What I have heard about Lombok:
“Lombok is the little Sister of Bali”, “Just like Bali”, “Super dangerous”, “Still hidden place”, “Feels like Bali 20 Years ago”.
What we found was a beautiful, well-developed island with a totally different culture. Bali with its special Balinese Hinduism, art and tropical flora and Lombok as a Muslim island with many beautiful mosques, super spicy food, and a bit different flora. I can not understand why it’s called the little sister. Maybe because of the moderate volume of tourists, still cheap street food and lonely beaches. But to be honest they are not really comparable.
We took the public boat from Gili Meno to Bangsal in the north of Lombok. Public transportation is always the cheapest and most interesting way to get from A to B. Someone picked us up at the harbor with a scooter to bring us to our bus to Senggigi. In the first moment, it felt a bit like kidnapping, because we were separated. I was off with the first scooter while Mo hadn’t even mounted his. But we were united soon enough.
It took us around 1h from Bangsal to Senggigi. Senggigi is a well developed touristic city. You can find many luxury resorts, hotels and cheap homestays. As I mentioned before: it’s offseason. That means there are too few tourists for the number of rooms. Yet, they’re still building new hotels and every free piece of land seems for sale. I have no idea where all those tourists should come from? Especially in Senggigi, it felt a bit like an abandoned film backdrop from an old western movie.
Our Room was very nice located on a hill with a stunning view over the bay and the mountains. On the first evening, we were the only guests and it felt a bit strange, that all the stuff is there only for us. There seemed to be twice as many employees as guests. I’m not sure if this is paying off.
The room was booked for three nights and we also rented a scooter to get around. We drove into the south in the direction of the capitol Matamaran and then into the mountains in the hinterland. Past serpentines, a monkey forest with too many monkeys and drove into a traffic jam, because they try to renew the street during rush hour.
Back at the coastal road, we saw many beautiful lonely beaches with the three Gilis in the back, breathtaking views and street food. On a really nice viewpoint, Mo tried the Ayam Bakso (Chicken soup with meatballs). Since I’m vegetarian that was not the right food for me. Luckily we found a very good stall serving grilled corn with another nice view over a lonely beach.
We were brave enough to try more delicious street food on the following evenings. I had the best Nasi Goreng so far and we discovered Terang Bulan (Similar to a very big, insanely fluffy pancake, but way more calories :)).
The landscape around Senggigi is really beautiful. If you are a fan of lonely beaches this is exactly where you can find them. And also the mountainside is incredible. We drove through beautiful scenery and small villages. Most of the peoples smiled at us even a man with a gun (no idea?). It was wonderful and interesting to see how they live in small, self-sufficient communities, with not too many contact points to the modern western world.
The people on Lombok appear very pragmatic. On one day it rained so much, that many villages were cut off from the rest of the island. And guess what happened… They just helped each other to pump off all the water. And apparently collected money for that operation from bypassing cars. If the flooding is not too deep they just deal with it. We went to the local market once, the surrounding streets were floated, but the market was still operational. It was an interesting experience and a real scooter adventure for us (more like a boat trip.)
From Senggigi we were heading off to the south; to Kuta.
Kuta. No not Kuta on Bali, its Kuta on Lombok.
Kuta is known for nice surf spots and is very popular with backpackers.
It took us around 1,5h to Kuta by small bus. Passing beautiful lush green rice fields, crowded Matamaran and many mosques.
We planned to stay in Kuta for four nights. Our accommodation was good value for money (dirt cheap), but it took me a while getting used to. We found this place via AirBnb. It was a nice looking homestay in a local housing area, next to an awesome yoga studio. Two rooms for rent. Every room has a bed, a window and a fan – that’s it. Shared kitchen and shared bathroom with shoilet (combined shower and toilet). It was less than 10EUR/night, including breakfast and a scooter.
The hosts were quite nice. A German/Indonesian couple with five dogs and 1-2 cats. No, I’m not joking – Five dogs and 1-2 cats. Clarissa (our host) nurses sick dogs back to health or helps them recover from car accidents. That’s really kind, but during rain season the dogs are always wet and no one likes the smell of wet dogs. All in all, it was a unique experience and we are collected many nice memories.
Kuta Beach itself is not really nice. Its a long white beach without any shadow, many construction sites and well-trained children working as beach vendors.
We had luck with the weather. Nearly no rain, just a few downpours in the afternoon, but the midday heat was killing us.
I totally recommend to rent a scooter and explore the surrounding areas. There are beautiful (I mean really beautiful!) beaches in every direction and the streets are good enough for inexperienced drivers like me.
You will drive through magnificent lush green rice fields (I have never seen such beautiful intense greens before) and within 20-30 minutes you reach awesome beaches.
We checked out the Selong Belanak Beach. That beach is very good for surf beginners. White sand, turquoise water and one long constant small wave. We tried our luck with surfing on two days. It was our second time on a surfboard and it was a lot of fun, although we both are not really good at it.
On another day we drove into the east of Kuta to the Tanjung Aan beach. WOW. That was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. The heat was killing us, but with a fresh pineapple and shadow it was bearable.
By driving through all the beautiful nature: rice fields, mountains with stunning views over the island – you will also see reckless exploitation of it. On the one hand, they try to sell every piece of land to build more hotels and resorts. And on the other hand – Especially in the west of Kuta there are many areas where the locals try to mine for gold, polluting and ruining the area. It’s sad to see them act short-sightedly. One of the mountains is nearly gone. The earth is open as far as you can see. And on top of that, they’re doing it with quicksilver without any safety precautions. The result is a longterm damaged environment and many disabled kids.
Normally we went out for surfing, beach time or just cruising around in the morning. Then have a coffee, fresh juice or coconut to recover from the “stressful” and “exhausting” morning activities. And in the afternoon we joined a yoga class in the very nice yoga place next to our homestay daily. We are not real yogis. We see it more as a workout for our bodies and mind. Especially the meditation part is hard for me because I have problems to stay focussed over a longer time.
The yoga was so rewarding and also a bit exhausting, because of the heat. After every class, we had the time to just play around with handstands, cartwheels and other movements. Don (one of the yoga teachers) gave us very helpful tips how we can improve our flexibility and hand balance and we explained him some of our movements and our motivation. What a nice exchange of skills.
To sum it up. Lombok is a beautiful island with awesome beaches and friendly people and its worth a visit. But I’m really wondering what all the construction sites and new investors will bring to that paradise. Probably nothing good…
I don’t know why, but I leave this place with the feeling of unfinished business, although I think it’s the right time to move on.
Our next stop is Nusa Penida – a small island close to Bali.