Image & story | Dee Farrell | RainbowTourism.Asia editor
The Rainbow Rambler has scouted Lombok island for places to stay n play, including eating and drinking at gay-owned and gay-friendly establishments.
South Lombok remains a largely unexplored region - except by surfers who have put Kuta on the map. The tourists who stay at the secluded hotels like the IGLTA-member Novotel, seldom venture out to see the remote beaches favored by locals and intrepid travelers with a scooter or 4WD. Their loss.
The more established West Lombok region - with Senggigi at its core - is wild about water-loving tourists (divers, snorkelers, kayakers and fishing nuts). More and more as word gets out about direct flights landing at the recently opened international airport, this area is being frequented by island worshipers from afar. Hurry there while uncrowded.
Most foodie tourists go to West Lombok - and so did I with no expectations. But I came back a convert. I will eat and drink again at gay-owned Qunci Villas Resort for dee-vine desserts, at the gay-staffed Taman palm court restaurant for gourmet pizza and fine wines, at The Office for just-off-the-boat seafood lunch - and at any of those open-air pubs with live music patronised by international visitors, locals and expats.
The big tour guides are suggesting that Lombok just might eclipse "The Island of the Gods" Bali as "The Pearl of Indonesia." Apt, as Lombok is known for high quality pearls - both fresh water and sea pearls - available in 50 shades of gray and white. I know, because I came home with a ring bought at the Art Market in Senggigi and earrings made by a jeweler in Kuta who I knew from my previous trip.
After two visits, I know why I'll go back again and again, despite it being "uncovered."
Dee's Destination & Driver Tips:
I don't often go on pre-set tours with a local driver, unless they are highly recommended by a friend in tourism. And then they must speak English, have a comfortable car that is rugged enough for the unpaved roads - preferably with GPS navigation.
Commentary can make or break a trip, especially during a scenic drive or at the tour stops. Ask your driver in advance if he has a gift of gab.
If you want to experience authentic, non-commercialised attractions, ask your driver to take you off the beaten tourist trail. But be wary; they often steer you to buy souvenir trinkets from "my cousin or my brother".
It is better to research what it is you want to see, eg a traditional village where women work on looms or make pottery - both of which Lombok is known for. If you don't want to buy, you don't have to, but pressure is felt.
Finally, allow yourself enough time to shop, have lunch at a warung and relax at the beach. It takes forever to get there, so why rush before enjoying a coconut or grilled corn on the cob and talking with the inquisitive kids.
You are paying a fixed rate for an 8 hour day - always negotiate in advance, starting at around $50 USD for the car and driver for the day. Bartering is expected. Be mindful of the time to get there and return to your hotel if you have evening arrangements.