Friday, March 13, 2015

Visiting Lombok, Indonesia.

Lombok is one of the Indonesian islands. Located south east of Bali,separated by Lombok Straits,  Lombok is rural in nature where most of her population involve in agriculture. Her main economic activity is rice farming and agriculture.

Unlike Bali where majority are Hindus, here in Lombok, majority are Muslims. Main towns are Mataram, Ampenan and smaller settlement like tourist centre of Senggigi, Praya and Kuta. Estimated population of Lombok is around 3.17 millions. In terms of tourism promotion and facilities, Lombok has a lot to catch up with Bali.

Lombok offers natural beautiful landcape of rice fields, mountains and forest and a host of cultural assets.
Rice fields of Lombok
I had the opportunity to visit this island in early March 2015. I took a  3 hr  flight with Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur and it flew direct to Lombok International Aiport at its new airport in Praya, 2 hr drive to Mataram, the capital.
The new Lombok International Airport at Praya.
I booked my hotel in Senggigi. Senggigi is a settlement near the western coast which attracts foreign tourists. It has many hotels ranging from 5 star to budget hotels. Senggigi seems to attract many foreign tourists with the mushrooming of restaurants, clubs, hotels, massage and spas, art gallery and travel agents.

Senggigi road to the north is a breath taking journey as you can experience nice coast with sandy beaches, rural villages and  rural lifestyles. This stretch covers 30 km.

Senggigi Commercial Area
Looking at Senggigi, it resembles famous world beach of South East Asia and the Pacific. Senggigi coast is attractive compare to Kuta Lombok beach in the south due to its facility. Most boutique shops, night entertainment centre, bars, good hotels, souvenirs outlets are located around Senggigi road. If you want some active night life, Senggigi has many to offer.

Visiting Lombok is not complete if you do not visit the weaving centre at Sukarare, pottery making at Banyumulek, and  cultural village at Sade village. These villages are exhibits of Lombok where cultural activities are kept alive. For instance, my visit to Sade Village, I was briefed there more than 150 families there, staying in small huts made of traditional materials. Women enjoy weaving and sell the weaved clothes in their individual huts.This brings income to their families. While men are occupied in farming.

Sade Village, where traditional cultures are being preserved by the community 
Elderly women selling weaved cloth at Sade Village
Weaved product at Sukarare Village

One interesting culture of Lombok man that I learned from Lombok. Every body is talking about kidnapping a girl to be a legal wife. In order to get married, a man has to "kidnap" his girl friend for a few days, keeps the girl for a day or two in his house and after that his parent has to go the girl's parent to seek permission for marriage. Normally, the consent will be given. This tradition is deep rooted in Lombok's culture and is hard to go by or die.

I found Lombok has many mosques and its scale or size  is big. Its distribution is closer to each other. Masjid Agung Praya for example is such a big mosque with its colorful mosaic, high dome. It can accommodate thousands people at a time.

Outside its compound, under shades of big trees, there are a few food and drink stalls. There are also people  who sell ornamental stones which is popular in Lombok. This place is cooling and shaded from the scorching sun.  I took the opportunity to sip ice fruit drink and talk to the locals.
Masjid Agung, Praya
Ornamental stone on  sale.

One fine day, I visited Pasar Kebun Doek in Ampenan, I found its wet market is just like any Asian wet markets, packed with locals. Its cleanliness is not up to my expectations. However, its populace can accept it. The products are relatively cheap.

Pasar  Kebun Doek. Ampenan
As for food, I took my lunches and dinners at restaurants in main towns in Lombok as I move along.
I found food sold in Senggigi is much more dearer compare to other places. This may be Senggigi market is geared towards foreigner's deep purse.

Spending my night in Senggigi is quite okay. You can sit back in the garden restaurant and sip hot "aromatic" coffee while listening to soft music is therapeutic in a way after a long cruising along the coast.
Bakso Tulang Muda (with soft bones) , Ampenan. Bakso is a popular food in Lombok and the rest of Indonesia.
As far as beach is concerned, Kuta Beach in the south offers white sandy beach while the western and north coast offer darker color sand. My visit to Novotel Hotel in Kuta, I found this hotel is superb with facilities and enjoys beautiful scenery. However, it is quite deserted and quiet place and perhaps suitable for honeymooners.

Novotel Hotel in Kuta Lombok with its sandy white beach. Very luxurious hotel.
Malimbu beach , western Lombok. A spot where  you can take your picture.

Western coast  of Lombok.

My last visit is to the Singang Gile Water Fall at the foothill of Rinjani Mountain. I took me nearly 2 hours by car from Senggigi to reach this place. This is due to I made several stops along the way. I passes the scenic Malimbu beach, Nipah beach, small settlements of Pemenang, Tanjung, and Bayan. Lunch at Bayan  is nice and cheap too.  I did not stop at Bangsal near Pemenang as I did not have program to visit  Gili Trawangan.

As I reached Senaru, there is an entry gate at the foothill where you need to pay the "toll". To enter the waterfall gate, again you need to pay an entrance fee Rp 10,000 per person. You have to walk up and down the valley which taxes your energy and stamina for 20 minutes before you reach the Singang Gile waterfall. This area is always rainy, so bring an umbrella with you in case it is raining.

On the way back, I followed the same route and stopped for tea at Nipah beach, sipping coconut juice and its flesh. Nipah beach has many food stalls for the visitors.
Singang Gile Water Fall, Senaru

Pearl, product of Lombok, Mataram
Any shopping? Yes of course it is. You can buy weaved clothes sold at fashion outlets or direct from the people, you can buy pearls of various quality at pearl centres, or you can buy foods at the gifts shops. Buying at the airport should be the last resort or last option.

For local travels for during my 4-day visit, I took a cab from the airport, negotiated with the driver and vehicle owner. Prices vary from driver to driver. The driver that took me around Lombok is Mr Lalurofek phone +62 87865422243.

Happy travelling.