Monday, April 15, 2013

Lombok - Kuta

Gianna's trip report of Kuta-Lombok. 
Visited February 2013

Country comes to town - outskirts of Kuta Lombok

Our day of departure Gili Trawaangan dawned, blue skies and a flat sea so needless to say we were on the first boat over to Lombok ! 20 mins and it was such a lovely journey.

On arrival at the mainland (we were there by 8.30) we bagged a driver to take us to Kuta Lombok for 350k and arrived in a blaze of sunshine.
Bangsal to Kuta-Lombok goes via Mataram

We had booked to stay at Yuli’s Homestay which is a little way (600m) up the road from the main Kuta beach. The place is great, so clean and well taken care of and this was the highlight of our whole trip. Owned and run by a Sasak and Kiwi couple, there are 8 rooms, 2 pools and lovely grassed gardens. There is one block of 3 rooms and one of 5. In each block there is a kitchen you can use all day/night and they provide tea, coffee and drinking water. There is an honesty fridge and the prices are the same as the local markets for beers, soft drinks and bottled water.
There’s a real homely feel here too and the atmosphere was very friendly. Maybe we were lucky, but there were alot of really nice people staying there at the same time as us so it was great to chat over a beer during the late afternoon and one day had us all going by motorbike (rent from the owners for 50k per day) in convoy down to Tanjung Aan Beach.
Being off season there wasn’t much going on in town so we tended to congregate on our terrace for a post dinner beer and a good chat. Breakfast is included here to and is the usual fare for this area, toast and eggs or a pancake, fruit, juice and fab Lombok coffee and is served in a lovely little gazebo in the middle of the garden. Again you can be social and interact with other guests and the staff or you can keep yourself to yourself and have breakfast on your terrace. The pools are cleaned and maintained to a really high standard which you wouldn’t expect for the price tag for the rooms. The rooms get cleaned daily and were immaculate !

There are enough sunbeds round Yulis Homestay's pool if you want to stay all day but we preferred to go to the local beaches and have a wander around before heading back late afternoon for a dip and a beer and a chat with some other guests who had all been doing the same thing. Mike the owner is always around and up for a chat and is really a great guy, full of info and so helpful. We were looking for a certain beach and couldn’t find the turn off as the sign had blown down so the next day he jumped on his bike and we followed – we would never have found it !
Scratch the surface at Yuli’s though and you find so much more than just a place to stay, there’s a real sense of community here and listening to Mike tell stories about the local people, the culture and the way of life was a real bonus. They employ all local people and everyone from the night security guy to the girls who do pretty much everything there are friendly and seem happy to be there. Mike and Yuli also are very involved with their local community and have various projects from getting the kids to clean up rubbish from various beaches to crime busting tactics...there used to be a problem with hiring scooters as they would suddenly be “stolen” from a beach or outside a restaurant and then the owner would of course expect whoever had rented them to pay for a new scooter. This doesn’t happen anymore as many of the guesthouse owners know who these few scammers were and it has been dealt with by these guys being in full time employment.

The main beach at Kuta is very picturesque, stunning even and this goes for the whole coastline. The swimming however isn’t great as the sand is really difficult to walk on, you sink up to your calves in what feels like quicksand, and although the seawater is clear there seems to be a bit of a strong current.

You really can’t get to the other beaches without your own transport and some of the ones we had some time at are :
Tanjung Aan....probably 15 mins from Yuli’s and a perfect horseshoe bay surrounded by low hills and protected by a reef so it’s ideal for swimming. There are two little warung there, we used Turtle as it was at the end of the beach. They have quite an extensive menu for such a tiny place and the nasi goring was great value for 15k. A fresh papaya juice was 8k and a fanta 10k. They will let you use the sunbeds and umbrellas if you buy a drink.

Tanjung Aan

Selang Belanik .....takes about 45 mins from Kuta and is a beautiful drive west through the hills and villages until suddenly you reach a crossroads which has an entrance to some villas, drive through there and tell the gateman you are going to the restaurant. Drive up the paved pathway past the villas and turn at the sign for Biru Laut....stunning lumbung style restaurant which serves lovely food, try the crispy chilli prawns for 45k. A fresh lime juice was 17k but came served with soda rather than water. The service is very good and the place and location really worth the trip. They won’t let you use the hammocks and sunbeds though as they are reserved for villas guests which meant we just camped out under some trees for the day...not such a hardship. We only saw 2 other tourists all day......
Segar Beach .........(east) easy to find as it is signposted....more suited for surfers as there was quite alot of waves. You pay 10k to get into the beach and that’s basically for safe parking of your bike so it’s alright. We didn’t stay long here as the surf really was too big for a normal swim that day.
Mawun..........probably takes 25 mins from Yuli’s and again is easy to find as there’s a signpost and again you will pay to park your bike. Take your own water/drink etc as there was just 1 stall there selling non cooled water for 15k. The beach itself is lovely, a huge bay with soft sand and enough
waves to make it an interesting chill out spot. It seemed to be a local hangout and there were lots of kids playing football which was fun to watch.

Kuta beach itself of course has more choice of restaurants and shacks along the seafront. It’s small enough an area that you can walk around at night and check out to see where you feel like eating. Being low season we tended to follow the crowd. Some places we tried were
Full Moon Cafe along the main beach which did a great sundowner margarita
Java Warung which had great local food at great local prices.... all the usual Indo fare and was justifiably busy every night with everyone finding a space at one of the three long tables. Nice social atmosphere but they have no liquor licence and whether you get a beer or not is down to whether or not the police are around !
Warung Bule – lovely little place with an ambitious menu and great service. Get the seafood tempura and share it between 2 of you as a main course, it’s huge and delicious. My steamed fish with ginger actually came as hunks of fish covered in pesto.....weird. Hubbies steak was good though and the ambiance was lovely and we enjoyed our evening there.
If you want a pizza you can’t do better than Dwikis which also offer a delivery service. I had something veggie based and Hubbie had the seafood and they were really nice and not bad value at 40k. We also had some noodles there which were extremely nice and another day I just had a salad which was also very good and hubbie repeated his seafood pizza and that’s always a good sign ! The place looks slightly dark and dingy from the outside but don’t let that put you off
The Riviera restaurant is also a nice choice. Owned by a French guy, the menu has a good mix of western and Indo fare and is not as pricey as the name suggests. Good service here as well and we enjoyed our fish/seafood and satay.
Astari is a veggie restaurant which does a great iced coffee and had the most wonderful views down over Kuta and further. The road has been newly tarmacked and while were there, place was sold, whether it will stay as a restaurant is not clear. Rumours abound !
Outstanding view from Astari restaurant alongside the main road heading west from Kuta

Now we only saw a tiny part of the island of Lombok.....a road trip from Bangsal down to Kuta and then a few forays out into the countryside during our 6 day stay there but we loved it. Much drier down there than other parts and we were blessed with 6 days of sunshine and the feeling for me was like travelling 25 years ago around Thailand. You get the sense that you have stumbled on somewhere quite special, the beauty of the area aside, it’s unspoilt, it’s raw and natural and it’s real. Travel through the hills and mountains and you see village life, people threshing rice on the roadside, men on their way to mosque, kids carried in slings across their mothers, agriculture, water buffalo grazing on the beaches, gold mining, goats being herded along the beaches and a smile from pretty much everyone you come across. Add to this, in Kuta, a good selection of accommodation from the Novotel down to bamboo bungalows and places to eat, quite roads with very little traffic, beautiful beaches and clean seas and a great travellers atmosphere.
There are a few indications that things will probably start to change...the new airport of course and the fact that may roads are being resurfaced, places being bought and sold and developers sniffing around some of the sheltered beaches. But for now it is really wonderful and I’d go back tomorrow which is what I said 25 years ago on my first visit to Thailand !


1 comment:

  1. Thank you nice article.
    your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
    I love here Surin Beach Hotel This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
    And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
    Thank again.