Twenty Minutes and Twenty Years from Bali
As Bali continues to suffer from tourist development and traffic jams, travelers in search of that island’s lost innocence have moved on to Lombok, its unspoiled, unhurried neighbor to the east, where the population largely continues to live a traditional rural life.
There is a saying: “You may find Bali in Lombok, but you’ll never find Lombok in Bali.” True, the island may not have Bali’s Hindu temples, colorful festivals, and parades, but its people’s smiles and welcome are just as warm, and in parts of Lombok Westerners are still something of a rarity.
The Three Gilis – small, sparsely inhabited islands off the northwest coast – are the current backpackers’ meccas-of-the-moment, quiet spots known for their natural beauty and awesome snorkeling. In the north of Lombok, the three-day trek to the top of volcanic Mount Rinjani is touted to be one of the very best climbs in the area.
Less-athletic visitors settle for a guided four-hour trek through farming villages along pathways that follow the contours of terraced rice paddies to 150-foot waterfalls.
With the exception of a tiny cluster of upmarket hotels on the western beach of Senggigi, accommodations are for the most part limited, rustic, and as a result incredibly inexpensive (as are the local handwoven textiles).
The Oberoi Lombok is an exception, a shining star spread luxuriously across 24 beachside acres on Medana Beach, offering twenty thatched-roof Lombok-style villas with their own private pools (which are not to be confused with their oversized marble sunken baths).
Pampering, seclusion, and privacy are the order of the day in this gorgeous microcosm of Indonesian style and grace, where (among other things) you can partake of the Oberoi Spa’s special Mandi Lulur treatment, which combines relaxing steam heat with aromatherapy essences and the therapeutic effects of mud.