Located thirty-five kilometres east of Bali lies the island of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara province, which is an accessible-yet-not-crowded piece of heaven, wooing travellers near and far to its gorgeous sandy beaches with luminous blue waters, majestic Mount Rinjani, unique local culture and crafts. For travellers who have only two to four days to get under Lombok’s skin, we recommend that they stay at Gili Trawangan, get acquainted with the Sasaks, and admire South Lombok’s breathtaking landscape.

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan

Crystal clear water at Gili Trawangan.

Of all tourism attractions in Lombok, the scattered gili (meaning small island in the native Sasak language) off coast Lombok main island like Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno arguably draw the biggest attention. Gili Trawangan is the most popular due to higher accommodation options and its lively scene, while Gili Meno tends to be quieter and serene, ideal for those who want peace. Gili Air, on the other hand, offers a mix of both action and tranquillity. During our recent trip to Lombok, Gaya Travel team managed to experience Gili Trawangan. affectionately known simply as ‘Gili T’.

Though Gili T is a party island to some degree because it hosts numerous holiday revellers, it remains loveable nonetheless because it is blessed with pristine nature and has no motorised vehicles. People and goods are normally transported using horse carts called cidomo. To explore the island, besides using the cidomo, travellers could simply do so by walking or bicycling. We were told that if travellers were to leisurely walk, it might take them two hours to cover the entire island.

When visiting Lombok, be sure to stay at the popular Hotel Vila Ombak on Gili Trawangan for a relaxing tropical island getaway, fabulous sunrise right in front of the hotel and fun-filled snorkelling and even diving in the surrounding crystal clear waters. The hotel has its own dedicated jetty located at Kombal Bay on Lombok main island to quickly transfer guests directly to the hotel on Gili Trawangan via speedboat, taking only 10 to 15 minutes.

Note: Maybank and CIMB Niaga Bank auto-teller machine cardholders – including those of Bank BRI, Bank Mandiri, Bank BNI and Visa Plus-enabled cards – should not worry if they are out of cash when they are on Gili Trawangan because the said banks’ auto-teller machines are located just in front of Vila Ombak Hotel for convenient cash withdrawal.

Gaya Travel Magazine admires the straightforward and fuss-free design of the hotel’s spacious Deluxe Terrace Room that comes with modern amenities, especially the exceedingly large shower space. Those who prefer more unique stay experience should opt for the cosy two-storey Traditional Lumbung Hut, which has an architectural vernacular inspired from traditional Sasak pile-built rice barns in the shape of bonnets, with bedroom on the top floor and open-air living area underneath.

Hotel Vila Ombak

Sunrise view from Villa Ombak Hotel on Gili Trawangan.

One of the highlights of the team’s trip to Lombok was the chance to catch the spectacular sunrise right from the beach that fronts Hotel Vila Ombak, which is highly recommend if weather permits. Once the sun is up, guests are welcome to loiter around Hotel Vila Ombak’s exceedingly lush grounds as a way to relax while waiting for the staff to begin serving breakfast at the hotel’s all-day dining Seahorse Restaurant. On top of that, afternoon tea is served daily for all guests at Hidden Pool Bar from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Gili Meno

Snorkelling in the waters of Gili Meno.

Tip: Guests at Hotel Vila Ombak on Gili Trawangan must savour scrumptious dinner buffet served amidst romantic atmosphere on the beach prepared by D’Ombak Joglo restaurant, offering a perfect ending to travellers’ day.

Those who love snorkelling should not miss doing so when staying on Gili Trawangan because the surrounding waters are remarkably clear and teeming with marince life. Hotel Vila Ombak ‘s own concierge can arrange snorkelling trips and other activities. Besides snorkelling, scuba-divers would be happy to know that the hotel also has a fully accredited PADI five-star dive center called Vila Ombak Divers. Those who instead prefer to only swim in the pool will be happy to know that the hotel has two swimming pools: the centrally located swimming pool in front of the Seahorse Restaurant that is suitable for all ages; and the adults-only and less conspicuous Hidden Pool situated further within the hotel’s premises. Each of the pools is equipped with a pool bar.

Additional notes by Mohd. Shahril Fawzy Suhaili:

When you snorkel or dive in the waters of Gili Meno in Lombok, you’ll not only see adorable marine creatures but also the excellent artworks comprising 48 human-figured sculptures by a renowned underwater sculptor named Jason de Caires Taylor. These sculptures are placed 13 feet under the surface and aimed at conserving the corals and providing home to various marine life while turning the spot into a popular landmark. Huge credit for this wonderful effort!

The Sasaks

Once travellers return to Lombok main island, travellers should visit the Sasak cultural village called Ende in Central Lombok to learn about the Sasaks’ way of life and admire the village’s bucolic rusticity. The village comprises 37 households made up of 135 residents who are mostly involved in farming. Besides learning about the villagers’ daily life and taking pictures with them, be sure to also catch the thrilling demonstration of presean, an ancient duelling tradition involving sticks and shields performed by male adults and children, carried out during the time when the Sasaks were still animists (they are now Muslims). In the past, this tradition was held during drought because the act was believed to bring rain whenever those involved in the duel began to shed blood from the constant hit onto their body. The spilling of their blood onto the earth was considered as an appeasement to the spirits and mother nature.

Additional notes from Ameen Azizul Aziz:

The members of the Sasak community at Ende village still maintain their simple and earthy lifestyle, yet it is obvious that they are also used to receiving local and international tourists, which means that they can further suuplement their income and are well exposed to the outside world. Interestingly, these Sasaks make the base and floors of their houses not from concrete and cement but from compacted earth mixed with cow dung, while the walls are built from woven bamboo and thatched roof. The ceiling of the house is constructed low so that the inhabitants and their guests constantly bow their heads as a sign of deference towards the house. It takes approximately one month to build a Sasak traditional house.

Ende

A local woman weaving at Ende.

Another distinctive culture of the Sasaks is their marriage tradition. Unlike other communities, prenuptial kidnapping of the bride-to-be by the groom often takes place because historically the Sasaks consider marriage proposals disgraceful. A Sasak man who has the intention of settling down will ‘persuade’ the woman of his liking to follow him to his parents’ or relatives’ house, a custom called merarik in local language. The girl will then stay at the house for not more than three days while the man’s parents or representatives inform the village chief and visit the girl’s family to discuss the couple’s matrimony and negotiate dowry. Once mutual agreement has been reached, the wedding takes place soon after.

Besides their unique tradition, the Sasaks are also famous for their weaving. Women are expected to learn how to weave since small because it is believed that they won’t be able to get hitched and provide for the family until they master this skill. There are many beautiful motifs introduced by the tribe such as Keker, Serat Penginang, Cunglik and Subahnala. The last motif, which is also the most popular one, derived its name from the Arabic word subhanallah (‘Glory to Allah’). According to the story told by many, the women keep on chanting “subhanallah” when finishing the motif because it is too complex and takes too long of a time to make. Travellers can learn more about these motifs, weaving techniques and even shop for these woven handicrafts at Dharma Setya Weaving Centre (Facebook:Dharma Setya, Hand Woven and Handicrafts), located close to the weaving village of Sukarara.

 

South Lombok

Mandalika Beach

Mandalika Beach

Since Lombok is noted for its beaches, one of the places that travellers should explore is the southern side of Lombok, particularly Kuta Mandalika beach that is earmarked for development by the Indonesian government in turning it into Lombok’s special economic zone, similar to Bali’s Nusa Dua. More facilities such as locker area, changing rooms and toilets are under way and targetted to be completed by June 2018.

Close to Kuta Mandalika beach, Novotel Lombok Resort & Villas – opened since 1997 – is slated for better things to come, especially from the Kuta Mandalika beach development and the completion of the first ever MotoGP Circuit in Indonesia by 2020 located a stone’s throw away. Walking around the premises of the property made me feel like walking inside an indigenously exotic tropical village that marries local aesthetics with pre-Columbian Mesoamerican spatial sensibilities.

Located around five kilometres east of Kuta Mandalika beach is the two-kilometre long Tanjung Aan beach consisting of two bays with two types of sand with different colours: powdery white and salt-and-pepper. Travellers, especially lovers of panoramic landscapes, should then make way to Bukit Merese (Merese Hill), which is not far from Tanjung Aan – as a matter of fact, it offers an equally breathtaking view of the same bay where Tanjung Aan beach is located, including the Indian Ocean, but from a different angle. Be prepared to be mesmerised by the scenic panorama from both Tanjung Aan and Bukit Merese. Personally, I find both Tanjung Aan and Bukit Merese fascinatingly beautiful to the point that I think travellers shouldn’t consider themselves having been to Lombok if they do not visit both places.

Tip: One plus point about Lombok that travellers should take advantage of is the fact that the island’s beautiful beaches are generally not crowded, except during school and public holidays, including peak seasons that fall on July until August and October until December. We reckon that March and April would be ideal time to visit.  

Where to eat:

  • Roemah Langko – a restaurant set in a homely and nostalgia-inducing Dutch-influenced edifice in Mataram serving Lombok cuisine and seafood
  • Ayam Taliwang Irama – when in Lombok, travellers should try braving the island’s specialty dish called Ayam Taliwang, which is chilli-laden Indonesian grilled chicken.

Interested travellers could contact Bagan Utama Holidays to arrange their trip to Lombok.

Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to the Republic of Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism, the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Kuala Lumpur and the Consulate General of Indonesia in Johor Bahru for making the writer’s trip to Lombok a reality.

This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 13.3. Read the magazine for free HERE.

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