top of the list.

More sinister is the handful or so of women who each month wake up to find themselves sharing their bed with the friendly Gili Trawangan beach boy who had been entertaining them and organising their drinks the night before.

However not all of the women who wake up in this situation are unwilling participants.

Blinded by the apparent genuine affection many, particularly older women, return to the island annually – or more often to be with their tropical boyfriend.

Many send them money in between to ensure their welfare. It also not uncommon for some to sponsor their island lovers on a visit to their home country. Almost inevitably these sponsored visits end disastrously.

This does not stop the beach boys from picking up a new girlfriend almost as soon as the old one has left the island.

Many Gili Trawangan locals have more than a dozen women at a time sending them money and emails each month, each believing they are the only one.

While many of Gili Trawangan’s beach boys are married to locals, this doesn’t prevent them from going so far as marrying visiting foreign women if they think it will earn them more money.

Few of the people who work in the tourism industry on Gili Trawangan actually live full-time on the island and the beach boys are careful to ensure their wives and children stay at home in the village on the mainland.

The intensity and rivalry amongst Gili Trawangans’ playboys when it comes to female tourists is such that fights over women are a regular occurrence at the nightly parties.

Fighting amongst drugged-up or drunken island beach boys is of such magnitude that the two largest party venues collect the identity cards of all locals entering and use uniformed guards, complete with hand-held metal detectors, to curb the number of incidents involving knives.

Gili Trawangan liqueur substitution

Liqueur substitution has also become common at Gili Trawangan’s plethora of bars.

Declining tourist arrivals have considerably impacted local businesses and watered down or substituted spirits has become commonplace in even some of the larger establishments.

Abuse of tourists is not limited to just the locally run establishments either.

In a classic example of British public schoolboy humour, one English tourist who passed-out at the islands Irish Bar had his 12-year old pony tail snipped off by one of the islands British diving school owners – with the assistance of one of the bars’ English owners.

With the exception of the nightly parties, the only other activities on Gili Trawangan are eating, drinking snorkeling and scuba diving.

Despite the condition of the reef, diving school operators on the island extol the virtues of diving with the harmless black-tip and reef sharks that inhabit the area, along with the occasional manta ray that occasionally swims through.

The truth is that these shark species are readily found throughout Asia and not unique to Gili Trawangan.

In addition, the price fixing that has been put in place by the English expatriate “mafia” means that all establishments charge the same prices for diving. Tourists usually only discover this after spending half a day so going from one establishment to the other.

The costs have reached such a level that Gili Trawangan is now one of the most expensive locations in Indonesia to undertake a Padi diving course and considerably more expensive than Thailand or even nearby Bali.

A more depressing side to Gili Trawangan is the abject poverty many of the true local inhabitants live in.

The majority of tourists visit and depart the island totally oblivious to the real Gili Trawangan village and permanent island population living behind the ritzy tourist establishments located along the foreshore.

Living in rustic houses slapped together out of wood off-cuts, plastic tarpaulins and cardboard, the majority eke out a subsistence living fishing, raising a few cattle and harvesting coconuts.

Very few tourists are awake when the young children of these residents, dressed in little more than rags, troll through the islands rubbish bins at sunrise collecting empty bottles, aluminium cans and cardboard for reselling.

Not being related to Gili Trawangan’s ruling families, nor involved in the tourism or drug industries, these island residents benefit next to nothing from the millions of dollars that are spent each year on the island.

Rather, they have seen their environment devolve to the point where many of them won’t let their children walk along the foreshore any longer due to the debauched behaviour of drugged-up and drunken tourists and locals.

For them, paradise was lost a long time ago. For tourists the hunt continues for that much sought after island paradise.

ENDS:
© John Le Fevre, 2007

Jan 11, 2013
On December 31, 2012 Perth, Australia teenager Liam Davies became seriously ill on Gili Trawangan after drinking what he thought was genuine vodka poured from imported bottles behind the bar at Rudy’s on Gili Trawangan.

Mr Liam was transported to Lombok before being transferred to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth where he died on January 5, 2013 from methanol poisoning.

Mr Davies is not the only Australian to die after drinking methanol adulterated drinks in Indonesia. Perth rugby player Michael Denton died in Bali in September 2011. In recent months a number of other tourists have died as a result of methanol adulterated drinks in Bali/Lombok, while several others have been left blind.

Dr Naren Gunja, medical director at the New South Wales Poison Centre, says methanol is hard to smell or taste when it is diluted. It does not take much methanol to kill a person, the body metabolises it into a dangerous toxin.

Feb 3, 2013

Independent scientific testing commissioned by News Ltd, Australia has found Rudy’s Bar, the Gili Trawangan venue where Perth carpenter Liam Davies consumed alcohol on New Year’s Eve – then died a few days later of suspected methanol poisoning – is still selling vodka containing the potentially lethal chemical while Happy Cafe in Senggigi, Lombok where Sydney nurse Jamie Johnston consumed the traditional Balinese spirit Arak in 2011, then suffered brain and kidney damage, is serving drinks from a bottled labelled Jose Cuervo tequila containing ”significant levels of methanol.

Independent scientific testing commissioned by News Ltd last week confirmed also that both businesses are selling alcoholic drinks labelled Malibu rum and Disaronno amaretto containing double the alcohol content as is stated on the source bottles.

In the wake of News Ltd’s special investigation, the Australian government last night announced it would revise its official advice provided to Australians visiting Indonesia, and would recommend pre-bottled drinks – such as beer – were the best way to avoid methanol drinks

– Liam Davies, 19, from Perth, died in January this year after drinking a Vodka mix containing methanol from Rudy’s Bar and Restaurant on Gili Trawangan.
– Jamie Johnston, then 25 of Sydney, suffered brain damage and kidney failure from a methanol laced jug of Arak from the Happy Cafe on Lombok in September 2011.
– Michael Denton, 29, of Perth died in Sanglah Hospital, Bali, of methanol poisoning after drinking a cocktail on a rugby trip.
– Johan Lundin, 28, a Swedish national, died in June last year after drinking a mojito at Suma Suma bar on Gili Trawangan.
– In 2009, 23 people died in Lombok and the surrounding islands from methanol poisoning.

Read:  Special investigation: Sip of death on Indonesian island paradise

Read:¬† Parents say teen’s methanol poisoning misdiagnosed

Related:  War on drugs a failure says international group

Related: Indonesian corruption – immigration officials skimming millions

Related: Trawangan dive school coral regrowth project encouraging

Related: Gili Meno the honeymoon island… a perfect place for you, or two

Related: Former penal colony is holiday hot spot

Related: Lombok vet takes conservation lead

Related: Indonesia’s wedding month

Related: Knights on horseback and sea worms feature in Sumba Pasola festival

Related: Killer PMA back in Aussie clubs

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Gili Trawangan ‚Ä¢ Human rights ‚Ä¢ Ecstasy ‚Ä¢ Illegal drugs ‚Ä¢ Indonesia ‚Ä¢ Lombok ‚Ä¢ Indonesia tourism ‚Ä¢ Nusa Tengara Barrat ‚Ä¢ Gilli tralala ‚Ä¢Corruption ‚Ä¢ Diving ‚Ä¢ Indonesian travel ‚Ä¢ Bangsal mafia ‚Ä¢ Indonesian beach boys ‚Ä¢ Rave culture ‚Ä¢ drug policies ‚Ä¢ drug use ‚Ä¢ narcotics abuse ‚Ä¢ Sengigi ‚Ä¢ Methanol poisoning ‚Ä¢ Rudy’s Bar ‚Ä¢ Happy Cafe
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John Le Fevre

Deputy editor, Thailand & GMS editor at The Establishment Post

John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 35 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and copy editor.

He is currently deputy editor and Thailand / GMS region editor for The Establishment Post

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

19 Responses to "Gili Trawangan – a paradise lost"

  1. bestnightever   December 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Incorrect information regarding those ‘pink lady’ xtc tablets, would contain approx 120-140mg of some of the most pure and cleanest mdma i have ever had. Was pleasantly surprised :)!

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    • John Le Fevre   December 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Great news. Thanks for the update. Bear in mind the story you are commenting on is five years old :)

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  2. Olmer   August 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I think the main problem are the drugs on the island. I lived years on gili air and i know that almost all of the beach people are addicted to methamphetamin (shabu shabu). The young locals are uneducated and have no idea about drugs. When they work as helpers at partytime in bars they get, they call “extrapower”, shabu shabu to work harder from their boss. Experience the short positive effect of the drug without knowing the danger and here we(they) go… .
    Drugs are expensive, and the salary for a worker is very poor. Once a junkie they don’t care how they get the money. Cheating, stealing, there are no moral borders.
    Actually i don’t care if people take drugs, but when i see how the gili mafia creates their new customers i get really pissed of.
    Police can’t, and/or doesn’t want to handle that problem. They work together with the mafia to get their piece.
    So we knew when there is a razzia coming from the island.
    If people get caught, they forgot to share.

    Sure if you bring your money and enjoy there for your couple of weeks holiday you will not see behind the szenary.
    Gili is not the place where people enjoy their ganja and take their mushrooms, this island is controlled by hard drugs.
    Cheers

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  3. Julia   March 21, 2012 at 5:33 am

    I read the article before i traveled to Gilis this Feb. after spending a month on the islands, and most of the time on Gili T, I cant understand the point of the article. I traveled alone. and i am scandinavian and blonde. Yes, maybe some guys wanted something more than conversation, yes, there were people that maybe was after money too, but so what???? Isnt that normal thing in poor places on our globe? MOST of the people i met (and i met lot) were really really nice and good people. I had wonderful time, very nice conversations with both guys and girls, muslims, and hindu (all over Gilis and Bali). I definitely wanna go back. Trawangan is still my paradise island for sure. I dont see the point why the writer of this article is so worried about guys “selling romance” for tourist women. What about the huge prostitution in Thailand, among the women? I feel the article is a big understatement for western women also. What if some women wants to have something with those indonesian guys? Whats the problem? and every women who travels cannot be so stupid not to understand different kind of behavior of different people on our globe. Also we are allowed to use our mouth and talk to people to make things clear. I never felt endangered there, not even once. Humor and kindness are good ways in every situation. A smile and a word “no” takes you a long way. Sometimes I used that, sometimes i met genuine nice persons and made friends with them. If you are open minded you can travel almost anywhere and get along with every kind of people. Sure there is every ways to get money wherever there is poverty in the world. I wonder if you are concerned about womens prostitution all over in South East Asia and the whole globe? That should be a bigger concern than few nice and harmless Lombok boys who wants to have fun with tourist girls. and yes, some tourist girls also want to have fun with them. arent women allowed to do the same that millions of men do all the time? Buy love. And for the record, no, I did not buy love. But i made some good friends and wonderful memories and an urge to go back someday.

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    • john   October 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      Yes Julia,

      been there few weeks ago and agree, people are nice. on Gili Air I left the house door wide open for the week with hundreds of cash in dollars and nobody touched. They are really nice people. And as anywhere there may be some crooks. Lucky i did not stumble in any.

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  4. je   February 27, 2012 at 5:37 am

    when I myself was the son of the original Lombok but why, when I was in Lombok, I am less sensitive to the environment around. Why just after I got out of the chili to continue his studies, I know. T_T
    thanks for the information

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  5. sus   April 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    hello i have met in a nightclub in gili dany t. …. I can say that he has tried repeatedly to me, and I successfully repelled !….. but I can not say that I was asked if I wanted drugs! .. even asked me if I wanted to see the ocean plankton that glows at night .. we danced fun and then introduced me to his Italian friend who is a friend of his local (Lombok) .. we went on the pier and his friend has dedicated a song to each of us playing guitar … a beautiful memory it seems to be a bad person ………………………….

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  6. ace   February 19, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Dani aka opok dyke are not original gili people, but the strangers who venture into the dyke to make a living.
    but what she got was a misunderstanding of western culture which he will always be rah-rah.
    if he could take advantage of the potential that he has of course his life would be better.
    around the world, many young people who have problems with drugs due to their own faults but he was not entirely to blame.
    chief of sinners above all is the person who created the item and the actual benefit abused.
    But gili is paradise for me.
    SAY NO TO DRUGS. :)

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  7. Laura Plain   September 29, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I have just read this article and it pains me to know that these islands are like this as i’m a lone female traveller who has been planning to go to the Gili’s for a couple of weeks in my travelling round Asia time, i was planning to go to Gili Air and if anybody has any information please please post as i know i need to be as prepared as possible. Thank you

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  8. gilivisitor   August 30, 2010 at 2:54 am

    anybody that make money from the tourists in gili are greedy. This island is not good as it’s seen. All that they do for tourists are in purpose, they want money, or at least the get chance to have sex with them.
    There is no real kindness from the beach boys in this island, its all about money and sex. If they buy you drink, it doesnt mean that they just want to buy you drink, your money is their next target. They manage fake romance to get the chance to have sex with you, and also to get your money.

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  9. jamal   January 30, 2010 at 5:08 am

    i desagree with this article, because this is way too much issue about the island. I am from Gili T

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  10. baliliving   January 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    it is now 2010 and i still find your words ring true, with the massive increase in development on gili t over the last year or so, and with the fresh influx of fast boats, now totaling over 12, getting to the gilis is easier than ever. The problems are the same and the people are the same. From your writing here i would have to assume that the problems on gili have plateaued and will stay just as they are for the foreseeable future!

    It is remarkable to see that this problem has been here for a number of years and has not been seen by the powers that be as a threat to their own prosperity, which of course its not been, given that they are ‘earning’ more money now than ever before.

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    • John Le Fevre   January 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks for dropping a message in. It’s sad to hear. Gili T was a nice place once but the rot started with the British dive operators who were only too happy to support the corrupt locals in pursuit of their own greed and all awhile turning a blind eye to what was really going on or the plight of the real locals. The total lack of any law and order by the local authorities also didn’t help and just allowed a few people to build their own fiefdoms and left many others scurrying around for the crumbs.

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  11. dini kennedy   August 3, 2009 at 3:53 am

    i totally agree having a friend who lives there and its seems brainwashed by the place!!!
    i have spent 6 months there over 4 years seems it is indeed “Paradise lost”

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  12. Ali Gillam   March 20, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Hi,

    I am an Aussie that has spent quite some time in Indonesia/Lombok/Gilli’s etc. I agree with what you say. Didnt they have a big bust there recently by the navy or something???

    Regards

    Ali G

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  13. lisac1983   March 14, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    http://lisaindonesia.blogspot.com/

    in response to your articel, which i found incredibly offensive, having spent many a month on the island and knowing the so-called ‘beach boys’ on a deeper level than you obviously do

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    • John Le Fevre   March 14, 2009 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks for reading the article. You’re entitled to be offended and most people who only spend a short (four months) period of time on the island as you have done often feel the same. This article was written after having spent six years on the island and having seen countless tourists harassed, threatened, ripped-off, stolen from, beaten, abused (verbally and sexually) by foreign business owners and the beach boys ‚Äì including the person whose photograph appears in the article and who you identify as a friend. While you attempt to justify the actions of the beach boys, the facts are that they are deabeat, opportunistic, stealing, parasites who have no respect at all for male or female tourists visiting Gili Trawangan unless they are getting something in return. Your so-called friend has been married at least two times I am aware of to foreign women, and was taken to Switzerland by one, where he abandoned her not long after arriving, but not before beating her and taking a large amount of cash from her. If you read the story that I wrote in 2004 after one year on the island, Former penal colony is holiday hot spot you will see a considerable difference in my knowledge of the island and the people who inhabit it ‚Äì both the foreigners and some of the locals.

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      • lisac1983   March 14, 2009 at 6:12 pm

        Hi John,
        Thank you for your response. I really appreciate it! I totally agree with your point about the corruption of the foreign owners and the families that control the island. I personally loathe some of the foreign owners on account of stories I have heard and things I have seen.

        But the boys themselves are doing what they do to survive. I guess that coming from a lower-class area of Sydney, where my own friends are the type of deadbeats you talk about, I am more inclined to feel for the boys whose life experiences and backgrounds are considerably worse. When people are desperate they turn to ways of earning a livelihood that most of us would turn our noses up at or outrightly condemn. I am not saying that what they do is right, but there are reasons for their actions. They may not be justifiable reasons to you or others, but given my own background I can totally empathise.

        And, just for the record, my friendships with almost all of the boys on the island are one of give and take. I am quite happy to shout them drinks if I have enough money, just as my mates back home who are earning a good income always shout me drinks. But they in turn will pay for the black wine should they get a mushroom customer that day, or even shout me a meal. They have never expected anything from me and vice versa, and I know for a fact if I was to show up with no money whatsoever, I would have shelter, food and drinks covered by them. And I am not speaking for a small minority of the boys, but for most of the guys that I have befriended.

        I wholeheartedly believe you when you talk of tourists being harassed, ripped-off, abused and such, because I have seen it myself and my mates have openly admitted they have done such. But, like I said desperate situations call for desperate measures, and too, I am sure you have seen the disrespect that drunken, hedonistic tourists show the locals. I was in Sama Sama one night with my Gili mates just having a nice, quiet night when some Canadian tourist stripped his clothes off and performed faux anal sex on another tourist who had pulled down her skirt. When the staff couldn’t control what was happening, the present local boys stepped in and a fight erupted. Every single fight I have myself witnessed has started from something like this, whereby a stupidly drunken tourist has done something incredibly offensive and inappropriate.

        And with regards to Dani, I knew about his wives, and if he did such horrible things as you suggested then I am bitterly disappointed, yet not all that surprised. The boy is undoubtedly troubled and had a childhood that would drive many to suicide! But he is a friend who I have known for a number of years.

        I will endeavour to read your article, Former penal colony is a holiday hot spot. But, in the meantime, I just want you to know, that while I may not have spent as much time as you on Trawangan, I have gotten to know a good number of these boys very well and have met some of their families, stayed at their homes, etc. While I am not disagreeing with all that you say, because I know much of it is unfortunately true, I just hurt for my friends who I know see no other way out than to do what they do.
        Cheers,
        Lisa :p

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        • John Le Fevre   March 14, 2009 at 8:38 pm

          Hi Lisa,
          Your response is interesting from a number of points and while a little protective, not far off the mark.
          In my reply you will notice I said “some” of the foreign business owners and “some” of the beach boys. There are some really nasty ones, some who have done way too much shabu-shabu are as a result have mental health issues, and others who are likeable rogues.
          Gili Trawangan used to be a fantastic place. The problems created on the island stem from the corrupt 12 ruling families who are partners with the foreign (primarily British) owned businesses on the island.
          The true Gili Trawangan locals, as pointed out in my article, live in abject poverty and are rarely seen by tourists, while the others who do not belong to the “gang of 12” also have a hard time getting by.
          You mention Made and Dio. This is not the only example of Indonesians treating family members badly and I’m sure you know of many others, as do I. Some have made quite considerable fortunes off the backs of family members and other Indonesians.
          Like everywhere, there are good and bad, and my article not only highlighted the actions of “some” of the beach boys, but also the high level of corruption fostered and perpetrated by “some” of the foreign businesses and willingly accepted by the “gang of 12”.
          With a corrupt kepala desa and kepala dusan, some of the actions of the beach boys is perfectly understandable. Other things “some” of them do though are not and have contributed to the island getting bad reports.
          I’ve personally spent many hours drinking “black wine”, tuak and brum with many of them. Some who were treated as friends and equals returned the sentiment, while a few others showed their feral side.
          You’re right about the actions of some tourists though and as much as it pains me to say, the worst offenders were generally (but not always) Australian tourists.
          Everything is not bad on Gili Trawangan, but there are some bad things that go down from time-to-time that the majority of tourists are not aware of.

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