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.
August is high season in Lombok and our beaches and resorts are buzzing with holiday-makers enjoying the beautiful sunny days and cool nights at this time of the year.
This year, Ramadan coincides with high season but visitors shouldn’t let that worry them. Despite what mischievous people in Bali might tell you, it’s business as usual in all the tourism areas on Lombok!
Our restaurants and bars are open, our hotels are doing brisk trade, and visitors are welcomed at any time of the year. Come and enjoy the peace and beauty of Lombok!
It’s that time of the year again, when Muslims across the nation begin their month of fasting. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic nation and Ramadan, or Bulan Puasa (bulan meaning ‘month’; and puasa meaning ‘to fast’), affects the majority of people living in this vast archipelago.
This year, Ramadan falls in August, which also coincides with the tourism “high season”. The months of July and August – the summer holidays in Europe – are traditionally the busiest time of the year for the tourism industry, particularly in Bali and Lombok. Many observers and business owners have been speculating on what affect, if any, Ramadan will have on tourism, especially in Lombok where the majority of the local Sasak people are Muslim.
Since the beginning of July, Lombok has been experiencing one of its busiest high seasons in history. Hotels in Senggigi and the Gili islands are reporting high occupancy rates and the streets, restaurants and bars are overflowing with tourists enjoying the sunny weather and laid-back charm of the island. Will this change as the local people commence their fasting month?
For the people of Lombok working in the tourism industry, the answer is a resounding “No!” Everyone – from the sellers on the streets, to waiters in the restaurants, to General Managers of the hotels – is enjoying the rush of a successful high season.
The real question is: “Why should Ramadan affect tourism in Lombok”? The answer is not simple, but lies in a number of factors.
Firstly, there’s no avoiding the fact that the image of Islam throughout the world has been tarnished by fanatics and terrorists masquerading as “Muslim warriors” over the past decade.
Yet, most of Indonesia is Islamic and that doesn’t stop the flow of tourism to Jogjakarta, Jakarta, Lombok and Bali during the rest of the year. Nor does it stop tourism in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Malaysia, or the Maldives.
Muslims in Lombok would argue that they practice a moderate form of Islam and therefore condemn the actions of terrorists. Indeed, the traditional culture of the indigenous Sasak people is one of modesty (many are very shy) and of hospitality to guests.
During Ramadan in particular, which is a time of kindness and the deliberate moderation of actions and emotions, visitors are more likely to be invited into homes to buka puasa (break the fast) in the evening, and to be shown more kindness and courtesy than at any other time in the year.
The second major factor is the deliberate propaganda by those with vested interests in keeping tourists away from Lombok. In the past, many Balinese have been instrumental in spreading warnings to tourists to keep away from Lombok, telling them that they won’t be able to eat because everyone is fasting and all of the restaurants are closed; or that no taxis are available, because the drivers don’t work when they are fasting.
It is understandable that some people in the Bali tourism industry see the beauty and potential of Lombok as a threat, and therefore actively work to keep the tourists in Bali by spreading negative propaganda. It is also possible that many Hindu Balinese know little about the Muslim religion and, perhaps, naively believe these things to be true.
The truth is, whether during Ramadan or at any other time of the year, the Lombok people are like most Indonesians – friendly, enthusiastic about their island and culture, curious about visitors, and working hard to build their tourism industry.
Particularly in the midst of one of their best high seasons ever, no one wants to see their personal beliefs have a negative effect on their livelihoods and their futures. Although many of the people working in the hotels and restaurants may be fasting during this time, they are fully aware and accepting of the fact that their guests are not.
They are more than happy to see the tables in restaurants full and if you want a Bintang or bacon and eggs for breakfast, you’ll be served with a smile, for two simple reasons: your business keeps them employed, and being busy helps keep their minds off the fact they are fasting!
So, if you have been thinking of a holiday in Lombok but the thought of Ramadan is making you hesitate, wait no longer! At this time of the year, the days are sunny and warm, the nights are cool and clear, and the natural scenery of the beaches and mountains is at its stunning best.
The restaurants and bars in all the major tourism areas are open, the hotels are operating, and there are plenty of taxis and drivers ready to take you wherever you want to go. And if some friendly local invites you to buka puasa with the family, grab the opportunity to eat some delicious local food and experience some warm Sasak hospitality!
• Meat Mart is a fabulous new business that has just opened on the main road in Senggigi, just next to Sendok Bar and Restaurant. The deli sells meat and smallgoods, including popular Bali brands – Mama’s, Nikmat and Cater products. Hygienically pre-packaged meats include steaks and a variety of sausages, including Breakfast, BBQ, Herb, and pork sausages. You will also find real bacon, cold cuts (salami, ham, turkey, etc), burgers, chicken or beef meatballs, fish balls, meat patties, etc.
Meat Mart is celebrating its opening with special low prices on all products. Pick up a pack of pre-prepared chicken or beef satay, ready to barbecue or grill, and take some home for an easy dinner! There’s also a small selection of dairy products, pasta and sauces, and Gandari pure filtered ice available in convenient bags for parties and barbecues. Meat Mart is a welcome addition to Senggigi and is sure to be a hit with people living in the area. Open every day from 9am to 10pm. Ph: 693 591
• Mawar Jewellery is a beautiful pearl and jewellery gallery that has recently opened in Senggigi Plaza, just next to Warung Kangen. Previously located near the petrol station in Meninting, the gallery has moved to its new Senggigi premises and is well worth a visit. There’s a good selection of AAA quality pearls, including precious South Sea Pearls, as well as unique jewellery designs using white and yellow gold. The gold plated pieces are also tempting and well priced. We particularly like the designs using semi-precious gemstones, such as quartz and amethyst… lovely for a special gift, or treat yourself to a little something! Ph: 693 634
• Those travelling past the petrol station in Meninting would have noticed the signs for Grand Villa Meninting and the construction that has been taking place on the land there for several months now. Similar to the successful Meninting Raya development, GrandVilla is a residential development with a range of medium-priced villas for private ownership or investment. The community will include a swimming pool and restaurant/café, PDAM water, underground electricity, as well as 24 hour security and management services. Freehold prices start from Rp 400 million. Ph: 0818 0361 9977 (Erik).
• If you’re stuck in the city over the next month, you’ll be happy to know that Redwood Café will be open as normal during August. The popular café is located upstairs at Melissa Bakery, on the main road in Mataram (diagonally opposite Ruby Supermarket). Stop in for some of the best freshly brewed coffees in town, including French Press, Cappuccino, Espresso and the unique Kopi Luwak. Or try a dessert style coffee such as the Hazelnut Jumble – almost a meal in itself! The café is clean and modern, and serves a good selection of snacks and meals; or pick up some fabulous cakes, pastries and breads from the bakery to take home. Ph: 688 6581
Sail Indonesia 2011 – this year called “Sail Wakatobi Belitung” – set sail from Darwin (on the north coast of Australia) on the 23 July 2011.
Sail Indonesia is an annual yachting regatta in Indonesian waters that is sponsored by the Department of Sea and Fisheries and organised by Yayasan Cinta Bahari.
There are 117 yachts sailing in the 2011 rally, with participants from 19 countries taking part.
This year, participants can choose one of two routes: the “Western Passage” with the entry point in Kupang, Timor; or the “Eastern Passage” with the entry point in Saumlaki in the Tanimbar Islands of southern Maluku.
In the eastern waters of Indonesia they will stopover in some 21 destinations such as Timor, Banda, Wakatobi, Flores and Lombok before continuing to Bali, Java, Borneo and Belitung.
Participants will visit some of the more remote and least developed areas of Indonesia as they sail through the archipelago, with destinations often far from the well-worn tourist routes.
At each of these stopovers, visitors have the opportunity to experience the different peoples’ cultures, lifestyles, arts and crafts, and different languages of each destination, together with a wonderful variety of foods.
In Lombok, the fleet is expected to arrive at Medana Bay Marina in North Lombok from the beginning of September until 16 September. The official welcoming ceremony will take place at the Marina on 14 September.
This will be the third consecutive year that Medana Bay Marina has hosted Sail Indonesia in Lombok, starting with Sail Bunaken in 2009. The Marina enjoyed huge success during Sail Banda in 2010 with around 90 yachts taking advantage of the safe mooring and facilities on Lombok’s north coast.
Sail Indonesia is a great way to promote marine tourism in Lombok and the surrounding regions. With a stopover period of around two weeks, many of the sailors enjoy the chance to take a break, travelling around the island and enjoying the warm hospitality of the north Lombok people. In addition to showcasing Lombok’s attractions to the international yachting community, the event also contributes to local businesses and village communities.
(Tongue-in-cheek answers to your personal building problems)
QUESTION: I am a 64 year old retired businessman who has decided to come to the idyllic resting place that is Lombok and build the house of my dreams. All my life, I have strived and struggled to gather enough wealth to see the final years of my life through in relative ease and comfort. It has always been my heartfelt dream to live on a hill with a sea view. Just a small tropical garden and maybe a few fruit trees, so I can observe nature close up and see something growing every day.
I have managed to find a small plot on a hillside with road access and unbelievable views of a white sandy beach and islands in the distance. It even has water and electricity available. I can’t wait to start building!
The trouble is, I have met a young local lady who is half my age and doesn’t share my dream of a hillside villa. I am very much attracted to her but it is a constant source of argument between us that she prefers something in a valley close to the kampong village where she is from. The constant smell of burning refuse and plastic waste is always in the air and I don’t think I could be happy if I built my home in such a place. What should I do?
MR FIXER: Change your girlfriend and keep the view!
QUESTION: Since coming to the beautiful holiday island of Lombok, I have recently bought a PC computer so that I can connect to the world wide web via the new optic fibre cables that have been laid in Senggigi.
I was so excited with my new computer, I couldn’t wait to get back to my villa to get connected! I plugged all the wires in and the screen lit up and managed to get something going that allowed me to type a message and then, all of a sudden, the words on the screen went away. The screen wouldn’t accept anything when I typed.
A friend told me that I needed to look for a C: prompt on the screen. Not knowing what a C: prompt was, I asked what else could I look out for. My friend then asked if I could move the cursor around the screen.
“There isn’t a cursor” I said. “I told you, it won’t accept anything I type”.
“Does your monitor have a power indicator?” my friend asked.
“What’s a monitor?” I replied.
“It’s the thing with a screen on it that looks like a TV,” my friend continued. “Does it have a little light that tells you when it is on?”
“I don’t know” I replied.
“Well then, look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?” my friend asked.
“Yes, I think so” I replied.
“Great! Follow the cord to the plug and tell me if it’s plugged in to the wall.” said my agitated friend.
“Yes, it is.” I replied.
“When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?” my friend continued.
“No.” I replied.
“Well there are. Take another look and find the other cable,” I was instructed.
“Okay, here it is.” I joyously replied.
“Follow it, and tell me if it is plugged in securely at the back of your computer.”
“I can’t reach.” I said.
“Well lean over and maybe put your knee on something and take another look,” my friend demanded.
“Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle,” I said, “It is because it is dark.”
“Dark?” my friend asked.
“Yes, the light is off and the only light I have is coming in from the window.” I said.
“Well turn on the light,” my friend said.
“I can’t,” I said, “There is a power failure.” What am I doing wrong?
MR FIXER: The solution to this problem is quite simple. If you still have all the boxes the computer came in, with all the manuals and stuff, unplug the system and put everything back just like it was when you bought it and take it back to the store you bought it from and ask for your money back. Tell them you are too f…ing stupid to own a computer.
Who doesn’t dream of a tropical hideaway? The chance to escape to a warm tropical island; to swim in inviting blue waters and walk along empty white sand beaches; to sip a cold drink under swaying palm trees as the evening paints the sky with a glorious sunset palette, holds a special appeal for most of us.
True tropical hideaways are fast disappearing, even in an archipelago that boasts some of the most beautiful tropical locations in the world. For many, the Gili Islands off the northwest coast of Lombok fit the bill nicely, which is why these islands are the most popular destination in Lombok year round.
However, empty beaches are getting hard to find on bustling Gili Trawangan and even picturesque Gili Air is developing too quickly for those who seek blissful solitude. Gili Meno, the middle of the famous Gilis, seems to be the last bastion for the true escapologist.
Gili Meno is the most overlooked of the three Gilis and has received little publicity in the past, in comparison to Gili Trawangan and Gili Air. Flat as a pancake, and reached by outrigger boat in around 20 minutes from the mainland, it is possible to walk around the entire island in about one hour.
Elizabeth Gilbert put Gili Meno on the map with her bestseller “Eat, Love, Pray”, referring to the island briefly as the paradise escape to which she fled at the end of the novel. But even that author wrote scant details about the island she described as “… my ultimate truth and reconciliation hearing”; perhaps preferring to keep this tropical hideaway to herself, like many others who claim this island as their favourite Gili.
Meno has been content to hide in the shadow of the other two Gilis for years. Even tourism operators on the island are unconcerned at the slow pace of development – happy to let things grow at their own pace, as long as the charm of the island remains intact.
It is easy to understand why Gili Meno appeals to people who are looking to truly get away from it all. The little island is the ultimate in laid-back tropical indolence – long stretches of empty beaches; little thatched huts selling fresh juices, cold beers and tasty local foods; a dusty track winding along the shore, with signs pointing to small bungalows offering shelter and basic amenities to travellers not concerned with luxuries and mod cons.
This, unfortunately, is where the fantasy of a tropical hideaway usually falls apart for many of us. Cute thatched huts on the beach all too often turn out to be dusty and dirty rooms, sweltering in the heat with no air conditioning, and attracting bugs and creepy crawlies onto mean hard mattresses.
For those who like their island escapes to be a little more civilised, the opening of Tropical Hideaways Resort this month heralds a new direction for accommodation on Gili Meno.
Tropical Hideaways is the dream of Irish expat, Karl, who has lived on Meno for almost a decade, working as the manager of Blue Marlin Dive on the island. With a wealth of local knowledge and years of experience sourcing accommodation for divers and other travellers, Karl set about building a better standard of accommodation on the island. Together with his charming wife, Baety, he has created a quiet oasis that blends into the laid-back simplicity of the island, while giving travellers a comfortable holiday option.
Tropical Hideaway is located down the small lane alongside the Blue Marlin Dive shop, near the harbour on Gili Meno. The beach is just a couple of minutes walk away, but the sandstone coloured walls provide peace and seclusion from the beach scene.
Ten brick and tile bungalows sit in a pretty garden, complete with a restaurant, swimming pool and small kiddie’s pool. The rooms are spacious and modern, furnished with natural woods and decorated with crisp white and rich burgundy accents. Each bungalow is air conditioned, with a fully stocked mini bar, and tea and coffee making facilities. The modern bathrooms have large fresh water showers and western facilities. At the front is a small terrace with a padded seat for lounging, looking out over the garden.
The small restaurant, located between the swimming pool and the front of the resort, serves breakfasts and delicious Indonesian and western meals, including outstanding home-made beef burgers. The adjoining “Sunsets Bar” is perched on the rooftop and is the perfect place for relaxing with a cold beer or cocktail while watching the sunsets in the evening.
Tropical Hideaways makes an island escape accessible to discerning travellers and to families seeking more than a shack on the beach. The friendly staff, all of whom are Gili Meno locals, ensure that guests feel at home from the moment you arrive until it is time to tear yourself away.
At the moment, the resort is offering rooms at amazingly low “soft opening” rates, setting it far ahead of all comparable accommodation on the island. Early bookings are highly recommended… we predict this combination of quality and excellent value for money will keep this tropical hideaway fully booked in coming months!