A Lombok experience, a day of learning and exchanges

Our day-trip in Lombok that led to a sharing of personal memories, local folklores and cultural learnings. Read on to find out more!

A cultural trip around Lombok

After hearing all the stories shared by Mr Irwan, we were quite excited to explore the island and understand a little more about the culture of the Sasak people. The married girl and I had a quick “English” breakfast of poached eggs and toast before heading out to meet Arun, the guesthouse staff who was also our guide for the day. Our driver was silent throughout the trip, probably due  our language barrier. Nevertheless, he was friendly and got us some snacks which Sophia gladly ate along the way back.

Photo taking over Tanjung Ann Beach
Arun our guide and friend, with Sophia, posing over Tanjung Ann cliff.

Practical usage of the land

Arun was exceptionally sociable and quickly started introducing us to Lombok. Pointing to the vast padi fields that decorated the land, Arun shared that the yields were mainly harvested for domestic consumption, rarely exported (which we were informed again later at the traditional (Indra) village of the Sasak people). As we passed by some hills, Arun turned and asked, “What do you think people who live on the hilly area of the mountains, where the soil is often dry, do with their land?” I randomly looked at the hills which was now covered with vegetation that looked like shrubs or wild plants. “Erm…I’m not sure, maybe used for cattle grazing?” A feeble attempt at the question, even though I was quite sure that was definitely not what the land was used for. “There are two types of rice crops in Lombok, one that requires the water-logged fields to grow, and the other dry-seeded rice that could survive on dry land, which was often planted in the hills. This was to help increase the rice yield during the dry season and to maximize the land use in Lombok”. Another new piece of information for a tourist like me.

Paid-fields in Lombok
Water-logged padi-fields, ready for harvesting, decorated the landscape.

Stories of love, tradition and marriage

Along the way, we were stopped by a massive traffic jam with people streaming on both side of the car. “This is a wedding ceremony!” Arun exclaimed. We managed to catch a glimpse of the bride and the groom whom were both dressed in white traditional Sasak costumes, with a Sarong wrapped across their top. The groom was also carrying a huge Kris (dagger), which Arun explained was a symbol of protection that grooms provided for their brides. It was also a tradition that served a function in the past, as long distances between villages meant that the grooms had to carry their own weapons in case of enemy’s attacks.

Arun then explained to us that in Lombok, people can get married by “being stolen”, if the parents were not agreeable to the union between a couple. Similar to the idea of “elope”,  young couples will get married in the middle of the night outside the village with the support of their close friends. After that, the “newly weds” will return to their villages to inform and seek their parents’ consent to proceed with the marriage. A formal ritual will then occur once the consents have been given. In the culture of the Sasak people, it was difficult for parents to reject the marriage due to the stigma associated with women who had been “stolen”. Arun shared that his wife and himself went through a stolen marriage to get together, as their parents were not very supportive of their union. Though relationships with his parents-in-law used to be tensed, the birth of his daughter has helped reconciled the relationships. It was an interesting cultural exchange from Arun, given that Sophia and I were also planning for our wedding back then. The idea of “being stolen” tickled me for a moment.

Banyemulek, a small village in the global world

Not long after, we reached our first destination, Banyamulek. Arun pointed out that Banyamulek used to be a pottery village in the past, where every household made potteries for living. Today, there are a few pottery factories in the village still engaged in the trade. He led us into a building where we found ourselves standing  in a room filled with handmade pottery products, from vase, to ornaments, to coasters, to teapots and all. Most of the potteries are shipped to the Middle-east for sale, said a lady who walked into the store to greet us. It was amazing to imagine how the pottery seated in the store in this little village might be ending up in some mega-malls in the Middle-east shopping districts.

Banyemullek pottery collection
The shop lady informed that Turkish buyers ordered in large quantity and exports them overseas.

A shop lady brought us to a counter and presented to us what looked like a “teapot”. There was no opening at the top, but a large hole at the bottom of the pot. With the teapot inverted, she took some water and started pouring into the hole. Then, like a confident magician, she flipped the teapot around and started pouring water from the stout. No water spilled out from the bottom of the vase, despite the big gaping hole at the base. Grinning, she knew her trick worked as I was immediately attracted to the teapot (which I ultimately got from her in the end). Arun explained that the ‘teapot’ was called Kendil Maling, which also meant burglar, as water entered from the back, like a burglar entering a house through the backdoor.

We were then led to the back of the store where a few women sat on stools. “Go ahead and make one” Arun encouraged. We sat down and got started on our own little pottery. Throughout the 15 mins, I was busy trying to talk to the ladies with my limited knowledge of Bahasa Melayu, instead of making the pottery. We laughed trying to help each other comprehend each other, and of course, I learnt that my Melayu was nowhere near understandable.

Pottery making at Banyemullek
Learning to make pottery, and reliving my younger days when I was actively doing arts and craft work.

Sukarara Village – The weaving village

We reached our second destination, also known as the Sukarara Village. A local guide brought us around the village, which was a very short and simple tour. Nevertheless, it was interesting to look at how weaving made up the entire economy of the village. Noticing that only the women were busy weaving in the village, while the males sat around in groups and chit-chatted, I asked the guide politely about the gender segregation of roles. The guide explained that only women were allowed to weave, and in the culture of the Sukarara, women who could not weave will have difficulty finding partners. It seems to be quite a tedious job as the women wove each thread manually to form the traditional batik. Sophia got her hands on it, and I’m glad she managed to weave a few threads. “Better learn how to weave, if not no marriage for you next year!” I gave my boldest threat to her in a light-hearted way.

Weaving at Sakurara village
Every household, you’ll see someone weaving. But it is all women doing the work.

Weaving at Sakurara village
Children start from young, selling their woven piece to the traders who come and order in bulk from the villagers.

Learning weaving at Sakurara village
Sophia getting her hands at weaving. But wonder what’s the little girl thinking at the back.

The cultural heritage of the Sasak people

The last cultural trip was to visit a traditional village of the Sasak people. We visited a traditional house that was made with cow “dung” and mud. It was a simple house with no rooms or any partition. The door was low and the ceiling was made of straw grass. An old benevolent looking grandma sat on the porch right in-front of the house, and some photos of the granny decorated the entrance to the place, giving the place a warm and homely feel. Remembering what the guide said about giving respect to the owner before entering, I turned and gave my widest smile to the granny, greeting her “Selamat Tengah Hari Macik!” (Good afternoon auntie!). She looked happy at my greeting and smiled, revealing the few teeth that she had left. Despite looking like an old and frail granny, she was a hipster at heart. The granny beckoned for me to take a photograph with her while at the same time assessing whether I fitted into her definition of healthy young man by squeezing my arm and shoulders. I must have passed her assessment because she kept giving me the thumbs up sign. I was shock when she raised her “lets rock” hand gesture.

Taking photo with old Sasak Granny
Young at heart, she is really a delightful old lady.

We took some photos with her, and took a tour around her place. It was clean and neat and everything was nicely hung in place on the walls, including utensils such as ladle and spoons. Sacks and sacks of rice was piled up at a corner of the room. Despite the dung used in the construction, there was no smell. I was impressed how little they needed and how tidy everything was kept in place. We also found out that couples in the Sasak did not sleep together except for times when they wanted to be intimate (which the guide said was not often). The husband slept outside the house at the porch, while the women slept in the huts. Children will usually sleep together with their mother in the huts, and once the couple had children, it got even harder for intimacy. This was a totally different culture from us, and made me wonder how love is defined in the traditional villages of Lombok. We walked through the village and identified the traditional houses of the Sasak people. The tall “horse-shoe” shaped roofs stored rice crops, and also provided resting areas for the people. It must have been an important symbol as many of the modern buildings in Lombok replicated its design.

A traditional sasak storage
A traditional storage space. The crops are kept under the huge roof of the structure.

A traditional Sasak house from the outside, made of clay and cow “dung:

Rice stacked neatly in the house
Stacks of rice, only additional are sold

An overview of the neat and simple home

One of Lombok Fantastic 4 – Tanjung Ann

“Walk barefoot on distant sands, amid the brightly painted boats at rest”
Connor Reade (1932 – 99)

The trip was scheduled to end with a beach visit. “You must definitely visit Lombok’s Fantastic 4, Selong Belanak, Mawun, Kuta and Tanjung Aan beach. It is like our Lombok’s 4 treasure!”  proclaimed Arun as we asked him where will we be heading to. “It is not like Kuta Bali, so many people and so much drugs”. Indeed, Kuta Lombok still offers sandy white beach with deep blue water. The beach was also relatively quiet, just a couple of tourists who biked their way over.  I noticed that unlike Senggigi or Gili, there were no guesthouses, shops or restaurants around the beaches. In fact, Arun informed us that the government has cordoned off and pull-down guesthouses that used to stretched along some of these beaches, so as to conserve the natural landscape for the locals.

We drove on for another 15 minutes to Tanjung Ann, through some badly paved roads, alongside tourists who slung their surf boards at the side of their bikes. Arun pointed to a pond along the way, and shared that buffalo races are conducted here every year and men who owned buffaloes will take part. I was a little surprised due to the depth of the water. Arun must have caught it as he quickly explained that the water will be shallower during the dry season when the competitions were held.

Suddenly, the path opened to a lagoon guarded by two green hills to its left and right.  The water was turquoise blue and the sand… Arun grabbed a handful of the sand, and showed it to us. “Pepper-grain.” He said. Each grain was round that looked like pepper. But under the feet, it still felt soft and smooth.

Pepper grained sand in Tanjung Ann beach
Sand in the form of pepper-grains.

We walked down the white sandy beach and I jumped into the turquoise blue water for a swim. The water was deep. Just as we were relaxing by the beach, Arun walked over with two coconuts in his hands. I felt bad having him serve us our drinks, and thanked him repeatedly. It was a good way to end the trip. After an hour or so, we decided to make our way back. We took out our Polaroid camera and took two photos with Arun, one which we gave to him. I’ve never seen anyone who appreciated the photo so much as he repeated thanked us and claimed that this will really cheer his daughter up. It moved me to see him appreciate such a simple gift and his constant thoughts about his family, especially his daughter.

Tanjung Ann beach
Mesmerizing Tanjung Ann beach. It felt like we had the whole beach to ourselves.

A tale of a princess and a cliff.

Arun insisted that we stopped one last destination before heading back. It was just 10 minutes’ drive from Tanjung Aan. He stopped at a beach outside a resort. The beach looked as equally magnificent as Tanjung Aan. “This,” he said, “is Mandalika beach”. According to legend, Princess Mandalika was a beautiful princess of Lombok. She was so astoundingly beautiful that it attracted princes from different kingdoms. Kingdoms threatened war in order to ask for her hand. Facing the brink of a war occurring between kingdoms, her father asked Mandalika to choose amongst her suitor. Mandalika knew she was left with no options. The burden of her decision was heavy and will ultimately lead to the war amongst kingdoms.

To announce her decision, Mandalika invited all the princes and kings to the cliff that now overlooked the Indian Ocean. On that fateful day, she turned to the crowd and jumped off the cliff  without making any decision. Her body was never found despite the King’s effort to search for her remains. Rumours was that her body had turned into sea worms that was a source of food for the people. To commemorate Mandlika’s sacrifice, a ceremony was held every year at the Mandlika beach, where villagers will gather to look for sea worms and make offering to the princess. Arun pointed to what was left of the cliff after years of erosion, and showed me the place where Princess Mandalika was said to have jumped. It was strange to me when I first heard that her body turned to sea worms but I guessed sea worms must have been useful for the people in the past. Nevertheless, it was a fascinating story to me.

Mandlika beach
Arun sharing the story about the Mandalika princess, and what is left of the cliff today.

Mandalika cliff
Taking a photo on the remnants of the Mandalika cliffs. People will gather around to celebrate and commemorate the Mandlika princess here each year.

We made it back by nightfall, exhausted. It was a long day, but a good way to end our trip in Lombok, having at least seen something different from the beaches and the mountains, and learning about the stories and traditions of the local people

Visit Borobudur and hike Merapi over a long weekend (3 days 2 nights)

Have a long weekend to spare, but not sure what to do? If you want to explore something different from your usual staycation, check out how you can conquer Merapi and visit Borodudur in your next long weekend holiday!

Are you looking to maximise your holiday over a long weekend? Searching for something more than the usual staycation? Lucky for you, being in Singapore means that there are plenty of destinations around us that offer unique experiences that you can cover over a short trip.  All these with some proper planning of course! In this post, I will share with you on how you can trek the famous Mount Merapi and visit Borobudur, one of the world’s seven wonder, all within the course of a long weekend.

The summary of the itinerary as follow:
Day 1:  Arrival in Yogyakarta, Visit Borobudur temple, Depart to Selo village
Day 2:  Ascend Mount Merapi, Return to Yogyakarta, Visit Prambanan temple (optional)
Day 3: Depart Yogyakarta to Singapore

Day 1:  Singapore to Yogyakarta
Estimated arrival time: 12pm – 1pm
Activities: Visit Borobudur Temple tour, Mendut and Pawon Temple, Check-in hotel (optional), Depart for Merapi Sunrise trek

Based on current flight schedule, AirAsia offers the cheapest and most direct way of getting into Yogyakarta from Singapore. Arrive around 1pm in Yogyakarta and meet with your guide. I will recommend a guide for this trip due to the tight schedule, and also because it is easier to get around with a vehicle. Have lunch and head straight to Borobudur and witness one of the world’s greatest wonder. Borobudur is one of the world most majestic Buddhist monument built around the 8th to 9th AD under the reign of Syailendra Dynasty.

Once you reach Borobudur, you will notice that the whole temple is structured into layers, forming a slight pyramid with the Stupa as its tip. The Borobudur temple is divided into three layers, representing the concept of Universe in Buddhist cosmology. The base layer of the temple signifies Kamadhatu, or the ‘spheres of desire’, and is symbolic of how we are bounded by our humanly desires. The five square terraces of the temple forms the middle layer, representing Rupadhatu , or ‘spheres of forms’, where one abandons all desires but is still bounded by our name and our form. The three circular platforms and the huge Stupa at the top forms the last layer. This is symbolic of Arupadhatu, or ‘sphere of formlessness’, where we are nothingness, neither name nor form. The temple reflects the concept of nirvana in Buddhist teachings and is an interesting monument that you have to visit. You can also engage a local guide who will be able to bring you around and explain to you the cravings along the temple walls.

Borobudur temple and its layered structured.
Borobudur temple, if you look closely, you will see the layered structure of the temple. Take your time to explore the sculptures lining the walls of the temple.

The temple compound consists of three buildings, the main Borodudur temple and two smaller temples, Mendut and Pawon temples. Visit Mendut and Pawon and imagine how huge the temple must have been in the past, when you remove all the roads, shops and building surrounding the structures in the modern world today.

By the time you are done, you will notice that it is almost 5pm to 6pm. Head down to a local restaurant and have a good feast to prepare for the night’s climb. If you prefer to have a shower, you can book a hotel to drop your luggage and have a quick wash-up before departing to Selo village, where you will begin your trek to Merapi. Alternatively, you can also save some money by keeping your luggage in your guide’s vehicle and head down to Selo Village after dinner. The ride to Selo is about 2 hours and the local trekking guides in Selo will bring you up Merapi. You can freshen up in their office while you wait for other climbers to arrive.

Merapi guidehouse
Office of the guide house, with a poster of Sony, the owner and experience mountain guide who specializes in rescue and volcanic eruption photography expeditions

Day 2:  Selo village – Yogyakarta
Activities: Conquer Mount Merapi, check-in to hotel in Yogyakarta, visit UNESCO World Heritage site, Prambanan Temple (optional but highly recommended)

You will begin your trek between 1am and 2 am in the morning. The trek is challenging. Please do train and be mentally prepared for the climb. You will need to be quite fit to reach the summit within the next 4 hours to catch the sunrise. To give you an indication, the group we hiked consisted of about 30 people. We heard that less than 10 made it to the summit to catch the sunrise. It gets harder the higher you go, as the path becomes more inclined, and loose rocks forms the footpath instead of soil. You will need to ascend at a relatively quick pace to make it to the summit for the sunrise. But not to fret, even if you can’t reach the summit before the sunrise. There are 3 check-points before the summit where you can stop, each at different altitudes, and each offering a good view of the sunrise. If you are feeling too tired, the guides will recommend that you stop at the check-point nearest to you, so that you can still catch a good view of the distance rising sun.

Sunrise at Merapi
If you can’t reach the summit in time, the first check-point will also offer an amazing view of the sunrise

Some tips to prepare you for the trek, you will need to bring water, and probably some light snacks. It can get quite cold as you near the summit, so do wear a good cold-jacket or wind-breaker. Most importantly, a good pair of trekking boots and a pair of gloves can do you a lot of good for the trek.

Merapi summit
Smoking hot summit of Merapi from afar.

Mount Merbabu from Merapi
Mount Merbabu is not too far away. You can also trek and hike at Merbabu for a fantastic view of the sunrise

After conquering the summit, you will return to Selo by around 9 to 10 am. Tired and sleepy by now, get back to Yogyakarta and check-in to your hotel. You can have a good shower, freshen up or rest for the day. But to really maximise this long weekend, I will recommend that you arrange with your guide to visit Prambanan temple, one of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Unlike Borobudur, Prambanan is a Hindu temple built to honor the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva. It was built by the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty, supposedly to outshine Borobudur and to mark the end of a century of the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty domination. It is equally as majestic as the Borobudur temple, with intricate carvings lining its tall and pointed architecture. Catch the sunset at Prambanan, before heading off for a good dinner, some beer and rest for the night.

Majestic view of prambanan temple
Prambanan temple, the ancient Hindu temples with its pointed acrhitectural structures

Prambanan temple in the night
The intricate sculptures lining the tips of the temples at night.

Day 3: Depart Yogyakarta to Singapore

Some final thoughts

So there you have it, a good cultural and outdoor adventure trip, all within the duration of a long weekend.  Just a couple of my own thoughts below for your consideration, if you are planning to proceed with this itinerary.

Flying in one night before – Due to the tight schedule, it is always good to fly in the night before the long weekend, so that you have at least 2 full days for your holiday. That said, there isn’t a lot of flight timings that you can choose from. At the moment, AirAsia offers the cheapest and most direct way to get to Yogyakarta, though the timing may not allow you to maximise your holiday. Alternatively, if you don’t mind a longer flight time, you can check out Garuda Indonesia for alternative options.

Engage a local operator to save time – Also, do consider going with a local operator for this itinerary. Having a local operator can help you save time by maximising your schedule. Also, with a vehicle, you can get around to places with cheap and good local delicacies. I booked with Dejong Asia for my last trip. We met Frans, who was really considerate and made our experience much more memorable by bringing us to local food places, and introducing us to some of his friends at Selo Village (Just to proclaim, I do not get commission for the introduction, but a good service is definitely worth a recommendation). If not, you can easily find your own local operator from the internet and make this itinerary work.

Go with a group to save money – Lastly, I will recommend going with a group of 3 to 4 companions to save cost. If you are going with a local operator, sharing the cost of the guide and the vehicle with a group of friends is definitely a good way to cut some budget off your travelling expenditure. We spent approximately $300 for 2 pax for the activities for this trip. A group of 4 will definitely bring this lower.

I do hope this itinerary will bring some possibilities for your next holiday over the long weekend. Please do share with us your experiences and contribute to improving this itinerary!

Stories about Lombok waiting to be retold

Stories about Lombok, from legendary princess to mystical caves. Waiting to be retold.

From surviving a grueling Rinjani to walking by the beautiful beaches of the Gilis, we finally arrived in Senggigi, the last destination of our trip. Our journey from Gili Air to the town of Senggigi was not entirely hassle-free, with the agent from Persona not wanting to drop us at our hotel, and subsequently trying to sell us an over-priced airport shuttle service. But I guess we kind of got used to such situations by now.

We arrived at Jo Je Bungalow in the morning, with the sun shining brightly and the flowers outside the resort still moist with the morning dew. Almost immediately, we heard someone greeting us merrily, “Selemat Pagi! Jepun?” We were amused by the comment as we had been repeatedly mistaken as Japanese throughout the trip, perhaps due to our charcoal-burnt skin and Sophia’s hair, styled in a bun. We looked towards the direction of the voice, only to see a short, hardy looking man peering at us through a small window, which seems to be the kitchen. We smiled and I replied in my broken Bahasa Melayu, “Selemat pagi! Saya Singaporean” while the man hurried out of the kitchen to welcome us. “Hi! I’m Mr Iwan, the manager here, aaah, Singaporean!” exclaimed Mr Iwan, signaling to us that he should have second guessed that we were from Singapore instead. Very quickly, we introduced ourselves and chatted in the waiting area while we waited for our room to be ready.

Jo Je Boutique and Bungalow
Arriving at Jo-Je Bungalow

Mr Iwan was a small size, but sturdy looking man who spoke slowly and patiently. It was obvious that he was a man who was proud and passionate about his country. We shared about our experiences in Rinjani while he excitedly shared his, having climbed the mountain himself four times.

“There are so many beautiful and magical places in Rinjani. Like the Payung cave, a cave with a very small entrance between two rocks, which locals believe that only people who lived their lives with good intention and morals can pass through those rocks, unharmed.” he spoke slowly, with his eyes shifting slightly to look at us, trying to assess if he had gotten our attention. “You see, I’ve witness this. I saw my friend, bigger than you, going through the gap with no problem. Easy. But this white tourist, smaller than me, had to struggle and squeeze through the rocks. He was small, but we don’t know why he couldn’t pass. After that, inside the cave, he stopped and we saw cuts across his chest and bruises on his elbows. This is the working of the spirits guarding the caves.”

Mr Iwan continued with a couple more stories, relating to us his experiences of the milk caves (Susu Caves) where locals will sometime visit and stay overnight to enjoy the hot baths and sauna. “Only those with strong self-confidence will rest at ease in the caves, while others who often doubted themselves or had evil intentions will have restless nights, visited by snakes, scorpion, centipedes and even shadows of the other world”. We were intrigued by the stories that Mr Iwan shared, and can’t help, but be amazed by the cultural richness of the people in Lombok.

People fishing by the coast ofSenggigi
Fisherman gathering by the beach in front of Jo-Je to collect the net. Passerby helped out too.

I asked Mr Irwan what to do while we were in Lombok. So many people have skipped the mainland during their trip from Rinjani to the Gili. He suggested that we visit the different cultural activities of Lombok while we were here, and to understand the local Sasak people’s way of life. Since we had nothing in mind, we signed up for a trip with the hotel, and quickly identified some of the cultural places that interest us.

We went for the trip the next day with Arun, but that is another story, waiting to be told another time. After returning from the trip, I spoke to Mr Iwan about our experiences, and things we had learnt about the Sasak people. To our disappointment, there were so many other places that we could have visited if we had more time in Lombok.

Mr Irwan talked about the biggest fish market in Lombok, Tanjung Luar that one can visit. “Tanjung Luar supplies fishes to the regional restaurants and markets. Fishes like sharks, manta rays, and sometimes even dolphins are on sale.” I was dismayed by the fact that sharks and dolphins were hunted, and asked Mr Iwan who bought these fishes. “Chinese restaurants in Bali, Java or Jakarta demand these fishes. Many people feel that it is wrong, but it is the way of life for the local people”. Feeling perturbed, yet intrigued, I felt compelled to visit this early market if I ever come back again.

“Tanjung Ringgit, the Grand Canyon of Lombok,” he added “is a very beautiful area that overlooked the ocean. You can take your wedding photo there!” he laughed (thinking back, it totally slipped our mind during our wedding). “You can also visit Bangkang caves, the house to many bats. Not far from Senggigi”. Bat hunting, which he proclaimed was legal, can also be done on the Eastern part of Lombok. “There are so many things to do that you can’t find in Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor”. Indeed, Mr Iwan`s introduction of Lombok, the things to do and to see, definitely sounds more exciting than what was recommended by Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor. Too bad, we only gave this island three days, after hearing from friends that there was nothing much to do, and finding nothing from online travel guides.

Seaview of Senggigi, with Mount Batur from afar
Beautiful view in front of the resort, with the view of Mount Batur in Bali from afar.

For the remaining of our trip, we spent our time mostly in the resort, reminiscing our first trekking experience together. Jo Je Bungalow was a beautiful place and our room faced the ocean. The sand in front of the resort was brownish black. Though it looked muddy, it nevertheless felt soft and smooth as you walked along the beach. Every evening, we’ll sit by the beach chairs and enjoy the gentle warmth of the setting sun. If it was raining, we’ll watch the rain drops softly on the sand from the comfort of our room. Other times, we’ll just sit by the beach, hearing the sound of the waves crashing against the sand. It was a good way to end the trip, and hopefully this story too.

Black sand beach in front of the resort
Beach with black sand right in front of the resort

Sunset at Jo Je bungalow
Enjoying the sunset every evening in Jo Je Bungalow.


Why I’ll still choose Lombok over Bali

Reasons why I’ll definitely not miss Lombok for my next holiday, and you shouldn’t too!

Most people only knows Lombok for two things, scaling the almighty Rinjani, and visiting the pristine clear waters of Gili Islands. But Lombok offers more than that, with many hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. Don’t get me wrong, Bali is still a wonderful travel destination, with its own attractions and experiences. But there are just so many unique and off-beaten experiences in Lombok that you can’t resist going back again.

Believed to be the next up and rising “Bali”, Lombok is relatively less well-known than Bali, is less crowded and also less touristy. It is definitely a place that you should visit before it rises through its rank to become the next tourist hotspot in Indonesia.

1. Pristine and secluded beaches in Lombok

Unknown to many, but Lombok has one of the nicest and most beautiful beaches around. Beach-hopping is a must if you are visiting Lombok. Step foot in Lombok’s Fantastic 4, Selong Belanak, Mawun, Kuta and Tanjung Aan beach. Be amazed by the undisturbed, pepper-grained or white sandy beaches. Hike to the surrounding hills to catch a breath-taking view of the scenery and take panoramic selfies. Or take a dip in its deep blue or turquoise water, while you enjoy a coconut sold by a couple of street hawkers by the beach.  There is just so much you can do. After you are done with the Fantastic 4, visit Pantai Tangsi, also know as the Pink Beach in Lombok. Head there just before sunset and be dazed by this beauty Witness the beach turn pastel pink as the sun sets across the sea.

A quiet and peaceful Tanjung Ann beach
Visit Tanjung Ann, a quiet and peace beach with water in shades of turquoise and blue

The famous pink beach in Lombok
The famous pink beach, especially visible before 8am and after 4pm. Image source

2. Immerse in an array of off-beaten, unique activities

Home to the Sasak people, there are plenty of cultural activities that you can engage in. Visit the pottery village, Banyemullek, and get your hands muddy as you attempt to make potteries with the guidance of locals. Or go to the Sakurara village to learn about the weaving economy and catch a glimpse of the traditional weaving methods practised by women in the villages. Or head down to a traditional Sasak village to hear about the traditional Sasak way of life. Visit houses made of clay and cow ‘dung’, and understand how different crops are used during wet and dry seasons to maximise a farmers’ yields.

Banyemullek pottery village, with its massive archive of pottery

All kind of colorful products made out of pottery

A Sakurara-woman-weaving-and-the-kid-learning
Woman are responsible for weaving and men are barred from the activity. A kind learning while a mother weaves.

Visit a traditional Sasak house
Visit a traditional Sasak house, made of clay and cow dung as its base.

Inside a Sasak house. Small but come
Inside a Sasak house, small but cozy. A year’s supply of crops, stacked upon each other.

If you are looking for more off-beaten activities, wake up in the wee hours of the morning and head down to Tanjung Luar. Watch as people trade for all type of fishes in the regional fish market. But be wary as you will see that many of the precious marine wildlife are traded here, including sharks, manta rays or sometimes even dolphins. You can also try to catch the annual Male’an Sampai buffalo races in April, organised to celebrate and pray for fertile yields before the dry season. Alternatively, you can visit Bangkang cave and be swamped by millions of bats living within. Bat hunting is still practised and bat meat is a local delicacy in some parts of Lombok.

Buffalo race competitions in Lombok
An annual buffalo race competition, a tribute to the gods before the commencement of the dry season.

Tanjung Luar first market
Tanjung Luar. While the government has banned the export of sharks overseas, demand continue to exist from restaurants within Indonesia.

3. A land of legendary myths and mystical stories

With a vibrant culture comes legendary myths and mystical stories. Every destination has its own secrets and stories waiting to be told. Chat with the locals you meet along your trip, and be awed by how everyone has some stories to tell.  Hear about the story of Mandalika, the Lombok princess who sacrificed her life to prevent a war from erupting between kingdoms. Or the mystical milk caves where locals would visit and stay within, where “only those with a strong self-confidence will rest at ease in the caves, while others who often doubted themselves or had evil intentions would have restless nights, visited by snakes, scorpion, centipedes and even shadows of the other world”.

Mandalika cliff and the mystical story
Whats left of the Mandalika cliff, where the princess jumped to prevent a war. Her body was never found, believed to have turned into sea worms, a food source for the people.

Mandalika beach and the remains of the Mandalika cliff
What remains of the Mandalika cliff, where locals gather annually to collect sea worms and worship the princess. The retreat of the cliff over time. One can only image how far beyond the ocean it used to stretch.

4. Tanjung Ringgit, the grand canyon of Lombok

If you have not gotten enough of the ocean, head down to Tanjung Ringgit, also known as the grand canyon of Lombok. Tanjung Ringgit is the cape located at the Eastern edge of Lombok, constituting a series of majestic cliffs overlooking the open sea. The view is amazing as you stroll along the edge of the cliffs.


5. Day treks and waterfalls

If you are craving for treks but don’t feel prepared for Rinjani, you can easily find day-treks that takes you to beautiful waterfalls. With a huge national park (Rinjani National Park, covering a total of 413 square kilometers), you can expect easily find day-treks and  waterfalls to visit. Trek to the Benang Stokal and Benang Kelambu curtain waterfalls, and witness the water falling through the trees. Or head to Sendang Gile and Tie Kelep waterfalls in Senaru, where the treks are easier but the waterfalls are no less breath-taking.

Hidden waterfalls within Rinjani National Park.
Visit Hidden waterfalls within Rinjani National Park.

6. The Gilis

There are more than just the three famous Gili, Gili Air, Meno and Trawangan in Lombok. Check out the other Gili in eastern Lombok if you have not done so. The 5 popular Gili, Gili Kondo, Bidari, Petagan, Sulat and Lawang in eastern Lombok are mostly inhabited, retaining much of authentic beauty. Petagan is best known for its abundance of mangrove and corals. An intermix of the two is truly a unique sight as you snorkel in the water of Petagan.

7. The crowd (there is literally none!)

Aside from the jetty heading to Gili Trawangan, there was literally no tourists in Lombok when we were there. I am not sure if this is still the same today, but compared to Bali, Lombok is definitely still much quieter and peaceful. If you are looking for a relaxing getaway, away from crowds and people, you should find Lombok a much more attractive location to visit.

8. You can rent a scooter to ride through the island, without having to weave through crazy traffic

We’ve read that you can get a motorcycle of scooter in Senggigi to ride around the island. I can imagine just the ride itself will be hell of an experience.

That said, we have not been able to cover all the mentioned attractions and activities during our trip in Lombok, which is precisely why I will still choose to come back to Lombok if I had the chance.

So the next time you are attempting Rinjani summit or heading to the Gili islands (Trawangan, Air or Meno), don’t skip Lombok mainland. Give yourself a few days and be rewarded with the experiences that Lombok has to offer!