Of Lombok and Admissions

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Laid-back was the first word that came to mind upon setting foot in Lombok. It was high noon. The sun blared above, and below were rows of restaurants. Caucasian tourists donning flip-flops and sun-burnt skin ambled around either on foot or on scooters. The vibe in this side of Indonesia was very tropical, a bit hippie too, and, to me, had the makings of (if not already) a party town.

We arrived right on time for lunch where El Bazaar would be feeding us. It was a humble place with walls of unpainted cement, at least near the entrance. Farther back, a circular space had walls painted royal blue. It was arguably one of the top places we dined in. And not just because it looked effortlessly beautiful in pictures. The food was superb too. 
lombok indonesia

lombok indonesia

rain campanilla
Words And Wanderlust, everybody!

The meal was Moroccan. We were served good-looking dishes of sausage, couscous, blue cheese, pita, and other tasty elements laid out on pastel-colored ceramic plates. We dined communal style, with arms crisscrossing as we reach for morsels. Later, Potpot called and we flocked to a couple of ladies selling woven shawls. I purchased four, and I forgot how much I paid. This was one of those delightful moments when the memory of it does not involve how much money you spent.

Afterwards, we boarded our bus and drove to Sade Village. Located on the southern part of Central Lombok, Dusun Sade houses a large concentration of the indigenous Sasak tribe. Here, traditional is the operative word. The 700 residents continue to uphold their customs and practices – from kidnapping their soon-to-be-wife to wiping cow dung in the floors of their homes. 

As soon as we stepped off the bus, the thump, thump of percussion permeated through the Rembitan air. A colorful handwoven scarf was gingerly placed round each of our necks and, one by one, we were ushered inside the village. In the wide open space, we gathered. Sauntering their way after us was a pair of men sporting identical garbs – blangkon on their heads, white shirts on their backs, and batik around their hips. Both were also wielding a gendang beleq. Big drums.
lombok indonesia

These traditional drums are made from wood that is hard but light. One drum-head is from the skin of a billy, the other from a nanny. Each produces different sounds. The performance is traditionally for sending off, and welcoming home soldiers. But, that day, it was performed for us. The two main sekehe, their faces taut and regal, surrounded each other, kneeling and bowing as they struck the gendang. The white tuft on their mallets mesmerizing.
sasak sade village

Read: The Lesson Yogyakarta Had Taught Me

Two Sasak boys with identical face paint then took the stage. A local announced they will perform the tari petuk – a ceremony for boys about to undergo circumcision. Their movements are not fluid and are somewhat reminiscent of the modern dance style of locking and popping – necks and arms extended and frozen in sharp, unnatural angles which in its entirety, to me, looked like an attempt to express the painful (I'm sure) experience of having one's foreskin removed.
sasak sade village

Men with bare torsos, grasping a rattan staff on one hand and a goat skin shield on the other, entered the clearing after the petuk. They were to demonstrate the violent art-form of peresehan. In the days of yore, peresehan was a means to choose the strongest warriors. Now, it's done both as a past time and during special occasions such as the Indonesian Independence Day.
sasak sade village

The two-man "battle" is as real as it could get. Each side is eager to land a hit. As an onlooker, I was rendered speechless upon seeing the barrage of strikes landing on the men's abdomens. I stared in alarm as the staves connected on their backs, arms, and thighs. The men's muscles visibly contract, straining from receiving and giving hits. The shield proved to be not much use. The only sure way to spare one's self was to run away and hide in the crowd.
sasak sade village

sasak sade village

I was glad that the next performance was not as intense. Tari amaq tempengus featured some sort of a court jester. It was interactive in that the jester went around the crowd, even kissing one of my companion's camera (was it Camie's? Or Ave's? Mariza's?). It brought a pleasant atmosphere. A nice and fitting ending to the presentations. 
sasak sade village

We were then allowed to go around the village. Traditional woven fabrics known as ikat can be purchased in the many stalls here, as well as bead necklaces and bracelets. Vernacular houses not too different from our own bahay kubo can also be inspected up close. Lumbung, the villages' rice granary and Lombok's emblem, can easily be noticed as it stands high among the houses. 
sasak sade village
Inside one of the vernacular houses in the village

sasak sade village
The roofs are also made from thatched palm fronds

sasak sade village
Weaving ikat is one of the main industries in the village

Walking around the narrow paths of the village elated me. Indonesia knows what she's doing, her heart's in the right place. Sade village was community-based tourism in all its beautiful essence: preserving, conserving, sustaining. While I've been told that visits to the village are not as colorful during "regular" days, personally, I'd prefer seeing the village going about their daily lives. Men doing farm work; women weaving ikat. I imagined staying here for a night or two, immersing myself in their culture and having a taste of how they live. And just like in Yogyakarta, I found myself wishing for more time. I was just getting so engrossed in my musings when Dana, one of our reliable coordinators, appeared to tell us we needed to leave. I followed with a heavy heart, belatedly realizing that Dusun Sade had overtaken Borobudur as my favorite destination.

Read: To Indonesia, With Love

Thereafter, we went and checked in  at Golden Tulip Hotel where we rested for a bit before proceeding for dinner. That night we dined at RM Ayang Taliwang Raya.
where to stay in lombok

where to stay in lombok
The view from my floor in Golden Tulip

where to eat in Lombok
We were treated to live music in RM Ayam Taliwang Raya

The next day, we headed to the Lombok gems known as the Gili Islands

At Teluk Nare, we got on a ferry where we watched the sparkling shoreline of Gili Trawangan coming slowly to view. We docked and changed into our swimming clothes in Villa Lombok where lunch would be served later; some of us had flippers fitted. We then went back to the boat and sailed farther to the snorkeling sites.
what to do in lombok

I need to be honest. I like the mountains better. Perhaps it's because in my core is the sea. The ocean is too familiar, too close to what's within, to the vacuity and contained turmoil, that I don't enjoy being in the water as much as being on peaks. The ocean, much like myself, scares me. And despite the undeniable beauty of the Gili Islands, it sits on the bottom of my list of favorite places in Indonesia. My only fond memory of it is my first encounter with Chitato which I can definitely say was a love-at-first-sight kind of deal. 

I remember thinking on the way to Gili Air, our vessel slicing like a blade across the aquamarine waters:

The ocean is too deceitful.

The ocean hides too much, reveals so little. Its mystery, both frustrating and frightening. And it's worrisome that, one day, it will sweep in and undo all. 

Because the ocean is your true self, and your true self is the summary of everything that you hope to be, your passions and your fears. And someday, the waves – both literally and figuratively – will come and claim us all.

I missed dinner at Golden Tulip the night after our foray to the Gili Islands. I crashed on the comfortable bed, forgetting time and hunger. Being in the water always does that to me. And for the first time in six days, I finally succumb to the idea that I truly was exhausted. 

Oh, I cannot wait to tell you about Padar

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