Just a while back, the travel360.com team had the opportunity to visit Lombok before heading off to the Gilis for a 4D3N stay, which we very much enjoyed — even if we didn’t know how to swim.
Aside from the beautiful islands there is also much to be seen in the island of Lombok itself. It is filled with history and culture, as it once served as one of the Dutch trading centres for more than 200 years.
Our guide, Hery Setyawan, was a walking encyclopaedia in a sense that he had a treasure trove of facts about his beloved island, some of which we found very interesting such as:
1. There Is a Temple Where ALL Religions Convene: The Lingsar Temple
In a world where there are frequent religious arguments, if not wars, it is refreshing to know that there is space, somewhere (read: Lombok, Indonesia) that welcomes people from all walks of life who have all kinds of religions and beliefs. Built in 1714 by the Balinese Hindus, the Lingsar Temple is a symbol of religious harmony in Lombok because it blends both Hinduism and Wektu Telu — a religion practised by the Lombok natives, the Sasak people.
While Wektu Telu consider themselves Muslims, they have also adopted other Hindu and animistic beliefs. Hence, the symbol of unity and harmony. Inside you’ll find the Hindu section on the northern part, while the Wektu Telu section is situated on the south.
The temple is also famous for its pool of water which is sacred to the deity Vishnu, and houses a family of holy eels. You can purchase eggs from the nearby stalls to feed them!
When visiting: Wear a sash or sarong. If you forget, there are vendors outside who can rent you temple-appropriate clothing.
2. A Seaworm Festival (Bau Nyale) Happens Every February
Now here’s an interesting tale: one of the biggest festivals in Lombok is celebrated to pay tribute to the legend of Putri Mandalika. The princess, who was the daughter of the king of Tonjang Beru, was known far and wide for her wisdom and kindness. When she came of age, many suitors and princes asked for her hand in marriage, which in turn, caused tension and threats of war between kingdoms.
Fearful of causing a war, Putri Mandalika declared that she loved her kingdom, and her parents too much to choose just one suitor. She then threw herself into the sea from the cliff overlooking Seger Beach and disappeared into the waves in an act of ‘giving herself to everyone’. People searched for her, but they only found masses of colourful seaworms, which are called nyale.
The local priests then said that the princess’ body had been transformed into these seaworms, and it became the symbol of the Sasak people. Now, once a year, the nyale come to shore for a few days, and thousands of people come to take part in Bau Nyale — which means, ‘to catch seaworms’ — and to watch performances, competitions, games and dramas surrounding the legend.
When visiting: Plan ahead of February, take note of dates and book your flights early before heading to Seger Beach.
3. Traditional Houses Are Made out of a Material You’d Least Expect
If you’re one to sit on the passenger seat and look out the window while the car drives around Lombok, you’d notice one very obvious thing: nearly all buildings are designed to have bell-like shapes. From the traditional Sasak villages to the more modern concrete buildings, they have the same type of architecture. However, you’d be intrigued to find that the older buildings are made out of the most unpredictable material ever – buffalo dung.
With a mixture of straw, thatch, clay and buffalo dung, you’ll get the basic materials for a typical Lombok traditional house.
It is believed that apart from being a great polishing material, buffalo dung cleanses the house from bad spirits, and can be used as natural mosquito repellents, too. There are more modern imitations available, though!
When visiting: There is a traditional Sasak village called the Sasak Sade just a little after the airport, so feel free to drop by.
4. ‘Elopement’ Is Part of the Culture Here
We say romance is dead, but it is clearly still alive here in Lombok. In fact, they still consider elopement a way of life, and it is even embedded in their culture. It is a rite of passage, and if a couple has eloped, the man is considered ‘worthy’ of the respect, honour and marriage itself.
A slightly more unusual culture that is accepted here is the ‘kidnapping of the bride’, where once a man decides on a wife, negotiations will take place between the future bride and grooms’ families. After any qualms and questions have been settled, the future bride will then meet the future groom at an agreed location, whereupon she will be ‘kidnapped’ back to his house.
For the next three days, she will remain there under the watchful supervision of the groom’s parents. A representative from the groom’s side will then inform the bride’s family of the decision to marry, and after a civilised discussion, the wedding planning will take place. Quite interesting, don’t you think?
When visiting: Perhaps consult your tour guide, or local friends if you’d like to attend a local Sasak wedding!
5.Lombok Is Known as the ‘Island of 1,000 Mosques’
Sure, there are cities which boast about having a thousand malls, but Lombok has its specialty: its mosques, of which there are many! You could easily count up to more than 10 during the ride from the airport to wherever you’re staying.
It isn’t that surprising, as Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. While Lombok does have one of the best beaches in the world, it is also full of Islamic heritage within its places of worship and shrines dedicated to renowned ancient Muslim preachers.
Even while some of us prefer the pristine sands and the azure waters, others can find their own form of fulfilment here, therefore there really is something for everybody in Lombok.
When visiting: There are tour packages specially curated for Muslim pilgrims.
BONUS: They Take Ketupat Very Seriously Here
We don’t know about you, but ketupat is something we know is considered to be a highlight during Raya festivals, and is mouthwateringly delicious. But, for the people of Lombok, ketupat is very serious business.
The Lingsar Temple (mentioned earlier) hosts Perang Topat every December, where representatives of the Hindu and Wektu Telu communities put on their best costumes for a parade, and ‘battle it out’. The weapon of choice? Ketupat.
Another time when ketupat makes its VIP appearance is a week after Aidil Fitri celebrations (Idul Fitri in Indonesia), a time called Lebaran Topat. The Muslims here fast for another six days after Aidil Fitri, and visit their friends and family bringing with them ketupat, which is more than a delicacy to them. Our tour guide, Hery, told us that ketupat is a combination of the words ‘aku lepat’, which means ‘I will let go of my mistakes’. So, during this time, family members and friends offer ketupat to their loved ones, as a peace offering.
When visiting: Time your holidays a week right after Hari Raya, and witness the spectacular parade!
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