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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From Padangbai, it’s only a short hour’s trip by bus to reach the next popular and touristy destination of Ubud. Only a quick transit through Bali as we are on the way to Java – visas are running out…