Lombok and Gili Air
- Shanghai to Hong Kong flight (couple of hours)
- Hong Kong to Jakarta flight (about 5 hours) – Stayed 1 night in Jakarta (Zest Hotel)
- Jakarta traffic is nuts so we stayed as close to the airport as possible.
- Jakarta to Lombok flight (under 2 hours) – Stayed 4 nights in Lombok at Villa Jambu
- Tanjung is 1.5 hours from the airport by car). Get your hotel to pick you up.
- Lombok to Gili Air by boat (about 20 mins) – Stayed 5 nights in Gili Air at Villa Coco Republic
What struck me were the similarities to India. Jakarta felt like a mix of Bombay and Delhi. Lombok airport and the long drive to the villa felt like Goa.
Our friendly driver – Nengah, from Bali – drove us through the Monkey Forest. LOTS of cute and confident monkeys and their families, sitting by the road, grooming each other and posing to get attention and food.
Our first meal
Nengah made a stop at a local joint in Mataram – downtown Lombok – so we could have an authentic meal of the most popular chicken dish- Ayam Taliwang (Lombok style chicken), grilled fish, satay, rice and teh (local tea).
We booked this beautiful property called Villa Jambu (I strongly recommend it) in Tanjung. I fell in love with the place at first glance.
Well you get the idea.
The beach – Pentai Sira or Sire – behind the villa is quiet with hardly any people around. Feels like your own little piece of paradise.
In Lombok we cycled everywhere to explore around and were frequents at Pentai Sejuk, where we made some friends with the locals – Raja, Mohksin, and the youngest, Shinin -who love Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh bachchan and Bollywood action movies. They were the ones who helped organize out boat trips between lombok and Air, out bike trip to Gangga waterfalls, made us some fantastic grilled fish and give us general info about Indonesia.
*By the end of our trip, it was clear that everyone here loves Bollywood and quote the same songs/ movies/ actors – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam, etc – and standard dialogue from start to finish with Indian tourists goes like: “Where are you from? -> Shah Rukh Khan/ Amir Khan! -> Aaja Aaja/ Kuch kuch….” -> all smiles and we walk away. After a point, I admit it got annoying.
Gangga Point and the torrential downpour
Shinin + friend and the two of us set off on two motorbikes and bravely rode for about a couple of hours all the way in the crazy rain and wind to the hilltop for some views. It was great! Steep and bendy roads and muddy waters all over was a bit scary but the views of the rice fields, the intense green all over and just being so high up was felt so good. Didn’t see the waterfall itself as we were stuck in a tent drinking lombok black coffee and some local noodles.
Snorkeling with The Lost Boys
Raja and his contacts promised us half a day of snorkeling around Meno and Air on a friend’s boat (The Lost Boys), settling at IDR 700,000, with two bottles of water and two coconuts thrown in complimentary -of course we agreed.
*Mahmoot and Mansoor (a.k.a Anu) are the lost boys. In the Youtube video I think these guys helped some dude make an awesome video and now they call themselves the lost boys.
Snorkeling here is AMAZING. I saw a couple of turtles though choppy waters meant we had to get away to calmer areas for some fish. Mahmoot threw in some bread crumbs to ensure we were suddenly surrounded by zillions of brilliantly beautiful fish! Surreal and a GREAT memory!
Back on the beach and hungry, the guys cooked us a terrific meal of grilled fish and rice. Best meal I had.
We were staying next to a well known mammoth resort – TUGU. They have a nice bar so if you’re looking to go on a romantic date for some GOOD cocktails and good bar food, just head to TUGU. Just that architecturally it’s a bit monstrous and looks like a film set and doesn’t fit in as a beach side resort.
Jacquelyne – Master of Jambu Villa
Dutch and a dog lover, she has been dabbling in property for the longest time, having started off in Bali and now Lombok. She speaks the language and is quite the entrepreneur. She got to Indonesia in 2004 to play in the property business, ultimately moving base to Lombok in 2013. She and her brother set up the beautiful Villa Jambu and she is the one behind the design and layout of the villas. Her brother lives in Holland so she is running this place along with a great staff.
We learnt, over some real good wine and conversation with her on our last evening, that leasing property in Indonesia for foreigners is tricky, as non-locals aren’t allowed complete ownership, similar to China. A lease period can run up to decades during which, a foreigner has full control of the property.
Villa Jambu includes three villas, ours being the smallest one with one bedroom. I intend to come back with my friends to stay at the two bedroom villa which looked phenomenal. I loved the open space that was the living and dining area, connected to the kitchen while the bedroom (the only fully enclosed space) is connected to the open air bathroom. Having that private pool alongside the lawn was a winner!
GILI AIR (aye-er)
Contrary to what we heard about this tiny speck of an island, we were pretty certain that we did not want to stay on the party island of Gili Trawangan (which also has its quiet parts) or on the super isolated, honeymoon island of Gili Meno.
For the uninitiated, Lombok coughs out three bubbles that are tiny islands – Air (smallest and closest, about 15-20 mins by regular boat from Pentai Sejuk), Meno (secluded, not much to do but spend a romantic time with your loved one; locals call it the honeymoon island offering a lot of peace and quiet), and Trawangan or T which is the most popular.
- “Gili” means island and “Pentai” means beach.
Gili Air was perfect and I’m glad I chose that one out of the three. Teeming with local shops, dive shops, bars, restaurants, and horse carts, this place already seemed ready for a party to me after the quiet of Tanjung.
- Please rent out a bicycle as the first to do. It’s most convenient to get around in, and is cheap.
The horse carts are a bit of a rip off, charging IDR 100,000 (about RMB 51) for even a 3-4 min ride. A cycle can be rented at IDR 40,000 (about RMB 20) a day.
- If you plan to do a lot of snorkeling, which Air is PERFECT for, bring your own gear – life saver!
We stayed at Villa Coco Republic – run by some young guys, and not the most brilliant spot to stay but it suited our budget. Their swimming pool was under construction, must be ready by now! If it rains, the entire bathroom, open air and badly designed, will be drenched. Not a problem if you are going at the right time.
Gili Air is unbelievable as a snorkeling destination. All you need to do is wade out just a bit to get to see enormous variety of fish and other creatures. Breathtaking!
The east coast of the island is best for snorkeling. The west is a bit rocky because of mounds of broken corals that have washed up for the longest time.
Our favorite spots were Sunrise Bar and Chill Out Bar to get a table or a beachbed and hang out snorkeling all day. They both have good food and drinks.
Nightlife in Gili Air
Gili Air transforms into a string of attractive shacks offering up delicious BBQ from the day’s catch (Snappers, Barracudas, Parrot Fish, Jack Fish, Groupers, large Prawns, and more), tempting happy hours, live music and movie screenings. We had some good times at Raja Bar. During HH, you will get both your drinks at the same time. Not complaining : )
- A grilled Snapper (comes with rice or salad or mash) will cost about IDR 130 K -150 K, Grouper at about the same. Prawns are pricier.
- For a cocktail, you can pay around IDR 65 K – 80 K.
- Some bars stay on till late, 2 or 3 am, depending on the crowd and party vibes, so you are covered if you are looking to party at bars and meet people.
If you are food-inclined, I’d say go take a class at the Gili Cooking school, very close to the pier. It’s fun!
One trip is not enough.
Indonesia is massive and offers a lot to tourists. Next few trips need to be planned to climb Rinjani, see the Komodo dragons, and explore some wild parts of Kalimantan.