Senggigi (Lombok), Indonesia
Trip Start Aug 31, 2008
47Trip End Apr 30, 2009
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Where I stayed
The first thing we noticed when we looked at our room is that there were only young and attractive females staying there. Judging by all the stilettos healed shoes that were on the porches, it was easy to guess that these girls would be working at night. We were pleasantly surprised at how nicely decorated Hotel Elen was for budget accommodations. There was a koi pond, a cage with rabbits and exotic birds (including a mynah bird in its own cage), as well as a hammock and places to lounge in front of every room.
The first thing we did once we settled in to our room was to have a fresh-water shower. Although we did not have hot water, which we never paid for nor needed anywhere during our travels in Indonesia, the water pressure of this shower was great. Unlike most of the other places we had stayed in, the drains worked adequately as well. The beds were also comfortable, which made this one of the better rooms that we have had on our trip so far.
As is our normal practice after arriving at an unfamiliar place in our travels, we walked around town looking for good places to buy food and drinks. In Senggigi this was not as pleasurable as it had been in other places for two main reasons. First the local sales touts were worse here than anywhere else we have ever been. The main tourist season is July and August and since we were traveling in November, there were many more sales people than there were tourists. Every second person we passed by would give a quick greeting followed by a drawn-out sales pitch, mostly for stuff that I would consider garbage.
The second reason is that Senggigi's restaurants are more expensive than anywhere else we had been in Indonesia. This was a bit of a surprise considering that we had been to Kuta (Bali) and Gili Trawanagan already, but it was a small town and there were no decent looking warungs to be found. Although the prices were relatively high, there were many quality restaurants that were very hard to miss, due to the persistence of the employees standing in front beckoning us in. Our first meal was at a place that offered a free dessert with every meal. We had "hamburgers" (closer to a ham sandwich) with a few fries for 30,000 Rp which was more of a snack than a meal. The included fruit salad dessert was great though with some of the freshest and sweetest pineapple, papaya and banana that I have ever had.
We found a cheap source of water at a 24 hour convenience store called the Blue Market which was situated in a half empty mall in the middle of town. I am sure the road-side stalls also had cheap water, but at Blue Market it came chilled for 3,000 Rp. They also had all the other goods that you would expect at a convenience store at prices consistent with the rest of Indonesia.
After walking around town for awhile, we finally found a good restaurant as well. It was named Sun Shine Restaurant and it had the standard local dishes for 15,000 to 20,000 Rp. This restaurant was about the only one in town that did not have people in front of it beckoning us in and we ate almost every meal there. My favorite dish was there Mie Goreng Jawa (15,000 Rp), but other notable dishes included Fried Potatoes and Onions (13,500 Rp) and a traditional Sasak dish called Nasi Goreng Ayam Pete Limo Pedas for 18,000 Rp. Another good thing about Sun Shine was that they seemed to have the cheapest beer in town, during their happy hour 16:00 to 19:00, at 15,000 Rp for a large Bintang (or Anker when they ran out of Bintang).
After spending our first night at Hotel Elen, we were awoken by the call to prayer from two local mosques starting at 4:20. The dozens of girls staying at the hotel started returning from their work at 1:00 with the rest coming back at 4:00. They were not exactly quiet, which means this is probably not a good place to bring your family. Between the mosques and the girls returning in the middle of the night, this place is probably not good for light sleepers in general, but fortunately that is not a problem for me.
The western coast of Lombok is essentially one giant beach, which is only interrupted by the odd outcrop of stone which separates one beach from another. Most of the beaches are completely deserted and even the main beach of Senggigi was somewhat deserted during our stay. The water was beautiful and warm, but not as clear as it had been around Gili Trawanagan. We read that there was decent snorkeling at certain points, but where we went in the water there was nothing to look at other than a sand bottom. There were quite a number of fishermen working the shore area, so I have a feeling that is why there were not many fish to see. There was one place where people were surfing, but with so little room and only small short waves (in very shallow water), I decided not to go.
Although the beach was nearly deserted of foreigners, there were still quite a number of local sales people plying the beach. Much like the entire town of Senggigi, the local salespeople made it very difficult to relax and enjoy the beauty and atmosphere of the area. Although some of the older tourists seemed to enjoy chatting with the local salespeople, they somewhat ruined Senggigi for Lisa and I. We were glad that we had a comfortable room with air-conditioning and didn't spend much time on the beach. We would visit the beach nearly every day, but had to spend most of the time swimming in the water to avoid the constant barrage of sales pitches.
One notable exception to the seemingly endless line of money grabbing locals was the owner of a fruit/juice store called Nani's Fruit Stand. She never tried to beckon us in and had the best prices on fruit juices in town (7-8,000 Rp). I asked for Jack Fruit, mostly because I had never tried it before, but she explained that she could not carry it in stock because her refrigerator was broken. The second time I asked she felt bad and asked me if I would be back the following day, so she could get some fresh from the local market. Alas it was our last night in Senggigi, but when she found that out she brought us a complimentary bowl of Papaya. Of course I had to leave her a big tip because this was about the only experience we had in Senggigi that wasn't about getting as many Rupiah from us as possible.
Our third night in Senggigi, Sept 19th, we decided to have a few beers and have a night on the town. We started with happy hour at Sun Shine and then bought a few Heinekens to bring back to our hotel lobby. The lobby was filled with the beautiful young girls whom were all dressed in short red dresses Since we had not seen any conspicuous places with dozens of beautiful girls working in the town of Senggigi, we asked them where they were going for the night. We found out that they were all going to a karaoke bar about one kilometer south of town. We noticed that there was also a few pretty young girls hanging outside of the local karaoke bar in Senggigi, so we figured that these places were more about the beautiful young women than singing karaoke.
Once we had finished our Heinekens (22,000 Rp from a local store), we headed to a fancier place called the Papaya Café which advertised a "crazy happy hour" that lasted for only 30 minutes (21:30 to 22:00). I found out that Bintangs were not included in that deal, but instead they offered us Bali Hai Drafts. At 22,000 Rp. for two 620 ml bottles, I guess this was actually the cheapest beer in town. We quickly put down our first one and ordered a second before the half hour had concluded.
The Papaya Café was a fancier place that somehow attracted quite a crowd considering how empty the town seemed to be. They had a live band playing which was remarkably good at playing American/British hits mostly from the 1970s, which was appropriate for the older crowd. We watched one funny older woman as she clapped, swung her head and really got into the music as she sat all by herself. She had brought with her several 1.5 liter bottles of water and didn't seem to order any food or drink from the restaurant besides amply enjoying her own party. After a few liters of beer, it was hard not to laugh at her, but fortunately we kept our laughter quiet enough that she did not notice us.
By the time we had finished our beers at Papaya, it was around 23:00 and we were both really drunk. We wandered around town and actually bought some junk from the sales vendors that were bothering us so much before. Despite being really drunk and foolish, we managed to negotiate more reasonable prices than we ever managed whilst sober. We have accumulated lots of junk now and will need to send some of it home before we catch our flight to Bangkok, which has a baggage limit of 15 kilograms. I don't really remember how the night ended, but I do remember waking up the next morning with a nasty hangover. I was very thankful that we had spent the money to get the air-conditioning in our room because this made it a convenient place to restore our energy.
Our forth and last night in Senggigi was also the worst. The girls came in at 4:00 and started hooting and hollering to the point where I had trouble sleeping even with my ear plugs in. Essentially we were awake from 4:00 until we had to checkout at 11:00. At least checkout went smoothly and getting to Mataram was very easy and convenient as well. We merely walked out to the main street and started walking south. Within a few minutes we came across a cheerful bemo driver that agreed to take us to Ampenan for 4,000 Rp each, the price we were told was the standard fare.
On this trip we were accompanied by some locals that wanted their son to pose for pictures with us. He was shy, but the father was not going to lose this opportunity and picked him up and placed him beside us for the pictures anyhow. Somehow I doubt this is going to make for great photos, but Lisa and I were happy to appear in yet another Indonesian family's photo album. Once we had arrived in Amparan Ampenan, the driver asked us where we were going next and helped us get on the next bemo to Cakra at the normal price of 3,000 Rp.