The Gili Islands may not have cold winters and snow on the ground like some of us are accustomed to, but the summer sunshine and snow-white sand makes for a beautiful ‘white Christmas’ and the Gilis sure know how to do Christmas right!
When someone mentions “Christmas Market” to you, what springs to mind? Perhaps like me you are reminded of sipping hot mugs of Gluwein to warm you up as a blanket of white snow lays underfoot? Nibbling on mince pies and browsing stalls for stocking fillers or Secret Santa gifts? Maybe it’s the joy of watching Christmas lights sparkle whilst singing along to familiar Christmas songs?
The Christmas Market on Gili Trawangan is much the same; except that the white snow underfoot is replaced by soft white sand. Everything else felt so familiar to me; with its own unique, vibrant, colourful and inviting vibe that only the Gilis can pull off!
As the sun set off the west coast of Gili Trawangan, it turned the clouds a fluffy pink as we listened to Paul McCartney’s “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time”. I felt fiercely festive wearing my Christmas hat and sipping on my delicious mulled wine, but I didn’t need to hug the mug to warm my hands as I usually do in a European Christmas market. To purchase yet another home-made tasty treat I had to walk barefoot across powdered sand; something I certainly didn’t do in Europe (it was more like a squeeze through large crowds wearing my big winter coat, gloves, scarf, hat and boots!)
Yes, the Christmas Market I experienced on Gili Trawangan was better than others I have visited.
The Christmas Market was the brainchild of Gili Eco Trust and was co-hosted with Gili Teak Resort. Tina and Terry, the owners of this boutique hotel, welcomed festive fundraisers with a smile whilst wearing Christmas hats. They had turned the beach into a winter wonderland made from rescued trash, complete with an igloo and snowman!
As each visitor arrived, everyone was made to feel welcome. I bounced around like an over-excited school child and Tina kindly gave me a Christmas hat to wear which just added to my joy. I was introduced to Sian from the Gili Eco Trust and wow, what a great energy they brought to the event! It was truly an honour to be a part of it.
Enough talking … I wanted mulled wine and mince pies!
Despite Mount Agung having a bit of a grumble which had sadly put tourists off visiting the Gilis at the time, the event was still a success. Not even the rain which poured an hour before the 3pm opening time dampened the spirits of hard-core festive fans. As the saying goes “it will be alright on the night” and it was! Couples, friends and young families came to purchase gifts from one of the many stalls selling handicrafts. Handbags, jewellery, sarongs, Christmas candles, and Christmas biscuits were all up for grabs. My favourite stall of all was “Plastic Free Initiatives” which sold wooden toothbrushes, eco-straws, soaps, smellies and beauty products. It was awesome to see a stand that was in strong alignment with the Gili Eco Trust’s values and mission.
Home-made food by Jenny (Tina’s Mum) was out of this world! It was literally the best pork pie I have ever tasted in my life and I was so disappointed to have purchased the last one … I wanted to buy more and take them home to enjoy for days to come! There were sausage rolls, bake-well tarts, papaya & ginger jam and pineapple sambal. I didn’t even get a chance to see her mango chutney or mince pies; apparently they sold out like hot-cakes within an hour, and don’t even get me started on cakes. It was impossible to resist her peanut butter brownies! Seriously delicious food. Sales from the stalls, cakes and Tropicalola (who donated 100% of the proceeds made from all of their products) helped raise 7,746,000 IDR. Such an awesome effort by everyone- hosts and customers alike!
The atmosphere was fantastic. There were smiles on everyone’s faces and the Christmas spirit was strong … or was that the strength of the tropical Christmas cocktails? (Glass of Yellow Snow anyone?). Plenty of festive cheer here!
I wandered around soaking up the atmosphere enjoying my glass of mulled wine. The faces of children and adults lit up as they went on Christmas horse rides (oh yes, even the horses looked festive!)
We all tried our hand at “Pin The Nose On The Reindeer” and revelled in some of the old favourite childhood games and activities. A mother gently pushed her young daughter on a swing which was delightfully decorated with festive lights. What a joy it was to see people of all ages chatting and laughing in their Christmas hats.
As the sun was setting, I was impressed to see Terry conducting his own impromptu beach clean-up assisted by a little girl. He didn’t have to do this, but clearly his love for the island and keeping Gili T clean took preference. Bearing in mind this was a fundraiser for a charity which supports eco-friendly living, I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for him to do right now.
When the sun had disappeared behind the horizon, it was raffle time! Everyone gathered in the bar area and cheers of excitement could be heard as the lucky winners collected various prizes donated by businesses throughout the Gili Islands. Up for grabs was a weekend stay at The Stones Hotel in Bali, 10 x fast boat tickets with Blue Water Express, sunset horse rides, a 2 night stay in a Luxury Bungalow in Latwala and plenty of t-shirts, bikinis and jewellery. The money raised from the raffle alone was 6,200,000 IDR.
The total amount raised from this festive fundraiser (not including the cocktail sales) was 13,946,000 IDR; a fantastic amount of money which was split 50/50 with Gili Eco Trust projects, alongside a nearby village in East Lombok which required a new bridge due to severe damages in a recent flood.
The Christmas Market was a bit of quirky Christmas fun brought to the Gilis. Next year I would love to see even more people jump onboard this festive experience it to make this event an even bigger success and in turn, support the Eco health and sustainability of the Gilis.
Gili Trawangan is easily reached from Bali or from nearby Lombok international airport. However there is more to the GIli Islands than just Gili Trawangan, so why not island hop between the Gilis – it’s really easy and cheap!