Lombok, the Unspoiled Bali

Lombok is what many people expect Bali to be; undeveloped and raw with beautiful beaches, terraced rice paddies and jungles.  Francesca and I found this to be true for the most part, although there are some differences that make me want to say “Sir, we know Bali and Lombok is no Bali.”

The major difference we found is the people.  The Lombokians are not nearly as friendly and outgoing as the Balinese.  They also come off as a bit lazy, although I suspect it is just that they are not as well versed in the art of customer service as those on Bali, but that is understandable as they have not had the exposure to tourism that Bali has.

There is only one major hotel chain in Lombok’s Kuta area (the Novotel) which is an hour and a half from the airport.  I suspect things will change though when the new international airport is completed which will reduce the transport time to twenty minutes and, no doubt, bring more hotel chains to the island.  I am sure that in ten year’s time Lombok (or at least certain areas) will be built up and resemble its cousin across the “Wallace Line”, which marks the biogeographical division between the flora and fauna of Indomalaysia and Australasia.  It was discovered by Alfred Russel Wallace who some argue developed the theory of evolution at the same time or slightly before his contemporary Charles Darwin.

Novotel Lombok

View from our window at the Novotel.  You won’t find many major hotel chains with this rural a view on Bali’s beach towns. [Although there are some in the mountains of Ubud].

Lombok was our chance to enjoy a luxury hotel with all its amenities and the Novotel didn’t disappoint.  Their infinity pool overlooking the beach provided a nice cooling spot for the blazing hot afternoons.

Chillin’ on the beach reading our Kindles.

We were still on our 10 day detox program (see previous posting), but we were able to enjoy some tasty juices on the beach. Unfortunately we had to fetch the drinks ourselves from the bar because they did not have any waitstaff beachside.  To be fair, if you corralled one of the towel boys they would get you a drink, but I feel this type of thing should be standard at this type of resort.   They also did nothing to prevent local kids from loitering on the beach selling coconuts and Tim Tams to guests.  Color me cruel, but when I want to interact with the locals (and I often do) there is plenty of opportunity to do so outside the gates of the hotel compound, but I don’t want to hear their incessant, high pitched whines imploring me to purchase stuff that I don’t want.  Neither saying “No thank you” nor ignoring them seemed to cause them to move along.  Perhaps a small price to pay for paradise?

I mentioned in my last posting that we had planned to do a three day “juice fast”.  Well, once we got to Lombok those three days turned into two days and then were quickly reduced to one.  But we embraced that one day with determination and pride only having a glass or two of fresh fruit or vegetable juice for our three meals.  On our non juice fast days we found delicious vegetarian dishes to consume.  One restaurant, called Ashtari, served up great views along with its great food.

View from Ashtari.

We also did some “playing” on Lombok.  In addition to getting my surf on (separate posting coming soon) we went scuba diving for the first time on our RTW trip.  Franny and I love to dive and have enjoyed some spectacular dive sites in the past (Belize, St. Lucia, Hawaii, Bhol (me), Great Barrier Reef (Franny)).  However, we hadn’t been diving in four years so we opted out of the grand daddy of all Lombok dive trips (the amazing, but very technical, “Magnet”) in favor of the more placid local dive at Kuta.

We had to walk through what was essentially a murky garbage dump to get to the beach and our scuba boat.

Girls playing in the murky garbage dump.  These two loved posing for the camera.

The Dive Zone was the only game in town for scuba (actually there was another local operator, but we decided it was more prudent to go with the German helmed operation).

Nick was our dive master.  He was an affable twenty year old from Slovenia.  He came to Lombok three months previously and has been working for free to get experience so he can get paid for his next diving gig.  His age and lack of experience would have been a bit worrisome if he wasn’t such a likable guy.

Sven, a German dive instructor emphatically teaching a couple of French divers who were also on our boat.

The Frenchies dropping backwards into the warm Lombok waters.  This method of entering the water was popularized by Jacques Cousteau and is now standard operating procedure.

Disappointingly, the diving was average at best.  There was some nice coral and a few pretty smallish fish, but nothing to write home about.  It was particularly disappointing because I had researched dive sites on Lombok and had wanted to go to another site having read that Kuta was, well, average at best, but Claudia, the young German woman who managed The Dive Zone convinced me that Kuta was a spectacular dive site.  Since we’ve been trying to “bright side” during this trip, I will say that it was just nice to be back under water after so long.  Diving for me is very calming and its alright if we don’t see hammerhead sharks (Lombok is full of them).  Just floating along, listening to the sound of my breathing is enjoyment in itself.  Kind of like being in a womb full of amniotic fluid.  Or at least what I suspect it would be since I don’t actually remember my own experience.

After scuba we took a road trip on our rented moped to the town of Praya as we needed to withdraw money and Praya, at forty minutes away, was the closest ATM machine.   We were in the sticks ladies and gents.

On the way there we passed through some beautiful scenery.

Bought petrol from a street side hut selling it out of old Absolut Vodka bottles.  These petrol sellers are ubiquitous in Lombok and Bali and are where every scooter jockey fuels up.

And witnessed some unique sights including the guy above who was stuffing and sometimes even throwing live chickens up into cages that were stacked on top of trucks.  They seemed to be equally amused with us as we were with them.

Praya was a dump (sorry, but I’m running out of polite words for poverty), but we enjoyed one of the most delicious meals we’ve had yet in Indonesia.  It was a “restaurant” called Ria that was recommended to us by one of the local guys working at The Dive Zone.

We had chicken sate (okay, we fell off the vegetarian wagon on that one) and spicy green beans and tempe.  Awesome eats and for a total of about $8.

Franny and our Sasak village guide.

On the way back to the Novotel we made an impromptu stop at a local Sasak village.  The Sasak are the indigenous people of Lombok and comprise about 80% of the Lombok population.

A little Sasak kid playing a homemade guitar.

The saddest looking money we’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a few monkeys in our day).  Our guide said he was their “security monkey” and a “display piece”.  But he was chained by his neck to a short leash and looked so depressed it was heartbreaking.   Out of solidarity and sympathy we refused to buy any of the villagers’ clothes or crafts.  That’ll teach ‘em.

Villages all have an elevated rice hut to keep the animals out and a lot of cats and dogs around to keep out vermin hell bent on getting to that rice.

So perhaps I have been pretty hard on Lombok so far, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  Lombok has the most amazing sunsets that we’ve seen on the Eat, Play, Love RTW tour (and as you’ve seen there have been some spectacular ones).

It’s just getting started.

When I posted this shot on facebook a couple people accused me of using photoshop to enhance the colors, but this is exactly how the Lombok sunsets looked night after night.  The sky just lights up magic!

The beachside bar was standing room only for the sunset happy hour.  We got pole position on our last night with two comfy chairs with an unobstructed view of the show.

In Southeast Asia I acquired a bunch of local beer t-shirts just for a change of wardrobe from the clothes I had been wearing for the previous two and a half months.   Enjoy my Southeast Asia Beer T-Shirt Montage.

I leave you with a pic of the many flavors of Pringles snack chips available at the Lombok airport.  Take particular note of the Grilled Shrimp and Soft Shelled Crab flavors.  Hell yeah we bought them! Of course we couldn’t eat them until after our 10 day detox program concluded which would be our first dawn in Ubud on the island of Bali and our last stop on our trip.

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One Response to “Lombok, the Unspoiled Bali”

  1. I just like to shared information, if anyone like to know more about Lombok Island please visit http://www.inside-lombok.com

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