Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, the largest country in SE Asia and contains the largest Muslim population in the world. Lombok is one of over 18 000 islands and is a great place from which to access a number of other islands including the Gilis and Bali.
Getting to Lombok
Getting to Lombok is relatively straight forward with flights arriving from destinations such as other Indonesian islands, Malaysia and Singapore. We arrived from KL using Air Asia which was a cheap and friendly service. If you are already in Indonesia on a neighbouring island it is often much easier to access Lombok by water with a number of boats (including fast speed boats, chartered boats and public ferries) making land along the western coast of the island.
Top Tip: if arriving by plane be prepared for a lot of hassle when you leave through the arrivals hall. There will be many individuals trying to persuade you to use their “taxi service” and they will even try to convince you there are no other taxis or buses available. If you want a taxi head for “blue bird” taxis and ensure they use the meter or just before you leave the arrivals hall there is a bus ticket counter on the left which is a much more cost effective way to travel on the island.
We opted for a stop over of one night in Senggigi on the way up to the Gili Islands. We arrived by taking the public bus from the airport for only 35 000 IDR. If you inform the driver of where you are staying he might (like in our case) stop outside for you. We had pre-booked the Hotel Bumi Aditya which is a short walk off the main road. It was a beautiful place to stay with small bungalows containing a double bed, fan, TV, wardrobe, ensuite and access to a pool. There was even breakfast thrown in and all for 150 000 IDR (about £7.50) a night (which we think was pretty good considering we had only booked it a couple of nights before!!
Senggigi doesn’t have that much – it is just a long road with places to see, eat and all backing onto a beautiful beach. Finding somewhere to eat whilst we looked out to sea was our main priority on arrival followed by a walk, hand-in-hand along the beach. The locals seemed friendly with some even coming to practice their English – a hint of Australian was heard as they talked to us, reminding us that these islands are popular for Aussie tourists in much the same way as the Mediterranean is popular to the British.
Watching the sunset seems to be a favourite activity for both locals and tourists alike and if you like to shop there are many hawkers, stalls and even an art market for you to try out your haggling skills to grab a bargain. Following sunset the lack of much local light means if you can get away from the main strip (as we could at our hotel) a cloudless night can yield a wealth of stargazing and for us – the first time looking at stars in the Southern Hemisphere.
Eating out in Senggigi in the evening was a little tricky at first due to a local power cut which meant that several places had closed early and the rest were being illuminated by candle light. However, this is often a local occurrence and the locals were not worried and well prepared. We were recommended to visit Warung Ijo – a “Warung” is a small family-owned business like a cafe/restaurant. It was here we tried some local food opting for Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng where ‘Nasi’ is rice, ‘Mie’ is noodles and ‘Goreng’ is fried! Little did I know we were going to be eating a lot of this but it was tasty and so cheap (less than £1 per meal) so no complaints from us.
Senggigi to the Gili Islands
There are lots of other places that are worth a visit in Lombok but we had planned to head up to the Gili Islands. Everyone will want to take you, trying to convince you that their taxi, car or bus is the cheapest/fastest/newest/nicest! We ended up in a shuttle bus to Bangsal for 25 000 IDR per person which was much cheaper than we had been quoted (our first attempt at haggling seemed to work!) but at the same time we were sure there were even cheaper options around.
Top Tip: a number of highly read publications had warned of getting a combo bus and boat ticket as the boat section wasn’t always official. We therefore opted for a shuttle to the harbour only which worked out fine as you will read in our Gili post where we were able to arrange the public boat across.