Lombok - 26 November 2019: I could have never been more excited when I first learned I was going to visit the splendid island of Bali as part of a media trip organized by the Indonesian embassy in Cairo and Ministry of Tourism of Republic of Indonesia. Being home to 22 thousand Hindu temples and some of the finest natural attractions, I looked forward to a soulful trip of wonders.
And so it was, except for the “soulful” part.
Rice Fields Bali Source backyardtravel
Do not get me wrong; Bali is an amazing destination with so many activities to do and attractions to see. I myself had the chance to experience firsthand many adventures, such as rafting in the Ayung River, diving in the ocean, visiting the famous rice fields in a day long Safari in a convertible and even enjoying the nightlife on a Friday night.
Yet, Bali’s image in my mind is one of serenity, quietness and peace. It is where Eat Pary Love ‘s writer Elizabeth Gilbert
, whose wisdom changed her life forever.
Uluwatu Temple Bali - Source Wonderful Indonesia Website
And you can still find traces of all this in big temples such as Uluwatu Temple
, which overlooks the ocean in a majestic dreamy landscape between heaven and earth.
However, the buzz of everyday life and the crowded streets – the city annually receives 40 percent of the total number of tourists visiting Indonesia- might have turned the city into an urban metropolis, albeit with friendlier people compared to others.
But luckily, boarding a ferry that takes up to 3 hours and 20 minutes for $24.4 to the neighboring Lombok island carried us to a completely different ambiance, not only quieter, more peaceful and “less traveled” (as the American poet Robert Forest
once advised), but almost also gives an impression of visiting another Asian country.
Whereas Hinduism is the main religion of Bali, Lombok, where nature is still considered uncharted territory is known as the “city of a thousand mosques.”
In fact, some people describe Lombok as Bali 30 years ago, because of its virgin scenic nature that harbors sandy azure beaches, waterfalls and mountains.
According to officials we met in the media trip, the Indonesian government has adopted a plan to enhance “Halal tourism” in several islands, and Lombok is part of this drive. Halal tourism is a family friendly sort of tourism; it mainly targets Muslims and is a growing market that non-Muslim countries joined to benefit from.
One of the initiatives to enhance Halal tourism in this island is turning 60 rural villages into Halal home stay, where tourists could experience the daily lives of Indonesians in Lombok and explore the culture for good prices while enjoying other attractions.
Some of these attractions are:
Hindu temples and the “Holy Water,” for what the heart yearns for..
People Praying in Narmada Temple Source Egypt Today
True, Islam is the predominant religion in Lombok, but the island has many spiritual Hindu temples, including Narmada Temple.
As soon as you step into the garden of the temple, you can feel a surprising sense of comfort, because it is similar to that of reaching home after a tedious trip. I guess it is a feeling common in any place of worship, for when we, humans, pray from the heart, we are all the same no matter what religion we embrace, vulnerable flawed beings searching for a meaning.
The Hindu care taker of the Narmada Temple Source Egypt Today
We were guided to a small prayer room where the caretaker of the temple guards a small fountain that springs right from the mountain. There is a widespread conviction that the water is healing and hence holy. And if you wished for something while drinking, it will come true.
Before entering Hindu temples, people are given colorful ribbons to wrap around their waists for purifying purposes, and if they are wearing short clothes, they put on a “Saroung,” a piece of traditional cloth. If a woman is menstruating, she is not allowed in some temples.
Waterfalls - A Fairytale Quest
Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfall - Source Wonderful Indonesia - Official website of the Ministry of Tourism
Lombok is also a haven for some of the best refreshing waterfalls in Indonesia, such as Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfalls.
As soon as I approached the forest hosting the waterfalls, I knew I was about to go on a quest similar to those in fairytales, as we waded into a long tranquil trail in the forest adamant to unravel its secrets before reaching the bottom of the waterfall.
However, be cautious of the naughty monkeys, they are the habitat of the forest and they know it and they will make sure you know it. We were advised not to look them directly in the eye, as they could be aggressive.
Sasak Village – Blood shedding as a sacrifice to the god of rain
Sasak Village - Famtrip organized by the Indonesian Embassy in Cairo - source Egypt Today 2
What Lombok also offered us was a time machine that took us back in time. Once we set foot at the entrance of the village, we felt like we traveled back in time where we met with an old Indonesian tribe, which gave birth to the people living now in the island.
Visiting the traditional village, whose descendants guarded the customs of the elders and protected it from the influence of the outside world, gave us a cultural glimpse on the history of the island.
Sasak Village - stick fighting - source Egypt Today
One of the ancient myths tells that blood should be shed from the head of a powerful fighter in a stick fight in order for the rain to fall. The idea is now featured symbolically in a folkloric dance.
More blood, more rain.
Luckily, nowadays the fierce fighters only battle to commemorate their rich heritage in front of tourists.
Swimming with Turtles in Gili Islands
Swimming with the turtles in Gili Islands in Lombok, Indonesia - Source: Wikimediacommons via Imfibr
Another escapade you can try in Lombok is paying a visit to the Gili Islands – which consist of three small islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. There, you can enjoy a dip in the Indian Ocean with turtles lurking near the coral reefs, as these islands are known to be a turtle territory. Tour operators will refund you if you do not spot at least one. I can attest to that as I spotted two.
Similar to Bali and unlike many places in Lombok, you can enjoy the nightlife in Gili Islands as there are music clubs and pubs by the beaches. It is similar in a way to Dahab in South Sinai of Egypt as hotels, camps, restaurant and cafes overlook the sea.
Mount Rinjani - Full moon prayer by the holy lake
Apart from beaches and forest trekking, if you are an adventure seeker, you can find what you are looking for in a hike on an active volcano, as Mount Rinjani is actually the second highest volcano in Indonesia.
Mount Rinjani - Source en.tempo.co website
According to website Wonderful Indonesia - the official site of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism- within the mountain there is a crescent-shaped lake called Segara Anak and is considered a spiritual place. The Balinese come here each year and perform a ceremony in honor of the mountain spirit. Also, the Wetu Telu people regard the lake as holy and come here to pray on full moon nights.
In a rapidly changing world as the one we live in, travel could be a good tactic to find traces of your old forsaken self, and if you were seeking this encounter; I would recommend you add Lombok to your next destination list.