Day 201: We Are The Attraction

Sat. 2nd March 2013

Street along the shoreWe have a day in Mataram, the capital of Lombok, and a town (city?) which is very spread out. Yesterday we explored the sights within walking distance. Today we want to see if we can do it like the locals, and not be a gringo. Every time we have tried to catch local transport in Indonesia it hasn’t worked out for some reason and we have landed up in a taxi or private speedboat. Firstly, we try to book our transfer to Kuta, the main town and beach resort on the south, by shuttle bus but the agent we try wants to book us a private transfer. On asking how much, the answer is about £24 for a two hour journey collecting us from next to our hotel here and dropping us off at the hotel we have booked in Kuta at any time to suit us. It is just much easier to say yes, at that price.

Our cheerful driver and BemoWe are, however, determined to catch a bemo (equivalent to the collectivos we caught in Mexico) which we have read, and been told run along the main road by our hotel to the Old Port of Ampenan costing about 10p each in 2010. Off we go and stand by the side of the road where instructed and after about 2 minutes and 10 declined taxis later Dave flags down a yellow van who signals him and we climb in the back after confirming the destination. There are already four locals in the back and off we go.

Welcome to Old Port, AmpenanWe follow our progress on the map and after the other passengers alight, the driver asks where we want to go. He cannot believe the destination and wants to take us to touristy Senggigi up the coast. When our map tells us we are close we ask to be dropped off and ask the price. The driver asks for R5,000 each, which we pay as it is about 30p each for a 4km drive.

Lots of boats on the beachIt is a short walk to the sea, which we can see in the distance and we walk along the unmade road with the sea front on one side and small houses on the other side of the road. The locals are all sat out in front of their houses and call out “hello” and “how are you” to us as we pass. Some of the little boys also ask is our names, although they do call both of us Mister! We talk football to some as they are wearing European football jerseys. Its clear they don’t get many tourists here and it seems everyone has turned out to see the Westerners walk by.

Look what I caughtWe watch two men fishing – well bobbing around sat on tyre inner tube on the sea just out of their depth and watch as one of them comes ashore awkwardly carrying what looks like a fish. It was a huge one and everyone gathers around to admire it.

Slightly more comfortable fishingAfter a while, we try heading back to the main road down the side streets, well mud tracks or pathways through many houses dotted with small shops, but find ourselves down a dead end and have to retrace our steps. All the while, everyone young and old smiles and greets us with a cheery hello and cheeky kids try out their English. Back on the main road we see a stationary yellow minivan on the other side of the road. The driver has spotted us and using sign language he waits for us and asks where we are going. He is heading back to Mataram Mall, where we want to go for lunch (and a loo) so we hop in. The driver insists Dave goes in the front as he hopes to fill the back with passengers.

Bench seats, but no passengersEn route he only manages to collect one lady, although he does try very hard to persuade others that they do want a lift! The driver also teaches Dave some new Bahasa Indonesian phrases and wants to show us around tomorrow, but we decline.

Food court and stallsIt is only noon when we get back to the shopping mall so we stop for coffee first in the restaurant we went in yesterday as we know there are loos. The next stop is the supermarket as beer can take some hunting down in a 90% Muslim country. Dave also insisted on a packet of Fox’s chocolate biscuits which cost more than a beer.

Noisy mechanical walking toy ridesThe mall is quite large by Lombok standards and covers four levels so after our food court experience in Australia we decided to try an Indonesian one but it looked worse than school dinners. We retreated to a smart looking restaurant on the ground floor and ordered different Indonesian soups each and fresh pineapple juices for a total of £4. We just cannot believe how cheap everything is. We also thank Tomas from our South American trip for introducing us to fruit juices as these have been constantly good here and refreshing in the humid heat. Whilst we eat we hear a loud mechanical clunking sound and see a child on a pink elephant – I hope this trend does not find its way to the UK.

Much needed cool downThe hotel has a swimming pool on the second floor, which is my first stop on returning to the hotel, for a cooling dip. I have the pool to myself as Dave’s excuse is that the raw patch on his foot where his diving fins rubbed will heal quicker if not subjected to the water. So, he finds a reclining chair and reads.

Level 4 Lombok Plaza HotelThe early return to our hotel also gives us time to catch up on the blog and admire Dave’s underwater pictures of turtles, the Manta Ray and other fish. As there are no restaurants close we eat in the hotel again but the food is disappointing and the pineapple juice tastes watery. The place is full of locals and again no westerners. However, we are not the main attraction here as we were in Ampenan – this is probably just as well as our smiling muscles were getting tired by the end of the morning. The same lady from last night is singing again (murdering songs that were pretty ropey first time around) and this is the busiest we have seen any restaurant for quite a while.

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