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NEWS

ISSUE 20

RAMADAN IN LOMBOK

RAMADAN… NO PROBLEM, JUST FASTING!

WHAT'S HOT

WEST COAST ROAD UPGRADE PROGRESSES

TOURISM DEPT JOINS WITH SINGAPORE AIRLINES

AUSTRALIA OFFERS BALI CONTINUED SUPPORT

LOCAL SCENE

PLN NTB LOSE RP 370 BILLION PER YEAR

GARUDA ADDS SEATS FOR HOLIDAYS

GILIS SCENE

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RAMADAN IN LOMBOK

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.

The Lombok Guide team spent last week in Bali and it was wonderful to see that paradise island crowded with tourists from all over the world. Latest tourism department figures show that Bali has finally recovered its status as a top international holiday destination and current tourism arrival figures show that the “Island of the Gods” is experiencing the biggest year on record, with an expected 2 million people visiting the island in 2008!

Great news for Bali and great for Lombok, too, as our own high season has shown Bali's sister island is benefiting from the recovery and establishing herself as a popular tourism destination in her own right!

As we head toward the end of this year's high season, Indonesia is starting the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Can tourism and high season go hand-in-hand with a month of religious fasting? In Lombok, it already does! Read our special feature on page 10 of this issue to understand what this month means to Indonesia's Muslim community.

And so the cycle of the year goes… there's always something happening in our patch of paradise! To find out all the latest news and happenings, pick up a copy of The Guide from the locations listed on page 28 or visit us on the web at www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you'll be enchanted!

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RAMADAN… NO PROBLEM, JUST FASTING!

Ramadan, the fasting month, started on 1 September this year. Muslims across Indonesia will be fasting for the entire month of September; so now is a good time to dispel some of the myths that get aired at this time of the year.

Naughty tour guides and taxi drivers in Bali will tell visitors not to go to Lombok during Ramadan because all the restaurants are closed, there's nothing to eat and none of the taxis are operating, etc. Whether this is genuine ignorance about the nature of Ramadan or a bid to keep the tourists in their own backyard is debatable, but the facts remain the same: in Lombok, it is business as usual all year round!

It would be silly to believe that, particularly at the end of high season, the tourist hubs such as Senggigi, Kuta and the Gili's, would close for the entire month and the whole island would just grind to a halt. Nonsense – we'd all be bored! During Ramadan, hotels are open for business as usual, restaurants serve meals all day, bars are open with live music and alcohol, and the taxis run at their usual erratic pace.

Many of the locals are fasting, but non-Muslim locals and tourists are catered for with usual Lombok hospitality. You can even have a cold Bintang with your bacon and eggs, if you like!

Ramadan starts with the first sighting of the new moon in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which occurs around 1 September this year, and lasts for one lunar month (until the next new moon). As Islam is the majority religion of Indonesia, much of the archipelago will be abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex between sunrise and sunset each day for the next month.

Ramadan is a month for exercising self control over desires, and for fasting, meditation and reflection. Fasting helps Muslims to empathise with the poor and those who never have enough food, and the month of Ramadan is marked by charity and giving to those less fortunate than themselves. Fasting is another way of exercising control over the self, just as Muslims will exercise control over other base emotions such as anger, jealousy, physical desire and any other strong emotion during Ramadan. The aim is to remain calm and in control of the self, which in turn leads the person to better control in resisting wrong doing or temptation at other times of the year. Similar to fasts and retreats practised by all the world's major religions, the act of fasting is seen as a sacred practice to bring the person closer to Godliness.

The details of the fast are laid out in the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, and make allowances for people who are unable to fast at this time. Pregnant women, old people in frail health, or anyone who is ill, are told not to fast during Ramadan. If the person wishes to complete the fast at a later time, they may do so but the Qur'an does not tell people to put their lives or health at risk for Ramadan.

During this month, Muslims will wake early in the morning to prepare and eat their first meal for the day and to say morning prayers. After sunrise, no food, drink or smoking is allowed for the rest of the day until sunset.
During Ramadan you will often see the local people out walking just before sunset, to take their minds off their hunger and passing the time until they can buka puasa. Buka Puasa (breaking the fast) is a happy occasion, with families gathering together to share their evening meal after a day of abstinence.

Lombok has a mixed community of Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other religions, so local Muslims accept that not everyone is fasting. For people employed in the service and tourism industries, it's normal for guests to be eating, drinking and enjoying their holidays. Staff are happy to do their jobs as usual. Most Muslims seem to agree that it's only the first week or so that's difficult; after that, the fasting becomes normal and their bodies adapt to the new routine. They also agree that it's better to keep as busy as possible during the day, so they're not thinking about food!

If you're travelling in some of the outer areas and small villages which are not geared for tourism, it may be more difficult to find warungs open during the day. It might be easier to buy snacks and meals to take with you, or to eat in your hotel later. As an aware traveller, you can show courtesy by not eating and drinking in front of fasting people, but generally people will make allowances for that fact that you are a guest and not fasting.

Just as Bali businesses accommodates Hindu holy times, such as Nyepi, Galungan and Kuningan, Lombok businesses respect the different beliefs of their community and make flexible arrangements to support their practices. Staff may be a bit tired, as they're waking up early in the mornings and losing energy during the day. It's particularly difficult when the weather is hot and people would love to have a drink, but this is part of the test.

At the end of the day, there is a sense of pleasure at having been able to overcome temptations and complete the fast. Please be patient if most of the staff seems to disappear at sunset – they've just gone to buka puasa and will be back at work soon, smiling after a good meal and something to drink!

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Creating the hottest buzz in town at the moment are the “pre-invitation” gift boxes being distributed to lucky ladies in advance of the upcoming Qunci Villas “Walk in the Stars” party on 18 October. The individually printed glossy black gift boxes contain a plush coat hanger for your fabulous outfit, a cool gel mask to make eyes sparkle and other goodies to help girls get in top condition for the super stylish fashion event. We can't wait for the actual invitation!

Starbucks in Lombok? Not yet, thank goodness! But if you crave fantastic coffees – at a fraction of the Starbucks price – stop into Three C's Café and indulge in Black Canyon and a host of other delicious and aromatic blends. The unpretentious printing business and café with simple alfresco seating is on Jalan Pendidikan (the main road from Mataram to Ampenan), closer to the Ampenan end.

We're loving Mondays at Royal Spa in the city, who offer 20% discount on their already cheap prices for all treatments every Monday! If you haven't discovered Royal Spa yet, do your body a favour and pay them a visit soon.
The clean, modern and very comfortable salon has different treatment areas; big reclining chairs, soft lighting, tropical aquariums and delicious oils add to the comfort level. The professionally trained staff will massage away your cares with a range of different massages and the best reflexology in town!

The long-awaited H Rooms at Horizontal on Gili Trawangan are open at last and no less impressive than we expected! The five spacious “living spaces” feature private courtyards with wooden decking, a large personal Jacuzzi and sun lounges. The large bedrooms are beautifully finished with huge soft beds, quality linens and modern ensuite bathrooms with rain showers. Separate conversation pits, flat screen televisions, maxi bars loaded with munchies, discreet butler service and chic furnishings and décor all add to the uber-sophisticated atmosphere.

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WEST COAST ROAD UPGRADE PROGRESSES

The Public Works Department and roadwork contractor, Adhi-Kresna, Jo are doing a wonderful job upgrading the west coast road running north from Senggigi.

The major renovation of the road that runs along the coast, from Senggigi to Pemenang in the north of the island, was commenced on 18 January 2008. The road is the main access to the north of Lombok and to the Gili islands for those travelling from Senggigi. The only other road north runs inland from Gunung Sari through the Pusuk Pass to Pemenang.

Large sections of the road have been widened and many of the steep inclines that made the road treacherous have been cut out, and in some cases gradients have been totally changed, to enable vehicles to travel the road more easily and safely. Of particular importance is ease of access for tour buses.

The road has never been properly designed since it was first cut through the mountains and, with the increase of tourism in Lombok and traffic to the Gilis and Rinjani National Park in the north, a major overhaul was necessary.

Particularly nice are the redesigned sections of road in Malaka, on the hill near the Nusa Bunga Hotel, and at the large bend that overlooks Malimbu Bay. This bend, with its magnificent views of the temple on Malimbu Point and the Gili islands in the background, is a popular stopping place for tourists and for locals who enjoy picnicking in the area. The previous road was too narrow and the bend to sharp to safely accommodate stopped cars and the small roadside stalls selling fresh coconuts and drinks that were often precariously set up on the edge of the hill.

The new road has been designed to sweep in a wide curve around the hill, with an appropriate camber and good visibility for oncoming vehicles making it much safer. The roadside now has plenty of parking space on the verge overlooking the beaches and Malimbu Bay, complete with pedestrian strips and safety handrails.

It's obvious a lot of forethought has gone into creating a smooth scenic route along the beautiful west coast.

However, time is running out for the project, which was estimated to take 210 days to complete, at the contract date of 18 January 2008. Works need to be completed in time for the annual Lombok International Triathlon on Sunday, 9 November 2008. The coast road is a vital part of the 55 km bike course that travels to the north of the island, before returning through the Pusuk Pass.

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TOURISM DEPT JOINS WITH SINGAPORE AIRLINES

The National Departmental of Culture and Tourism (Depbudpar) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Singapore Airlines to increase foreign tourism to Indonesia.

The agreement, signed by the Director General of Marketing, Dr Sapta Nirwandar, and Vice President of Regional Marketing for Singapore Airlines, Huang Chen Eng, was witnessed by Indonesia's Tourism Minister, Jero Wacik, and Singapore Ambassador to Indonesia, Ashor Mirpuri, on Thursday, 21 August 2008 as part of the “Visit Indonesia Year 2008” programme.

The agreement includes Depbudpar and Singapore Airlines each contributing US $250 000 over the next three years, from 1 August 2008, to be used for tourism promotion in Europe, North Asia, the Middle East, India, Australia, South Africa and the United States.

Promotional activities will include attendance of trade fairs and travel expos focusing on international tourism, media visits from targeted markets, and trade missions.

Singapore Airlines has agreed to contribute airline tickets, discounted cargo expenses and to waive excess baggage charges as part of its deal. Meanwhile, Depbudpar will handle promotional activities with agreed participants such as media, travel agents and tourism writers, and to fund contributions for promotion and advertising in international markets.

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AUSTRALIA OFFERS BALI CONTINUED SUPPORT

Radar Bali reports that Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia, Bill Farmer, paid a call on Bali's Governor-elect, Made Mangku Pastika, on the eve of the latter's inauguration during which Australia pledged continued support in the war on terrorism. Joining Ambassador Farmer on his visit to Pastika was the Australian Consular General in Bali, Bruce Cowland.

In addition to continuing their support for anti-terrorism efforts, the Australian officials also promised to extend assistance to the Balinese in the areas of economic development, trade and tourism.

Following the closed-door meeting between the Australian diplomats and Bali's incoming governor, Ambassador Farmer said: "We are optimistic that with the new governor, cooperation between Australia and Bali will become even closer." Prior to the meeting Ambassador Farmer issued congratulations and best wishes to Pastika on his coming inauguration as Bali's Chief Executive.

Following the meeting, Farmer said that the Australian government hopes that the selection of Bali's former Chief of Police as their next governor means that security in Bali and Indonesia will be improved.

"The problems of tourism and international crime are not only problems in Indonesia, but also in Australia, meaning that we will continue to develop the focus of our cooperation in these areas," the Ambassador explained. "Economic problems also form a part of our focus, because we wish all people will obtain better access to educational resources and health care," he added.

Separately, Farmer acknowledged the significant growth in Australian tourism to Bali, with Australian visitors to Bali in July setting new records. The Australian Ambassador said this proved the recovery of Bali tourism and growing confidence in the island's security.

Commenting on Farmer's visit, Mangku Pastika said he welcomed the visit by the Australian diplomats, which demonstrates the restoration of trust in Bali by foreign nations. Pastika also paid tribute to the significant assistance given to Bali by the people of Australia, including the Bali International Eye Hospital and the International Wing of Bali's Sanglah General Hospital. What's more, according to Pastika, the Australians are offering additional help in the future.

Ambassador Farmer refused requests from the press to comment on the death sentences for the Bali Bombers – Imam Samudra, Ali Gufron dan Amrozi. He said the execution of the convicted bombers was a matter solely for the Indonesians to determine, adding, "that is not our domain; we believe the government of Indonesia will take the right decision.”

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LOCAL SCENE

LEO LUNCH @ THE OBEROI

Leo’s love extravagance, so The Oberoi Resort was the perfect setting for a long lunch to celebrate Leo birthdays with delicious tapas and lots of premium wines!

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PLN NTB LOSE RP 370 BILLION PER YEAR

The regional department of the state electricity department, PLN, has posted a loss of Rp 370 billion for the previous year.

The huge loss is the result of the high electricity production costs of Rp 3 500 per kilowatt hour (Kwh) compared to the low sale price of only Rp 700 per Kwh in Lombok and Sumbawa.

According to NTB PLN Regional General Manager, Iwan Bachtiar, who reported the annual figures on Tuesday, 26 August, the region has a limited power resource of 96.7 megawatts (MW) and a peak load/burden of 96 MW, with a daytime burden of only 47 MW. “PLN supplies more household consumers than industrial consumers,'' he said.

Unpaid electricity accounts also contribute to the loss. PLN invoice arrears in Mataram alone total Rp 1.8 billion, spread between around 10% of the 215 000 household consumers in the region.

The PLN are presently in the process of installing another 5 MW generator, sent to Lombok from South Sumatra, to increase local power supplies for the month of Ramadan. They will also be limiting the time that billboards and advertising in the city will be lit up, to free extra power during the peak night periods.

Power supplies in Lombok have been stretched to the limit for a number of years. PLN reports that around 130 000 new customers have already signed up for new electricity connections when the proposed new steam power plant is built in Jeranjang, West Lombok. The power plant, capable of generating three times 25 MW, is hoped to be operational by 2011.

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GARUDA ADDS SEATS FOR HOLIDAYS

PT Garuda Indonesia is preparing 44 000 additional seats to handle the expected surge in demand over the Lebaran and Idul Fitri period at the end of Ramadan.

The Head of Communications for GA. Pujobroto, has issued a press release stating that between 25 September and 6 October the airline will add 44 533 seats over 11 selected routes. The 11 routes to benefit from the increase in seats are comprised of 8 domestic routes and 3 international routes. According to Pujobroto, the added capacity will be facilitated by Garuda through either increasing flight frequency or by the use of larger aircraft on the 11 selected routes.

Among the 11 flight routes to benefit from the additional seats are Jakarta-Denpasar (18 740 seats), Jakarta-Surabaya (2 200 seats), Jakarta-Yogyakarta (3 388 seats), Surabaya- Denpasar (636 seats) and Jakarta-Solo (1 952 seats).

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GILIS SCENE

KIDS DAY @ GILI MENO

Around 40 local and expat children enjoyed a fun day with a glass bottom boat trip and a visit to Gili Meno Bird
Park, hosted by The H Rooms on Gili T

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