Lombok has actually been pretty different than Bali. It’s more rural and it’s not uncommon to see horse-drawn carriages sharing the road with the motorbikes and SUV’s. The island is predominately Muslim, so now the local Mosque’s call to prayer wakes us up at dawn. It’s like Indonesia is determined to keep us sleep deprived. The people here have been much nicer than the people of Bali. We think that’s maybe because they don’t get as many tourists here, so they are genuinely curious when they meet foreigners.
The ferry ride from Bali to Lombok was quite interesting. It was the first time we used public transportation in Indonesia. Before the ferry left the port, tons and tons of vendors came on board, trying to sell snacks to the passengers. There were more vendors than passengers. Some of the tourists sitting next to us starting buying from them. Apparently haggling over prices doesn’t have to be so cold and serious, which was a good lesson for me to see. The hawkers were really good natured and funny. Everybody was joking around and laughing. Then a small band started playing and then asked all of us for tips. It was a very different experience, to say the least.
Once in Lombok, we spent a couple of days in Mataram, which I actually really enjoyed. There are no tourists in Mataram because there’s not much to see. The one major site, the Water Palace, is pretty much just a few statues around a pond filled with garbage. We didn’t even bother to take pictures of it. But they have a mall and a big night market scene with really good street food. Best of all, there were no hawkers harassing us. When people came up to us and asked where we were from and what we were doing, they walked away without even trying to sell us anything. This is very different from Bali, where everyone is always trying to sell you everything.
After spending a few days enjoying street food and air conditioning in Mataram, we went on to Kuta. Kuta, Lombok is the polar opposite of Kuta, Bali. The Kuta here is just a small town with one main road along the gorgeous beach. There aren’t any huge hotels or restaurant chains (yet), just lots of small places to have a beer along the beach. The only annoyance was children constantly coming up and trying to sell us bracelets, but they were surprisingly charismatic, so even they weren’t much of a problem.
From there we went on to Sengiggi, another nice beach town. I was having a great time, until I got sick. Of course that was the day we had decided to stay in a cheap guest house to save some money. I had to spend the whole day throwing up in this tiny, dirty, crappy place. The toilet didn’t even flush, so I had to fill up a bucket of water and pour it down after every puke. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, the power went out. Not only did our fan stop working, but the water must have been hooked up to an electric pump, because there was no water available either. Needless to say, it was really an awful day.
The next morning I didn’t feel great, but I was done vomiting, so we decided to head out to Gili Trawangan. Getting here was quite the pain: we were scammed by the owner of that dingy place (she said the price of our transport included the ferry ride, when it didn’t) and had to walk through this gauntlet of the most obnoxious hawkers at the port. Seriously, I’ve never met people as rude and irritating as those hawkers. Even other locals were telling them they needed to be more polite to “the guests of Indonesia.” After wandering around in the heat for a few minutes, getting wrong directions from several of them, we found the official ticket booth. The narrow, wooden boat we took over was filled with both passengers and baskets of produce.
And here we are, in paradise. Gili Trawangan, or “Gili T,” is one of three tiny islands off the coast of Lombok. The sand is white, the water is crystal clear and there’s no motorized traffic, just the occasional bicycle or horse. Gili T has the reputation as a party island, probably because there are many bars advertising “Fucking Bloody Sexy Fresh Magic Mushrooms,” but I haven’t found it too obnoxious at all. The bars and restaurants are all really fun, if over-priced, and there’s also a night market with good, cheap food. How can you not love sitting on cushions in bamboo huts on the beach, looking out at the turquoise water? This is the type of place you never want to leave.
The other two islands, Gili Meno and Gili Air, are almost empty and even more laid-back. We’re planning on visiting them next and maybe doing some scuba diving. That is, if Brad can ever convince me to leave this beach. Seems highly unlikely at this point.