Indonesia: Around Cakranegara, Lombok

Nestled on the island of Lombok’s western side, Cakranegara offers a quieter alternative to the bustling city of Mataram in Indonesia’s archipelago.

Apologising in advance for the poor-quality 35mm photos. Scanned photos and original negatives are no longer in optimal condition – they are from 1998.

You probably never heard of Cakranegara and before landing in Lombok, I never did either. But, only a ten-minute drive from Mataram – the capital of Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara province – Cakranegara is a rest stop and a slower pace.

Getting there

Hitching a ride from Senaru to Cakranegara via the beach resort town of Senggigi for a camera repair, an elderly Australian couple also shares our Bemo.

Senaru to Cakranegara, Lombok, SE Asia

After just over two hours of driving south in Lombok and arriving in Cakranegara, I am astounded at the amount of cash these tourists hand the driver.

Perplexed as to why the driver receives such a bundle of cash as the ride isn’t far – Lombok is not a huge island – he swiftly hides the cash away in a pocket.

Cakranegara is a respite and finally to relax, for a couple of days. Especially, after the arduous three-day trek to Mount Rinjani, but also pulling a muscle in my groin during the trek beckons some well-earned rest.

Where to stay

Discovering a great hotel in Cakranegara, the Pesaban Hotel, impressively, this hotel is still open in 2021.

The room offers an air-conditioner, TV, hot water, and is cleaned after the first night. The cleaning is the first in two months of travelling in Indonesia. A great place to rest up for a couple of days before planning the next move as we have no plans.

Around Cakranegara

A quick twenty-minute ride from Cakranegara takes us to Gunung Pengsong’s monkey park, and a wood carving hub. Neither is very exciting although taking a few photos is obligatory. The pesky monkeys are quite friendly, but be careful as they do snatch your food at any chance.

monkey park, Cakranegara, Lombok, Indonesia, SE Asia
Here’s looking at you kid…

Returning to Cakranegara’s Seta market for a little souvenir bartering and hustle from locals, a little surprised to see just how young locals start to hassle tourists…

monkey park, Cakranegara, Lombok, Indonesia, SE Asia
Not shy to ask for money

Bump into Yan (guide) and Patricia from the Mount Rinjani trek and enjoy a wonderful satay meal at the fabulous Sate House, before returning to a bus full of noisy and excited students from Yogyakarta, at the Pesaban.

The morning brings a spontaneous decision for a quick trip to Mataram only ten minutes away for a little sightseeing around the city.

Gunung Pengsong Temple

The Balinese temple of Gunung Pengsong (real name Pangsung) and built in 1514, is perched on top of Mount Pengsong.

After the three-day difficult trek to Mount Rinjani, ascending the steep steps to the top of the mountain burns the muscles once more, but thankful to reach the top for a rest.

Gunung Pengsong Temple, Lombok, Indonesia, SE Asia
Happy to reach the top (Photo credit: Colin Palmer)

The impressive view to the lowlands below makes up for the climb in the sultry heat and the temple is worth a visit, albeit too much rubbish is strewn around the temple’s grounds. Tragic.

Time is dissolving too quickly and the visa is running out travelling through Indonesia for two months – we need to keep moving. Decide on a quick stop-over at Gili Nanggu (known as Gili Nangg) to see what all the hype is about, before transiting through Bali to exit Indonesia from Java on a ferry to Singapore to renew the visas.

Leaving Cakranegara

Today we try for an early start from Cakranegara as need to go to Lembar before catching the ferry to Gili Nanggu.

Wait an hour and a half on the bus while the ticket hustlers find passengers to fill the bus. This is Indonesia and nothing leaves until rammed full to the brim. Even if this is only a fifty-minute trip, we’re forced to wait much longer before starting this trip. Patience. Ironically, once the bus gets going, the Polisi pulls up the bus for being overloaded!

Cakranegara, Lembar, Gili Nangg, Lombok, Indonesia, SE Asia

Haunting Balinese Gamelan music plays in the background during the bus ride – easy to drift away with the passing scenery until reaching Lembar.

Organising a boat to Gili Nanggu island, we seem to be stuck on a slow boat – several boats whiz by, leaving us behind. The short trip of around fifteen minutes in calm seas becomes forty minutes on our slow boat.

Gili Nanggu

Finally arriving, the island seems overcrowded with tourists, mostly Italians – makes a change from Australian tourists in Bali.

Living in Queensland (Australia) and on a boat, I have been too spoilt visiting untouched deserted islands at home to really appreciate Gili Nanggu.

Gili Nanggu, Lombok, Indonesia, SE Asia
Poor photo of a lovely Gili Nanggu

With only two types of accommodation on the island – bungalows or a Losmen – we settle for the latter.

The Indonesian Losmen is a traditional long building with rattan partitions for walls, no ceilings, and a roof. The paper-thin walls offer no privacy. Someone’s breathing in the next room sounds as though the person is in your bed – disconcerting.

Although beautiful, decide that Gili Nanggu is not for us but also need to move on and finally after only eight days in Lombok, need to leave.

Leaving Lombok

Sad to leave Lombok, and much prefer the island for its lack of tourists, rustic ambience, and relaxed feel.

Lombok seems much poorer and dryer than Bali. There is also a stark contrast in religion, locals, countryside, and hustling. Many of Lombok’s locals, mainly men and boys, migrate to Bali for work as there is absolutely no work in Lombok. A desperate situation but still they go to Bali and they survive with very little and on very little.

Just missing the ferry to Bali, we wait an hour and a half until the next ferry leaves from Lembar to Padangbai.

Padangbai, Bali, Lembar, Lombok, Indonesia, SE Asia

Luckily, the seas are calm and not too many locals are sick on this ferry crossing, which takes almost five long hours.

The occasional fishing boat retains our interest when almost nodding off into the distant slumber until reaching Padangbai.

Organising a shuttle bus to Ubud, another two couples join us for the ride and one couple follows us to our Reni Hotel – I guess it is easier to tag along with someone rather than door knock for a room. Remember, this is 1998, so no mobile phone or internet. Travel is very different and much easier two decades later.

Share an overpriced meal but lovely evening at the Jazz Club – would never have thought to bump into such a club in Indonesia – Bali is nothing like the rest of Indonesia.

Leaving Bali

Only a quick transit through Bali as on the way to Java and finally, it is time to leave Bali, again…

from Ubud to Negara, Bal to Banyuwangi, Java, Indonesia, SE Asia

From Ubud, it is back to Negara on a short hour’s bus trip before heading for the 45-minute ferry to Banyuwangi in Java.

Visas are running out…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

8 responses to “Indonesia: Around Cakranegara, Lombok”

  1. gillmorris Avatar

    I love coming along with you guys for the ride! Great memories ay?! xx

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Gill and yes, great memories! I have so many journals to digitise still…
      We’re back in lockdown from today and hope that you guys are OK. x

  2. wetanddustyroads Avatar

    You did not disappoint me with this post … on an overcrowded bus, a small (and slow) boat and a ferry! I love to read about all of your different means of transport on your expeditions 😁.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Great to hear and thanks for commenting!
      Next to write the next instalment, think that was the boat trip from hell! 😉

  3. the eternal traveller Avatar

    I’m not keen on monkeys so I’d be keeping my distance from them. 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I love monkeys but they can be quite vicious and it always seems to be the ones that have been fed (spoilt) by humans… 😉

  4. The Year I Touched My Toes Avatar

    Hello Nilla, I was interested to see the Lombok posts to pop up in my Reader ( which I am not in much there days). I travelled on that huge ferry from Padangbai to Lombok in 1982 to get to Gili Trawangan which at the time was not well known, had no tourism infrastructure unless you count the one losmen available for accommodation, complete with outside mandi and toilet with no roof just shoulder height walls, a mud kitchen, no electricity, sheets were the walls between anyone staying and a green tree snake slithering around in the thatched roof above our heads.

    My husband and I holidayed in Bali in October 2019. I was hesitant about going back Bali for all the usual reasons but mostly the traffic. My plan was pool and relax as opposed to trekking mountains. We holed up in Ubud for a week which we really enjoyed. We went to Gili Air from Padangbai on the fast boat. I couldn’t resist the temptation to visit Trawangan. Even being well prepared for the changes I was still quite shocked. Definitely a party island.

    Anyway I was interested as to why you chose Nanggu to visit. I think you were brave to climb Rinjani. My husband has talked about going there in the past, but frankly after the volcano episode in NZ recently I am off that idea. He has spoken Indonesian for many years travelled there for 3 months in the 80s and for last X number of years has been majoring in it at University so he is keen to go back and use it, when it is safe to do so. We talked about going to Flores before we went to Bali last time but decided to leave until we have the time to island hop a bit. I would love to go Sulawesi and see the Toraja area to see their burial sites, that one has been on my list for over 30 years. I will get there one day.

    Keep the old photos and travel stories coming I can relate. Hope you are well. I think I remember reading you are back in Brisbane. We all feel like it’s ground hog day in Melbourne. Louise

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Louise
      Great to hear from you!
      Sounds like you had an ‘authentic’ time in 1982 – a wonderful story.
      We were trying to find somewhere that wasn’t as popular and Nanggu seemed like a good option at the time.

      It’s always disconcerting to know that you’re trekking up an active volcano and one that erupted only several years before your trek! Would love to visit Flores and Sulawesi…you’ll have to stay tuned for the next chapter as we ended up travelling in Indonesia for almost 4 months.

      An old cruising saying “go now my friend, it’s later than you think…” But, we’re all stranded right now and yes, I’m back in Brisbane.

      Hope lockdown isn’t too distressing. Take care of yourself and stay safe. 🙂

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