Lombok has just as many tourist attractions as Bali
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MENTION beachside holidays in Indonesia and the island of Bali will come to mind first.
When Lombok is mentioned, most will be puzzled and ask where the place is.
Situated in the southern part of Indonesia, the island of Lombok is located just next to Bali and is said to be Bali’s sister island.
This anonymity proves to be a blessing in disguise as its serene natural surroundings are still preserved and pollution is being kept to a minimum.
Local tour guide Jan said he found that Lombok was better than Bali.
Waiting for business: Young souvenir peddlers waiting for tourists at Kuta Beach, Lombok.
“Bali has seen its share of development and commercialisation, and tourists flock to the island.
“I think the influx of tourists has somewhat made Bali over-populated.
“Those who wish to have a quieter vacation will prefer Lombok,” he said.
I could not agree more.
While not as popular as Bali, Lombok too has its charm and is starting to attract tourists from all over the world.
Seaside shrine: Deities overlooking the sea at Pura Batu Bolong in Lombok.
It is a beautiful place, with crystal-clear water and sandy white beaches at several spots, namely at the Kuta Beach in the southern part of the island and some of the smaller surrounding islets or Gili, such as Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno in the north-western part of the island.
The crystal-clear water is perfect for those who want to go snorkelling or diving, seeing for themselves an array of marine creatures, from bright-coloured clown fishes to sea turtles.
Apart from the sandy white beaches, there is also a “pink beach” near Tangsi Beach and black-coloured ash-mixed sand along a part of the west coast, near Senggigi.
And deep into the heart of the island stands the majestic and breathtaking Mount Rinjani, a popular place for mountain trekkers to hike up the still-active volcano.
Skilled: A woman busy weaving at the Sade Sasak Village in Rembitan, Lombok.
Standing at 3.726m, Mount Rinjani also has a cool-looking crater lake known as Segara Anak.
Aside from its natural attractions, Lombok also boasts some grand-looking Balinese temples, with some situated along the coast while some are within the island’s provincial capital and city of Mataram.
While there are cars and other four-wheelers on the road, motorcycles are considered the main mode of transportation for the locals to get about on the island.
Taking a motorcycle ride in the city can be a scary experience as most riders will just zoom by along the road from out of nowhere.
Cars, trucks and vans also constantly sound their horns just to get the motorcycles to make way for them before speeding past the two-wheelers.
Another mode of transportation in Lombok, aside from wheeled vehicles, is the cidomo or small horse-drawn carriage.
Market place: The Pasar Kebon Roek, near Mataram in Lombok, offers a wide choice of items.
With a capacity to carry a load of four adults at a time, the cidomo is also quite popular among the locals, and is a regular sight on the road.
“A small horse pulling a heavy load may seem cruel to the animal but it is a way of life for the locals,” said Jan.
“Not everyone owns a motorcycle or a car, and petrol kiosks are scarce outside the city centre,” he said.
“Ferrying tourists from one place to another not only feeds the owner but also the horse,” he added.
Jan said most people were still living in impoverished conditions and look for any opportunity to earn a living.
“With the Government trying to make this its second tourism destination, many locals will now get opportunities to make some money.
“In Kuta, once you entertain one person selling souvenirs, a whole lot of them will crowd around you. Be prepared,” Jan said, adding that one of the island’s main sources of income is its agricultural industry, with fertile soil producing fruits, rice and vegetables.
“At the Senggigi ferry and speedboat dock, there are locals waiting to help tourists carry their luggage from the boats while they alight.
“They are not doing this for free and will ask for money later,” he added.
Also, Malaysians are used to Malay cuisine and the food found in Lombok is not very different.
On the island, some of its famous dishes include ayam bakar taliwang (grilled spiced chicken), bebek bakar (grilled duck), grilled bananas with chocolate chips and cheese and plecing kangkung, a form of ulam.
While there are plenty of local dishes to choose from, Western food can also be found near tourist destinations.
But as the saying goes — when in Rome, do as the Romans do — so do try something local and new.