While it takes only 20 minutes of flying time for Garuda Indonesia's Boeing 737-400 to bring you from Ngurah Rai airport in Bali to Mataram, the capital city of Lombok, the two islands are actually worlds apart.
Lombok's quite and undeveloped environment stands in marked contrast to that of Bali's, beckoning travelers seeking a relaxed pace and spectacular natural beauty.
Lombok is just as large as Bali and offers many tourism sites that suit all kinds of visitors. And the right time to visit Lombok is May, when the climate is perfect: bright, sunny days amidst lush greenery.
The population of Lombok, which forms part of the Province of West Nusa Tenggara, is no more than three million. As such, many with no hidden interest or pretense actually wish to see Lombok remain as is: quite, natural and pure.
But such thoughts may not be fair to the local community, which can make strides only if the tourism business grows. On the other hand, that can only happen if physical development in the forms of infrastructure and other public facilities takes place.
Lombok is not a place that offers surfing, diving and snorkeling opportunities only, but also beautiful woven textiles like songkets and ikats that can be used as a sarong, wall decoration and tableware. Check out the traditional hand weaving village in Puyung, Central Lombok, if you're a collector of fine textiles.
Lombok is also gaining fame for its pottery that comes in all shapes and sizes. Its popularity is such that many of it are now shipped throughout the world. Look no further than Banyumulek (West Lombok), Penujak (Central Lombok) and Masbagik (East Lombok), the three villages most famous for making pottery.
Many of their traditional handicrafts deserve to be taken back home as souvenirs, namely wooden masks, ketak grass baskets, wooden boxes embedded with fragments of sea shells, or bamboo- and rattan-based items.
Lombok now appears to be entering a tourist boom of sort. As Bali is seen overcommercialized over the past few years, marked by unbearable congestion and less open, natural spaces, many tourists now nod towards the charms of ‘undiscovered' Lombok. With this new interest comes the development of a number of posh boutique resorts on the island, serving quality food and drinks just as Bali was decades ago.
Emaar, the Dubai-based property company, is reportedly set to develop a new town in Central Lombok by investing US$600 million. Its main feature is a 7km natural waterfront that complements a marina, golf course, luxury residences and five-star resorts managed by The Ritz-Carlton.
If after overexposure to the beach, sand and sun begins to work on your nerves, make time to visit Mataram. The city is beginning to display signs of a metropolitan in the making in the way of a shopping mall well-stocked with general consumer and electronic goods.
It may take five to ten years before Lombok achieves what Bali has attained: "the world's most favorite island resort" as voted by readers of Travel+Leisure. But this is perhaps all the more reason for you to visit Lombok now.Source: Garuda Indonesia Inflight Magazine