It’s a sunny Friday morning in Senggigi, though thankfully it’s still not as hot as Singapore. I’m not entirely sure what I will do today, but the first thing to do is head out and get breakfast, since this hotel doesn’t have a restaurant.
I chose Senggigi for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it’s the best base for getting around the island, being located in the north west of the island. The other choice would be Kuta in the south, but from Senggigi it’s just a couple of hours to the waterfalls and Mt. Rinjani, the second highest volcano in Indonesia, and just a couple of hours down to Kuta and the other beaches of the south of the island. It’s also closer to the port for getting to the Gili islands. The second reason was because I contacted an old friend who spent a few years living on Lombok and she said to base myself there.
The guide I browse online says Senggigi is a dump and is best avoided if possible. It’s certainly not what I was expecting. What I see as I wander around looking for somewhere to eat is basically just a strip of restaurants, mini marts tourist information booths. I was picturing something more like Nha Trang in Vietnam.
I find a bakery and have a croissant and a coffee. They give me the Wi-Fi password and I browse some things to do. I haven’t planned much for Lombok, save for reading about people scooting around the island and stopping at beaches and things like that, which is kind of what I have in mind. On the way back from the bakery I swing down the road that leads to the beach. It passes a ritzy resort, goes along some murals of dead rock stars and then descends into a dirt track lined with warungs, or small shops selling snacks, fruit and souvenirs. At the end of the path is a huge concrete structure which serves as the jetty for the fast boat shuttle services to Senggigi.
The water looks quite nice but the sand isn’t that great. It’s a rough, gritty kind of sand. In this part of the island the sand can be volcanic, so it’s a kind of grey rather than being soft and white. I go to the left and walk along the water’s edge, then turn back and walk to the other end of the bay. Towards the middle is a sign saying Art Market. I go back up a path and wander through – it’s just a few shops selling toutist tat – and find myself back on the main strip.
I begin to question if I did the right thing in staying here. When I checked in I had to pay upfront, which I haven’t had to do anywhere else thus far, so I feel like I am stuck here for six days. Perhaps I should have done a couple of nights here and then moved on and stayed a night in different places as I loop around the island. I look for places where I can rent a bike or a scooter. Several people hanging around next to scooters ask if I want a ride somewhere. I politely decline.
I get back to the hotel. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet, so I do so and read some more about Lombok. All the suggestions are about renting scooters but I google the requirements and I haven’t got a scooter license, nor an international driving permit. My friend who lived here said just rent a scooter and make your way around. However, people at rental places and my hotel staff have also said that it’s not a good idea to ride one if you have never done it before. I’m conflicted.
I ask at reception whether there’s anywhere to get a push bike. At least I might make it up to Senggigi beach, which appears on Google Maps to be around the headland. I wonder if I have ended up staying in the wrong part of the town and I should have been further up the coast. I wonder how I’m going to get myself around the place. I start to feel a little bit bummed out that I didn’t do any planning and now I don’t really know what I am going to do with my six days here. Renting a car would be around 400,000 a day; hiring a car and a driver would be around 700,000. I start to feel a bit miserable.
I eat lunch in a cafe nearby and then go looking for a bike rental place. I go left past the hotel and around the corner but they don’t have any push bikes. They tell me to go back about 400 metres and there is a place that rents them. I head back and ask another couple of places. One tells me to go back to the art market. I trudge down the street and eventually I see bikes for rent on the side of the street.
I stop in and I get a bike for 30,000 for 24 hours. At least I can get around a little bit today. It’s now around 3 pm. I head down left down the road and set out for the hindu temple on the cliff at the southern end of Senggigi. It’s supposed to be worth a visit and offer great sunset views.
The road is hilly and twisting. Twice I get off the bike and walk up the hill. The derraileur isn’t working that well; I can only get up to the second cog of the three gear sets at the front, and the first and second gears are slow to engage; I flick down and they do nothing and then unexpectedly clank and clang as they engage at random.
At the temple I am greeted by warung women flogging pineapples and mangoes, which I don’t want. A man says he will look after my bike, but I lock it anyway. A red sash is placed around me, for which I am to donate money. A lady shows me a list of donations that people have left – some are 10,000, some are 50,000. The smallest note I have is 20,000.
I head into the temple. At the bottom of some steps there is a ceremony taking place in an open chamber. A bunch of kids are sitting down while some solemn chanting is going on. They shout ‘Hello!’ and cover their mouths and giggle as I walk past. People are laying offerings at the shrine. I walk past and don’t take photos cos it looks like a serious ceremony.
At the cliffside shrine there is a sign saying it is forbidden to enter unless praying. To the left is a small channel in the rocks which leads to the beach. I go through, having seen two tourists going through there on my way down from the gate. There are some volcanic rocks with the waves splashing over them and some rock pools. The tourists have climbed the rocks and are standing in front of the temple and I wait for them to come down before I do the same.
Back on the bike and back up to the town. I go past the bike rental place and come to a high hill. I walk the bike up. There is a viewing platform at the top. I keep going and come to another hill, which I also walk up. The road is pretty high as it cross the headlands. I begin to wish I had a scooter.
I’m looking for what Google Maps says is Senggigi beach. When booking a hotel I read about and saw a place called Quinci Villas and they are at this point on the map. It looks a couple of kilometres way but is, of course, further. I keep checking the map. I see a resort down below me, but it is not the Quinci. I being to wonder whether I should just give up and head back. A woman in a headscarf passes me, having come all the way up the hill. I decide if she can do it then I can keep going.
At the bottom of the hill the road is flat and long, and when I see a sign saying Warung Paraiso: Good Food, Good BBQ. I decide to pull in there, go through the palm grove and park my bike. Fishing boats line the entrance to the beach. A bunch of teenagers are hanging out. It looks quite nice, so I wander along, waving away the jewellery sellers and pineapple plyers and other beach sellers.
I sit down for a drink at a bar. The sun is getting lower now and it is getting close to sunset. Next to the bar a bunch of sellers are sitting and talking amongst themselves. I’m beginning to like this now and I’m glad I didn’t give up.
Some of the sellers leave. An old man comes over to the table to talk to me. I immediately distrust him as I know he’s going to try and sell me something. He makes bamboo blowpipes and is keen to show me them. He knows that tourists don’t have room in their bags for long items so he’s modified the design to make them retractable and therefore easier to fit into a backpack or suitcase. He pulls out a target, places it in the sand and then gives me a demonstration. I tell him I have to leave soon as the sun is going down and I am on a bike. I swig down the beer and head back to the bike.
As I’m leaving the palm grove I get my first taste of a Lombok sunset. The sky has gone golden and the trees and boats are silhouetted against the sun. It’s quite beautiful, and I wish I could stay longer but the roads are not lit and I don’t have lights on my bike.
I make my way back along the road, stopping when I can at the top of hills and watching the sunset. This has lifted my spirits somewhat, though I am still feeling a little bummed out about what to do here. I get back to the hotel just before it goes dark.
I don’t know what to do for dinner. I wander along the strip and then back to the hotel and head down the road for the beach. There are some backpacker places along the street before it gets to the alley with the warungs. The alley is dark, and so is the beach when I get there. I make my way along a path running behind the beach. Soon I see lights and lanterns. There are three restaurants here and diners are sitting out on the sand. It looks nice, so I pull up a seat and order a drink and some food.
Every few minutes I am disturbed by people roaming the tables selling jewellery, sarongs, T-shirts and arts and crafts. I say sorry, I’m not buying. It seems the tactic is to say hello and ask where you’re from so that you begin a conversation. A guy selling jewellery crouches next to a couple at the table over from me. They’re from Denmark. The man engages in conversation with the seller but the woman sits staring at her phone with an annoyed look on her face and chain-smoking cigarettes.
They leave. I’m still finishing my post-meal coffee. I just know the guy will come over to me. He does. He’s a nice guy and he’s not pushy and I tell him straight off I’m not buying anything. I show him my jewellery-less wrists. He talks anyway. I tell him I’m going to Gili Air next week. He says he used to live on Gili T and tells me about a Welsh guy he knew who drank himself to death. Cheery. It’s hard for people now, he says, because everyone books their hotels and tours online. People resort to selling jewellery on the beach. I sympathise, get my bill and leave through the art market.
I make one last stop before I go back to the hotel. The bakery is part of a large Indian restaurant which has an open fronted, circular design on two levels. It’s not full, so I order a drink. A band is playing Waiting in Vain, which is one of my favourite songs. I being to think about the tours and drivers and money I will need to spend here. I try to feel optimistic but I’m still not sure how to go about tackling doing Lombok. Since I only brought out a little money – just a few notes, no wallet – I can only afford one beer. Sales tax and service charge are no included in the menu price. If they had been I could have had two. Never mind.
I get a couple of croissants from the bakery for tomorrow’s breakfast with the remaining money that I have. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day and an answer about how to tackle this week will come.