Local foodies favour the harbour town of Kota Tua Ampenan (below) – Lombok’s historic centre – for well-loved eateries flanked by elegantly faded Dutch colonial-era shophouses. Try Rumah Makan Ramayana’s rich, spice-laden soto ayam (chicken soup with egg noodles and bean sprouts) with a generous lashing of fiery sambal (chilli paste), or the thin, crispy martabak (fried flatbread with minced lamb) sold from pushcarts. At weekends, join the locals strolling along the lively pier, where you can watch the sun melt into the sea over grilled fish, plecing kangkung (water spinach with sambal) and icy desserts sold by the beach.
Undeniably, one of the highlights of Lombok for adventure-seekers is the imposing Mount Rinjani, a 3,726m-high active volcano that looms over chartreuse paddy fields. If the challenging three-day trek to the crater lake (below) at its summit is anathema to you, linger instead in Sembalun, one of its two gateways where hikers typically start their journey. Ringed by mist-wreathed mountains, the valley is Indonesia’s answer to Shangri-La. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood here, and you can wend your way along fields of strawberries, cabbages and potatoes with a full view of the mighty volcano.
The trinity of Gili islands off the north-west coast of Lombok entices speedboat-loads of sun worshippers. The most developed of the three, Gili Trawangan, is synonymous with bacchanalian nocturnal dance parties that reverberate from the likes of Blue Marlin Dive Gili Trawangan and FRii Gili Trawangan Pandawa Resort. Though decidedly more laid-back, Gili Air (below), too, is worth visiting for its beachside bars and design-savvy boutique resorts. Over at Gili Meno, check in to cosseted seclusion at Bask Resort, an 87-villa beachfront property set to open in 2019. It also boasts an underwater sculpture garden by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor and private residences – David Hasselhoff has apparently purchased his own slice of tropical paradise here.
Lesser-known yawning bays and wave-lapped beaches beckon at the southern coast of Kuta Lombok, the island’s up-and-coming surfing hotspot. Here, seasoned surfers ride the swells at Seger Beach, while swimmers head for the calm waters of the shimmering Tanjung Aan Beach – earmarked as a development area within the massive Mandalika tourism development zone. For those who prefer to hit the water with a little guidance, water sports operator Whatsup? Lombok (below) offers everything from surfing to stand-up paddleboarding lessons – under the tutelage of experienced instructors.
Made by hand
The gleaming Lombok Epicentrum Mall may call out to you, but if you want to eschew the mass-produced for artisanal handicrafts, head instead to Sukarara Village in Central Lombok. Here, local craftswomen weave fabrics (songket) with intricate traditional motifs. Within Mataram city itself, you can purchase hand-carved wooden statues, rattan knick-knacks and artworks at Sayang Sayang Art Market (Jalan Jend. Sudirman, Rembiga, Cakranegara, Kota Mataram).
– TEXT BY CARA YAP
PHOTOS: 123RF.COM, ALAMY (CLICK PHOTOS), WHATSUP? LOMBOK / INGGIT PRAMONO
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.