Lombok: Kuta

23 07 2009
Kuta Lombok

Kuta Lombok

We left the peaceful island life of Gili Air to head down to the southern side of Lombok and the town of Kuta (Lombok). Kuta Lombok is a smaller coastal town, which is currently full of Europeans aspiring to learn how to surf.

We rented a scooter and joined in with the rest of the surf-seeking Europeans and headed out to the small village of Gerupuk, where you can take a boat out to a nice and slow surfing wave at an outer break. The coast here is nice and the inland areas are very arid with many of the smaller villages in the surrounding areas growing tobacco. Other areas had huge piles of watermelons next to the fields they had been harvested from.

Beach

Lombok beach

We saw many colorful and finely decorated mosques as we drove from the northern part of Lombok down to the south. Lombok is busy building an international airport and is eager to skim some more of the tourism money that the Hindu island of Bali has enjoyed. While we were in Lombok, we learned of a bombing of two luxury hotels in Jakarta. We aren’t in Jakarta and don’t stay at luxury resorts and all the local people we met here are not happy about the bombing, as they are trying to benefit from tourism and this is not the image they want their country to have. Indonesia just recently had a smooth, clean and peaceful election in which they reelected their former president Susilo Bamban Yudhoyono (SBY). We were here for the election, and it was very civil and exciting experience for the Indonesians we met here, so this event has has been a bit of a downer for them and they all know it will impact tourism for a while (which is a big part of the economy here).

Arid countryside

Arid Lombok countryside

We spent a few days in Kuta Lombok to go surfing and then we headed back to Bali.


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2 responses

23 07 2009
Ben Johnson

Please do not take this personally… perhaps more as a comment on my preference in travel.

During the few days you spent in Kuta Lombok, you followed the well-traveled tourist path and failed to explore the really interesting parts of Kuta. If you would have traveled off the beaten track you would have met some of the local residents who live a very different life. These villagers offer a traveler a rare opportunity to see what life is really like in a third world country.

The only good reason I can think of for anyone to travel around the world is so they are both intellectually enriched and gain a better understanding of what the world is really like outside of the small area they call home. You can’t gain that perspective by following the tourists who came to Kuta to surf. Their purpose is to surf.. what is your purpose? Have you ever really contemplated that?

I have read in one posting after another on the travel forums about people who plan on staying on one island for 3 days, then move on to the next. I call them “push-pin” tourists – people who come home and can show their friends all the places they visited.

But places like Lombok, and Kuta especially, are not like visiting the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty…” Ok, we’ve seen it, let’s go”. These rural Indonesian islands are filled with tradition and a history very different from our own. Less than 50 years ago they were animists who worshiped and feared Gods on Rinjani Mountain. Even today many people still die because the devil entered their body and the local healer could not remove the evil spirit. A new born child cannot go outside until they have had their first hair cut, which must be combined with the sacrifice of a goat and a ritual ceremony to protect the baby against ghosts. The afterbirth of a child is buried near the front door of the family home so the child will stay near the family when the parents get old.

I don’t expect you to discover all of this. But the next time all the tourists are heading in one direction, take a right turn and explore the areas where the tourist seldom visit. Then, the next time you hear on TV about a war or catastrophe in some distant land, you will better understand how it must impact the common villagers.

24 07 2009
Jason and Alexa

I think you make a fair point, but the main reason we went to Kuta was to surf, and we needed a place on the beaten path so we could rent surf boards (since we are traveling for one year and carrying them around only to use once or twice doesn’t make sense). We often try to avoid the tourist areas (and we did a good job in Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Slovakia, Hungary, etc.) but in this case we wanted to surf and needed a town with a good place to surf and enough tourism to have rental boards readily available.

You can accuse us of being “push-pin” tourists, but when limited to a one month visa, most travelers have to cut something wonderful that Indonesia has to offer out of their travels, as it is simply not possible to see all the real culture that the archipelago has to offer in just one month. We would have liked to see and learn about the the Gayo culture in Aceh (gampong organization) or other cultures in Sumbawa or Komodo, but we just don’t have the time or resources. The whole world is full of interesting cultures (we could have spent more time learning about the Mapuche in Patagonia, the Chilote on Chiloe, or the pre-Inca Aymara culture in Peru, etc.), but everyone has finite time and resources to dedicate to studying every single unique culture in the world. Plus we are moving on to Loas, China etc. and are running out of time on our visa.

It is a little snarky to say we didn’t spend enough time in the town where you operate a tourist business (at least that is how it looks from your website), since you only read one or two posts from our entire trip (according to the tracking information on our blog). We have had six months to “contemplate our purpose in traveling”, and it changes drastically from each location we visit but you have suggested that we are lame tourists who aren’t seeing the “real thing” based on only reading one or two of our posts.

Other than the surfing, the drive out through the rural tobacco growing areas was interesting, but we really had to move on as our visa is almost expired and we have to go soon.

NOTE: If you google “Ben Johnson, Kuta” you will come across a twitter page and a link to a blog about buying property and investing in Lombok. In fact, his twitter feed has a great comment from one of his twitter buddies, Donald Trump Jr:

South Lombok is THE place to invest. Sandy beaches, surfing, diving, perfect weather, and plenty of cheap land.”

..and another gem:
“South Lombok will be the next Bali. A new airport and discount airlines – but to make money there you gotta be savvy.”

Personally, I would rather be a push-pin tourist than an ex-pat exploiting locals for their plentiful cheap land while shedding crocodile tears about my lack of appreciation for their culture.

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