Lombok has an inviting air to it. The soft sea breeze hitting your face the minute you step on the island is like a glucose shot — it perks you up instantly! After a smooth check-in at the resort, our group headed for dinner at Puri Mas Spa Resort. As people around us got busy with indulging in Indonesian cuisine, I could only patiently wait for the morning to explore the beauty of Lombok. The next day was reserved for paying my respects at the Pura Batu Bolong temple, which is located on a rocky periphery in a bay on the south of Senggigi. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, women have to wrap a mandatory waistband before entering the premises. A lady outside the temple offers long strips of cloth for this. Batu refers to stone and bolong to a hole. The temple gets its name because it is situated on a black rock, which has a hole through which the waves of the Lombok Strait wash up.
Our guide informs us that it is during full moon nights that the temple welcomes hordes of devotees. The beach called Batulayar near the temple has unique rock formations that are estimated to be around a million years old. There is a seating area outside the temple, and visitors can sip fresh coconut water, or take their pick from fresh fruit cuts such as raw mango, papaya, watermelon and red jamun. As you relish these fruits, take some time to soak in the serenity by gazing at the Lombok Strait as the sun sets. Cilok, which is basically chicken dumplings, are also on offer. Pearl jewellery consisting of bracelets, necklaces and rings are also sold, while ladies offer you a foot massage.
Rejuvenated, it was time to saunter on Senggigi beach. The entire beach has an impressive lineup of five-star hotels and resorts. Relishing fresh coconut water, you can get your foot, neck or back massaged. While at the beach, I tried Lombok’s sweet mango, which is smaller in size compared to the mangoes that we get in India. But, in all honesty, it is just as delicious as the one back home. Talking about fruits one can indulge in, durian is one thing you cannot miss when visiting Lombok. It resembles a jackfruit in appearance, with a very strong, pungent smell and an acquired taste. Probably the smelliest fruit in the entire world, it has a strange combination of sweet, savoury and creamy tastes, all at once. Don’t miss the Islamic center, the icon of Lombok and the recipient of a Halal Award. It was constructed to fill the lacuna of guests not being able to eat and drink at marriages that were conducted inside mosques. The centre has a ballroom and an Islamic library.
Throughout my stay in Indonesia, the brightly coloured sarongs kept catching my eye and I requested our guide to take us to a weaving village to which he happily obliged. At Sukarara village, traditional hand-weaving is known as songket and it is an intrinsic part of sasak culture. Sasak is the indigenous community of Lombok. Our host for the trip also explained to us how songket is done while I watched live demonstrations. The custom followed in this village is that all the women must know and learn how to weave, in order to be eligible for marriage. It is also a way to ensure that the art is passed on from generation to generation. It’s mostly the girls who start learning how to weave from their mothers at the age of about 10. Bamboo sticks are used to weave the design.
Sarongs with a simple design can take about two weeks to weave, while the more complex patterned ones could be in works for a good month or so. The material used in making these sarongs is cotton, which is also handspun. One of the most interesting bits about the sarong is that the colours used for dyeing are all natural. For example, the red is made from betel nut, chilli and flowers while brown from tamarind and coffee. Saffron imparts an orange colour. Apart from sarongs, scarves, bed covers and dress material are also woven here. The first customary design is called subahnal and refers to a panorama of rice terraces. Bintang, meaning star and bulan meaning moon, are other typical designs.
Souvenir shopping done, it was time for island hopping as Lombok is a convenient base for visiting islands. I recommend a visit to Gili Trawangan and we drove to the Teluk Kodek harbour to take the boat there. Teluk Kodek harbor is the private harbor and the two boat options include speedboats for groups below 10 and slow boat for groups between 10-20 people. I didn’t even realise when the 30 minutes passed as I was enjoying the water clarity, its mesmerising hues and the boats passing us on their way back to Lombok from Gili. Some boats were on a fishing spree and had caught tuna and red snipers. Gili Trawangan is an exotic gem waiting to be discovered and you will not be able to stop clicking pictures as there is something waiting to be discovered at every nook and corner. If you are a spa person, then there is a samba massage or the traditional Lombok massage apart from Balinese, Thai and refloxology or foot massages. Highly recommended, you must not miss out on a relaxing massage before you end your Indonesian sojurn.
— Khursheed Dinshaw is a Pune-based travel and lifestyle writer and blogger who writes about travel, heritage, food and culture