The trio of islands known as the Gili Islands, located off of the Northwest coast of Lombok, has developed a fan base amongst travellers looking for nights of partying and days sleeping on the beaches ahead of the next party.
The Gili Islands became particularly popular with travelers and backpackers in the 1980s and 1990s, famed for the laid-back atmosphere and the absence of cars or motorbikes. The party lifestyle is not the only thing that the Gili Islands are laid back about, as a wide variety of drugs are literally on the menu in various forms from milkshakes and pizzas to other food and drink. Unashamedly advertised on chalkboards outside cafes, there is a clear contrast with the strict drug policy enforced in the rest of Indonesia.
Indonesia carries the maximum penalty of death for dealing drugs and a maximum of 15 years imprisonment for possession. These penalties are not just for show and are in fact regularly enforced. For example, in 2004 Australian citizen Schappelle Corby was convicted of smuggling 4.4 kilograms of cannabis into Bali. Her trial reached the verdict of guilty with a punishment of 20 years imprisonment. So how can a country with such strict drug laws also be home to a seemingly drug-riddled island?
With the absence of police on the island, Gili Trawangan seems to have slipped under the radar of drug legislation in Indonesia. Of course, it would never be recommended to assume that undertaking illegal activity does not have its risks, but with the abundance of cafes claiming to ‘take you to heaven’ it would be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security whilst visiting the island.
True to the bohemian, hippy vibe of Gili T, the locals tend to spend the day as many of the visitors do; relaxing on the beach, playing the guitar and soaking up the atmosphere. However, it would be unwise to assume that the islands are completely safe. In recent years, locally made spirits have caused casualties and even some deaths among tourists and locals, due to methanol poisoning. Methanol is sometimes used by locals as a cheap way of topping up their stock. The most recent case of this was on New Year’s Eve 2012, where a young man was served a cocktail at Rudy’s bar that had been infused with methanol. Following misdiagnoses in Indonesia and repatriation, he died 5 days later.
The Gili Islands are beautiful with a lot of alluring features, often enticing visitors to extend their stay. As with any travelling, it’s important to keep your common sense and have all the information before you make any decisions, but whatever your opinions on drugs are, the Gili Islands are still a destination akin to paradise, which will continue to draw hoards of travellers year on year.