Saturday, December 17, 2016

It Left a Mark on My Heart: Lombok, Indonesia (2012) - Guest Post by Briana Leigh

Perhaps one of the most memorable parts of our almost four months spent backpacking in Southeast Asia was experiencing the magic that is the sometimes overlooked island of Lombok, Indonesia. While Bali and the Gili Islands (which are technically part of Lombok, but are typically discussed independently) are often the mainstays for backpackers and vacation seekers alike, Lombok is a special slice of heaven whose less combed-over atmosphere lends a truly relaxing experience for all those willing to open its arms to it.

Now, this is not to say no one knows about or goes to Lombok--on the contrary, it's widely a touristed place in itself with some of the warmest, kindest residents I've encountered. However, I find that so many discussions with fellow travellers about Indonesia are dominated by talks of the inspiring yoga retreats of Bali or the stunning snorkelling on the Gilis, so I wanted to pay tribute to a place which has left such a memorable mark on my heart over the four (yes, FOUR!) years since we travelled there.

I've pondered the markings on my heart fondly and have determined this metaphorical tattoo is made up of three key elements:

  1. The food 
  2. The people
  3. The views
Stunning views from the lookout at Pantai Nipah Peninsula

The Food

This is a quick one to cover on the list which can be encapsulated in one short phrase: "fish and satay all day". We ate some amazing grilled Mahi Mahi plates while we were there and while I don't think we were able to sample all local cuisines during our visit, I distinctly remember the delicious taste of all different types of beef, chicken, and fish satay. There are so many sauces and flavours. Typically, you make your way to the local street food vendor and they'll prepare and package everything for you in a wax paper package of delightful, saucy goodness. Add a side of noodles or rice to that, and you're set. No frills, just pure and delicious joy.

Street food satay and
noodles in Pemenang

Chris enjoying his grilled Mahi Mahi
from Square Restaurant and Lounge in Senggigi

The People

We met some pretty amazing souls on our short stay in Lombok. From expats running small businesses, to Lombok natives teaching at surfing schools, attending university in Mataram, and running tourist businesses, it was a great privilege to meet so many kind, ambitious people. I think we ended up meeting more people on that leg of the trip whom we still keep in good contact with now than from any other place we travelled in Southeast Asia. The warmth of the people on Lombok was something I remember strongly. It felt like I was consistently meeting more members of my extended family, a feeling which resonated very strongly through the generosity of our couchsurfing host, Moya. Moya is a wonderful soul from Melbourne, Australia who truly helped us feel even more connected to the people and places of Lombok. It was the moments spent connecting on her front porch--eating meals, drinking sweet tea, and hanging out with her Pemenang family and Ikut the Chicken--which brought so much joy to our trip. Because of Moya and her family, Lombok will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Unwinding with some fun-loving surfing instructors in Senggigi;
I've lost track of their names, but remember their spirits!
Hanging out with Moya and Ikut the Chicken in Pemenang
Sweet tea on Moya's laid back front porch.

The Views

When I think of Lombok, it's these images which come to my mind: winding roads along the coast and through jungles, coconut groves with neverending droves of palm trees, luscious green rainforests and fields, and the vibrant, colourful evening sunsets. Renting a scooter and just driving was the most therapeutic practice while on Lombok--just taking it all in and hoping the memories of the views would stay with me. I'm blessed to say the feeling I get when I recall these images fills my heart with the relaxing feeling as if I was still there. Lombok is truly a beautiful place to find yourself.

One of the many coconut groves along the coast near Senggigi
Playing in the Monkey Forest en route to Mataram
Scooter break: stunning coastal views between Senggigi and Pemenang
Following Moya along the bustling road outside of Pemenang
Somewhere on the coast between Senggigi and Pemenang
The view from our beautiful cottage at Puri Bunga Beach Cottages, Senggigi
Tree-covered sections of road
Up high in the Monkey Forest
Enjoying one of many beautiful sunsets from Sira Beach

The Pantai Nipah Peninsula

Dusk from our Puri Bunga Beach Cottage, Senggigi

Despite only owning a point-and-shoot when these photos were taken in 2012, I think it's safe to say our cameras were still able to capture the stunning beauty that is Lombok. Revisiting these photos has been so fulfilling, and I think this picture can best sum up what this mark on my heart looks like: love, friends, and natural beauty.

Surrounded by friends, love, and mother nature's bounty at the Pantai Nipah Peninsula.

Guest post by Briana Leigh, Chris's go-to travelling partner

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