Words: Chris Andre
Originally published in 3S in-house publication, Jan-April 2016 issue
Despite a few modern changes, Lombok remains rustic in its charms — perfect for a low-key getaway
A few years back Lombok was said to be home to an Indonesian version of Disneyland. Replete with world- class attractions, that projection was, all in all, a promise far from reality. To this very day, Lombok is hardly a sister—if any relation is there—to Bali. Predominant with Muslims and Sasak descendants, there is unschooled character of the Lombok people that make them less of smooth talkers and never beat around the bush. Ask one of how Mataram is, and it is not rare to receive less than positive notes on the particular city. Maybe, it wasn’t such a bad idea after all when the government decided to relocate the airport to somewhat closer to the city grounds, than to the famous Gili Islands up north.
To an avid traveler, Mataram is a hidden gem. Its unpolished urban culture is an open invitation for one to plunge into the scene: Delve into the wet market, sample their famous spicy local specialties—their sambal terasi (or shrimp paste) is quite unlike any other—and scour Lombok pearls for bargain. Mind you, Lombok is no comfort zone. So, forget air- conditioned malls or sophisticated cafes. Here, you talk to the locals where the best depot (diner) is or the store that sells oleh-oleh (souvenirs), and you try to get the most out of the conversation. At the end of the day, you’ll have great smiles of the locals to bring home.
If you don’t have appetite for fiery meals, why not check the route to Kuta in South Lombok? The same name regardless, this Kuta is worlds apart from the one in Bali; it is quiet and reserves quite big waves, excellent for pro surfers.
The lack of fine accommodations only shows how even this part of the island still doesn’t change much over the years. But the white sand and the boundless ocean view make for a spectacular getaway moment, romantic for two yet equally enjoyable for one. It is, in a way, a luxurious spot for a solo vacationer to feel completely lost before the great blue sea.
Senggigi in North Lombok is an aging star that, given time, would reveal
its quaint allure. It takes relatively two hours or more to drive from the Lombok International Airport, yet Senggigi has lackluster restaurants and bars that are pretty descent for a stopover. If you want to stay for a couple of nights and do nothing, Senggigi is hard to fault. What with the heat, the long coastal beach and the humid weather, slouching all day is a wonderful pastime here. Not to mention, the presence of fine hotels such as The Oberoi, Lombok ensures you feel home away from home.
You can, while staying in Senggigi, go on a full-day adventure to the Gili Islands up north. It takes only a 15-minute Jet Ski ride to reach Gili Trawangan from the Senggigi Harbor, and the travel experience is priceless. Gili Trawangan, by the way, is the largest of the three Gili Islands within the proximity. The small size of the island doesn’t allow motorized vehicles on land, and as such you’d have to get on cidomo, a horse-drawn cart, or bicycle for transport. Otherwise, the island is walk-able; it roughly takes two hours to do a complete lap.
The east harbor is packed with pubs, hotels and restaurants, vying or attention in the evenings. Be very careful though, since Gili Trawangan is quite known for illegal substances. Better stick to well-known local beer brands if you’re up for a night-out.
During the day, many take snorkeling or dive sessions around Gili Trawangan or the other isles, namely Gili Air and Meno, to waste the time. There is a dedicated PADI brand on the eastern end of Gili Trawangan that could help you earn a diving certificate.
One last thing to note, though, Gili Trawangan may offer limited access for cellular signals. Some premium accommodations might have Wi-Fi connection on-board, but be prepared for self-sufficiency and tranquility. After all, isn’t that what one looks for during an island getaway?