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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.

As we head into Christmas and New Year, Lombok is expecting a large number of visitors for this festive high season, thanks to a bumper year in 2009. All hotels on the island, and on the three Gili Islands, have enjoyed much higher occupancy rates this year than in previous years and it is expected that Lombok will finish the year on a high, with rising visitor numbers and more people venturing east from Bali to discover our secret paradise.

With a festive atmosphere already building, the party season has begun in Lombok and the tourism industry is gearing up to offer great Christmas and New Year deals to guests. Hotels are offering special Christmas packages, with good value accommodation available at major resorts around the island. Despite being a predominantly Moslem island, Christmas is a happy occasion for everyone and Lombok’s hotels and restaurants have special parties and festive menus planned. In this issue we feature all the choices of where to celebrate your special Christmas, starting on page 10.

Also just in time for the high season, the Senggigi community is holding a very special Cultural Fair with lots of free performances and displays especially for visitors. Join in the crowd at Senggigi Square any day between Christmas and New Year’s Eve for exciting demonstrations of arts, music, dance and theatre by performers from around the island. We have all the details on page 18.

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Lombok Guide from the locations listed on page 32 or visit www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you’ll be enchanted!

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Christmas is a special time for sharing with family and friends, enjoying great traditional foods and relaxing in comfortable surroundings. In this issue, we bring you the best offers from Lombok’s businesses, to make your Christmas special!

Senggigi’s fine dining venue, Square Restaurant, celebrates Christmas with a choice of two 6-course set dinners. Choose from festive dishes such as Confit of Duck with Foie Gras, Caramelised Onion, Roasted Candlenut and Cinnamon in Crispy Fillo Pastry; or Roasted Turkey Breast  with Chestnut Bacon Stuffing, Cranberry Chutney, Wilted English Spinach and Mashed Sweet Potato; together with fanciful sorbets, creative seafood combinations and the delicious desserts for which Square is famous. The gourmet menus by ex-Mosaic chef, Wayan Budiana, are offered at Rp 300 000++ each. Buy a Christmas dinner voucher from Square before 24 December and receive a free glass of sparkling wine with your meal.

The stylish Qunci Villas on the beachfront in Mangsit presents a Christmas Set Dinner “At the beach under the Christmas tree” at Quali Restaurant on Friday, 25 Dec at 7.00pm. Price is US $45++ per person including a complimentary glass of Christmas cocktail and a traditional Sasak Dance performance. The 4-course menu includes Grilled Chicken with Pine Nuts, Seafood Soup, Pan Fried Swordfish or Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Caramel Cream Cheese Flan and tea or coffee.

Popular Senggigi establishment, Asmara Restaurant, is once again offering their Traditional German Christmas Dinner… a delicious combination of Roast Duck stuffed with apple and onion, and served with gravy, red cabbage and potato croquettes that has gained the restaurant many fans for Christmas over the last few years.
Other festive specials include Jumbo Prawns Thermidor, served with broccoli and potatoes au gratin, Prawn Pate and Home-made Mango Ice Cream.

Join in for lunch on Christmas Day with the children, who will love a visit from Santa complete with presents! Bookings are highly recommended and guests should let staff know how many children are attending, to make sure they don’t miss out on gifts from Santa! 

If you have other commitments on Christmas Day, you can still sample the delicious festive menus on Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day (24, 25 and 26 December). RSVP: 693 619

The popular Holiday Resort is celebrating Christmas with a huge International “East Meets West” Christmas Buffet on 24 December at Kayangan Restaurant, on the beachfront alongside the swimming pool. The fabulous spread includes appetisers such as Thai Beef Salad, Avocado Prawn Cocktail, Cold Roast Beef and much more. At the Carvery Station, select traditional Roast Tom Turkey with cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. Other mains include Pan Fried Tuna Steak, Lamb Curry, Seafood Paella and Milanese Chicken Piccata. There’s an equally large selection of delicious desserts (Traditional Christmas Pudding, Yule Log Cake, Blueberry Mousse, etc), soups, condiments and salads. Bring the family -- price is excellent value at only Rp 125 000 ++!

The Resort also offers a Classic Set Dinner for just Rp 135 000++ at the stylish Rinjani Restaurant on both 24 and 25 December, and a Christmas Day BBQ Buffet on 25 Dec at Kayangan Restaurant for Rp 125 000++. Be entertained by live music at all events.

Santosa Villas and Resort is offering something a little different, with the emphasis on kids for Christmas with their “Uniquely Santa” event on 20 December, for children 4 to 12 years old. Bring your children along and join in the fun with the other kids in the Resort’s spacious Ballroom from 11am until 3pm. The event will feature games and competitions for the kids, a special kids’ lunch and a visit from Santa! The price is Rp 85,000 nett per child including lunch box, photo with Santa and other benefits. Walk-in participants will be charged Rp 40,000net per child, including photo with Santa (no lunch box). There will also be a food stall for adults’ lunch at Rp 40,000 available. Ph: 693 090 for bookings.

For the big kids, the Resort offers Christmas Eve Dinner on 24 December at 19.00 pm in the Seaside Restaurant. Price for adults is Rp 200,000 net and children 6-12 years Rp 100,000 net. Christmas Brunch on 25 will be held at 12.00 noon and price is for adults is Rp 100,000 net and children 6-12 years Rp 50,000 net in the Seaside Restaurant overlooking the beach. 

Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort is also looking after the little ones on Christmas with a special cooking class to keep the kids amused. Children can have fun learning how to make pizzas at the Bawang Putih Grill in the Resort from 11am onwards on 25 December. Children’s activities are free for in-house guests and cost just Rp 50 000++ for outside guests… leaving mum and dad free to relax on Christmas Day!

The 5-star Resort is also offering a Christmas Eve Buffet on 24 December, with a Christmas Choir and entertainment by popular local artist Ary Juliyant for Rp 350 000++.

On 25 December, enjoy a Christmas Day Set Menu Dinner with traditional Christmas fare and live music by Ary Juliyant for Rp 350 000++ per person. Both are available at the Sheraton’s lovely Kebun Anggrek Restaurant. For bookings and information, ph: 693 333.

If you are on the south coast for Christmas, The Novotel in Kuta celebrates on 24 December with a Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner at Kafe Chili Restaurant for Rp 215 000++ p/p, with traditional roast turkey and all the trimmings. Or sample the Neptune’s treasure trove at the Novotel’s fine dining restaurant, Empat Ikan. The White Christmas Set Dinner is just Rp 225 000 ++ and includes Honey Roasted Turkey, Australian Beef Tenderloin and Seger Prawns, Norwegian Salmon, Pacific Ocean Lobster and more. Enjoy live entertainment, music and a magic show. On Christmas Day, Santa will be at the Resort handing out presents to all the children. Indulge in an unforgettable Traditional Seafood Buffet at Kafe Chili for Rp 195 000++ with a huge feast of fresh seafood.

See Gilis News section for special Christmas offers on Gili Trawangan!

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Christmas is nearly here and in this issue we look at where to buy Christmas decorations and gifts in Lombok!
It’s good to see that Hero Supermarket in the Mataram Mall has a small selection of Christmas decorations this year. For those searching for imitation Christmas trees, Tiara Department Store, upstairs at the Mall, has trees and pretty decorations, as does Mega Store on level 3 at the Mall. Of course, there are plenty of gift ideas at the Mall -- everything from jewellery and gifts at the specialty stores to mp3 players and mobile phones in the electronics shops.

Looking for something special for that special someone? Achi Acha Boutique in Senggigi Plaza has original Guess products at great prices. Most ladies would be very happy to receive a new Guess bag or purse, or even one of the stunning Guess evening watches, which also qualify as lovely jewellery.  There’s a small but classy selection of Guess designer luggage and travel accessories -- perfect for him or her. For the men, there’s a great range of Guess watches, including waterproof models, and the store is due to get a new shipment of Victorinox watches in stock… just in time for Christmas!  Ph: 619 4109

Ciokolata Boutique, next to Senggigi Jaya Supermarket, is another good choice for the ladies. The new season designer dresses in pretty florals and cool beiges are perfect for the party season. The new range of shoes and sandals make great gifts if you’re not sure about sizes, as do the great silver jewellery and accessories on display. For something very special, splash out on a precious Autore pearl… she’ll love you for it! www.ciokolata.com

Other good places to search out presents in Senggigi include Karyana Gallery, just near Happy Café. There’s a good selection of funky jewellery, wall hangings, cushions, ornaments and more to choose from. Or invest in an original piece of artwork by renowned local artist, Karyana… something unique for him or her!

The Art Markets offer a surprising choice of gift ideas. Browse the stalls for hand carved wooden items, colourful sarongs, ceramics, silver and pearls. Exotic Style, The Little Shop and Treasure Chest all sell a great selection of gifts, home wares, jewellery and resort wear. Just across the road from the Art Markets, the gift shop alongside Asmara Restaurant also has a good range of gift ideas, including some really beautiful silver and semi-precious stone jewellery.

Speaking of unique gifts, we love the new idea from Holiday Resort for guests arriving at the hotel. The Resort’s Food and Beverage Department came up with a novel way to welcome guests, other than the unimaginative “fruit platter” usually on offer. The Resort now presents guests with a changing variety of Indonesian cakes together with fresh fruit of the season. Starting in December with a sweet called “Ongol Ongol”, which means “soft” and is a delicious cake made from sago flour, palm sugar & grated coconut, the Resort’s pastry chef plans to continue surprising guests with local sweets and new creations rather than the tired looking fruit platter. www.holidayresort-lombok.com

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Those disappointed with the poor quality of the Senggigi Festival held on the beach at the Senggigi Beach Hotel last month, have a chance to enjoy a true week of cultural and artistic performances being held between Christmas and New Year this month.

Members of the local Senggigi community, with support from the district of Batu Layar administration, have arranged a special week of free performances and cultural displays from Friday, 25 December until Thursday, 31 December. All events will take place in the Senggigi Square, in the centre of Senggigi, and are free to the public.

For the entire week there will be an Expo in Senggigi Square, open from 9am until 11pm every day. Stalls will be set up displaying and selling handicrafts, traditional woven fabrics and ikat, Lombok pearls, souvenirs and much more. Come along and pick up a great gift for Christmas or a memento of Lombok to take home!

Free Peresean (stick fighting) competitions, featuring competitors from all over Lombok, will be held in the centre of The Square every afternoon from 4pm to 6pm. A very popular sport throughout Lombok, two muscled competitors pit their strength and wits against each other, using heavy sticks to strike at each other’s bodies, using shields made from toughened cow hide to prevent the other from striking a blow. Contestants train for years to hone their skills, often returning from fights with bruised bodies covered in red welts. It’s a genuine fight, accompanied by much enthusiastic encouragement from the crowd. A referee is on hand to make sure things are kept fair and don’t get out of hand.

In addition, different free cultural performances will be held in the Square every night from 9pm until 11pm. Performers from different communities and villages from all over Lombok will present dance, music and theatre performances to delight the crowd. Among them will be the Gandrung (the fan dance), a popular dance accompanied by traditional music used to welcome visitors. Rudat (a traditional war theatrical dance) is almost a parody of life under Dutch rule and is highly entertaining. The soldiers in their army greens perform a hilarious pantomime, deceptive in style, as their military precision is obviously the result of years of hard training. Cepung features music created by leaf instruments and has a distinctive haunting quality.

This cultural fair comes about as result of local disappointment at the mishandling of the Senggigi Festival this year and offers local artisans, dancers and musicians the chance to demonstrate their skills to a wider audience during a peak tourist period, with the intention of encouraging the preservation of local culture and arts.

The week long event has been organized by Pak Hajir and Pak Ibrahim from LPM (Lembaga Pemberdayaan Masyarakat), the local Institute of Community Empowerment, and is being supported by Pak Drs Agus Setiawan, District Head (Camat) of Batu Layar. Unfortunately, there is no support from the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture (Dinas Kebudayaan dan Pariwisata).

Attendance is open to all and, as previously mentioned, all performances are free of charge. The Fair provides a wonderful opportunity for guests and tourists to witness the talents of Lombok’s performers and to get a unique glimpse into the rich cultural traditions of our island.

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The coordinator of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), Ngurah Wijaya, has called on the people and law enforcement agencies in Bali to take a firm line in the fight against pedophilia in order to safeguard Bali’s future.

Speaking to the national news agency ANTARA, Wijaya said: “The people should be especially vigilant against these violations of the law. Don’t hesitate to report cases and perpetrators. This is not just about preserving Bali’s tourism image, but also about protecting the nation’s future”.

Bali has experienced a number of high-profile cases of pedophilia, some committed by international tourists who have found Bali convenient for their criminal acts.

According to Wijaya, while tourism makes an important contribution to Bali’s economy, it is not correct to label pedophilia a negative excess of tourism, as pedophilia offenses also occur within the non-tourist sectors of society.

At the same time, Wijaya said that it is well known that pedophiles often utilise international networks to exchange information on potential targets. Moreover, such criminals will go to great lengths to devise means to provide them access to their victims, including finding employment opportunities that put them in close proximity to children. “In this instance, law enforcement can take a large role with immigration publishing black lists of known pedophiles.”

Separately, the General Manager of the Hotel Nikko, Jean Charles Le Coz, said most pedophiles perform their criminal activities outside of hotels. “We urge the public, particularly parents, to pay attention to the children. This involves the coming generation,” Le Coz warned.

Le Coz also explained how hotel staff safeguard the hotel guests. He explained that if a hotel has a children’s play area or a child-care center, these areas will always be supervised by hotel staff.

Le Coz also warned that issues with a Western taint are often times not seen objectively by the public who fail to remember that many pedophile cases involve perpetrators from the local indigenous community.

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This year has seen a lot of new investment in Lombok but Manna Kebun, a new development on the west coast just opposite the Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort, is going to make a transformation to standards of accommodation in Senggigi.

Director of Operations, Pak Winarno, is no stranger to transformations. He is probably best known as the man who transformed the old and run-down Intan Laguna Hotel into the showpiece Santosa Villas and Resort that now stands in the centre of Senggigi.

Starting at the Intan Laguna in March 2007, Pak Winarno set about pulling down old buildings that had been left to fall into disrepair and rebuilding luxurious villas with private swimming pools and luxury suites. The lobby was completely gutted and rebuilt into the crowning glory of the Resort, with its adjacent Lobby Lounge and beautiful water features. He was also responsible for building a new Ballroom and Convention Centre which now hosts many of Lombok’s most important events.

With renovations complete, Winarno set about launching the new Santosa Villas and Resort and, over the following year, re-established the Resort as a major player in the Lombok accommodation and MICE market.
Pak Winarno left the Santosa at the end of November this year and has now turned his formidable attention to another challenging Senggigi development -- Manna Kebun. Together with partner Daniel Hutagalung, he has formed Manna Hotel Management; a perfect outlet for his 27 years experience in developing, renovating and launching hotel properties. Daniel, who has more than 10 years experience in Sales and Marketing and was also involved in the successful marketing of Santosa, takes up his position as Director of Sales and Marketing in the company.

Together this team is overseeing the successful development of Manna Kebun, which will eventually boast 43 luxury 5 star villas, an 80 room hotel, residential properties, restaurant and bar, swimming pool, Spa, leisure and recreational facilities and more.

Construction on the development started in October 2009. Stage one, due for completion in June next year, will focus on completing thirteen 1, 2 and 3 bedroom luxury villas, all with private swimming pools. The restaurant and bar, lobby, Spa, 7 x 15m resort swimming pool and 15m high feature waterfall will also be completed at the same time, to complement the villa development.

Stage two will result in the construction of another 30 5 star villas and an 80-room 3 star hotel facility. Stage three involves the construction of recreational and leisure facilities, including a jogging track high on the hillside, a bicycle track, parkland and a small zoo.

There is also provision for a number of residential properties, with freehold building blocks available high on the hillside, overlooking the valley behind and the fabulous views over Senggigi Bay to the front. Purchasers have the option of developing the land themselves or in partnership with Manna Hotel Management. The properties can be purchased for either private use or as an investment, with Manna offering property management services for rental villas. Of course, the private residences enjoy all of the benefits of living within a luxury resort, such as restaurant, Spa and leisure facilities, security, maintenance and more. An access road is currently being constructed and a separate reception lobby will service the hilltop properties.

Once open, the 43 luxury villas will be available for either short term rental by holiday-makers or for long term contract by Lombok residents. The 3-star hotel offers more economical accommodation for travellers. There is also a 3 bedroom Executive Club Villa currently under construction, which features separate living and dining areas, a huge private swimming pool, abundant water features and entertaining areas for around 80 guests.

The 14 hectare property extends back into a lush green valley, while the hillside residences afford wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and valley and overlook the ocean. Construction features natural timbers, stone and rock, with extensive landscaping and garden areas. Developed on prime land only minutes from the beach and all the tourist facilities of central Senggigi, with mountain, valley and ocean scenery, Manna Kebun promises to bring another level of accommodation to Senggigi.

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(Your personal building problems answered)

QUESTION: My husband and I have recently bought a beautiful two-story holiday villa with ocean views in Lombok. We enjoy the night life here, especially our evenings in the Happy Café with all the loud music. My husband says it clears his sinuses. After a drunken night out, I am always first in so I can use the loo and switch on the light at the bottom of the stairs. My husband follows close behind and switches on the light at the top of the stairs. There then follows an argument as to who shall go back down the stairs to switch off the downstairs light. A nice couple we met at the Marina Club suggested two-way switching. It sounds like a good idea but my husband and I have never tried it. Can you recommend it?

MR FIXIT: Two-way switching is easily installed or added on to single switching. A “single throw two-way switch” is available in Lombok but you have to ask for a “hotel switch”. If you ask for a two-way switch here the salesperson will look at you like you are in the wrong shop, although they are right behind them on the shelf. Apparently only hotels use them, which must be why they are called “hotel switches”.  I’m sorry if it’s confusing… a mistake almost anyone can make! The live feed-in is connected to the common of the first switch and the live feed out to the lamp is taken from the common of the second switch. L1 of the first switch is then connected to L2 of the second switch and L2 of the first switch is connected to L1 of the second switch. Any competent electrician can accomplish this simple procedure, allowing you to switch a light on at the bottom of the stairs and switch it off again at the top using the same switch. If you have never tried two-way switching before (as the nice couple you met recently have suggested), then I recommend you use a condom until you get to know them better.

QUESTION: After having visited the beautiful island of Lombok many times, my boyfriend and I decided to rent a small semi-detached villa in the popular tourist area of Senggigi. It seemed like a quiet place until we were disturbed on our first night by noises from the adjoining villa.  As our bedrooms are only separated by a single wall as thin as tissue paper, we could not help but overhear the goings on next door including passionate screams and headboard banging that seemed to last for hours! It was most embarrassing, especially for my boyfriend who wondered how they could keep it up for so long. It seems to be a regular thing. Every night, night after night -- especially during power cuts, when sometimes it occurs several times a night with only a small interval which includes toilet noises. I have tried to speak to our next door neighbours but without success as they are either never in or are engaged in more noise-making of an intimate kind and it seems such a shame to disturb them. Would soundproofing help? Yours faithfully, George.

MR FIXIT: Dear George, soundproofing seems like a good solution here. There are many simple ways this can be achieved. Basically, you need to introduce an insulated air gap and resurface the wall as before. The easiest way to do this would be to fix 2 x 4 cm battens vertically by drilling and screwing to the wall, and face it with plaster board or wood sheeting. Make sure you use galvanized clout nails and fill the gaps and nail holes with a filling product. Fix the battens at 40cm intervals and fill the gaps with anything sound absorbent such as Styrofoam, egg boxes or even screwed up newspaper. Good luck.

QUESTION: My boyfriend and I moved to a quiet area in the popular tourist area of Senggigi last week. We are so much in love and everything seemed fine until another couple moved in next door to us and started banging and knocking on the wall right next to our bedroom. The walls are paper thin and we can even hear them when they are on the toilet. It’s like a Calcutta train station on a busy Saturday morning, I don’t mind telling you! It’s either that or our neighbours are heavily into S and M and we don’t approve of that kind of behaviour… it shouldn’t be allowed! They are disturbing our lovemaking to such an extent that I don’t know if our relationship can survive and I am afraid my boyfriend might leave me for another man. What can I do?

MR FIXIT: You could introduce soundproofing like everyone else or alternatively go round and speak to your neighbour and explain the problem. Wear something nice… it always helps to create a good first impression.

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We’ve often mentioned Seafood Nikmat as one of our favourite places to dine in the city so, when owner-chef William invited us to sample his latest crab creation the other night, we didn’t hesitate to accept.

William is a talented chef who trained in Western Australia and has a passion for preparing interesting and creative food, with a particular love for the fresh seafood which is so abundant in these islands. While there are a couple of other good seafood restaurants in the city, Seafood Nikmat ranks number one as our choice for two reasons: William’s dedication to serving the best quality fresh seafood available and his understanding of international standards of hygiene and food preparation. For example, another city restaurant serves delicious crab at slightly lower prices than Nikmat, but doesn’t clean the crab before cooking… resulting in a delicious sauce mixed with crab poo! At Nikmat, the crab is thoroughly cleaned, and lungs and waste removed, before cooking.

The restaurant itself may be a bit off-putting to some people not used to local eateries. Situated on a busy crossroads, there is a large dining area inside that is popular with families and groups of local Chinese, who always seem to know the best places for good value food. Outside, in the car park, are more tables, covered with blue and white checked plastic table cloths, and plastic chairs. This is where the large outdoor grills are also set up and, with the incessant traffic flow and the cooks and waiters yelling orders, it can get quite noisy at times. This is not a place you go to for fine dining or a refined ambience; but it is the right place if you love good quality seafood cooked by people who truly know their business.

But on to the food! Nikmat attracts a regular stream of local diners simply because the selection of seafood is fantastic and the prices are very reasonable. On the menu are a range of prawn dishes, as well as plates of squid and local cockles cooked in a variety of sauces, such as sweet and sour, black pepper, oyster sauce, honey sauce and more. One of my favourites is Prawns in Butter Cream Sauce, featuring fresh prawns cooked in real butter and cream, mixed with onions, chives and garlic. Delicious and unbeatable value at Rp 20 000!

Fresh fish bought daily is displayed on beds of ice in covered cases. Barramundi, Snapper, Grouper and local Langoan and Baronang can be grilled, fried or steamed, and are served with your choice of around twenty different sauces at an average of Rp 8000 per 100gr. Inside the restaurant, live crabs compete for space in display boxes and are available in a variety of cooking styles at Rp 10 000 per 100gr, or Rp 12 500 per 100gr for the huge Jumbo Crabs, which weight around a kilo each!

Fresh and Live Lobsters are also available, with fresh lobsters costing Rp 47 500/ 100gr or select one of the live beauties from the display tank. Unlike at many other places, the cooks are careful not to overcook the lobster on the grill or, alternatively, choose to have it steamed and served with cheesy mornay, garlic butter, black pepper or spicy Padang sauce.

William’s latest creation, available at the moment on the daily specials menu, is called Kepiting Bakar (Grilled Crab) and involves live mud crabs cooked with a spicy sauce and then wrapped in banana leaves and put on the grill. The result is divine… juicy crab meat sitting atop a thick, piquant sauce. The banana leaves trap the steam inside while the crab is grilling, so that the delicate meat absorbs the spicy flavours whilst staying moist. The sauce itself is a tasty blend of garlic, tomato, chilli, ginger and dried chillis. For locals the spiciness isn’t too hot, but if you are sensitive to chilli, ask for a mild version.

Alternatively, we highly recommend our other favourite -- Crab in Saus Padang. The delicious blend of ginger, garlic and chives thickened with beaten egg is very similar to Singapore Crab and two of the big fresh mud crabs make a very satisfying meal for two at around Rp 120 000.

Open for lunch and dinner, Seafood Nikmat is a convenient stop on your way home from the city or a great place to dine after shopping. The restaurant offers take away meals and there is also a good range of other local dishes, including tasty fried rice and noodles, and chicken and vegetarian dishes. Seafood Nikmat translates as “Delicious Seafood”… the name says it all!

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20 lucky guests sampled delicious Thai cuisine at a special
tasting at beautiful Villa Qusia. Qunci executive chef, Edi, and members
of his team attended cookery school in Thailand last month

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On Sunday, 15 November, 2009, Indonesia’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, and the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Patrialis Akbar, conducted a surprise inspection of the visa-on-arrival (VOA) procedures at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport.

During the inspections, the two cabinet ministers had a close-up look at the immigration counters used for VOA and the long lines that occur when several flights arrive at the same time.

When the ministers reviewed the 26 immigration desks in operation they found a number with faulty equipment, including 6 counters with broken computers.

Pak Akbar promised to increase services for those obtaining a VOA in order to eliminate the long lines. He told the press that Bali is an important part of Indonesia’s tourism reputation in the eyes of the world and he is committed to do what is necessary to avoid disappointing Bali visitors.

“Bali’s victories are Indonesia’s victories. Because of this, we must give the best service. As the person responsible for immigration I will continue to make improvements with my team,” explained Akbar.

Improvements, he said, will not only include repairing broken computers, but will also make sure that immigration has a stock of stand-by computers. He also promised that the new number of immigration counters will not be a mere doubling of the current counters, but a tripling of service counters.

Akbar added, “There may be problems with space (for the new counters), but I will discuss this with the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN) to use areas set aside for a VIP terminal”.

Jero Wacik used the surprise inspection to interview several arriving tourists who reportedly related that immigration lines are a problem in many destinations, not only Indonesia and that, despite the problems at Bali airports, the passengers said they had only been waiting 15 minutes.

Wacik has called for the new immigration counters and computers to be put in operation as soon as possible and that 15 minutes from disembarking an airplane until boarding an airport taxi will become the new target.
Separately, the General Manager of PT Angkasa Pura, Heru Legowo, assured the press that once the current renovations are completed, Bali’s airport will be able to handle 20 million passengers each year. The current renovations are expected to be completed in 30 months.

Meanwhile, balidiscovery.com reports that tourism arrivals into Bali continue to increase, estimating a record-breaking 2.2 million visitors by the end of the year.

Total foreign arrivals through the end of September 2009 numbered 208,185 -- an increase of 15% over September 2008 when 181,033 foreign arrivals were recorded.

On a cumulative January-September basis, total arrivals to Bali hit 1,672,923 for the first three quarters of the year. This is equal to a 13.11% improvement over the same period in 2008 (1,479,079).

Australia has staked a solid claim at the top position of source markets for Bali, with 315,389 Australian visitors through the end of September, arrivals from Oz are up a whopping 39.06%.

Japan has slipped to the number 2 position, and the People’s Republic of China now holds the number 3 spot at 154,846 arrivals, up an astounding 65.13% when compared to the same period in 2009. These improvements were made possible by an easing of visa procedures and improved air access, clearing the way for the PRC to push Taiwan from its previous hold on the #3 slot.

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A controversial recommendation from Bali’s governor that a yearly quota of 1,000 turtles be set for ceremonial sacrifice now appears a dead issue, following its rejection by the Central government in Jakarta.

Despite pledges by Governor Pastika that the sacrificed turtles would not re-open the long-banned turtle trade in Bali or see the meat from the turtles on sale at local satay stands, Indonesian NGO's and community groups were quick in rejecting the idea. And, while turtle meat is a long-standing local delicacy, many Balinese now vehemently oppose the wholesale slaughter of endangered turtles on religious or exotic appetite grounds. The people of Serangan Island, a local population which once derived much of its income from the turtle trade, have responded to education and publicity, becoming one the most vocal opponents to any kind of turtle trade in Bali.

Pastika'’ desire to have a carefully controlled annual quota of only 1,000 turtles for ceremonial purposes has apparently been dealt a final death blow by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry in Jakarta which turned down the Governor’s request based on scientific recommendations from experts engaged by the Ministry. Quoted in the Jakarta Post, an official of the Forestry Ministry, Masyud, said, “The law clearly mandates it is not possible; the green turtles are included in the animals listed for protection”.

Jakarta officials and NGO’s in the Capital were said to be shocked by the large number of turtles asked for in the Governor’s quota; seeing a large number as difficult to monitor and creating an opportunity for concealment of Bali’s illegal turtle trade.

Following Jakarta’s rejection of the turtle quota, the head of the Bali Hindu Faith Council, Ngurah Sudiana, said he will ask national leaders to approve a smaller quota. He told the press that five turtles are needed for each of the 100 to 150 large ceremonies held every year at various temples across the island. “The central government should understand the need for green turtles as part of traditional ceremonies because it relates to our faith,” Sudiana said. “Prohibiting it will hurt Balinese people.”

Many Balinese temples have changed ceremonial procedures that once mandated the decapitation of turtles and now release live turtles back into the ocean as part of their offering ceremonies.

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The current El Niño weather pattern has already had an obvious effect on weather conditions in Lombok and Bali, with very hot temperatures and a lower than average rainfall for this time of the year.

In July 2009, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists announced the arrival of El Niño, a climate phenomenon with a significant influence on global weather, ocean conditions and marine fisheries. El Niño, the periodic warming of central and eastern tropical waters, occurs on average every two to five years and typically lasts about 12 months.

When El Niño conditions last for many months, extensive ocean warming occurs and its economic impact on local fishing can be serious. The last major El Niño in 1998 killed over 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and Asia. It led directly to forest fires in South East Asia and a drought threatening 700,000 people in Papua New Guinea. Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil were hit by droughts leading to huge numbers of forest fires.

Consistent with the historical evolution of El Niño, a peak is expected sometime during November-January. Most experts suggest that this event will last through March-May 2010, although the most likely outcome is that El Niño will peak at least at moderate strength and last through to the beginning of 2010. Expected El Niño impacts during November 2009-January 2010 include a continuation of drier-than-average conditions over Indonesia and occasional torrential rainfall, resulting in flooding.

Most climate analysts are predicting further warming of sea surface temperatures in El Niño regions. Further warming would see the warmest equatorial sea surface temperatures since the 1998 El Niño event, which caused widespread damage to coral reefs and the marine environment in the area.

Tourists and residents in both Bali and Lombok are complaining that temperatures on the islands are exceptionally hot. Those tourists venturing onto the hot beaches are seeking relief by wading in the shallows, swimming or wind-surfing.

Officials at the Bali Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) date the current heat wave from mid-October, when temperatures began averaging 33-34 degrees centigrade, compared to the average of 32 degrees centigrade normal at this time of year.

Endro Cahyono, a BMKG meteorologist warns that the high temperatures may bring local showers and conditions ripe for the creation of localised angin puting beliung - water and land spouts resembling small-scale tornadoes. Cahyono also warned that lightning storms can also be expected during the current change of seasons.

In recent years this weather phenomenon has threatened local shipping and caused damage to structures in coastal areas. People should be aware of this weather threat, seeking immediate cover in an inner room of the strongest available structure if a wind spout is sighted. The high winds connected to these wind spouts are a threat to life and property and the public should take all necessary precautions when encountering such weather.
At a local level, encouraging news is coming out of Lombok. The provincial government of Nusa Tenggara Barat has carried out an initial vulnerability assessment, predicting climate impacts and identifying areas and sectors most vulnerable to climate change in the region.

It is a pioneering work because many climate predictions and assessments have been carried out at a global or national level. The most important thing is that the results of this assessment were endorsed by the Governor, and key elements of the findings are planned to be inserted in the mid-term development planning document of the province. Reducing and coping with climate change impacts may be an endless struggle. However, some actions taken at the local, national and regional levels can further help to win this battle.

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As reported in Balidiscovery.com the developing story of possible police collusion in the operation of illegal and unregistered large motorcycles continues to unfold.

Beritabali.com alleges that the Bali vehicle registration office (SAMSAT) receives a Rp 3 million (US $300) “payment” from every unregistered bike owner which secures a membership card in a “big bike club” that facilitates operation of the bikes on public streets.

Quoting a “trusted source”, Beritabali.com reports that there are hundreds of illegal large motorcycles operating in Bali which tour the islands roads under the protection big bike clubs. The source, who is a member of a bike club, said, “Every year the club pays Rp 3 million to Samsat and the member of the club receives a membership card. The cards now number in the hundreds.”

Beritabali.com said their source had no idea what the Rp 3 million given to Samsat was used for or if, perhaps, it was being paid to provincial tax authorities or the custom’s office. The source admitted: “My gosh, I have no idea. You’ll need to check.”

The source said that plans to offer an amnesty for big bikes during the tenure of General Made Pastika as police chief were set aside when Pastika was reassigned to Jakarta.

The Chief of Bali’s traffic police, Bambang Sugeng, has vehemently denied allegations of a Rp 3 million payment to Samsat, saying, “There’s no such thing; don't politicise this matter.” He told the press that everything done by his division is according to the book and every vehicle must have complete registration or face prosecution under the law.

Sugeng’s latest statements are in contradiction to earlier comments to the press when he said unregistered large bikes are allowed to operate in Bali if escorted by the police and their travel was for public service.
Such a practice would be in violation of traffic laws that require all vehicles and their operators to be fully licensed and registered.

According to Beritabali.com, taxpayers are complaining about the large numbered of seemingly unregistered large bikes operating on Bali’s roads, calling on Bali’s Chief of Police, General Sutisna, to rein in illegal bikes operating under the protection of large bike clubs.

In a more recent development, provincial tax authorities have announced that they will soon undertake a survey of the 9 large bike clubs in Bali to determine if a Rp 3 million illegal levy has been paid in the past and obtain an accurate count on the number of unregistered bikes there are on the island. This move was announced by the head of the tax office for Bali, Ketut Budiasih.

Budiasih has already asked the leaders of all large motorcycle clubs in Bali to hand over details of bike ownership among their members.

“We have asked for data on ownership of the bikes and the identity of the owners. We will then know how many illegal bikes are operating on the island,” Budiasih said. He insisted that bikes found to be unregistered will be handled in strict accordance with the law.

Plans are for all large bikes to be registered under an amnesty program now in preparation.

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If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, the dazzling white sand beaches of Gili Trawangan could be mistaken for snow, but you won’t find stodgy cold-weather fare at the island’s top restaurants and resorts! Read on for our special summary of the great Christmas celebrations the island has on offer!

For Christmas 2009, ko-ko-mo Resort is celebrating with its usual elegant flair and style. The Christmas theme is white, gold and silver with a 2m snow-tipped traditional Christmas tree, stylish themed decorations and carols ranging from the traditional to contemporary.  Ko-ko-mo’s menu will surprise and tantalise as it ignores the cold-climate traditional fare in favour of a fusion of Asian, European and Pacific Rim flavours, emphasising quality ingredients and a sophisticated twist on favourites. Christmas lunch at Gili T’s top fine dining venue is good value at Rp 450 000.

Undoubtedly, The Beach House is a favourite for Christmas Day, with its combination of a fantastic traditional Christmas lunch, upbeat contemporary Carols, and fun, bright Christmas theme, and the ever-popular seafood BBQ. Christmas Lunch this year is a fantastic buffet of Roast Turkey, Leg Ham, Suckling Pig, Roast Vegies , Salad and Xmas Pudding -- all for just Rp 250 000! Put on your Christmas colours and join the crowd for a fun Christmas lunch...
Horizontal Lounge offers the perfect beachside location for you and your family to enjoy your Christmas Day in paradise. Experience the famous 6 course gourmet Christmas Extravaganza either directly on the beachfront or in the beautiful restaurant overlooking the beach. Served from 3pm and featuring cocktails and canapés, a selection of starters, main courses and desserts, with coffee and handmade chocolates to finish. All this for only Rp 150 000 ++! “The best value on the island…” (Lonely Planet)

Top Gili T Resort, Hotel Vila Ombak, celebrates a family Christmas with Santa visiting the kids and giving out presents by the pool. Join the White Christmas Dinner on 24 December in the lovely beachfront dining area and feast on a sumptuous buffet of traditional Christmas fare, fresh seafood and delicious creations by the award-winning kitchen team. Price is US $75 p/p, with live unplugged music and dancing on the beach under the stars.

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