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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 two weeks and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island.

Local legend says that the celebration of Bau Nyale marks the turning of the seasons, and the end of the rains and winds of the monsoon cycle. Nyale took place on 14 February and, judging from the weather over the past two weeks, the legends are true! Or perhaps the sunshine is due to the celebration of the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere on 20 March.

Whatever the reason, Lombok has been blessed with almost Spring-like sunny days and, although some more rain is needed and expected, the worst of the monsoon appears to be over for another year. Now is the perfect time to enjoy sun and sea again, dining out under the stars and taking pleasure in the return to the beautiful weather for which Lombok is famous!

It’s even easier to do so now, with the introduction of new flights between Bali and Lombok by Garuda Airlines. The flights are scheduled to begin on 1 April and Garuda plans to fly Boeing 737 aircraft with a capacity of 110 passengers on the new route, making transfers between Bali and Lombok faster and more comfortable than ever.

The new connection between the two islands will operate every day with flights to Lombok departing from Denpasar at 6.35 pm and return flights to Bali departing Mataram at 7.40 pm. Now is the time to book your Garuda flight to Lombok!

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Guide from the locations listed on page 30 or visit us at www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you’ll be enchanted!

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Lombok has a large community of Balinese Hindus, particularly on the west coast and in the cities, and it’s not unusual to see colourful Hindu ceremonies taking place around the streets of Lombok, just as in Bali.

Nyepi, one of the most important days in the Balinese Hindu calendar, marks the start of the New Year and is celebrated on 26 March this year. In Bali, Nyepi is observed by a “day of silence”, but in Lombok this quiet time of no noise, light, travel or work only takes place in the Hindu communities. The day before Nyepi, however, is a busy time when temple tools are washed, homes are cleansed and spirits are driven away in preparation for Nyepi.

On the day before Nyepi, (25 March this year), Lombok’s Hindu community carry out an “Ogoh-ogoh Parade” – a fascinating and noisy parade of fantastic monsters that dance and twist their way along the main streets of Lombok’s capital, Mataram.

Ogoh-ogoh is the name given to the giant monsters representing Hindu creatures of the underworld, known in Balinese as buta kala. Ogoh-ogoh are usually based on evil characters or spirits taken from traditional myths and legends, although more modern monsters include effigies of political characters or symbolise temptations in the modern world.

About one month before Nyepi, the Hindu community starts to plan their Ogoh-ogoh creations. Each Balinese village, even those in Lombok, is run by a “Banjar”, a sort of community council that supports and maintains the temples and village environment; as well as mediating problems in the village, etc. In preparation for Nyepi, the Banjar collects money, often with smaller communities joining with a bigger one, to create an Ogoh-ogoh together. Sometimes these are the creations of artisans brought in from Bali, gifted in monster making and hired to produce amazing monsters. The young people of the village take great delight in competing with other villages to create the most gruesome, terrifying or eye-catching Ogoh-ogoh.

The parade of the Ogoh-ogoh, although a fun and popular event for spectators, is in fact an important ceremony in preparation for Nyepi; it is a type of mass exorcism of evil in order to start the New Year spiritually fresh and clean.
The people of each Banjar work together to create the monsters using bamboo and wire frames, papier-mâché and other materials, and they are often works of art that have taken many man hours to create. Before the parade, a pemangku (temple priest) holds a ceremony to imbue the buta kala with spirit and power. Some say the monster gets heavier after this ceremony! The Ogoh-ogoh is placed on a bamboo frame, so that many people can help to carry it, making wild movements and dancing to bring the monster to life.

Groups of people in traditional dress join the parade, taking turns to carry the heavy figures and dancing alongside their Ogoh-ogoh. Musical groups, gamelan players and dancers in costume often accompany their monster, creating a spectacle of sound and drama. As evil spirits are believed to inhabit crossroads, particular attention is paid to each intersection with the Ogoh-ogoh lurching and dancing wildly in the middle of the road to scare off any other evil spirits lurking there.

The parade travels along Jl Pejanggik, in Mataram, before making its way to Taman Mayura, the temple complex in Cakra. At the temple the Tawur Kesanga ceremony is held to neutralise the negative power of buta kala and to create a harmonic relationship between human beings and God, human and human, and human and their environments – ensuring a peaceful start to the Hindu New Year. After the ceremony, the monsters are paraded home to their respective Banjar again, where they will be burned later in a ritual symbolising the destruction of evil.
The parade along the main street of Mataram in the afternoon and the ceremony of the monsters at Mayura are fascinating events, full of music, dance and cultural tradition, and spectators are always welcome.

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Government officials in Lombok and Jakarta are reeling from the news that Emaar Properties intend to withdraw from their commitment to build a US $600 Million mega-resort on the south coast of Lombok.

The project of shopping, recreation areas, golf courses and luxurious hotels on a 1,200 hectare site is a “pet project” of Indonesia's Vice President, Jusuf Kalla, who personally invited Dubai's state-owned Emaar Properties to spearhead the investment.

The Jakarta Globe reported that, citing bureaucratic delays and an inability by the government to fulfil its obligations, Emaar have announced that they have closed their Jakarta office and are abandoning plans for investing in Indonesia.

Elly Savitri, a representative of Emaar, said “Emaar has pulled out of its operations in Indonesia because the government cannot comply with the terms of the agreement with our joint venture company, particularly regarding land acquisition. There have been too many delays on the realisation of the project and the company just could not wait any more.”

Elly said the agreement stipulated that the government would provide a detailed master plan by last November to support infrastructure including an international airport, an access road to the property and finalisations of land acquisitions. The finalisations, however, never materialised. A plethora of government agencies failed to complete their part of the bargain and asked for an extension until this month. When Indonesian officials asked for another extension until June, Emaar called off its investment.

Jakarta Globe coverage suggests that greed on the part of government officials seeking hand-outs may have also played a role in a decision to cancel the project. “You understand the Indonesian government,” said an Emaar executive who asked not to be named, in a veiled reference to allegations of corruption in the local and central governments. Emaar told the press that they have already expended US $4.2 million in consultancy fees in connection with the Lombok project.

Speaking last Sunday about Emaar’s allegations of government ineptitude, Purbaya Yudi Sadewa of the state-owned Danareksa Research Institute said: “It’s a signal for foreign investors to be very cautious about investing here. It will make people more reluctant to press ahead with their projects, and maybe even convince some to pull out.”
Meanwhile, others suggest that the worsening global financial crisis may have adversely affected the liquidity of Emaar and diminished their keenness to pursue the Lombok investment.

The company suffered a 2008 fourth-quarter loss of $481.9 million, and its stock has fallen from a high of 11.90 United Arab Emirates dirham ($3.24) in April last year to just 2.05 dirham. It was reported from Dubai on Thursday that the company had cancelled its annual general meeting without giving a reason, and investors have been petitioning the company to cancel further projects given market uncertainty. To make matters worse, the company also recently sought bankruptcy protection for its US unit.

The cancellation of the project – announced with great fanfare in May 2007 by Kalla – is an enormous black eye for the Indonesian government and the local government of Lombok. The joint venture between Emaar and the state-owned Bali Tourism Development Corp envisioned development of 1,200 hectares along seven kilometres of natural beachfront that would have transformed Lombok’s Kuta and Tanjung Aan beaches over the next 12 years into a world-class resort and residential community consisting of 10,000 luxury villas, eight hotels and two 18-hole golf courses.

Vice President Kalla has reportedly convened a special meeting of cabinet ministers in a last ditch effort to salvage the prestigious Lombok project. Winarno Sujas, the Tourism Ministry’s director for businesses and investment, told the Jakarta Globe that Kalla had summoned the related ministries for an urgent meeting in a bid to save the project.

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Qunci Pool Villas in Mangsit have just launched “Happy Hour on the Deck”, available at the stylish resort from 4pm until 7pm every day. With the nice weather on its way at last, the Qunci beachfront deck is a beautiful location for a few cocktails in the evening while watching the stunning sunsets across the Strait.

The bar formerly known as “Mario’s”, just down from Happy Café, is doing good business under the new name of “Bar U”. The bar and café offers a delicious range of well priced meals, but we’re particularly loving their pizza creations. Choose from the menu or create your own crispy-based pizza for just Rp 43 000. If you ask nicely, they do bungkus (take-away), too!

Horizontal Lounge on Gili Trawangan, is carrying out major renovations during the off-season, with the focus on beachfront dining and drinking. Expect some major changes in the next month or so! The ultra-trendy lounge, bar and restaurant has also introduced two new Happy Hours: “Sunset Happy Hours” from 4 – 7pm and “One for the Road” from 10pm til midnight. Also watch out for the launch of their new “Asian Tapas Menu”… sure to be delicious!

We hear the owners of Ku De Ta and friends from Bali love Gili T so much they chose the idyllic island to celebrate an important birthday and then partied there for five days last week!

Still on Gili T, we see the latest addition to The Beach House fleet is “Sea Queen”, a comfortable 30ft half cabin cruiser equipped for deep sea fishing, complete with fish finder and GPS. Contact The Beach House on 642352 for fishing charters with style!

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Patricia and Rommy celebrated their engagement on 14 March with friends at The Beach House, Gili T

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Indonesia's election campaign season opened on Monday, 16 March with a spectacle of colour as thousands of flag-waving supporters rallied for candidates competing in legislative and presidential elections. Campaigning officially started on 17 March, but massive party meetings were televised on Monday as political leaders signed a declaration for a peaceful race.

The legislative election will be held on 9 April and the presidential election three months later on 9 July.
In his address to the nation, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on the people to implement this year's elections in successful, secure, and orderly ways.

“It is our common responsibility and mission to show the international community that Indonesia is getting more mature in democracy,” the President said. “In 2004 we were able to show the world our outstanding achievement in conducting a peaceful, orderly, safe, honest, and fair election.”

President Yudhoyono is on course to win the presidential elections in July with a strong lead over his main rivals, polls show.

Asked who they would vote for if the election was held this month, half the respondents opted for Yudhoyono, compared with just 18.5 percent for his closest rival, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

But while Yudhoyono is widely expected to coast to victory, his Democratic Party faces tough opposition from 37 rival parties in the 9 April vote for the 560-seat parliament.

Around 171 million Indonesians are eligible to participate in the legislative race and the second direct presidential elections since the end of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

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A group of enterprising people on Gili Trawangan have formed an “EFR group” to act in medical emergencies on the Gilis.

The initials “EFR” stand for “Emergency First Responder” and in many countries is already established as a part of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS). EFR volunteers support the EMS and in many cases they arrive to help at an emergency faster than EMS teams.

The idea behind forming the EFR on Gili T is to bring help to people who need it in a medical emergency. Time is very critical in some emergencies such as cardiac arrest or non-breathing or unconscious patients. Although there is a small clinic in the village and a 24 hour clinic staffed by well-trained nurses at Hotel Vila Ombok, there are no emergency facilities on the Gilis should a major accident occur.

The group had a typical case recently when a tourist fell on a slippery road after heavy rain and broke her ankle. With EFR help she was immobilised and transported to the hospital on Lombok (thanks to Vila Ombak for speedboat and Günter for car transport). Unfortunately, she needed further treatment and was transferred to Bali with the help of Gili Cat (thanks to Gili Cat).

Rolf from the Vila Ombak Dive Academy worked with the EMS in Germany and is a paramedic trainer. He has organised a group of 9 people (4 male, 5 female) both Indonesian and western, to form an initial EFR unit for Gili Trawangan and is training them in emergency response procedures. Wendy and Amanda, two of the volunteers, are specialised nurses, George is an EFR instructor, and others in the group already have first aid training.

Apart from immediate emergency treatment, EFR includes on-site assessment, transfer to emergency room or accompany the patient to hospital if necessary, help with translation, contacting family and insurance provider, etc. The group have developed a programme to create a good EFR service for the Gilis and need support from the dive companies, hotels and other businesses on the Gilis to fund the necessary steps.

The first step of the programme was to purchase a set of medical equipment and a flexible stretcher, which could be easily carried to any place on the islands and which could also be used when escorting people to the hospital on Lombok or Bali. They have assembled an emergency backpack with essential paramedic equipment such as AED, airway management immobilisation, splinting, wound dressings, infusions, medications, and diagnostics equipment.

Step 2 is to teach a group of volunteers to be certified Emergency First Responder. The training includes Airway Management, Wounds and Splinting, Moving Patients and Transport, Diagnostics, ACLS + AED use. The group is also developing the emergency system for the island and needs a mobile phone so the EFR unit can be reached in an emergency.

They also plan to provide training in First Aid for local schools and businesses, so that there is always someone on hand who can respond in an emergency.   

Step 3 is to help develop the Vila Ombak Clinic with further equipment such as a Respirator, Monitor, Oxygen System and more. In the longer term, it is hoped that they can eventually fund a qualified doctor for the island.
Rolf has already purchased some materials from Germany and is negotiating with the Red Cross for more equipment and Alina, from Blue Marlin Dive, has also carried medical equipment from Germany.

At the moment the group meets once a month for training and to work on the organisation. Members are also meeting with the Kepala Desa and Kepala Dusun to discuss financing for the project.

The EFR unit is a valuable and essential service for the Gilis. Please support them with funding for equipment, or contact 081 339 553 774 to discuss ways that you can be involved. New members are needed and everybody is welcome to help. The number for emergencies on Gili Trawangan is 081 237 319 092.

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