Located just east of Bali, Lombok in many ways lives up to or exceeds the promotional term, “an unspoiled Bali”. With beautiful beaches, enchanting waterfalls, the large, looming volcano of Mount Rinjani combined with relatively few tourists, Lombok is indeed the paradisaical tropical island that many people still mistakenly imagine Bali to be now. The Lombok Strait separates Lombok and Bali. It is also part of the bio-geographical boundary between the fauna of Indo-Malaysia and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia. The boundary is known as the Wallacean Line, after Alfred Russell Wallace who first remarked upon the striking difference between animals of Indo-Malaysia and those of Australasia and how abrupt the boundary was between the two biomes. Calling Lombok paradise does not mean it is all things for all people. With a few exceptions, the natural landscape and the traditional way of life have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. As many people have described it “It’s like Bali 40 years ago”.
While tropical, hot and humid, Lombok is drier than neighbouring Bali, which makes it a particularly attractive option during the Oct-Apr rainy season (it rains on Lombok too, but rarely for more than an hour or two). The peak of the tourist season, though, is May-August.
The main local language is Bahasa Sasak, the language of the indigenous Sasak people of Lombok. Bahasa Sasak is normally spoken throughout Lombok and has dialectal variations across the island. Bahasa Indonesia is also spoken or at least understood by many local people and will normally be used in government offices, larger shops and businesses. In the more remote and undeveloped areas of Lombok however, Bahasa Indonesia is not frequently used and often cannot be understood by the local people, especially the elderly and those who have missed out on formal schooling. English is common in tourist areas and occasionally people involved in these sectors speak some other European languages.
The dominant Sasak culture in Lombok and the very restrained and quiet nature of its people may help explain why Lombok is less popular in terms of shopping, cuisine, and nightlife than Bali. Lombok is however becoming increasingly popular with surfers and tourists who want to relax in an inexpensive, tropical, un-crowded atmosphere, with many natural treasures and majestic scenery. Nothing happens quickly in Lombok and visitors who are stressed from their daily lives find Lombok a delightful place to unwind.
The anticipated tourism boom has been halted on several occasions. In 2000, mobs of the ethnic Sasak people, ostensibly provoked by fundamentalist Muslim agitators, diverted from a trip to Maluku, looted and burned churches as well as homes and businesses owned by Hindus and ethnic Chinese. These actions were actively resisted by many of the Sasak people and brought on a swift response from the authorities to protect the tourism precincts of the island. The bombing of nightclubs in Bali in 2002 and the further explosions in 2005 further exacerbated the fears held by foreign tourists. For many years the embassies of several countries have issued stern travel advisory warnings against travel to Indonesia. The ensuing years have remained very peaceful in Lombok. In the years 2010-2011 tourists appear to have regained some confidence that travel to the island is safe. The fears and apprehension amongst many international tourists concerning travel to Lombok appear to be entirely unsupported. Aside from minor and very isolated incidents of petty theft and the normal dangers of travelling on the roads in Indonesia the island remains a quiet, peaceful and safe destination for visitors. Lombok is a relaxing place, the warm tropical sun can slowly melt away the sense of urgency away from the normal hurried pace for most visitors.
The word lombok means “chilli pepper” in Bahasa Indonesia however the local cuisine isn’t quite as spicy as you might expect. The local word for chilli is sebie in Bahasa Sasak and the name of the island of Lombok is derived from the word meaning straight in the local Sasak language not from any connection with the local chilli’s as many people believe. Probably the best known local dish is ayam taliwang, although nobody seems to be able to agree on the exact recipe: most interpretations involve chicken coated with a rich red sauce flavoured with galangal, turmeric and tomato, which can be either mild or searingly hot.
Generally the least expensive and most popular item on the menu is nasi campur or mixed rice. This dish is a complete meal served on a single plate, usually consisting of rice and vegetable ingredients often incorporating either tofu (tahu), tempeh (tempe), chicken (ayam), beef (sapi), fish (ikan), peanuts (kacang), together with a wide variation of cooked vegetables. As the name suggests, the meal can be a mixture of many different items, at times some may be a little difficult to accurately identify and the style and ingredients will vary from place to place. A dab of spicy red paste called sambal (basically stone ground red chilli peppers) is placed somewhere near the side of the plate. Sambal is the universal condiment served on Lombok and is extremely hot to the palate of most tourists, so use with care.
Most restaurants also offer a large variety of international foods including banana pancakes, pizza, beef steak and other traveller’s favourites. Also available are numerous small local restaurants, called warung, cater primarily to the local population. The savvy traveller will discover these small restaurants serve a variety of delicious local food at a very low price.
1. Smile and great people, especially elders.
2. Shake hands, gently.
3. Be sure to sit at the same level as other people.
4. Be polite to each other.
5. Use only the right hand to eat and hand objects or money to someone.
6. Accept hospitality and food, you don’t have to eat and drink, but it’s polite to accept.
7. Dress modestly. Women should keep upper arm and things covered.
8. Bend down and walk around seated people when you need to pass.
9. Say good-bye to people when you leave.
1. Enter houses, buildings or village without being invited.
2. Wear shoes inside a house.
3. Point at people with your finger.
4. Don’t ever use your foot to point at an object or people.
5. Point the bottom of your feet directly at people whilst sitting on the floor.
6. Touch anyone’s head.
7. Step over people or food on the floor.
8. Eat with your left hand, or use your left hand to give or accept object or money.
9. Raise your voice, especially in anger