Mataram, (Lombok), Indonesia
Trip Start Aug 31, 2008
47Trip End Apr 30, 2009
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Where I stayed
Hotel Herta Yoga
Cakranegara (known as Cakra) is the business district of Mataram and since our main goal was to get some shopping done, we wanted to stay close to the Mataram mall. We found a place called Hotel Herta Yoga in the Lonley Planet guide and asked to be dropped off there. Lisa went in and asked about the pricing for an air-conditioned room and was told it was 85,000 Rp a night, the same price that was posted in the Lonely Planet guide. However once we carried our bags in, we were told this was the price for a standard room and air-conditioned rooms were 125,000 Rp.
We looked at the standard room but it was dirty and disgusting, so we decided to upgrade to the air-conditioned room for a night. The air-conditioned room was much nicer, but still not good value considering this was the most we had paid for any room during our two months in Indonesia. We were also never shown any type of posted room-rates and couldn't help but feeling that we were being overcharged. The room included a shower, but it lacked any type of showerhead on it. It also included a TV, but it only got a few Indonesian language channels.
Soon after settling in to our room, we decided to venture out towards Mataram Mall to look for a restaurant and a better place to stay. The Mataram Mall was a fifteen minute walk down a wide tree lined street and we were happy to see some familiar American fast-food chains there. It had been at l east a month since we had seen a McDonalds so we ate lunch there. Although you can order hamburgers at plenty of restaurants around Indonesia, they are not very often what we would call a hamburger at home. Besides McDonalds, we also noticed Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut nearby. There were plenty of street stalls selling local foods, but very few of the more permanent warungs that we had been eating most of our meals at throughout Indonesia.
After eating a few hamburgers at McDonalds, we walked through the mall to evaluate shopping opportunities. It was fairly busy and most of the spaces were filled with stores, unlike the Senggigi strip-malls. However we knew that we would be in Mataram shopping for a few more days yet, so we mostly just looked around to get an idea of what mall prices were like. In theory we figured we'd be able to negotiate better prices with street vendors and smaller shops. From the mall, we decided to look for a Lion Air office which we had read was in a hotel a couple kilometers away.
Walking through the small side streets of Mataram garnered us plenty of attention. Essentially everybody was staring at us and some young girls ran inside their houses to avoid us. Most of the people here were genuinely friendly, which was a refreshing change after Senggigi. Lots of people would ask us where we were going to see if they could help with directions. It was surprising how many people in this city spoke English and it was nice to have people talk to us again without trying to sell us their wares.
It took us awhile to find the hotel which was supposed to have the Lion Air office situated in it. When we eventually located it, the hotel name had changed slightly and there was no longer any Lion Air office inside of it. After this long walk it also looked like it was going to rain and on our way back to our hotel room the rain started. We almost made it back to our room but we got slightly off track and asked somebody for directions. Within a few seconds a bemo driver pulled over and offered to drive us back, but for 20,000 Rp each. This gave us a good laugh, because we had already come from Sengiggi for 7,000 Rp each (with 2 different bemos) and that was a 20 km drive compared to this one which was only a few hundred meters. Fortunately the person we asked for directions pointed the right way and we were able to walk home within a few minutes. It was only 200 meters away and now we knew to watch out for bemo drivers trying to rip us off.
At night we ventured back to the food stalls that are setup near the mall. We walked down the street and evaluated our options, but it was hard to find a reason to choose one over another. They were setup for the local population and there were no tourists at any of them. The prices were insanely low, with every dish being well under one Canadian dollar (7,000 Rp was about as high as they got.) We were a little worried about the quality of the food, but I ordered the familiar Nasi Goreng Ayam (fried rice and chicken) and Lisa ordered the trusty Mie Goreng Ayam (fried noodles and chicken). Both meals were surprisingly good, with the chicken even being free of bones. So far, so good, for the street food of Mataram.
The next day we woke up early and decided to relocate to a different hotel that we had scouted out the day before. It was a few kilometers away though, so we had to find a way to get there. We tried to flag down a taxi, but a bemo driver was the first to acknowledge us. While he was helping us load our bags, we discussed the price and he said 5,000 Rp. We assumed that was for the both of us, but soon after leaving we figured out he meant each. Lisa was not about to pay that rate, but once we got dropped off I paid him the full 10,000 Rp. I know that is much higher than locals would've paid, but it is still only $1 in Canada.
The second hotel we went to in Mataram is named the Hotel Karthika II and it provided much better value than the first one we went to (Hotel Herta Yoga). At the Karthika II, we were provided with an air-conditioned room, a TV that received HBO (and a few other English language channels), as well as free coffee/tea all day, breakfast and a cleaner room for 100,000 Rp/night. It ended up having its share of shortcomings as well, but I would still recommend it over Hotel Herta Yoga any day.
It wasn't long after settling in here (and enjoying a delicious Lombok coffee) that one of the hotel staff introduced himself to us. He told us about the area and asked us what we planned on doing for our stay. After explaining that shopping was the main focus of our agenda, he told us how we could find a different mall with local goods that the local people used. However it was already too late to shop that day, but he offered to show us the following day. The place was not hard to find, so we wouldn't need his help, but of course he wanted to tag along to collect commissions from vendors that he knew.
We went with him the following day and found a mall that with dozens of vendors that mostly sold clothes. When I enquired about the cost of a Bintang tshirt, he told me he would get it cheap for me...only 50,000 Rp. When I told him that I had just bought the same shirt in Senggigi for a stickered price of 25,000 Rp, he tried to say it was a better quality shirt. It was the exact same shirt though of course, so I wasn't exactly interested in his shopping "help" any longer. He eventually brought the price down to 30,000 Rp, but this was still more than the same thing in Senggigi. We were told that prices in Mataram were much lower than prices in Senggigi, but this did not turn out to be the case, at least for tourists in this mall. I am not exactly a good negotiator when it comes to bargaining low prices though, so it was easier for me to shop at the Mataram mall instead, where the stickered prices were already low.
We bought quite a bit of stuff in the Mataram mall. We got a number of t-shirts for around 20,000 Rp and short for 35,000 Rp. I also bought a new hair cutting kit here for 100,000 Rp. This turned out to be rather junky, but at least Lisa managed to give me a haircut with it. Considering that one can get their haircut from a barber here for like 15,000 Rp, it probably did not make sense to replace our busted shaving kit. I have another rather heavy piece of equipment to carry around again, but at least I can trim my sideburns in between haircuts.
We also bought quite a number of traditional handicrafts, like painted wooden geckos and painted wooden bowls. There was a shop on the corner near the mall that offered reasonable prices that required very little negotiation. The wooden bowls were 25,000 Rp while the larger geckos were around 40,000 Rp. We also got some smaller wooden geckos for 25,000 Rp each. We probably bought a little too much stuff because by the time we fit everything into a box to send home, it came in weighing well over the 5 kilograms that we were aiming for.
Mailing packages home from Indonesia was priced into categories based on weight. We were hoping to fall into the 2 - 5 kilogram category, but instead we were going to fall into the 5 - 10 kilogram class. The cost from Mataram to Toronto for our 8.5 kilogram package came to 370,000 Rp, around $40 Canadian, and it is going to take two or three months before it is actually delivered. At least I was able to send home some of the excess clothing that I had brought along as well. I had not worn my jeans or long sleeved shirt since China and did not expect to wear them in Thailand either so now they are on a ship heading home to Toronto. I heard that Laos can get a little chilly during night, but I still have two pairs of long pants and a jacket with me.
On our second night in Mataram, Lisa and I had still not found a nice little warung to eat at and again we tried a food stall from around the mall. This time we went to a place where they spoke no English, but I managed to point at what we wanted and we placed an order. The chicken in the chicken fried rice was merely the claw of a chicken though. It didn't look very tasty and it was such tough meat that I wasn't actually able to try any of it. The Lombok spice was so hot in my mouth that I wasn't about to chew on this chicken claw to get some of the meat off. However I did eat the rest of my Nasi Kampur, which was probably a mistake.
Within a few hours of eating what I could from my chicken claw Nasi Kampur, my stomach got really upset. It would remain in an upset state for the rest of our time in Mataram, although it seemed to be worse at night than during the day. After the second night spent on the toilet, I started on an antibiotic regiment of pills that we had brought with us. We wisely visited a travel doctor before setting out on this trip and he had supplied us with a prescription for antibiotics in case something like this would happen. It is a little ironic that nothing happened for the first seven weeks in Indonesia, but we had never really eaten at any places like we had been visiting in Mataram for week eight.
For the next few days, we ate only the safest foods that we could find. This consisted of McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut. It was too late though and my stomach wasn't going to forget about the chicken claw Nasi Kampur from the food stall behind the mall. By the time we were getting sick of all the fast food, we found a brick-and-mortar establishment that specialized in Chinese and Indonesian foods. This place had much better food than the food stalls behind the mall, for around double the price (which is still very cheap). They also had fruit juices which I had gotten so used to over the past two months.
We eventually figured out that the easiest way to get airline tickets was through a travel agent. We visited two places and they had very similar prices, both below the posted rates we could find on the Internet. We ended up buying two tickets with Batavia Air from Mataram to Jakarta on the same day we had tickets to head from Jakarta to Bangkok (Nov 27th, 2008). This would make for a long day of traveling but would help us avoid going to and from the Jakarta airport, which was a considerable distance out of the city centre. The cost was around 1,500,000 Rp for both of us and we bought the tickets three days ahead of time.
Internet cafes were very cheap in Mataram and since we hadn't had much access to the Internet since Bali, we spent an hour or two a day in these Internet cafes. The service was extremely slow by our standards, but we were still able to upload a few more pictures and movies and check on the events happening in the world. The cost was 5,000 Rp/hour at most places and we were usually surrounded by Indonesian kids playing videogames on the Internet.
The day before we were set to leave Mataram, we read some disturbing news regarding the Bangkok airport. Apparently the PAD had stepped up its protests to oust the current government and had occupied the airport which we were supposed to fly to. This had caused all flights to be cancelled, so we were not going to be able to use the tickets we had bought months earlier. To further complicate matters, we had already been in Indonesia for 58 days and our 60 day Visa could not be extended. This would've left us with 2 days to sit in Jakarta and wait it out, or we would have to fly to another country and wait it out. Since the protests in Bangkok had already been going on for months, we decided we had better find somewhere else to wait it out and decided that the Air Asia hub of Kuala Lumpur would make sense.
The day we left Mataram started by us waving down a cab on the main road in front of our hotel. It turns out that cabbies are probably a better way for tourists in Mataram to travel because we did not have any problems getting him to use his meter. Compared to the bemos, that were always trying to overcharge us, the cabs were far more comfortable and even cheaper (than the inflated prices the bemos listed for us anyhow). The ride to the airport was about 15 minutes long and cost us around 20,000 Rp.
The Mataram airport was surprisingly modern and comfortable and before we knew it we were in the air headed to Jakarta. The flight had the most interesting scenery that I had ever noticed as we flew very close to Gunung Agung (in Bali) and right down the northern coast of Bali and Java. We had to make a stopover in Surabaya, but that only lasted a half hour and then we were in the air to Jakarta again. I have never seen so many volcanoes before and I saw many of the things that we had visited on the ground in the two months before this flight.