An Expat's Tale on Exploring Lombok, the Other Kuta in Bali

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If you’re a veteran traveller and have wrung enough enjoyment out of Bali and crave something different, heed this advise from David Bowden and look to the east and embrace leisurely Lombok for a whole new travel experience.

Kuta Beach, Bali needs little introduction to travellers as it’s usually the beach on this island paradise that first-time visitors immediately head to. Serial Bali holidaymakers aren’t as enthusiastic about Kuta these days as paradise has well and truly been discovered, and the beach has become crowded, the traffic adjacent to it, choked and, the cultural authenticity diminished by the influx of foreign tourists. While Bali still offers other less-developed beaches, many travellers are looking elsewhere for that little touch of tropical paradise that they don’t have to share with the frenzied party crowd that is now entrenched in the Kuta backstreets.

Those looking for a more authentic Kuta experience should, however, still keep their sights trained on Kuta. Yes, you read correctly: Kuta, but Kuta, Lombok rather than Kuta, Bali. Lombok is the neighbouring island located 35km east of Bali and to seasoned travellers, it’s as they remember Bali 30 years ago.

As Lombok isn’t Bali, the tourist crowd tends to be those who don’t want Bali which means it’s a little older. Kuta Lombok has a laid back atmosphere that resembles Malaysia’s East Coast but with inducements such as some interesting restaurants and bars.

This is great news for those seeking a more relaxed holiday: a cultural experience that is truly Indonesian and not international, and a lifestyle that – on the surface – looks like it is stuck in neutral. Lombok appears content to live in the shadow of its more popular neighbour although for those looking for some lively tourist action, Senggigi Beach on Lombok’s west coast is as close as the island gets to resembling Bali. The rest of the island is basically rural with field after field of rice padi and the active volcano of Mount Rinjani (3,736m) in the far north.

While most people living on Bali are primarily Balinese Hindu, Lombok is dominated by Moslem Sasak people so there are more mosques than temples and the lifestyle is more conservative.

To The Beaches

Lombok’s three main tourist areas are the beaches of Senggigi, the surf around Kuta (that’s Kuta Lombok and not Kuta Bali) and the mountains of the northern interior. The reef and point breaks around Kuta are best for experienced surfers who head to Pantai Segar, Mawi and Tanjung A’an. Senggigi is the best known resort stretch with a few international hotels along the 5km long beachfront of golden sands (some beaches on the island are volcanic in origin and have black sand). The view from Batu Bolong Temple just south of Senggigi is the obligatory tourist stop but the views are superb and, on a good day, can even take in the volcanic peaks of neighbouring Bali. Marine activities such as diving and snorkelling around the offshore reefs are popular at both Senggigi and Kuta.

Seeing The Sights


Culture is alive and thriving in Lombok with arts and crafts being seemingly authentic, well made and offering excellent value. Carved wooden masks are sold everywhere and for those who appreciate indigenous textiles, the ikat weaving is excellent. These are sold in the semiorganised cultural ‘attraction’ of Sukarara and Sade villages where visitors can not only see traditional Sasak architecture but also purchase the ikat from local weavers. Other local products to purchase include sorongs, pottery and Indonesian antiques which may or may not be the real deal.

Thursday’s Sengkol morning market held from 6am to10am is a must visit activity noted for its atmosphere, energy and authenticity. This is a market for the locals and while visitors will be a curiosity, no one will bother you. Take your camera along as there is a lot of action to capture.

Resort Living

After considerable research, Kuta Beach won out as a place for me to stay as it offered a quieter lifestyle than Senggigi. The Novotel Resort is the one resort of note here and it proved to be quite a surprise and punching well above its four-star rating. The rooms of choice here are the pool villas which are private enclaves with their own private pools. These have been recently refurbished to ensure they have everything that a holidaying couple or family requires. The Novotel is situated immediately on Putri Nyale Beach which appears to be only frequented by resort guests. Apart from the beautiful and near-deserted beach, guests can enjoy two pools, restaurants and the open-sided Breeze Bar which has enticing happy hour prices and fabulous views over the water.

Climb Every Mountain

Climbing Mount Rinjani (3,736m) to view the crater lake – which is 6km by 8km – is another popular activity. This isn’t a casual walk in the park, with most visitors spending two days to reach just the outer rim and then another day and night to walk down to the lake’s edge and then all the way back out of the active volcano. Experienced guides need to be employed, with one of the best companies to deal with for any tourism arrangements on the island being Aman Tours & Travel.

Local Cuisine

Indonesian cuisine dominates, so masakan padang and ikan bakar are found everywhere. Being the tourist island that it is, Western dishes cater to the less adventurous. Not surprisingly, seafood is served all over the island with a personal favourite along Kuta Beach being Full Moon Café. It offers almost everything known to the marine world and cold Bintang beers at sunset overlooking a near-deserted beach make for the start of a pleasant and long evening.

Being a tourist island, Western comfort food (you know the routine – steak, fries, pizza, pasta, ribs, banana pancakes, lattes, and smoothies) can be found in the tourist areas. Pasta and a beer at Breeze Bar in the Novotel Lombok are quite affordable considering it is a seaside resort with pleasant surroundings and excellent service. For local snacks, head to the warungs serving nasi campur and nasi goreng.

Several bars along Kuta Beach lap the sand and serve cold Bintang beer and prices that will bring joy to most expats especially during happy hours. There isn’t the late night scene here as on Bali but the offshore Gili Islands are party central. Gili Trawangan is the liveliest of the three in the group with the beachfront along the entire east coast (all one kilometre of it) being bars and beachside restaurants.



Getting  There
Direct flights from KL mean that Lombok is just 2.5 hours away so it’s perfect for a weekend on an island that remains mostly off the tourist radar. A longer alternative is to fly to Bali and then either fly to Lombok or catch a ferry from Padang Bai. Taxis from Lombok Airport to Kuta take under 30 minutes although resort’s like the Novotel can arrange transfers both ways. While it’s easy enough to walk to most places in Kuta, hiring a motorbike or push bike is the best way to get around.


Lombok is virgin territory for many travellers so book tours with those who know their way around the island. In Kuala Lumpur contact the Lombok experts at Explorer Tourism Network (T: +603 2144-0009+603 2144-0009, W: or go direct to Aman Tours & Travel in Lombok (T: +62 370 636-362+62 370 636-362, E: [email protected]).

Where To Stay

The Novotel Lombok Beach Resort ( is the best and only true resort along Kuta Beach with most of the others being simple losmans.

Source: The Expat April 2013

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