Day Trip to Lombok
I woke up to the Call to Prayer blasting through the walls of my bungalow. I’m not sure exactly where the mosque was located—in the middle of the island, perhaps—but Gili Air is not a large island, and we heard the entire service loud and clear.
I checked my clock—not even 5am—and rolled back to sleep. I didn’t need to be up until 7am for scuba diving anyway. Being that I went to bed before 10am the night before, I was soon up again mindlessly waiting as the minutes passed.
Finally, my alarm signaled that it was time for me to get up. I had a leisurely breakfast before heading off to PADI IDC Gili for a morning of diving…only to find the place completely empty. That’s when I realized my cell phone’s clock still hadn’t adjusted to the time change. When I thought it was 8, it was actually 9. Whoops.
Suddenly, I had a free day on my hands. Luckily, southeast Asia is the place where you have to plan absolutely nothing in advance, so I walked up to a random kiosk and asked the guy there about taking a daytrip to Lombok. A half and hour later, I was on a boat with a van driver waiting on the next island to take me to sites unplanned (because I certainly did not have any ideas of where to go on Lombok. The only thing I wanted to really do was trek up Mt. Rinjari, but that journey would take two days, and having to deal with pressure changes from diving, there just wasn’t time).
After an uneven and bumpy boat ride (where I really wanted to ask why no one told the Germans to NOT all sit on one side. Seriously, the entire boat was lopsided the entire journey, and at certain points, I was prepared for it to capsize), Mun, the van driver, greeted me on the dock.
We climbed into the van, and he gave me a run down of the day’s plan. We’d drive through the forest to see some monkeys and into Mataram, Lombok’s capital, to visit the market and the Islamic Cultural Center. Then after lunch, we’d head over to the village of Sukarara, then end the trip driving down Lombok’s coast.
Lombok is located to the east of Bali and includes the Gili Islands. It hasn’t been impacted by tourism as much as Bali has, yet it still has the trekking and diving opportunities offered by Bali, making it an ideal destination for those wanting to get away from the crowds. As with most island nations, Lombok has its own language, Sasak, which closely resembles Balinese. Aside from tourism, the main difference between Lombok and Bali is religion; Lombok is a Muslim majority island, whereas Bali is majority Hindu.
Going to the market was an interesting experience, as this market was not geared towards tourists. As I walked across the parking lot, horses, carriages and horse dung lined the entrance way. Many of Lombok’s streets are too narrow for trucks, so much like the Gilis, horses are frequently used to transport items around the city.
The market offered fresh seafood, produce, and other items that many restaurants sourced for their dishes. Strangely, I got really hungry after visiting the market, so Mun and I stopped for lunch at one of his favorite street side markets, where I tried Gado Gado, an Indonesian salad made with peanut sauce, for the first time.
After lunch, we stopped by the Islamic Cultural Center, but it was closed for afternoon prayers, so we headed off to Sukarara in the meantime.
Weaving in Sukarara Village
Upon arriving in Sukarara, I was greeted by a tour guide who offered me his hand in marriage. I politely declined, so he walked me around the village and introduced some of the weavers. The village women learn how to weave patterned songket cloth by hand at an early age and spend their days weaving on their looms by hand on their front porches. Historically, women in the village had to know how to weave if they wanted to be considered for marriage, as weaving was one of the primary ways the village made money.
After a quick workshop on how to work the loom, my tour guide insisted that we play dress up with some of the traditional village clothing. Being that all of this was happening right after the outrage at the girl in Utah wearing a qipao to her prom, I had to laugh. Oh, cultural appropriation.
Sukarara was actually the favorite part of my visit to Lombok, although village tourism always feels a little weird to me. I ended up buying a songket, because the cloth was actually quite beautiful, and let’s be honest, the money raised from the songkets is actually what helps support the village.
Islamic Cultural Center
Our final stop was the Islamic Cultural Center, which was now open to the public and overrun with kids from a nearby school on a field trip. Built in 2013, it’s fairly new and has a viewpoint overlooking Mataram 99m above the city.
Mun talked to one of the guards, who let me ride the elevator to the top with a group of about 20 students. The elevator ride was probably one of the slowest I’ve ever experienced, and on the way up, the guard announced to the group that I was from the United States.
I’ve mentioned before that Indonesians tend to treat white people like celebrities, asking them for selfies. Apparently it’s the same for any American, because I found myself posing for pictures the rest of my time there.
One of the teachers told me she was also a tour guide on the side, and if I came back to Lombok with friends she’d be happy to personally show us around.
The side hustle game is real, y’all.
After the tour, it was time to return to the Gilis. Mun drove me back to the dock via a different route overlooking the beach, and I got on the next boat back to Gili Air.
Indonesians are truly some of the nicest people I’ve met, and the Sasak in Lombok are no different. I do actually want to come back one day to trek Mt. Rinjani, and while the day tour wasn’t exactly my ideal method of touring, it was a good way to spend time in the Gilis.