Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 November 2009 • Itinerary
Up for some sunbathing, snorkeling, diving, shopping, peace in daylight, party at night? There’s no questioning, to Lombok you must go..! *Superman pose!
Mataram is the capital city of West Nusa Tenggara province, located at the west part of Lombok Island, which is the main and biggest island of the province. The weather is usually windy, even when it’s sunny. It is a small city with not much going on. (Wait, don’t click away from the page yet, ‘cos you’ll be missing a lot if you don’t read on..!)
I went to Lombok to accompany my dad who was invited there as a speaker at a seminar. So of course I couldn’t hang out with him all the time cos I’m young, beautiful and have so much a head of me … and he had to work. Luckily I was introduced to someone from the seminar committee who was fun to hang out with, her name is Yana. She took me for a ride around town at night and munched on a local specialty (details under the ‘eat’ tab) and pearl shopping.
PRETTY PEARLS – PROVE ITS ORIGINALITY!
Lombok is also known for its original pearls. I went to a pearl shop at Pagutan, only about 20 minutes from our hotel (nothing is really far away from anywhere since it’s a very small town and island). Being a necklace fan that I am, I just couldn’t help but purchasing several pearl necklaces. To prove the genuineness of the pearls, you just bite the pearls. If it feels sandy on your teeth, then it’s real.
There are 2 kinds of pearls; the seawater pearls which are expensive, and the fresh water pearls which are heavenly cheaper. As an example, one of the necklaces I bought which is the fresh water pearls with the length of 4 times the neck-round cost only about Rp 60.000,00 whereas just one single bead of seawater could cost like Rp 200.000,00!! To be precise these seawater pearls are sold by the gram. Each gram are about Rp. 100.000,00, each bead is about 2-3 grams. It’s got smoother surface, rounder in shape, and has that luxurious pearly color. Luckily I have no problem with such imperfection, so I was happy with the cheap pearls 😀
There is another place not far from Pagutan which has rows of pearl shops and more popular than Pagutan.. oh I forgot the name.. but the new local friend of mine, Yana, told me that this shop at Pagutan has cheaper prices since they are one of the sources of the goods for other shops.
On the way to and from Pagutan, we passed by a long street from where we could see the famous high Mount Rinjani. Beeeaauuutifulll..!!!
CULTURE & HISTORY TOUR
Narmada is a town 10 km east of Mataram, where you could see historical places of Lombok and the making of their traditional cloths. According to the famous Wikipedia, it is said to have lots of water springs there, and for that it’s also known as “the water town”.
Still in the Lombok island, you could check out two famous beaches. One is Kuta (same name with the one in Bali), and the other is Senggigi. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to visit these beaches, but I will share information about them simply because they’re so popular.
Kuta beach, south coast of Lombok, is paradise for surfers around the world because of its high waves, and it has also beautiful virgin beaches with white sand. You can rent surf boards & boogie boards there or bring your own. To reach Kuta, most guests choose to rent motorcycles which come with a special surf rack attached.
(info from www.lombok-network.com)
Senggigi beach is a great spot to enjoy sunset. There are quite a lot of hotels and resorts along the Raya Senggigi street, just about 6 km north to Mataram. There’s no direct public transportation (except taxi) from Mataram to Senggigi, but you could take the bemo from Ampenan (Ampenan is where the airport located).
(info from the book “Lombok – Petunjuk Wisata Lengkap” by Morissan, 2007)
Dining out at night, shopping for pearls, or chilling out at porch enjoying the breezy wind, or .. well you can always think of other creative things to do here.
IF BALI WAS THE MAIN CAST, LOMBOK WOULD BE THE SIDEKICK
Mataram is only a 4 hours ferry-ride or about 25 minutes by plane from Denpasar, Bali. And it is the main gateway of entering Lombok and the islands around it. It is already quite popular among Indonesian and international tourists, especially for the following small islands.
THE GILIS (gili = small island)
There are three internationally known tiny islands northwest of Lombok island. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. Of these three, Gili Trawangan is the furthest from Lombok island, also the biggest and said to have the clearest water, hence best for snorkeling and diving. And that’s where my dad and I went.
“Lindsay Lohan once came here,” said a local guide at Gili Trawangan, “with her private helicopter.” Wow. I have heard quite a lot of rumors about gili islands being one of the holiday destinations of international celebrities, but this is the first time I heard it from the eyewitness – I hope he wasn’t just trying to impress me. But the island, the white sandy and clean beach, the cozy laid-back atmosphere of Gili Trawangan, darn it, they impressed me beyond my expectation…!
The gilis are popular for its snorkeling sites. And that was exactly what I had in mind when I approved my dad’s offer to come with him to Lombok. It was my first time snorkeling (also my dad’s). Being a not-so-good swimmer, I didn’t go far from the beach although I was wearing the lifejacket. But being a good swimmer is no guarantee of safety either. At certain time, Lombok has 8-9 knots of current that drags you quite far. Ask around for local knowledge about these currents, and you’ll be A O K.
The snorkeling wasn’t bad, I got to see quite a lot of fish. The plain black fish, the ones with colors in stripes or blots, small and big. Too bad I didn’t see any turtles. Maybe they were in different parts of the shore, but they should be around there, somewhere in the north of the gilis.
The rent of the snorkeling apparels (snorkel, mask, and fins) was more or less Rp 35.000,00 / person for the whole day. And you can bargainthis price. Talk about cheap vacation!
Many kinds of water sports and recreation are available at the gilis, such as diving, waterskiing, parasailing, and wakeboarding. I haven’t tried any of these, but I’m told that the prices are relatively cheap, not more than Rp 200.000 each rent. Oh and, I think everything in Lombok cost less than in Bali for almost the same amount of fun.
For meals, there were lotsa restaurants with cozy atmosphere. And there were also lots of bike rentals.
The one that I rented cost Rp 15.000,00 / hour. Since I only rented for (even less than) half an hour, I only had to pay Rp 7.000,00. I would’ve rented longer and biked around the island if only we didn’t have to hurry back to Lombok island that noon.
Parties are commonly held here. Lots of foreigners and sometimes mix with the locals. Events such as new years’ eve is always something big, lots of tourists come here in that time of the year. Monday nights are well known as party night. Can’t remember the venue where it’s held but the whole island is always there to partayyy!!! Although the natives in Lombok are mostly Moslems with their religious beliefs, rules and restrictions, they’re quite friendly and welcome to others who have different views as long as they respect each other. Nude swimming is forbidden, though. (ssshh.. but I saw a girl topless at the far beach, though.)
One night, Yana took us for a motorcycle ride (it’s like everyone owns a motorcycle in this town) to the most happening place to eat out especially on Saturday night, leaving my dad doing his own thing with his seminar colleagues back at the hotel.
The street is called the Udayana street where people sit on provided rugs or mats on the grass, and it is the most happening street for youth there, like the ultimate hanging out area. The main menu was Sate Belayak. It’s of either chicken or beef, and belayak is the name of the leaf that wraps the rice lontong(compact rice).
What makes taliwang chicken (or fish or anything taliwang) special is the sauce, the spicy reddish brown sauce which I don’t really know what it’s made of 😛 It’s rich in taste. But trust me, if you love spicy sauce, you’ll love taliwang sauce too. ‘Taliwang’ itself is a place nearby Mataram. I guess the sauce recipe was originally created in that place.
AT GILI TRAWANGAN
If you wanna spend the night on the island, there are many choices of hotels / hostels, varying from Rp 100.000,00 to Rp 3.500.000,00 a night. But in the low season, the cheapest can be only Rp 50.000,00 a night. June – August is usually high season.
Because the main reason of my trip was my dad’s seminar, the committee had booked a hotel room for us, the same hotel where they were having the seminar, the Lombok Garden on Soekarno Hatta street, only about 20 minutes drive from the airport.
The hotel’s standard room (which was I think the room where we stayed in) was Rp 300.000,00 / night. Clean, came with 2 bottles of water, towels, etc, just like the usual hotel, only without carpet (who needs it anyway!).
The open-air style of the hotel with porches outside each room was perfect for enjoying the sunny and windy air of Mataram (and probably the whole small island of Lombok). Lunch was best served in the porch of our room, especially the menu was the very famous taliwang chicken (BBQ or fried).
While Dad was giving the seminar, I was having my laid-back time around the hotel. I found out that there was an open gate connecting the hotel to another hotel behind it, called Lombok Raya. From the looks of it, Lombok Raya is slightly higher class. And from there, one can just go across the street to get to the Mataram Mall (but I didn’t, cos I’ve seen lots and lots and of bigger ones in Jakarta anyway..).
How to get to the gilis from Lombok island?
First, go to Bangsal port, about 40 minutes drive from Mataram, up north. You could take a cab (The fare would be about Rp 100.000,00), motorcycle, or maybe also the public transportation called “bemo” and then continue with “cidomo”.
Second, take a boat to cross to the gili.
There are 2 kinds of boat service that can take you across. The boat for public, where one passenger would only have to pay Rp 8.000,00. A dollar people!! But you’d have to wait until there are 20 passengers in the boat including you. So the departure time is not fix to any schedule, all depends on how many people are going.
If you didn’t have time to wait, they’ll offer you to charter a boat for yourself for Rp 250.000,00. Do haggle, cos we and the boatman finally agreed on Rp 175.000,00.
Strangers in Our Boat
After having breakfast at a ‘warung’ (a simple eatery) near the port, we went on the boat at about 8 something AM. We were kinda surprised that there were also some other passengers that hopped on our boat. They were the local Gili Trawangan people who wanted to go back there.. using our chartered boat.. without permission..!! Oh what the hell.. what could you do to the locals, right..?
The sea was pretty quiet that morning. I was told that it’s usually quiet in the mornings, and then it’d get more and more wavy towards the night. And finally.. there we were.. at Gili Trawangan.. the heavenly island..
BACK TO LOMBOK FROM GILI
This time, we were lucky because a lot of people were going across, so we only paid Rp 8.000,00 / person, didn’t have to rent the whole boat for ourselves.. err.. and for local strangers. The waves were a bit crazy, but the boatmen seemed so calm, so I figured that was nothing. I enjoyed the “ride” very much, and my dad was even asleep most part of the trip cos he was so tired after snorkeling 1 – 2 hours.
BACK TO MATARAM
Back in Bangsal again, I phoned Blue Bird taxi to pick us up and take us to Mataram. But because it took so long (the cab probably waited for a passenger who wanted to go to Bangsal from Mataram, then pick us up), we decided to just take the offer from the local Cooperation people, we chartered their minibus (which turned out to be without Air Conditioner) for Rp 150.000,00. Oh well, my dad had to be back in Mataram soon for his next session of seminar, so we had no other choice.
JAKARTA – LOMBOK – JAKARTA
Departed at 9:15 PM by the one and only Garuda Indonesia (it was scheduled at 8:00 PM, but of course they just had to delay..), my Dad and I came to the airport by DAMRI bus from Blok M, costing us only Rp 15.000,00 / person. The plane ticket for return trip itself was about Rp 1.600.000,00 / person. This fare was for the end of the high season, meaning the late August, and including the weekends. The trip took about 2 hours, landed on the airport in Ampenan, Lombok.
Our flight back to Jakarta was at 12:35 PM. Arrived at Jakarta in the afternoon, I went straight to office after dropping off Dad at my cousin’s.
Definitely I will be coming back to Lombok again someday, especially Gili Trawangan. Spend 2 – 3 nights in the heavenly island, take a little more risk when snorkeling (hahahaha..), and maybe go check out Gili Meno and Gili Air as well..
Taxi, cidomo, angkot, and boats are top choices in Lombok.
There’s this Blue Bird taxi that’s became the favorite taxi in the big cities of Indonesia such as Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya, and I was quite surprised when finding out that they operate in Lombok as well. They fit Caucasian bodies perfectly because it’s more spacious, and the driver is aware of it therefore will initiatively pull the front seat for you.
Cidomo is a carriage pulled by horses, just like dokar or delman in Jogjakarta, but they use big tires as the wheels here. The look is very much traditional, it’d be interesting to go on it.
Bemo is found mostly in the cities. Bemos are equal to angkots in most cities in Indonesia, are mini-vans with two rows of passenger seats facing each other in the tail section, which has a system like buses in any town, so you’d have to know which route goes where and passes what areas. Ask the locals for detail info on the routes.
Since there are quite many important islands scatter around Lombok, boats are obviously the way to go.