“Lombok is often compared to neighboring Bali. Such comparisons miss the point. Step onto the empty airport tarmac and smell the fresh air as you glimpse a distant volcano and you’ll feel the Lombok difference. Rural and untouched, blessed with eco-jewels and friendly people, Lombok is packed with things to do – yet not packed with visitors.”

Convinced by those words on SilkAir’s website, I went to Lombok early last month.

Voilà! Here’s what I found:

I stepped onto a crowded airport tarmac filled with suffocating kretek smoke.

I glimpsed a huge KFC sign.

The place was smoky, hot and humid.

It wasn’t until my last night in Lombok – at Senggigi beach – when the haze has cleared that I saw a mountain in the distance:


However, in general, the scenery is wonderful. Just plain heavenly. The sand is so fine and its consistency is unique.


Horses and carts are everywhere. Of course there are motorbikes and cars too.

I bumped into a joyous wedding procession.

The entire village turned out to celebrate, dancing on the street:


They even had a mobile band!


And of course a captive audience as well:


Even the street was decorated:


For food, there’s plenty of fruits:


Lombok has some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted but for fiery feasting, look no further. Seafood is a good bet, like Sate Ikan Tanjung – snapper or tuna grilled with coconut milk and spices or the essentially Lombok Sasak dish Ayam Taliwang, young kampong chicken grilled with chilli.

Here’s a fish vendor I came across:


Shopping-wise red earthen pots and indigenous cukli furniture engraved with pearl shells await buyers. Here’s a pottery worker:


And a woman selling a rattler:


On the beach, peddlers are a bloody nuisance but they are cheerful and good-natured. They sell at absolutely rock-bottom prices some very beautiful, lustrous south sea pearls – some of these pearls are near to flawless – and beautiful hand-woven ikat materials.

You may want to rough it out and pay back-packer prices but I stayed at a top-end hotel yet the restaurant was full of flies, the room was smelly, infested with ants, and I came home with 27 very itchy mosquito bites on my left leg. I didn’t bother counting those on my other two legs.

Here’s how our luggage was transported to our chalet; the perfect picture to depict the Lombok I know – laid back, rural, relatively uncontaminated by hordes of obnoxious “ang moh” tourists who always behave as if they own the places they visit; so go check it out before that happens!


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