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Welcome to The Lombok Guide Lombok's complete tourism paper and your guide to the best that the island has to offer. The Lombok Guide is published on Lombok every fortnight and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island. Use the Guide to explore Lombok and check out the best hotels, restaurants and sight-seeing options, to make your Lombok holiday special.

May has been a month of weddings in Lombok, with colourful parades and ceremonies in the small villages and towns every weekend. In the city, 116 couples were married in a mass wedding ceremony and, on the same day, a mixed crowd of western and Indonesian friends got together for a special street parade of their own. Read about these weddings on pages 10 and 16 of this issue.

In more exciting investment news for Lombok, another major Middle East investment company is eyeing Lombok's beautiful southern coastline with plans for a 3 000 hectare resort development, following closely on the news of the US $600 million investment by Emaar Properties in Lombok. Can anyone say “investment boom”?

How could there not be one?! With a mild tropical climate all year round, pristine beaches surrounding the entire island, jungles, waterfalls, reefs and mountains, and an environment that is simply stunning in its natural beauty, Lombok must be one of the best kept secrets in South East Asia.

Come and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself … like thousands of others, you'll be enchanted!

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May Day marks the end of the uncomfortable winter in the Northern hemisphere, and has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the world for centuries. May Day is most often associated with celebrating springtime fertility in community gatherings.

Traditional English May Day celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing around the Maypole. The May Queen is also known as The Maiden, the Fertility Goddess or the Goddess of Spring. Perhaps the most significant of the traditions is the Maypole, around which dancers circle with ribbons, wrapping the pole in colourful bands in a traditional Maypole dance. Many of these traditions derive from ancient pagan Anglo-Saxon customs.

Whether Lombok has its own May traditions of fertility, or whether it is just the time of the year when most of the rice has been harvested and there is enough money in the community; fertility – and weddings – are in abundance this month!

On 17 May 2008, the local community of Lombok celebrated “Nikah Masal” (mass wedding), in which 116 couples tied the knot.

The mass wedding ceremony takes place once every year and is organised by the local government as a community service, usually for couples who can't afford the expense of a wedding themselves. This year's Nikah Masal took place at the office of the Walikota (City Mayor) in Mataram and was open to residents of the city suburbs.
Bentoel (the tobacco company), The Jayakarta Hotel, Danims Creative, Walikota Mataram and the Lombok Raya Hotel sponsored the event, in which each of the newly wed couples received gifts of traditional wedding outfits, prayer equipment, Rp 500 000 in cash and official marriage certificates.

Many of the couples present were quite old; some had been married before and couldn't afford to marry again, and some had been married in community religious ceremonies that are not officially registered and legally recognised by the government. Surprisingly, only three of the couples were being married for the first time! They received extra prizes of one night's accommodation at The Jayakarta and Lombok Raya Hotels.

The extravagant ceremony was steeped in intriguing traditional Sasak customs (“adat”), including the use of an old, formal style of Sasak language. Prayers and chants were lead by the elders, offerings and intricate rituals were performed before the fascinated crowd and the parade was accompanied by a Gendang Belek troupe and traditional music.

Some aspects of Nikah Masal may be perturbing or confusing for westerners, but the ceremony is a wonderful display of local wedding celebrations and preservation of traditional customs.

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Throughout the month of May we've been treated to a non-stop parade of colourful weddings in Lombok. These traditional weddings usually involve a “nyongkolan”, where the bride and groom parade through the street, together with their families, wedding guests and assorted spectators.

These parades are fascinating events, with the bride and groom resplendent in their wedding costumes and the guests dressed in their best traditional clothing. Sometimes the parades are accompanied by traditional gamelan or Gendang Belek troupes, at other times the music is the raucous Arabian blend known as “kecimol”. The excited crowd often joins in, dancing along the street to the music.

On Saturday 17 May, spectators were treated to a more unusual event as Dennis Coffey (father of Scott, of Qunci Villas fame) wed his beautiful Javanese bride, Liza Riyadi, in an east meets west ceremony in Mangsit.

Guests were asked to assemble at De Quake Restaurant in the Pasar Seni prior to the wedding, where the majority of westerners (or bules, as we're called!) changed from their normal western clothing into traditional Sasak outfits. Guests then boarded a bus for their destination on the road about 1km before Qunci Villas in Mangsit. There they joined a huge line of around 200 local people, performers, and musicians – and the surprised bride and groom – to perform their own special nyongkolan down the street.

Local villagers and bystanders watched in amazement as the bules upstaged them by wearing their own traditional costumes and participating in a very Sasak tradition. It was a hilarious sight and probably a first in Lombok!

The reception was held at the luxurious Villa Qusia, where guests were entertained by a variety of performers, including a special tongue-in-cheek performance by Qunci Villas' staff, before enjoying a sumptuous seated dinner.

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The national news agency, Antara, reports that Garuda Indonesia will make an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in 2009. It is reported that Garuda will offer 30-40% of its shares to the public in 2009.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's Minister of State Owned Enterprises, Sofyan Djalil, has confirmed that the Government will not inject more funds into the national carrier, Garuda Indonesia; particularly given the improving business performance of the state-owned airline.

The Minister made his pronouncement the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between the airline and Jasindo, one of the company's insurers.

Pointing to the Rp 250 billion (US $27.2 million) profit reported by Garuda in 2007, Minister Djalil is optimistic that the state-owned airline is now operating on a more viable business footing than in previous years. Speaking at the same occasion, the CEO of Garuda, Emirsyah Satar, confirmed that the airline had earned a profit in the first quarter of 2008. The amount of the profit will, however, only be available in mid-May when the company's accountants make their formal financial report. Satar said that intense efforts were underway to maximize the value of the airline before launching the share offer. In addition to improving operational efficiencies across the board at Garuda, the airline is continuing efforts to restructure its massive debt.

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Lombok's Rinjani National Park is being nominated as the first Geopark to be established in Indonesia. The word “Geopark” is usually understood to mean an area designated for its geological and/or geomorphological (i.e. landscape) interest.

Geopark designation is seen as a tool for highlighting an area's geological heritage for use in sustainable development. When the “World Geopark” label was set up in July 2004, 17 European Geoparks were joined by 8 of China's National Geoparks as World Geoparks. By the end of April 2008, 56 Global Geoparks (the terms UNESCO Geopark, World Geopark and Global Geopark are used interchangeably) were recognised, from 17 different countries.

If the proposal is successful the Mt Rinjani National Park will be recognized at an international level, under the auspices of the UNESCO network, and will become the second only Geopark in South-East Asia, after Langkawi Island in Malaysia.

On 24 May 2008, two geology experts from Bandung, Dr IR Budi Brahmantyo M.Sc from the Technological Institute of Bandung And Ir.Igan S.Sutawidjaja M.Sc [conducted a tour of the Mount Rinjani National Park to collect data to support the proposal to make Rinjani the Geopark in Indonesia. During their visit to Lombok, the two geologists also visited Otok Kokok waterfall in East Lombok and Sendang Gile waterfall in the Rinjani National Park. The results of their studies will be presented to a world meeting of 37 geologists in Bandung next month.

The Rinjani National Park, and Mt Rinjani volcano, has a number of special attributes, including the caldera and crescent-shaped lake, the volcanic peak, waterfalls, hot springs, caves, old lava flows, the “new” volcanic cone and a variety of unusual rock formations; all of which make the destination highly suitable for the title of Geopark.

Mt Rinjani, at 3 726 metres above sea level is the second highest volcano in Indonesia, after Mt Kerinci in Sumatra. Since the National Park came under the management of the Rinjani Trek Management Board, the area has won, or been nominated for, a number of internationally recognized awards, including a National Geographic World Legacy Award in 2004 and nominations for the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in 2006 and 2008.

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Since it first commenced operations in July 2007, Gili Cat has enjoyed phenomenal success with its daily transfers between Bali and Lombok. PT SEA, the company that owns Gili Cat, has now added another bigger, better and faster boat to its Bali-Lombok route, with Gili Cat II commencing operations last month.

The new high speed boat is designed as a small fast ferry and was constructed in Western Australia to Australian standards. At 13m in length, Gili Cat II is much bigger than Gili Cat I and capable of carrying 42 passengers; although the company usually limits this to 32 passengers and 3 crew for passenger comfort and safety. The company now provides one of the safest and fastest options for visitors to Lombok and the Gili islands. Powered by three 300 hp motors, Gili Cat II is capable of crossing the Lombok Strait in around one hour.

The Lombok Guide caught up with Mr Cody Shwaiko last week to find out more about Gili Cat and PT SEA's plans for Lombok in the future:

The Lombok Guide: When was Gili Cat II officially launched, Cody?

Gili Cat: Service to Gili T commenced April 19th this year.

TLG: Now that you have two vessels in the Gili Cat fleet, will you be using both vessels during high season? How will that work?

GC: When there is sufficient demand above the capacity of Gili Cat II on its scheduled run, a second run will be scheduled. We also have the option of running Gili Cat I to the same schedule as Gili Cat II, to add capacity. Gili Cat I will also be available on a charter basis.

TLG: If you use both vessels, how many passengers will you be able to transfer daily?

GC: 29 x 2 runs = 58. 16 x 1 run = 16. Total = 74 each way. A total of 148?!

TLG: Recently you mentioned something about building a pontoon at Teluk Kodek?

GC: Yes, we have installed a floating pontoon and walkway at Teluk Kodek, at the Hotel Vila Ombak site, to facilitate easy embarkation and disembarkation. This will also assist Hotel Vila Ombak to further improve their guest experience.

TLG: Gili Cat has obviously proven a success in the Bali-Lombok transport market. What made your company decide to invest in Lombok?

GC: We had been watching the standard of vessel transfers offered in the market place and experienced them for ourselves. We were very concerned about what guests were experiencing when using the various land and sea connections between Bali and Lombok. We did not feel that they necessarily promoted repeat visitation or referral.

We understood there was a need to move efficiently between the Gili Islands / mainland Lombok and mainland Bali in a reliable, safe and efficient manner. We set out to structure a product that allowed us to do that in most weather. We wanted to be the most efficient method of moving between anywhere on mainland Bali and the Gili's / Lombok.

We tested the product with Gili Cat I and proved to a skeptical market place that is was achievable. We also recognised that there were a lot of people wanting to move between Ubud, Padang Bai, Amed, Candidasa, Tulamben, Lovina and Pemuteran, beyond south Bali destinations if you like, and the Gili's Lombok. Like-minded travellers wishing to move efficiently between destinations that appealed to them.

Divers in particular lose a days diving prior to any flight they take. They also experience difficulties with excess baggage, particularly photographers, who are important in growing the destination. By taking our boat they can dive all day the day prior to leaving the Gilis or leaving the diving location they are moving from. Also, we had all sat in the "Delay Cafe's" in Mataram all too often!

TLG: Haven't we all! Thanks for taking the time to keep us updated on Gili Cat, Cody, and best of luck for the high season!

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The three Bali Bombers – Amrozi, Ali Gufron and Iman Samudera – have once again been rebuffed by the Bali District Court in their continuing attempt to delay their execution before a firing squad.

With the lawyers for the three Bali Bombers having walked out of the Bali Courts as they petulantly abandoned an unprecedented second appeal of a Supreme Court decision affirming a death sentence, State Prosecutors and the Supreme Court are now showing little interest in hearing a third appeal.

As a result, the Attorney General's Office is steadily moving ahead with plans to soon stand Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Gufron before a firing squad in Cilacap, Central Java.

This was confirmed by a junior prosecutor for criminal matters, Abdul Hakim Ritonga, on Wednesday, May 21, 2008, who told Kompas newspaper that the execution of the three can take place in the near future.

In what appears to be an effort to clear a backlog in those awaiting execution on death row, authorities are reported to be sharpening the skills of firing squads, thereby putting in place the mechanism to execute the three Bali bombers.

In rejecting their third appeal to the Supreme Court, Nyoman Gde Wirya, the Chairman of the District Court in Denpasar, told Tempo Interaktif on 14 May, 2008, "The material (in the appeal) is the same as in the first and second appeal".

Wirya also told the press that the final determination regarding the third appeal lies solely with the Supreme Court. The Bali court has refused to convene a judicial panel in Bali to hear the appeal and has forwarded the appeal to Jakarta.

The "Bali Bombers” have now appealed their case three times. The first appeal was rejected by the Bali District Court and the Supreme Court. A second appeal was withdrawn by the Bombers' attorneys when their request for a change of venue, as well as the attendance of the three accused in Bali, was refused by the Bali judges. The third and latest appeal, purportedly prepared directly by the three condemned men, was submitted to the Bali Court via the Chief Warden of the Batu Prison in Nusakambangan where the "Bali Bombers" now sit on death row.

Wirya told Tempo Interaktif, the back-to-back repetitive appeal process being pursued by the three convicts is at odds with the accepted principle of a simple, speedy and low cost judicial process guaranteed under law in Indonesia.

Wirya said that there was no new evidence included in the latest appeal, presenting only a repetition of the earlier arguments that the conviction and death sentences delivered against the three on July 23, 2004 is invalid because it applies a new anti-terrorist law passed in 2004 which post dates a crime committed in 2002. That legal argument was dismissed in the initial appeal.

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The National News Service “Antara” has quoted the Manager of Garuda Indonesia in Western Australia as saying that flights between Perth and Bali are generally fully booked until the end of 2008.

The Garuda Manager in Perth, Iskandar Basro, said that, "Until December 2008, our flights for Denpasar are already full.” Iskandar cited the faith being demonstrated by the people of Australia in Garuda, the close physical proximity of Perth to Bali, and the world-wide reputation of Bali as a tourism destination as reasons for the heavy demand.

Marvelling at the growing demand in the Western Australian market for Bali holidays, Iskandar told Antara that during the relatively short time of his assignment in Australia he has seen Garuda increase the number of flights between Perth and Bali from 7 to 10 every week; with plans to increase frequencies to 17 flights a week in December 2008.

According to the Garuda manager, every seat available to Bali is always sold. The Indonesian carrier currently operates Boeing 737-800 aircraft between Bali and Perth, offering 12 business class and 144 economy seats.

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At last, the long-standing travel warning issued by the U.S. Government urging American travellers to avoid non-essential travel to the Republic of Indonesia has been lifted.

The warnings were first introduced by the U.S. State Department in November 2000, following bombing attacks in Jakarta and prior to two terrorist bombing attacks in Bali in October 2002 and October 2005 that claimed over 240 lives.

On Sunday, 25 May, 2008 the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, Cameron Hume, issued a statement saying, "The government ... has disrupted, arrested and prosecuted numerous terrorist elements." In his emailed statement to the press Hume said, "The U.S. has lifted the warning due to objective improvements made by Indonesia in its current security situation."

Ambassador Hume said the Embassy would not modify its security precautions and, like most public places in Indonesia, would continue to practice a high level of diligence.

Quoted by the Associated Press, Indonesia's top anti-terror official, Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, said that, while he welcomed the U.S. decision, it would in no way slow down efforts to battle terrorism. If anything, he said, "it will push us to be more effective in handling security matters.”

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The much dreaded and long awaited increase in fuel prices was introduced at midnight on Friday, May 23, 2008 across Indonesia. Fuel prices increased an average of 28.7% in a bold step to reduce the crippling fuel subsidies paid from the Indonesian State budget, lately made even more burdensome by soaring world crude oil prices.

The Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, announced that the kerosene used for cooking in many low-income households would increase by 25%, from Rp 2 000 to Rp 2 500 per litre. Petrol increased by 33% from its price of Rp 4 500 to Rp 6 000 (approx. US 65 cents) per litre; and diesel fuel increased 27.9% from its price of Rp 4 300 to Rp. 5 500 per litre.

These prices are a national average; prices in Lombok are generally slightly higher, due to transportation costs. For example, petrol prior to the fuel hike was Rp 4 500 and is now being sold locally at Rp 6 000 per litre.
The press conference formally announcing the price increase was attended by a large number of Cabinet Ministers making a public show of support for the controversial fuel price hikes. With the world price of crude oil now moving past the US $135 per barrel mark, none of the Ministers in attendance were prepared to offer any guarantees that prices won't be increased again if the price of world oil continues to soar to higher levels.

On the eve of the fuel price increase, long lines began to form at gas stations across Lombok as consumers attempted to "fill up their tanks" before the higher prices came into effect at midnight. A high police presence was obvious at many gas pumps in an effort to help maintain public order.

In an effort to ease the pain of the substantial increase in fuel costs and address widespread public discontent, the Government will introduce Cash Fuel Relief Payments (BLT) in ten cities starting from Saturday morning, May 17, 2008. The ten initial cities included in the program are Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Makassar, Medan, Banjarmasin, Kupang, Yogyakarta, Palembang and Semarang.

On 26 May the local government announced that BLT subsidy would be available in Lombok. 21 732 families would receive the subsidy, although this amount is 7% less than the budgeted number of around 30 000.

Those members of society determined to be eligible for assistance will receive a BLT card that qualifies them for a Rp 100 000 (approx. US $10.90) monthly cash subsidy to help offset higher food and general living costs.

The Department of Finance has allocated Rp. 4.1 trillion (US $445,7 million) to cover the cost of BLT program for its initial three months with a targeted 13.6 million recipients of an estimated total of 19.1 million people eligible for relief. The cash payments will be made to the public via the national Post Office System.

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