Help! I'm Tripping on Shrooms in the Gili Islands
They shoot drug users, don't they?
If you’ve been on Instagram anytime in the past few years, you’ve seen a picture like the one above of lonely swings in the middle of the ocean. These swings are the social media calling card of the Gili Islands, three shiny islets about two hours east of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago. Even among the 18,307 mystery islands that make up Indonesia, the Gilis are somewhat of an enigma.
When it comes to drugs, Indonesia is one of the strictest countries in the world. Getting caught with a single joint can land you in prison for up to four years. Last year, the Bali Nine (a group of Australians convicted of smuggling heroin into Bali) were executed by firing squad. Earlier this month, another round of executions was announced, including 13 drug offenders. The point is, Indonesia is a beautiful place with insanely picturesque destinations and very hospitable locals who—when it comes to drugs and crime—don’t fuck around. With the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, Indonesia’s position on drugs and crime aligns with the conservative traditions of it’s 203 million Muslim citizens. There is one exception, the Gilis.
With a quasi-legal local drug policy that attracts hoards of 20 somethings from across the globe, the Gilis are the go-to place for shrooms, bad weed, and the usual suite of drugs most frequently enjoyed by the recreational set. Of the three islands in the Gilis, Gili Trawangan (mostly known as “Gili T”) is ground zero for anyone looking to cop drugs and get loose without the constant fear of ending up in front of a death squad. After a month and a half in Indonesia with my best friend and no weed in sight, we were itching for some illicit adventures and headed out for a three-day stay in Gili T.
After spending the first day enjoying our villa, snorkeling, drinking on the beach, and scoping out the landscape, we got down to business on day two. My friend was to be the mushroom-snarfing guinea pig while I kept to a steady regimen of margaritas. I got a load of shit for not partaking, but with a full schedule of work on the trip, I wasn’t able to mentally check out for 48 hours with a clear conscience in the name of professionalism.
Anyhow, after establishing our dynamic, we went in search of shrooms.
There are no cars on Gili Trawangan, only horse and buggy. The one road runs along the beach from the main drag that hosts the tourist-trap bars, restaurants, and beach lounges to the outskirts of the island where the villas and luxury accommodations are situated. Making the ride into the city center is its own unusual experience. The closer you get to the city center—where most of the shrooms and other drugs are sold out of the local markets—the scenery goes from spacious and manicured to dusty and cramped. Going in search of shrooms in a buggy on the back of a horse riding down a dirt road on a tiny island was beyond amusing, but you can't help but question your life choices while bumpily rolling along behind a horse in search of some fungus.
The "city center" of Gili T looks like an old town from the wild west with newer signs and people wearing less clothes. As you roll along, locals whisper the names of drugs into the open air. It's just a part of the Gili T experience that everyone from old married couples to spring breakers encounter on their island getaway. After taking a minute to assess the situation, we followed our guide of choice into a local mini market. The cashier took our money and sent his errand boy to grab us three bundles of shrooms. Ever the indulgent one, my friend was ready to trip out on all the mushrooms he could manage; so with three bundles of shrooms in hand, we headed home. It was just that easy. No hassling, no sketchiness, just as normal as buying some fish from the deli. It's so common to buy shrooms in Gili T that it's basically a procedural affair.
After getting settled and ready for the night's adventure, we opened the bundles, which were wrapped in palm leaves, and looked at our haul. Everything checked out. It was time to trip.
No matter what country you're in, shrooms still taste like shit. There's no way around it. Without a Taco Bell in sight to blend a beef soft taco with our favorite fungus, the shrooms were consumed raw, swiftly chased with a blended beverage and followed with a bit of a gag. The night had begun.
As an onlooker, my favorite part of shrooming is when they first kick in and the laugh attack begins. Watching my freak of a friend getting weirder by the minute while howling at his Snapchats was pure entertainment. If you wanna have some fun, take some shrooms and get on Snapchat. Lenses and face-swap are your new best friend. After we realized the trip had begun, we hailed a buggy and headed out to wander the island.
We happened upon a random part of the shoreline with a fading campfire and no one in sight. It seemed like a perfect place to set up shop for a short while. Gili Trawangan at night feels like an island straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean with beautiful night skies, a big moon, dense star clusters, and clear blue water. On shrooms, it's the eighth wonder of the world.
The backstory to this entire trip goes something like this: After six weeks together in Indonesia on what had started as a ten-day vacation, I couldn't fathom getting back on a plane to Los Angeles, and my friend was deciding to head back to "reality" to pursue an opportunity that was too financially fruitful to pass up. This "trip" to Gili Trawangan was our last hurrah for the time being. We sat on the beach and talked about life while he tripped out on the sky and I tripped out on what life would be like after this adventure was over and I was alone in Indonesia. It felt like a major life milestone, the kind where things are getting real.
After a couple of hours sitting by the campfire, the heavy conversation gave way to our desire to make the most of the present. We got off our asses, gathered our things, and set out down the deserted shoreline in the direction of home. Still tripping in the "this is fucking amazing!" stage, my friend followed as I lead the way. We stopped every few minutes to enjoy the views. This trippy tree went well with the three bundles of shrooms.
The Ombak Sunset Flairtending Championship's 2016 somehow landed in the path of our long walk home. These are the types of events that come to this part of the world. Thank God for us that they do. Sadly, we were a day early to enjoy the best and brightest flairtenders the world has to offer, but with a completely set up venue including disco dance floor, lights, and no one around, we took full advantage. Thanks to Boomerang, the dance off didn't go undocumented.
At his peak, with his "heart chakra's firing," we got closer to home and apparently closer to heaven. This went on for about 20 minutes.
Three bundles of shrooms don't just fade away in a couple of hours. We finally made it home. The end of the trip was nowhere in sight. The disco dance floor from the Flairtending Championships venue gave way to the Jurassic Dance Floor back at our villa. Things stayed weird well into the night. One of the best parts about the Gilis is the luxury accommodations for ridiculously low prices that provide a safe and comfortable environment to let loose.
With 85-degree water at every hour of the day, the best way to end a trip is with a dip in the Indian Ocean. Twelve hours later, as the island woke to it's daily routine, we were soaking up the sunrise. The shrooms had mellowed out. It was time for peace and quiet. Early morning reflections were underway.
All in all, the shroom trip was one of the best my friend believes he's ever had. Not because of the shrooms themselves, but because of the beautiful backdrop of Gili T and the company he was with. Experiences like these are memorable for a lifetime, but only when they're spent with the right people in the right way.
As for Gili Trawangan, in a country ruled by Muslims with strict drug laws and what westerners would consider hyper conservative values, and in a time when American political media outlets constantly debate the "real threat of Muslim people," Gili T is a reminder that regardless of race, religion, or ideology, everyone needs a place to escape and let loose every once in a while.