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  Destination: Lombok  

Half the fun is getting there. Four hours by slow
ferry or a mere 20-minute flight by inter-island
plane, the largely non-commercialised
island of Lombok is the first in Indonesia’s
exotic southeast island chain. Lombok
is only slightly smaller, but occupies the
same time zone, shares a similar climate,
and even has an east-to-west volcanic range
as its ‘sister island’ of Bali.

  
The whole island is dominated by Mt. Rinjani, an active volcano rising over 3,700 meters above sea level and the third highest mountain in Indonesia. Wrapped in clouds by the afternoon,  

Off Lombok’s northwest coast are the three tiny resort-islands of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili

in the morning views of the massive volcano are unimpeded. Fertile alluvial plains with picturesque, finely crafted rice terraces slope gradually down to the sea.

Although wildlife and bird life proliferate, they are species apart from the islands to the west. Separating Bali and Lombok is a four-kilometre-deep trench that for millennia halted the natural migration of plants and animals. This trough marks the legendary Wallace Line, the divide between Asia and Australasia, the storied realm of Wallacea.

Lombok’s population of nearly three million is a mixture of Islamic Sasak, Hindu Balinese and Chinese and Arab merchants. In the 14th century, Lombok was settled by Hindu-Javanese under the auspices of the powerful Majapahit Empire. The Sasak - the island’s native people - reveal their Hindu roots by the adoption of a caste system and special vocabulary used when addressing commoners and noblemen, yet they also possess their own unique traditions and age-old rituals.

Destination: Lombok

In the 17th century, the Sasaks allowed the Balinese to settle in western Lombok where to this day their culture thrives – revealing serene temples and palaces, Balinese food and customs, gamelan orchestras and dances, and where Balinese religious festivals such as Galungan and Kuningan are celebrated with full gusto.

In Lombok’s small villages, islanders congregate at busy roadside markets, two-wheeled horse carts (cidomo) transport goods, and women carry almost any imaginable object on their heads: vassals, mats, coconuts and even huge terracotta water vases. In fishing communities red- and blue-striped outriggers line shores pounded by heavy surf. In the hilly regions are thick bamboo groves, rocky rivers, grey Asian monkeys and swaying fields of mountain rice.

Although Lombok’s pace is decidedly laid back, its tourism infrastructure is fully developed. From the port of Padangbai in East Bali, the island is serviced by government-run passenger ferries bearing long-distance express buses; domestic airline services fly from Jakarta, Bali and Surabaya; and Silk Air, an international carrier, flies directly from Singapore.

Accommodation on the island’s idyllic coasts and offshore resort-islands is of outstandingly good value, covering the range from luxurious hotels to rustic home-stays.

Of Lombok’s three large, closely linked towns - Ampenan, Mataram and Cakranegara - historic Ampenan is the most colourful for sightseers. The island’s west coast beaches are readily accessible from these urban centres, as are the island’s principle historical and cultural sights.

Narmada, the former raja’s summer palace, 10 kilometres east of Cakranegara, is a large complex encompassing a mixture of Balinese, Islamic and Sasak architecture. At Suranadi Temple, in the hills four kilometres north of Narmada, you may see the gardens and the rebuilt baths of kings carved in Balinese style with crystal clear water bubbling up from natural springs.

Lingsar is a sacred eel pool and large Balinese temple complex - the holiest on the island - and a place of pilgrimage for four faiths. This worn and faded temple and its pretty courtyard, believed to have been built in 1714, feels more like an Indian temple than any similar structure on Bali.

Senggigi, the island’s main resort area, is eight kilometres north of Ampenan. Here, you will find first-class hotels, fine restaurants and cafés, shopping complexes, bookshops, tour and travel agencies, post and telecommunications offices, dive centres, motorbike and car rental agents, and antique and art shops galore.

Let’s not forget shopping. Sasak pottery is a high art-form possessing an aesthetic beauty and simplicity unparalleled in Indonesia. Giant terracotta vases and water pots, seen carried on bicycles down country lanes, are made at Banyumulek and around the Kediri area in West Lombok where visitors may view the whole process of building, shaping and firing the pots.
 
Destination: Lombok
 
Gorgeous fabrics are also woven on this island, evidenced by the exquisitely embroidered kebaya (traditional blouses), headscarves and sarongs worn by Sasak women. Although Sukarare is the main weaving centre, the villages of Sengkol, Puyung, Punjuruk and Ketap also produce hand-woven fabrics using traditional back-strap looms, spinning wheels and bobbin winders.

Trawangan. Exuding an air of seclusion, there are no dogs, no banks and few motorcycles on these enchanting islands.

Coconut trees cover the interiors and a walk around each isle is leisurely and unhurried. With abundant sunshine, white-sand beaches, fine swimming, and superlative underwater scenery, 'the Gilis’ offer peace and contentment. There are frequent boat connections to each of the islands from Senggigi and Bangsal Harbour at Pemenang on Lombok’s west coast.

The trip to Lombok’s south coast on a new two-lane highway is a journey back through time, passing traditional hill-top Sasak villages of thatched houses which are surrounded by fields of sweet potato, corn, tobacco and cassava. Life is primitive in this isolated, sparsely populated, dry and scrubby region – a land of cacti, slow-moving bullocks, stooped women in sombre black clothing, men tilling fields by hand hoe, and black palm-fibre rice barns that resemble mop-haired beehives.

The road eventually winds its way down to Kuta, a green, tree-blanketed oasis along an arcing, unblemished beach at the base of barren hills. Unlike its celebrated namesake on Bali, to every side of Lombok’s Kuta are blinding blue skies, an expansive blue-green ocean, peculiar rock formations, inexhaustible forests of palms, clusters of high-roofed houses draped in elephant grass, and stairways of tobacco and peanut plantations.

Each of the area’s beaches - Mawun, Selong Balanak and Ekas - rivals the next in utter solitude and raw beauty. Except for a few bamboo huts, fishermen mending nets, or a wayward herd of mud-caked water buffalo, the beaches are totally empty, waiting for a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ to splash ashore.

Bali-based convention extension managers are able to arrange three- and five-day tour packages, car and motorbike rental, as well as sea and air tickets to Lombok. With an increasing demand for sporting vacations, Lombok, with her spectacular mountains, fast-flowing rivers, and extensive marine environments proves to be a natural haven.
 
Destination: Lombok
 
Famed for its great beauty and eerie isolation, Mt. Rinjani towers over all parts of the island. The destination for most climbers, however, is not the summit itself but the spectacular emerald-green lake inside the calderas - nearly four kilometres across - an otherworldly home to boiling hot springs, cascading falls, steep slopes covered in dense forests, rare waterfowl, but not a single inhabitant. For trekkers, the two-day ascent is an extreme physical and spiritual adventure unmatched by few other destinations in eastern Indonesia.

Rinjani treks are run in accordance to the Rinjani Trek Ecotourism Program. In 2004, this community-based cooperative, supported by New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency, gained international recognition by being awarded the prestigious World Legacy Award for environmental responsibility and respect for cultural heritage. Trekking here, you can be assured that revenue from tourism activities and entry fees is used for conservation, training, management and assisting the national park with maintenance of the area.

Golfing holidays to either of Lombok’s two international-standard golf courses can also be organised. Rinjani Country Club, at 500-metres above sea level, is bestowed with an abundance of water traps, bunkers and ravines – ideal to test any player’s skills. The other course, Kosaido Country Club, overlooks the sea and includes a signature hole laid out along a white sand beach. These strikingly different greens make the perfect compliment to the Bali golfing experience.
 
Destination: Lombok
 
Calendar of Events
   
Hotels & Resorts in this area:
Novotel Lombok
   
Other destinations:
Nusa Dua
Tanjung Benoa
Jimbaran & The Bukit
Sanur Village
Kuta
Ubud
Sunset Coast


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