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.
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.
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.
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.