YOGYAKARTA - Back to Lombok after almost two years - my last visit to this beautiful and quiet island east of the messy Bali dates back to January 2005 - I noticed that certain things had changed, and too bad not only for the good of the island. It has nothing to do with increased tourist numbers to the island or the fact that big positive points are to be awarded.
Lombok itself hasn't changed much. The island is an oasis of peace when you travel to this island from the bustling islands west of it, like Bali and Java. Most tourists can be found in the western part of the island, but not in the urban area of Mataram (in fact it's four towns grown together; Mataram, Cakranegara, Ampenan and Sweta), but in the western village of Senggigi, located between the beach and the foothills of an old volcanic chain.
Elsewhere you will not find the average foreign tourist. Not that there is nothing to see on the island itself, there is plenty to see, but you have to know it of course. What to think about Gunung Rinjani volcano, Tete Batu (a cool mountain resort), traditional Sasak-villages and beautiful white beaches which surround the island. Diving is possible in many places as well. The most well known places are the so-called 'Gili's', three islands off the northwestern coast of Lombok. Elsewhere there are more gili to be visited, gili means island.
Lembar is for many a place of arrival or departure from or to Lombok. This is the western harbor of the island, located at a 30-minute drive towards the south from the provincial capital Mataram. Senggigi is another 20 minutes to the north from here. Ampenan used to be the harbor place for people arriving from other islands, but this one is not in use anymore. The new harbor of Lembar replaced it. In Ampenan you will only find some fishermen and their boats.
The harbor of Lembar is a not too big seaport with just a few mooring points for ferries. A little away from this passenger terminal you will find a cargo terminal. As a tourist you will probably not go there because of all the checkpoints that have to make it impossible to enter that part of the harbor. Own experience learns that not stopping at the entrance - don't buy a ticket - and a friendly face to the police officer in charge helps you get to the ships. The day that I visited, there was not much to do, amazement everywhere when they saw a Caucasian appearing in the freight terminal.
The passenger terminal however is a completely different story. Like at every harbor you have to buy entrance tickets here. It's just a few thousand Rupiah, several dozen eurocent's. Directly after you pass the entrance you will be besieged by many people who will give you tickets to make the trip by ferry. Don't buy them with them - the so-called calo (middlemen) - but at the official booth in the terminal building. These calo will do everything to let you buy their tickets. Nonsense, you for sure don't need to buy them there.
That day I just wanted to get into the harbor and not use the ferry, because I had just arrived there. The events from that day of arrival however made me bring another visit to the place, to observe and photograph some things. That was experienced as something strange, someone who wanted to get in the harbor but didn't want to use the boat. And still it was true. It took a while before all people agreed with that, understanding that I most likely indeed didn't want to go with today's ferries.
However banners tell visitors to buy their tickets directly at the ticket booths, that seems to be a useless thing as well in the harbor of Lembar.
Two days earlier it was that I arrived in the harbor with a local Lombok person. It was in the hottest part of the day, under the burning sun on the big black asphalt parking lot. At least 50°C in the sun. Quite bad circumstances that are and all that I wanted was a taxi to go 'home', family that was, although not mine. Then it also cost quite some effort that I didn't want to have transport, I wanted a taxi, a Lombok Taxi (part of the Blue Bird Group) to be more precise.
"They are not here!" was shouted from big distances everywhere around. At the entrance, about 200 meters way, I happened to see a Lombok Taxi enter. That was a positive coincidence as I just wanted to use that one. The blue taxi moved quickly towards the terminal building. "The passengers must have been in a hurry," I remind myself thinking. When stopping, two travelers got out, Indonesian people with their many bags were directly 'attacked' by a dozen 'helpers', at least it seemed that way from a distance. They seemed to be more interested in the fact that there was a Lombok Taxi than helping the travelers, while they are normally eager to rip the luggage out of your hands in such circumstances.
I signaled that I wanted to use the taxi. Almost like in panic the driver signaled that he would not take passengers here, pointing at the exit. After that it was speeding up and moving out right away. One person out of the group that was near the taxi when the passengers got out was able to keep up with the car and hit the trunk with his flat hand. "What's going on here?" I was thinking. Time to go to the exit then, looking for that same Lombok Taxi, because he would wait for his passengers for sure. Customers is money of course.
Directly a small group of people gathered around us, assuring us that we should use the means of transport offered by them. These were several minibuses with a correct yellow license plate, but a bigger part of the transportation offered was simply private cars. Earlier experiences told me that I just not to accept this in any way. Now we didn't even talk about the price yet, no I had to take a seat right away and things like that. Ooh well, I don't think so.
One of the men - little overweight, little moustache and beard - could barely keep up with us as I had already started walking more quickly to get out of the harbor as soon as possible. Droplets of sweat on his face, just like with me. I wanted to go away; a good welcome to Lombok was not possible anymore at this point. Words were exchanged between me and the stubborn guy as well as my travel partner and that same person. Partly in Bahasa Indonesia but also in the local language, so I assumed they were not all nice words, since I wasn't allowed to understand so it seams.
"Yeah, you get the police!" the conversation continued the man in the dirty and wet shirt in Indonesian. From that moment on I was able to follow it again. I already knew that the conversation was not a very friendly one, but that they had already arrived at this point was beyond my expectations. I told my traveling partner just to talk on, because I noticed a Lombok Taxi again, parked and all, just inside the harbor gate. The driver already noticed us and continued his cleaning efforts. This one also rejected our question to bring us away, we first had to be checked out at the police (during the busy period around the end of the Ramadan month there are many id-checks), KTP of my traveling partner was checked thoroughly while the man still kept on yelling. They didn't ask me anything, I could walk on without being checked.
This was also the first time that I saw any police, they didn't venture far from the entrance. Why, I didn't know at that time, but I was to find out rather quickly. It was just a hundred meters again to the bus terminal. There also was a small crowd of those irritating people, but there also were two Lombok Taxi's, ready to be used. That was what I was looking for. The driver opened the trunk. Soon after I placed our luggage there I closed it again, so we could get away from this place. One of the people spoke to the driver in a local language. Kind of loud, so probably not only a 'See you later!' as well.
A helping hand from the driver
After that I had reassured myself that there were not only a couple of drivers who still dared to go here, I could write down his name for later use with confidence. I will not state the full name here of course, but a simple 'J' is enough to indicate the driver. The air-conditioning was on, the windows were closed and before I knew it we were on the main road towards the north. It would take half an hour, long enough for me to find out what happened here exactly.
"From where are these regulations, from pemda [regional government] or from inside the harbor?" I asked with confidence, if the driver in the blue Lombok Taxi shirt didn't want to answer that question he would for sure be silent about it, certainly against a foreigner which just happened to be in his taxi at this moment.
"From within the harbor itself," with a painful smile on his face. An answer I didn't expect, and it was quite shocking as well. He was very clear about the fact that the people inside the harbor were the boss there. Police who entered the harbor area are usually quick to get outside again. Power here was not in the hands of the government, but in the hands of a group of preman (self-appointed rulers) from West Lombok. They had seized power in the first months of 2005. Even ticket prices were in fact controlled by them. The advice 'buy your ticket at the ticket booth' was in fact useless as well, because they have the same tariffs that are used by the earlier named calo. Ticket sales by ASDP (state ferry company) were in fact also controlled by these preman.
During the ride I was also informed that the airport in Ampenan, a part of the capital Mataram, had undergone the same transition. Here also had preman the last word, but the actual seizure of power only happened a few weeks earlier. It seemed that they wanted to be sure of their Ramadan-salary, and so it happened. Several days later I brought a visit to Selaparang airport. The situation was more friendly than in Lembar. Maybe the authority had been returned to those who it had belonged to?
This Lombok Taxi had just seconds to remove itself from the harbor area. This is a recurring event in the harbor of Lembar.
No, that was not the case I heard from other people later. Yeah, it's nice to ask people in their own language about the more precarious subjects. Things that are usually avoided during the simple conversations between 'foreigners'. I asked for it directly and not much later a discussion had formed. There indeed were groups of preman in the harbor of Lembar and the Selaparang airport. The local government didn't seem to have profit from it when taking action against it so it seemed, nor did the police. And that's how it's possible that right now the harbor and the airport in West Lombok are both 'free trade zones', but not just an official one, it's a free trade zone for criminals, because that's what these preman really are and nothing less.
That there are government officials and police officers that have themselves bribed for a few euros a month is nothing short of simple logics. They will not choose for the option to get fired, so their low income will be a little bit higher when they simply accept these facts. It's not strange in Indonesia that for a governmental job (police, civil servant) huge payments are done. Amounts of several dozens of millions of Rupiah (many thousands of euros) are paid to get such a job.
Tips for the traveler
For those who are traveling to the harbor of Lembar, it might be of interest to give some tips to remember. Of course you don't have to, but since the services offered inside the gate of the harbor are far from even mediocre it might come in handy. You can use the services there, but when traveling, you will possibly find yourself stranded because the car broke down, so an extra payment has to be made (asking why is another story). You can find the excuses yourself of course. They sound stupid, they are stupid, but with your luggage in the trunk you don't have much to say anymore.
Ask on this forum www and check out this forum on Lombok lomboklovers.aforumfree.com/
My friend Gemma created this Lombok Lovers forum yrs ago.
Someone will be able to help you.
I personally would be flying from Bali to Mataram Lombok- flight takes 20 minutes compared to 4 hrs by ferry plus waiting at either end Padangbai Bali or Lembar Lombok for up to another 2 hrs each way making your trip about 6+ hours from Bali to Lombok.
Plus I do not like the condition o0f the ferries myself. I onlky everventured over by ferry and that was 2000, since then I have always flown.
There are aboiut 3 ariliines that fly from Bali to Lombok.
Where will you visiting whilst on Lombok?
Well Hobo1, in one way you are right but at the other hand also a little bit exagerated. In a certain way Lombok is okay, but when you start talking about hospitable and share, then I do have other experiences.
But anyway, you're right about the harbour thing. It is the same in Benoa harbour in Bali, in the terminals and on the airports in a lot of places in Java, like Jakarta (Halim airport), Bandung (almost everywhere, from shopping-mall to hotels). So, that is (unfortunately) something that's not specific for Lombok.
Log in to write a reaction
You are not logged in to the website. You have to be logged in to write a reaction on this blog entry.
· If you already have an account, please login. · If you have lost your password, please retrieve it. · If you don't have an account yet, you can create one.
ABOUT THIS ENTRY
Add this blog entry to your email, your own blog, MySpace, Facebook, or whatsoever via AddThis:
Login if you want to receive emails for reactions on this blog entry. You will receive an update as soon as a reaction on this blog entry is posted.
Looking for e-tickets for flights in Indonesia? Here's your solution! Order your e-tickets at ticketindonesia.info.