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LOMBOK - Lombok is the perfect alternative to its more crowded and busier neighbor, Bali. When you visit Lombok island, you will see a mixture of the cultures of Bali and Lombok, but if you visit only Bali island you certainly cannot view the culture of Lombok. Home to Sasak people, who migrated to Lombok from East Java as the Hindu Majapahit Empire fell at the end of the 14th century, the island is rich in natural and cultural treasures, which have not yet been exploited for tourism.
The majority of the island\'s population is Muslim, and Hindu and Christian communities are also present. While Bali is known as the island of a thousand temples, Lombok is famous as the land of a thousand mosques. The arts of the Sasak are unique. This is because the Muslim Sasaks have mingled with Balinese Hindus in a mixture that has enhanced the island\'s cultural and traditional attractions. This mixture is manifested in numerous architectural and cultural treasures.
Lombok, located 50 kilometers east of Bali and measuring 80 kilometers north to south and about 70 kilometers east to west, is a much drier and tougher island than the fertile Bali. This is why Lombok is often called "Bumi Gora", which in the Sasak language means Dry Farmland. Geographically, Lombok is very unique. It is believed that the evolutionary distinction between Asian and Australian types of flora and fauna begins in Lombok. Alfred Russel Wallace believed that the depth of the Lombok Strait prevented species from migrating from Asia to Australia.
Hoping to follow the lead of the prosperous Bali, Lombok has been luring investors to develop tourist facilities in a number of areas, including Senggigi beach, the Gili islands, Kuta, Suranadi, Mount Rinjani and numerous other beautiful and historical places. Senggigi beach is the first well-planned tourist resort in Lombok. Located about 15 kilometers from Mataram, the provincial capital of West Nusa Tenggara, and near the Selaparang airport, the 30-kilometer coastline is filled with numerous star-rated hotels like the Jayakarta, the Senggigi Beach hotel, the Sheraton Hotel and other luxury villas.
Similar to resort areas in Bali, Senggigi also contains numerous restaurants, bars, Internet cafes and art and jewelry shops offering everything from beautiful rattan and wood items to pearl and gold jewelry. From Senggigi, it is a short trip to the Gili islands, which comprises three major islands -- Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan and Gili Air. These three islands, located off the northwest coast of Lombok, provide visitors, especially young and adventurous travelers, with an amazing underwater landscape. And the beaches are clean and pristine.
Diving and snorkeling are very popular activities in the clear waters of these islands, which also boast beautiful coral reefs. You can rent equipment for snorkeling and diving at a local professional dive operator. The biggest of the three islands is Gili Trawangan, where you can find inexpensive but attractive lodgings and restaurants. The Gili islands can be reached by boat from Senggigi beach and Bangsal.
In the northern part of the island, visitors are able to enjoy the scenic panorama of the Sembalun valley, one of the highest areas in eastern Indonesia, and Senaru, a deep valley on the slopes of Mount Rinjani. There are no glittering tourist facilities like hotels here, but tremendous trekking and exploration opportunities abound. The main towns on Lombok island are Mataram, Ampenan, Cakranegara and Sweta. There are a lot of attractions in these cities, including museums, Hindu temples and the Mayura water palace, which was formerly a palace of the Balinese kingdom which ruled the island.
Lombok has few touches of modernity. There is only one big department store, the Mataram Mall in Cakranegara, which offers such modern amenities as McDonald\'s and other fast-food chains. But why eat food you can find anywhere, when you can enjoy the dish Lombok is famous for: the spicy and hot Ayam Taliwang, which is roasted young chicken covered with chili and spices. Visiting Lombok\'s traditional villages is very worthwhile. Lombok is well known for its pottery and traditional textiles. Banyumulek and Penunjak are known as centers of pottery, while Sukaraya is renowned as a textile center.

Posted in Tourism @ 27 May 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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