Lombok has always been an elusive destination for me. Ever since I have been visiting Bali, I try to make a trip to Lombok, but to no avail. This time, I made it happen.
Getting to Lombok is tricky for a lot of reasons. If you're coming from Bali, there are several options to choose from. Taking the fast ferry is perhaps the most popular, but is the most expensive. One way to Lombok or the Boracay-like islands of the Gilis will set you back P2,800 (IDR 450,000). And that's just one-way. You get there in 2 hours, through rough waters. Hence if you're not accustomed to the sea, then you'll be in pain all the way. The fast ferry though can take you straight to the Gilis, which is usually the ultimate destination of people going to Lombok.
The other option is by plane, which is faster (30 minutes) and costs P2,400 one-way (IDR 400,000). Call it weird, but it is cheaper. However, the plane lands in Mataram, the capital of Lombok island. If you're going to Gilis, then it will take another hour via land and sea travel, and it's not that easy going there, unlike in Thailand where every tourist destination is connected.
If you're coming from Jakarta, then you can take a Lion Air flight to Mataram for P3,600 (IRD 600,000) one way, so that eliminates the cost of going to Bali. This is cheaper of course if you're just going to Lombok.
So here was what I did. After missing my Air Asia flight to Bali, I booked a flight to Mataram the next day. I spent a night in Lombok in one of the best value resorts I have stayed (more on that later). Then, I booked a transport service to Gili Trawangan (Gili T), though my choice of resort, the Beach House. It wasn't practically a backpacking trip, since I pre-arranged everything. I was just too tired and had less time to explore.
The results? Well, I'm glad I missed my flight to Bali. I didn't visit Bali anymore. I booked another flight back to Jakarta via Lion Air from Mataram. I had a well-deserved relaxing trip in Lombok and the Gilis.
So what's in Lombok? Almost all say it's the next Bali. Think Bohol versus Boracay. Lombok is less crowded, less developed and more natural. The beaches on mainland Lombok aren't that good, except for the ones in Kuta Town up north. Otherwise, they have the same beach quality as Bali's. Thus, Lombok is more for a laid back escape. The only action happens in the tourist town of Senggigi, where all the restaurants, shops and activities are.