In most cases, Bali is probably the first place that will pop in your head once you find out that your tropical summer dreams will take place in Indonesia – behind your average knowledge in South East Asian geography, you’ll discover in a travel brochure that this country is actually an archipelago of 17,500 or more islands.
One of them is an island east of Bali called Lombok. If you look it up on YouTube, then most likely your eyes might pop open of wanderlust astonishment. You see, the majority of these videos will live up to their titles, “Lombok, Better Than Bali?” because it might actually be so.
After securing a 2-way ticket to Bali from Manila, I thought I was just gonna be jumping around major cities of the islands of the gods and Eat, Pray, Love my way for the whole 14 days. But if I was going to compare my intention for this trip as a writer then I will be a pantser all throughout.
A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything or plan very little.
Did I plan to go to Lombok?
Never at all. This story all started one afternoon while chilling at Kuta Beach with my Filipino-Canadian friend (and my best friend for the whole Indonesian trip) Jerome and in an honest manner, it was really his plan to take the 25 minutes plane ride to Lombok to chase statuesque magnificent waterfalls and immensely splendid beaches.
And as a pantser traveler that I am, I said, “okay screw my plans this weekend in Ubud, we’ll take the first flight tomorrow morning.” And so we did.
To tell you the truth I was intentionally planning to stay on this island for only 5 days max because I still want to spend another weekend in the uplands of Ubud and I couldn’t miss the invitation of spending the day in a place called Jungle Fish. But what actually happened is I ditched my flight going back to Bali because then again, Jerome did a successful job for brainwashing me to come to see the village of Tetebatu and the Gili Islands, which I will be talking about for the following blog posts. This was about as unplanned as it gets and I am proud to tell you this, but I have no regrets at all and I’d do it all over again.
What I’m personally trying to say here is that I enjoyed Lombok way more than Bali. But I can’t shout one island as the winner while the other one as the loser because clearly that outcome depends on what you are looking for. And what I was looking for was an authentic island experience with free-spirited world travelers.
By that time, Lombok turned out to be the sole island that could offer that.
WHERE TO STAY IN LOMBOK?
Lombok is such a breath of fresh air. We stayed mostly in Kuta (please don’t be confused; same name but not the one in Bali) while we were there. A laid-back surfer town that is indeed a perfect introduction to this island. Slumber Party Hostel was our home for many nights where I met a lot of people. Amazingly good people. I highly recommend booking a bed in Slumber Party because if you read the full story of my trip to Indonesia, you will know that it was one of the best decisions I made when I was on this trip! And I would ALWAYS go back because it was home.
Less tourist, more nature
Since there wasn’t a lot of tourists around and because of the absence of Gojek and Grab apps, renting a motorbike leveled up the whole picture from being good to legitimately better. Having a well-researched friend like Jerome who was convincing me to drive to the west and then to the east of this island for beach hopping purposes make it the best. I was meditating with my senses to drive extra safely because I grew up in the country where driving on the left side of the road is punishable by law. Thankfully, I managed to drive with an average speed of 30 km/h and I even went slightly above the speed limit of 70.
The following photos do not take justice for how they look like real-time in front of an actual living human body. Forgive my photography for the meantime as I try to become better:
Peace and quiet for a good hour
From my own perspective, I, therefore, conclude that there were no tourists in Lombok; there were travelers. And I turned out a fine traveler myself while I was there – going out of my comfort zone, seeing places through the backdoor, and conversing with locals.
One of the things that I like staying in Kuta was getting on my motorbike, stopping at Fresh Market (because they accept credit cards lol) to grab beers and snacks and go to the empty Kuta Beach to just bum around under the sun, share stories with new friends from the hostel, talk to dogs, swim to complain about the water being cold, and watching my mates set up their drones in the air. We do it in the morning and we do it in the afternoon.
For the love of fulfilling the stomach, probably the famous food in Indonesia is Nasi Goreng. And I’m no chill for having it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s the truth! And I love the fact that almost every food in Lombok is served with Sambal Sauce. Based on my deep research from Wikipedia, it is an Indonesian chili sauce or paste typically made from a mixture of a variety of chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, and lime juice. Which is just another description for I love it.
2 things that I really didn’t like about Lombok are pushy street vendors and the garbage found on streets and beaches.
Looking back now, my unintended trip to Lombok has taught me many lessons that I can totally use for my future travels: on how spontaneous trips often lead you to a door full of surprises, learning how to vibe with the vibe, and the importance of embracing the detour.
So Lombok, I don’t know when the next time’s gonna be. But I promise I will be back.
You may also read My solo travel to Indonesia: Bali, Lombok and Nusa Penida for the full story of my 14-day backpacking trip.
Are you up for random and spontaneous trips? I would love to hear your stories down below!