Difference between revisions of "Lombok"
Revision as of 16:25, 20 December 2008
Located just east of Bali, Lombok has been promoted as "an unspoiled Bali" for quite some time, with beautiful beaches, enchanting waterfalls and the large, looming volcano of Mount Rinjani. The anticipated tourism boom has been halted on several occasions. In 2000, mobs of the ethnic Sasak people, ostensibly provoked by fundamentalist Muslim agitators from Maluku,looted and burned churches as well as homes and businesses owned by Hindus and and ethnic Chinese (who profess to be Christians). The bombing of nightclubs in Bali in 2002 further exacerbated fear held by tourist. For many years many Embassies issued advisory travel warnings against the travel to Indonesia. The ensuing years have been peaceful, but tourists have yet to regain confidence that travel to Lombok is safe.
The Islamic culture in Lombok compared to the Hindu culture Bali may also explain why Lombok is less popular than Bali in terms of shopping, cuisine, nightlife, and a multiplicity of accommodations. Conversely, Lombok offers visitors a chance to see traditional cultures (such as local markets, traditional villages, and numerous traditional celebrations). Lombok is also becoming increasingly popular with tourist and honeymooners who want to relax in an inexpensive, tropical, uncrowded atmosphere, with many "hidden beaches" and majestic scenery. Nothing happens quickly in Lombok and visitors who are stressed from their daily lives back home find Lombok a delightful getaway.
Lombok's people are 85% Sasak, culturally and linguistically closely related to the Balinese, but unlike Bali's Hindu they are Muslims. A notable non-orthodox Islamic group found only on Lombok are the Wektu Telu ("Three Prayers"), who as the name suggests pray only three times daily, instead of the five times required in the Quran.
While tropical, hot and humid, Lombok is drier than neighboring Bali, which makes it a particularly attractive option during the October-December rainy season (it rains on Lombok too, but rarely for more than an hour). The peak of the tourist season, though, is May through August.
The main local language is Sasak. Bahasa Indonesia is universally spoken and English is common in the resort areas.
Lombok's only airport is Mataram's Selaparang Airport (AMI), which occasionally also shows up in flight schedules as "Ampenan" (hence the seemingly odd airport code). There are frequent connections to Denpasar on Bali (20 min) and Surabaya (1 hour) on Garuda, Merpati and Germania Trisakti ("GT Air") but lately Merpati cancelled ocasionally some flights so check upfront. Garuda flies daily to Jakarta. A flight offered from and to Yogyakarta (on Garuda) is currently not being scheduled anymore. Sometime flights to Sumbawa are scheduled. New Airport is being constructed.
International flights are limited to Kuala Lumpur daily on Merpati (via Surabaya) and Singapore thrice weekly on Silk Air, with visas available on arrival. Lombok Network maintains a useful, mostly-updated flight schedule listing all flights to the island.
Slow boats from Padang Bai on Bali leave about every hour( 24 hours )for the four- to five-hour trip to Lembar (Rp 32,000). The slow ferries are a bit rusty and dusty, with minimal restroom facilities, and are used mostly by locals, with few tourists on board. Access to the passenger deck is usually from the vehicle deck via steep and narrow stairs, so maneuvering heavy luggage is a challenge. Would-be porters wait by the docks, and will happily carry your stuff for Rp 10,000 per item. Sometimes they insist on doing so even when you don't ask. They can be a bit intimidating, and sometimes try to overcharge. Lots of Kuta travel agents offer end-to-end transport, including a van ride from your Bali hotel to Padang Bai, the ferry ticket, and a ride from the dock on Lombok to your ultimate destination, for Rp 130,000 and up depending on where you are going in Lombok.
If you're going to the Gili Islands, there are many speedboat services directly from Bali; see Gili Islands for details. A few services continue on towards mainland Lombok. Direct fast ferries from Benoa to Lembar have stopped running.
Bemos (converted passenger-carrying minivans) are the main means of long-distance transport on Lombok. They can be hailed down on all larger streets, and will happily take you even short hops around Senggigi. Fares are cheap: for example, as of November 2005 the official fare from Mataram to Senggigi is Rp. 1500/person, but tourists tend to get charged a bit extra and empty bemos will expect you to charter them for a higher price yet. Travel agents can also get you on semi-regular shuttle services, which connect Senggigi, the airport, and the harbors of Lembar (for Bali) and Bangsal (for the Gilis).
Metered taxis are a fairly new development on Lombok, but they have become quite common in Mataram and Senggigi. The largest operator is Blue Bird, although there are a few other companies competing for your custom. As of November 2005, flag fall is Rp3,850 and the meter ticks up a few hundred rupiah for every hundred meters past 2 km. Figure on Rp10,000 for hops around town and around Rp30,000 from Senggigi to Mataram.
Renting a car is also an option and there are several places in Senggigi and Mataram to rent from. Expect to pay 150,000 (low end Suzuki mini jeep) to 400,000 (Toyota 4x4). Petrol is not cheap but it is less expensive than in some countries.
By horse cart
Horse-pulled carts known as cidomo are very common on Lombok, and while a bit touristy in Senggigi, they're still a serious method of transportation. Make sure that you bargain the rate before the journey. In the Gilis there are no cars or motorbikes, so cidomo or bicycle is the only way to go.
Traditional fishing boats known as perahu ply the waters around Lombok, and are instantly recognizable due to their outriggers, two logs attached by bars on both sides like a catamaran, for greater stability in heavy swells. They can also be chartered, either directly from owners (in which case some knowledge of Bahasa will come in handy) or via any travel agent, who will of course take their cut.
Traffic is relatively light throughout the island so travel by bicycle is quite possible, and provides a very different cultural experience to other means of transport. You should bring your own touring bike, as local bikes are of a very basic quality although there is one biking tour operator (Lombok Biking)that has decent bikes and guides.
Given that the very word lombok means "chili pepper" in Bahasa Indonesia, the local cuisine isn't quite as spicy as you might expect. Probably the best known local dish is is ayam taliwang, although nobody seems to be able to agree on the exact recipe: most interpretations involve chicken topped with or stewed with a rich red sauce flavored with galangal, turmeric and tomato, which can be either mild or searingly hot.
In general, though, prices and food are much the same as anywhere else in Java or Bali. Senggigi has a few upscale international restaurants, the Gili Islands serve up banana pancakes and other backpacker favorites, and Mataram has Indonesia's easternmost McDonalds and KFC, but elsewhere it's Indonesian food all the way.
Alcoholic drinks are not available everywhere throughout the island, as Lombok is mostly Muslim. However, local supermarkets offer a variety of local as well as international beers. Note that beer is relatively expensive: a small bottle costs at least the same as a full meal in a "local" eatery.
The island's most touristic city, Senggigi, has numerous bars and clubs with the usual international favorites. The local favorite, though, is tuak, a red or white fermented palm wine with 2-5% volume.
Nearly all of Lombok's better-quality accommodation can be found in Senggigi. Backpackers tend to travel to Gili Islands. See those articles for details; the following covers only accommodation elsewhere in Lombok.
One accommodation option for which is becoming more popular, emulating what has has happened on its sister island of Bali, is private villas complete with staff, although not every place sold as a "villa" actually fits the bill. Prices vary widely: some operators claim to go as low as $30/night, but realistically you'll be looking at upwards of $200/night for anything with a decent location and a private pool, and at the top of range rents can easily go north of $1,000/night.
Although Lombok is a safe and stable place, these tips may help you along the way: