The night market on Gili Trawangan is legendary. I had heard about its wide variety and cheap prices from several people I spoke with while in Australia. But when Liam and I arrived there for dinner the first night, the night market really surprised and impressed us.
A small paved lot, which would have served as a car park if there had been any cars on the island, transformed into a buffet of delicacies when the sun went down. There were two or three main food stalls where you could have a mix ‘n’ match meal by pointing at things in trays. A Indonesian woman (I noticed that women tend to serve you the pre-made foods while men cooked on the grills or replenished food) puts a bit of whatever you’ve pointed at on a plate and tries to answer the constant barrage of “what’s that?” questions. When you’ve had your fill, she totals you up and collects your money.
If you enjoy seafood, the night market is an excellent place to have fresh fish, lobster, prawns, squid and other seafood. You get to pick your dinner for the night from a gigantic display of seafood on ice. Then, an Indonesian man cooks it up for you while you wait. Everything looked fresh and, even though I’m not too crazy about seafood, I have to say it looked and smelled really good. While you waited, you could also pick up a fresh fruit shake or a corn on the cob.
For any food lover, this place is heaven. Over three nights, Liam and I tried a range of Indonesian food from the night market despite not really knowing what we were eating. Everything turned out great, and the only danger was selecting a dish that was too hot for you to handle. But, the vendors were usually able to understand “hot or not hot,” and that’s usually enough to get you by. I guess they’re probably used to the meek palates of Western visitors.
My favorite food stall is one that only sold desserts. The quality of the sweets amazed me. Despite having limited provisions and the costs to get ingredients to the island, the cakes and cookies on Gili T were of a very high caliber and could probably beat some of the desserts in bakeries back home. Instead, here I was, at an open-air market in Indonesia enjoying them a few feet from the beach. You could get cakes, cookies, tarts and donuts and many were almost too prettily decorated to eat.
After a bit of a disappointing time in the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak area, Gili T has certainly lived up to all the hype. I wish I could’ve stayed a bit longer and just chilled out more. However, Liam only planned to stay in Indonesia for a short time so I decided to tag along a bit longer as I waited for my friend Reena to join me.