The New Gilis
Obviously, these tiny islands were not formed recently. And there are many of them. Whispers abound are saying that that a lot of people are talking about developing hotels on almost all of the small islands that are inhabitable around the main Lombok island. And why not? The natural beauty is indubitable. The market demand does really exist. The more options, the better we like it. Among the many up-and- coming gilis, we have a special affinity for Gili Gede. This is because it is large enough to have a proper jog on, and one of the new resorts on it, Kokomo Gili Gede has a fine-looking, full-sized, fully usable tennis court on offer among its many arrays of water sport facilities and equipment. Another gili that we like a lot is much smaller in size, and, somehow, perfectly uninhabitable. Gili Kedis is located not far away from Gili Gede in south-west Lombok, very close to Gili Sudak, Gili Nanggu and Gili Tangkong which all boast rustic tropical beauty. Among the four small islands, at present, only Gili Nanggu offers a form of accommodation. Gili Kedis, the smallest of them all, is only slightly bigger than a tennis court. It is truly a couple’s island, perfect for a swell day out snorkeling and a spot of beach picnic.
It is unfair to label Bali as noisy, but at the same time, once you are in the mainstream tourist areas, it is hard to escape from the clutch of commercial tourism, from the merry holidaymakers making themselves at home. Now, there is nothing wrong about being among a happy crowd, but there are times when you simply yearn for a quieter place, a solitude far away from all the noise pollution from modernism. Lombok, Bali’s neighbour, the island that has been dubbed as “the next best thing” in Indonesia’s tourism industry for the past decade, one that has only just recently begun to realise its potential, is a much quieter place. The reason being simply because its best spots are currently scattered away. Though don’t count on this to stay the way it is for long.
It wasn’t long since Mount Rinjani had a small fit (2010). The active fire behemoth even gave birth to a smaller volcano cone, Mount Barujari, located in its beautiful crater lake Danau Segara Anak. Both volcanoes are still active, and both welcome hikers and mount climbers alike. The sunrise up there is legendary. But what we find even more interesting are the villages on the foot of the mountain. Adorned by the remnants of the old kingdoms, its left-behind ancient rituals, the people have many a story and legend just waiting to be told and shared around among travellers the world over.
A visit to Lombok is incomplete without a quick peek of Mataram. This town is the centre for modernism in Lombok – though definitely not as hedonistic as their party island, Gili Trawangan. A typical old Indonesian town decorated with big roads and healthy-looking trees, a quick glance of Mataram, even through the air-conditioned interior of a moving car gives you an idea of what real life in Indonesia is like, the facets not covered by the careful manicure of commercial tourism. If you have time for a good bite or two, stop by at one of the restaurants that offer the island’s most well-known culinary offering: ayam taliwang. You can still savour this spiced, grilled chicken in any hotel in Lombok, but if you want to taste it the way it is originally cooked for the chilli-friendly palate of the people of Lombok and not the water-down version for tourists, you have to go to Mataram.
Just like the east part of Bali, the east part of Lombok also has a lot of catching up to do to be on par with their respective west side. But that is a good thing. Because for the duration it takes to do that – and east Lombok is allowed to take as long as it wants – its raw, natural beauty is reserved for the select few travellers who are adventurous enough to leave the comfort of their starred accommodation and swap it for a day alone on a gorgeous beach.