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18 Mar

John Keats once said, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”. Sometimes, in ordinary circumstances, we cannot comprehend the real meaning of those esteemed people who strived to bring the wonders of life to us. I must admit that I wasn’t completely aware of the deeper meanings of the sentence said by one of history’s greatest poet. But after having the experience of traveling in Lombok, I can reiterate the statement with its full vastness and greater meaning. If you are a person who desires to explore the real meaning of life through traveling, observing, and understanding, then I would suggest a visit to Lombok once in your life.

The island is full of life, colours, tones, tastes and varieties coupled with an air of calmness, peace and love.  There are numerous spots to visit here and really you need to give yourself ample time to get completely absorbed into what it offers.

The traditional market in Medana is a place to get a taste of traditional life in Lombok. At first glance, the traditional market appeared to be a bewildering and disorganised mess, with no clear order to the way the stalls were arranged. Many traders simply placed their goods on blankets on the ground, some in the middle of the sidewalks. I have visited traditional markets before, but I thought this one was the most traditional of them all so far – and I loved it! The ranks of the traditional horse carts, or locally known as cidomo, on the sides of the market gave a more authentic Lombok experience. The items sold at the market are numerous: meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, household items, and even clothes.

Then again, what intrigues me the most is the island’s tribal people that call Lombok their home, the Sasak people, and to witness a bit of their life in their small villages. Not far from the Medana traditional market is a Sasak village called Sukara, a village known for its weaving culture. A local guide took me in to the villagers’ houses and showed me the entire process of the weaving: growing the cotton, spinning the thread, brewing the natural dies, and weaving on the looms. Even more interesting about Sukara is the village’s tradition that necessitates a young woman to be able to master all parts of the process to later weaves her own bridal cloth. If she fails to do this, then she cannot get married!

As much as I enjoyed this part of the island, my quest for hidden treasures of life coaxed me to explore other parts of the island. Mount Rinjani is a fabulous spot. As the second highest mountain in Indonesia, this active volcano is perfect for those who love trekking and hiking. For surf addicts, I don’t think I could find any better place than South Lombok. Surfing in the clear blue waters with mild waves – and hardly a crowd, more waves for me. Sekotong is a good place for scuba diving. It won’t be difficult to find schools that provide all the guidance and paraphernalia necessary for diving. Lombok offers a little bit of everything!

For those not looking for anything too active however, should visit the Kuta area, composed of quiet white sand beaches. Or, to the west of Kuta are a series of beautiful beaches and bays hidden behind headlands and rolling hills, providing peaceful and secluded spots for picnics and swimming. This area also provides plenty of opportunities for exploring secret spots and coastal scenery of breathtaking beauty.

The drive down to the south coast is an interesting rural tour of small villages and farming communities. You can observe fields of tobacco, corn and peanuts that line the roadsides and farmers tilling the fields using antiquated ploughs pulled by large water buffalo. Travel brochures promote Lombok as “the way Bali was ten years ago,” in theory untouched and unspoiled, but really the two are quite different yet equally stunning.

Having finished this extraordinary exploratory trip around Lombok, I was filled with an immense feeling of positivity and satisfaction. Despite the drier more arid climate of Lombok, its unique local culture, rural livelihoods and hidden bays together make for an amazing retreat, back to nature and back to another time.

Joannes Rhino – Bali Writer