One Week in Lombok: Some of our Favorite Things

Now that I’ve gotten out all that negativity regarding things to be wary of in Lombok, Rich and I thought it was time to discuss some of the best aspects of the trip for us.

The Surfing (Obviously)

Without a doubt, the reason why we go to Lombok is for the surf. There may not be as many breaks in Lombok as in Bali, Hawaii etc., nor are they as tough (excluding Desert Point), but the area has some of the most consistent surf in the world. The surf here works all year long, though is noticeably better in the dry season (April – November), when swells can reach 6-12ft (2-4m), twice that of the wet season. The swell is also very flexible. There were days when we could go from riding eggs through glassy, perfect A-frames, to chasing fast moving barrels – all you had to do was jump on your bike and move to the next spot.

On top of the waves, being in the line-up was a surprisingly nice experience. When surfing in several other locations, there is a certain level of hostility between surfers. We’re taught to stay away from certain types of people, and certain types of boards, for the sake of maintaining and catching our own waves. However, especially in Gerupuk, everyone seemed really friendly. That might play in with the types of people that Lombok attracts, but I have never met so many pleasant and uncompetitive surfers.

The surf at Mawi, Lombok
The surf at Mawi, Lombok

Lack of Mass Tourism

What makes Lombok so much more appealing to myself than somewhere like Bali is the relative lack of tourists. When I was last in Bali, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of foreigners and the locals catering to them. I couldn’t walk down the street without throngs of people screaming, “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” at me, or trying to entice me into their shops, or into their taxis; people would grab at my bag as their motorbike passed me. Hotels were staggeringly overpriced, with simple rooms costing well over US$100 a night and the Hard Rock Café making its presence well known.

Lombok, on the other hand, is peaceful. The only time that people will try to hard sell you on anything is when the children press their bracelets into your hands, or women try to sell you coconuts as you prep for a surf session. The majority of younger foreigners have yet to migrate over to the island, so the night is quiet (excluding the chanting coming from local mosques), and no one feels the need to scream at you from the side of the road. It’s much cheaper too – we stayed at a great little homestay, complete with free breakfast, and two pools for just over US$30 a night.

A boat takes surfers out to the break in Gerupuk
A boat takes surfers out to the break in Gerupuk

The Food

With a name that is loosely translated to “chili”, you can expect that eating is going to be a pretty integral part of Lombok’s culture – it’s really quite great. For the adventurous, the local food has an abundance of exotic tastes, textures, aromas and spices. The local “Sasak” food may not be as well known as Balinese or Padang, but it is no less varied or enjoyable, and there are plenty of options, and, unless you’re eating at the Novotel, it’s all cheap. I ate so much nasi goreng. Yum!

The seafood is a must try. The fish is generally caught earlier that day, and covered in spices and rich marinades. I didn’t even realize that crustaceans like the prawns we ate there could be so large. The prawns looked to be about the size of a lobster!

If you get tired of the local food or just need something that tastes like home, there is also a lot of easy access to Italian and Indian food within Kuta, with many roadside restaurants advertising their pizza and hamburger options.

When you’re eating though, just make sure that everything is cooked all the way through. Some members of our group did suffer from stomach bugs. Most problems went away after a day, but some lasted for about 5 days!

Giant prawns at Warung Bule!
Giant prawns at Warung Bule!

The Commute

Driving around Lombok was a blast. I love riding around on scooters; it is an adrenaline rush, and who doesn’t love the feeling of the wind roaring through your hair?

The main road from Kuta going west is amazing. It has been recently paved over and made into a two lane road. The road goes over and between hills, through valleys and the entire way through you can stare out onto vast fields and the ocean. We could go as quickly or as slowly as we liked without fear of launching ourselves into a pothole.

For me though, the best part of driving around was the traffic. Coming from Hong Kong, I was getting used to never being able to move quickly or without having to stop sharply or dodge around people more interested in Candy Crush than not getting hit by passing buses and cars while crossing the road. Here though, the most we had to worry about was the cows or chickens that would meander out into the middle of the road. You just can’t wave your fists at a cow the way you would someone who was unable to look away from their phone… I could not get enough of those cows.

The only complaint I have about the commute is that not enough of the roads are paved. We probably spent most of our time on bikes going back and forth to Gerupuk, and most of the road getting there is uneven and full of ditches. But even then, we’d drive through the dirt and it’d be just as entertaining as cruising down the nicer road to spots like Mawi. I fully expect though that most of these roads will be cleaned up and paved over within the next few years. It’s already much better now that it was 3 years ago.

Cows crossing the road between Kuta and Selong Blanak
Cows crossing the road between Kuta and Selong Blanak

The People

There are going to be kind people wherever you go, but some of the locals in Lombok really take it to the next level.

I’ve stayed at the same homestay during both my trips to Lombok. A local woman, Yuli, and her Kiwi husband, Mike, run this homestay. During my first trip out, Yuli and I spent hours chatting, and she even invited me to attend a local wedding with her. She took me out to get my hair and make up done, rented out an appropriate dress for me to wear, explained the various wedding traditions to me (the bride is essentially kidnapped from her parents home by the groom and his friends! It’s all consensual though), introduced me to everyone, and helped translate for me when needed. I was so shocked by how out of her way she went to introduce me to her culture and to her friends.

Everyone at the wedding was so excited to see me there as well! It might be because I’m half Asian and my features are not dissimilar from most locals, but they all treated me like a daughter of Indonesia, coming home for the first time. It was heartwarming to see, and it did help restore my faith in humanity.

This second trip back to Indonesia was, as previously mentioned, 3 years later, and I wasn’t certain that Yuli would remember me any longer. After all, it had been some time and she would have seen countless travellers pass through the homestay. However, as soon as I got out of the van that picked us up from the airport, she spotted me and gave me a massive hug to welcome me back. Rich was so surprised by how friendly we were that he later asked me if Yuli was a good friend of mine.

It’s not just Yuli and her friends either. It was just about everyone we encountered. If we were just asking directions, someone would come up to us, shake our hands, tell us every bit of information we might want to know about where we were and our surroundings with a huge smile (a surprising number of locals speak pretty darn good English), and then send us on our way.

A wedding procession in Kuta
A wedding procession in Kuta

Needless to say, I love it in Lombok. I hope that we’ll be able to return soon.

 

 

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