Senggigi, The Warm Ghost Town

Trip Start Jul 04, 2004
Trip End Jul 09, 2004

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Monday, July 5, 2004

Monday, July 4th, 9:30 pm

A pitch-black sky welcomed me as I landed on Selaparang Airport. I felt a little bit unsatisfied (due to my delayed flight from Jakarta), but not at all dispassionate. During the flight I had introduced myself to a bright ten-year old girl named Erin. She was going back from her family's vacation to Surabaya. I talked with her endlessly. Our parallel lives were merged for just that 40 minutes flight and those chats of actually-nothings. She told me how Lombok would be like once I'm there.

And now here I am. So this is how Lombok feels, I whispered to myself, trying to convey everything my senses could muster into yet-undefined words. I stepped down from the plane, my eyes fixed upon those tiny flickering lights that dressed the night. My uncle was already there with the hotel's driver to pick me up. As we drove along the empty road, I could sense the trees, and next, the sea, were looming ahead and all around us. For the rest of the evening my uncle and I confined ourselves inside our room, busying ourselves with some conversations.

Tuesday, July 5th

We started up quite late in the morning, but before noon we had managed to start walking along Senggigi Beach, and tried the first bemo (a minibus used for public transport) that passed us by. Senggigi Street, in the mornings, was, as usual, silent. Thanks to the profuse sunlight, I felt like walking through a warm ghost town. There were hardly any people except for those staring emptymindedly on the ground. According to the locals, the western part of Lombok, mainly Senggigi, was once eaten up by this promising wave of tourism, and consequently, it welcomed commercialism. But after the Mataram riot and the Bali bomb incident, this wave was soon over, leaving in its wake a despairing area stacked with restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels; all in wait, hungrily, for the next big splash.

     The road of ghosts, Senggigi

We visited one of the many tour organizers somewhere here. The visit gave me a pocketful of ideas on how I should spend my four days here. There are the three Gili Islands for surfers, the beach-lovers and party animals. The conquest of Mt. Rinjani, or the four-day boat tour to Komodo Island, is ready for the daring and adventurous. For those who enjoy observing the many facets of world cultures, a visit to the traditional Sasak villages can be quickly arranged. And for honeymooners there's the romantic Kuta Beach (far quieter than Bali's Kuta) in the far south. And there are still more to explore. Yet even such ideas were, to me, only glimpses of whatever-may-come.

     Senggigi Beach

Then we continued. We called a cab and it took us quite far up north. The route was a pleasant one uphill, and on our left side there it was always, the sea. To observe, at several altitudes, the tranquil beaches metamorphosed into towering cliffs and back again, in slow pace, to rocks and sand; the vast expanses of tall trees, mostly palm, coalesced with the shimmering waters of Lombok Bay as their backdrop, was magic. It was as if the Great Hand had engraved on this particular spot of land the word Beauty. For each view, as we went, was more astounding than the last.

The taxi took us to as far as Malimbu, an arrangement of rocks, palm forest and shaded coastlines, about 20 kilometers away from Jayakarta Hotel, where we stayed in. And it didn't surprise me anymore that the place was pregnant with serenity. But soon, as if jealous of our indulged eyes, our stomachs suddenly called for attention. So the driver dropped us back to Senggigi Square, where most restaurants were, but in that time of day, they were mostly closed.

     A view from Malimbu

Shortly after a distance's walk, we found a good place to sit back and fill ourselves up: Taman Senggigi Restaurant. We were the only guests at first, but soon after us, more foreigners followed. The moderately priced sate ayam and cap cay, a portion each and both came with rice, provided a satisfying lunch for us. Once our bellies were filled up, we returned to the hotel by bemo.

I spent the afternoon bathing in the warm waters and walking on the sparkling sand. This particular region, Meninting, has shy waves beating constantly on its rockless shores.

     Lombok Bay, seen from a cliff

When evening came my uncle and I traveled to the small towns of Lombok. The 'city' itself is divided into four regencies: Ampenan, its old houses are well known to possess some Chinese-influenced architecture; Mataram, mainly serves as a center for government and administration; Cakranegara, where people do their shopping and run businesses; and Sweta, where the biggest bemo station is located. It took us about 20 minutes, with the bemo, from the hotel to reach Mataram, and another half hour to reach the biggest shopping-center in Cakranegara. One thing that dawned on me at first, when I entered the city, was its obvious similarities with my hometown on the southern coasts of Java. There was nothing much to see there, really, or perhaps that was because every shops were mostly closed in the evenings. So we decided to return to Senggigi quickly enough, in search of a good dinner.

The woodfire pizza and spaghetti of Lotus Bayview were our meals. They were pleasing and delicious, but too bad I couldn't taste the restaurant's signature drink because they lacked an ingredient. Anyway, the restaurant's name spoke for itself: it had a very heartwarming view of Lombok Bay, mostly at sunset. The rest of that evening was spent inside our room.
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