Lombok diaries: the full version of our two weeks in Lombok with a toddler

This is a full account of our two weeks in Lombok with a toddler as we travelled around the island on a bike. It includes details of how we got there, what we did, what we ate, and where we stayed. Enjoy!

The shorter version of our lombok itinerary is here. Detailed reviews of our Lombok accommodation are also covered in a separate post, leaving the fun stuff here.

And if you just want to read about a particular area, you can click the links below to be taken to that section:


Day 1: Getting to Lombok by ferry

We took the ferry from Bali to Lombok so that we could bring our bike with us. This gave us complete flexibility over our travel during our time backpacking around Lombok.

family of three on a bike

And I stand by that decision… just.

My research had told me that the ferry left once an hour from Padang Bai in Bali and the crossing took about four hours. The journey from our home to Padang Bai by bike would be around one and a half hours, so I figured if we left by 8am we should arrive in Lombok by 3 or 4 – and that’s allowing plenty of time for delays.

While I wasn’t expecting to be able to rock up at Padang Bai and be ushered straight onto the boat, I wasn’t quite prepared for the wait that faced us.

The reality of taking the ferry from Bali to Lombok

It was easy to find the ticket window and pay for our crossing. The advertised rate of 121,000 per bike includes however many passengers are on it, so there is no extra ‘per person’ charge to pay.

bali lombok ferry queue
Queueing for the ferry to Lombok

First we were directed to queue (if you can call it that) next to a cluster of warungs and shops. This was a good chance to grab some nasi bungkus (rice and chicken wrapped up into a brown paper cone) and other snacks and drinks. The prices were not too bad here, and there was far more choice than on the ferry itself. The shop there ran out of drinks completely long before we disembarked.

We were behind about 20 other bikes, and were told that one ferry had just left. Logic would say, then, that we had less than an hour to wait before we were directed to board. There was one false start when everyone rushed to their bikes, turned their engines on and inched forward before realising we weren’t going anywhere yet. Keen to get out of the sun, we all ebbed back to the warungs to wait it out.

Waiting some more

It was about an hour before it was actually time to move on from there. And of course, the signal came mid-nappy change, so we were left behind while all the other bikes flowed around us. I was worried we’d be turned away and told to wait for the next ferry, but that wasn’t the case.

Instead, we just had to wait ages to actually board. We were in direct sunlight and it was approaching midday. Some big trucks drove on, followed by some cars. Then a couple more trucks. Then we saw one reversing back down the gangway and being told to park up again. A few more trucks went on, then another one had to reverse off.

By now the bike drivers were getting frustrated and honking their horns, so I guess they aren’t normally kept waiting that long. It was at about this point, after waiting in the hot sun for half an hour, that the “Why didn’t we fly?” discussion came up.

Just a quick note about the return journey, in case you don’t read right to the end…

On the way back, wanting to avoid a similar wait, as soon as our bike was in the queue we asked one of the staff if Abigail and I could get onto the boat. They didn’t mind at all, so I grabbed a bag and on we went. This meant we could secure a decent spot and Abigail and I didn’t have to wait around outside inhaling exhaust fumes in the heat of the sun.

But back to the journey out to Lombok…

Finally we were let on the boat. The bikes were the last to board and it was a bit of a scrum with everyone trying to squeeze on and get to the stairs past the already tightly packed vehicles.

It seemed that people were just leaving their bikes half way up the ramp and letting the ferry crew park them up neatly. That’s what we found they had done when we got back down there at the end, anyway.

Somewhere to sit

Being the last on the boat, we also had lowest priority when it came to seating. There were rows of chairs out on the deck, but we headed for the air-conditioned area. This was just a large room with a slightly padded floor. The amount of space you got was determined by how close you were prepared to get to a complete stranger.

sleeping on the bali lombok ferry
The “passenger room” on our ferry

We found a spot big enough for us to all sit and the people around us shuffled over a bit. It was another half an hour before we actually left but we passed the time by eating our rice. Once we were on the move it was just a case of keeping our daughter entertained. Fortunately the journey coincided with her nap time and after about an hour she was snoozing.

I couldn’t sleep, but welcomed the chance to just rest for a while. Once Abigail woke up again it was time to pull out all the stops with the toys I’d brought for her. And the iPad.

Safety on the Lombok ferry

I had been worried about safety on the boat with Abigail as mobile and active as she is, but it was a relief to be in a completely enclosed room. As the journey went on, some of the children started playing together and had the space to run around without fear of them falling overboard. Even outside, the railings looked pretty secure so nobody was going to accidentally fall into the sea.

I did notice that there was only one lifeboat, which would apparently carry six people. The room we were in had several cupboards labelled to say they contained life jackets, but I didn’t actually check them. Each cupboard is labelled to show how many it contains for adults (dewasa) and children (anak). Up on deck I could see a decent supply.

The only toilets available were squat toilets – but some of the cleanest I’ve come across. I’m quite relieved Abigail is still in nappies though. Having to hold her above one of those while the boat swayed wouldn’t have been fun.

How long does the ferry to Lombok take?

Had it been the four-hour journey advertised, it would’ve been fine. However, as we got close to the port of Lembar the boat slowed to almost a standstill. We were just creeping along and it became clear we weren’t going to be there by 4pm.

lombok ferry view
Approaching Lombok by Ferry

We drifted right up to the port and could see that there were already three ferries docked there. We were, essentially, waiting for a parking space. The delay meant we were on the boat for over six hours, and the sun had set before we hit dry land.

Instead of being at our guest house by 5pm, cooling off in the pool, we were trying to make our way there in the dark; tired, hungry and annoyed.

The fact remains, though, that by spending the whole day travelling by ferry to Lombok, we were able to bring our bike with us. Not only did this work out a lot cheaper than flying and then paying for transport everywhere; it meant we could go where we wanted, when we wanted. Not just in terms of travelling between towns, but popping out to a restaurant or shop when we were staying in more remote areas. Or just going for a drive to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

lombok road trip
Driving around Lombok

Arriving on our first night – Krisna Bungalows

We had booked accommodation for our first three nights at Krisna Bungalows in the southwest area of Sekotong.

Arriving much later than planned after delays on and off the ferry we were greeted by friendly staff and several tables of diners at the restaurant.

We were quickly shown to our room, but equally as quickly noticed that it didn’t have air conditioning. Now, I was sure I had booked a room with air con but checked back on the booking site and it turned out I hadn’t. In fact, they don’t offer any rooms with air con on that particular site. The 250,000 per night we had paid only got us a basic fan room with a smelly bathroom.

We asked if there were any other rooms available but they were fully booked.

It was a hot and humid night, and despite being right on the beach there was very little breeze coming through, so none of us slept very well.

The next morning, we were told that one of the air-conditioned bungalows was now available but it would cost 150,000 per night extra. We decided to take it, and I’m really glad we did because it was better in pretty much every way.

Not only did it have air conditioning; it was also newer, bigger, brighter and right by the pool. The bathroom was spacious and didn’t smell, and being able to look out over the ocean without leaving the bed was wonderful.

ocean view
The view from our (upgraded) room at Krisna Bungalows, Lombok

If you’re interested in staying here you can read my full review of Krisna Bungalows in Sekotong here.

Day 2: Exploring Sekotong

We didn’t waste any time in jumping into the pool on our first morning there. I was surprised by how hot the sun was even at 9am.

Later in the morning I went out on a twofold mission: find a laundry and find lunch. The staff showed me which direction to head in for both.

In Bali it’s easy to spot the laundries because they have racks of clothes hanging outside to dry. In Lombok, though, they seem to be more tucked away. I saw a sign for one and drove down the little street it was pointing to but nobody was around. So I went back onto the main road and asked a nearby seller. She called over a friend who said she would take me to her place. I offered her a lift on the back of my bike, which got her quite a bit of attention from her neighbours as we drove the short distance!

Murni laundry sign
Some laundries in Lombok are quite well hidden.

It only cost 5k per kilo to have our clothes washed, dried and ironed, but I asked if she could deliver to our guest house and paid an extra 5k for the service. It was called Murni laundry, but I honestly couldn’t tell you where it actually is. If you find yourself in the area with clothes in need of a wash, just ask someone. Everyone has a friend of a friend with a washing machine.

For lunch I drove a little further along the road and found a lady selling barbecued fish. I bought one of these with some rice, plus a papaya from another seller on the road.

Sekotong Lombok views
Driving along the coast west of Sekotong

Pantai Elak Elak

In the afternoon we decided to drive further west along the coast to explore the beaches there. We eventually stopped at Pantai Elak Elak.

The scenery is beautiful here and makes for a picturesque drive. The reality of the beaches, on closer inspection, is they are covered in rubbish.

elak elak beach sekotong
Trash on the beach – Pantai Elak Elak

It’s sad that trash on the beach has become so common that it’s a pleasant surprise to find one where both the sand and ocean are garbage-free. Although some of it is organic waste, a lot of it comes from plastic that hasn’t been disposed of properly. It’s not fun to have plastic bags wrapping around your legs while you try to swim.

Lombok beach
Pantai Elak Elak

Abigail and I collected shells (and it was easy for her to find a discarded plastic cup to put them in) while Chandra went swimming with some of the local children.

Because this area isn’t very touristy and a lot of locals – who are predominantly Muslim – use the beaches, it’s best to dress modestly in respect of the culture. For me this meant wearing a t-shirt over my swimmers while I was on the beach. It’s not the kind of place you could spend the day sunbathing in a bikini – not if you had an ounce of cultural sensitivity, that is.

Lombok shell collection
Shells collected in Lombok

In search of somewhere cheap to eat in the evening we found a local warung and ordered mie goreng (fried noodles) with fried egg. Not the healthiest dish, but it did the job. And it cost us 15k for two compared to the 35k each our guest house would have charged. Most places, even if they have run out of home-cooked food, can serve you up a plate of noodles and rice.

Day 3: Gili Nanggu

Being so close to a cluster of idyllic islands – some uninhabited – we wanted to go and explore. Our guest house offered a whole-day snorkelling trip, visiting five islands by boat, for 150k. This is a great price but since we were travelling with a toddler, it just wasn’t an option. Neither of us fancied trying to keep her under control on a tiny boat for the whole day.

Instead we spoke to the staff there and arranged a shorter trip to just one island – Gili Nanggu. We had spoken to a German guest the night before and he’d said that was the best of all the islands they visited on the trip.

We paid 200k to have a couple of hours there, and the boat waited with us so we could go back any time we wanted. If we’d ventured out of the guest house we probably could have found someone with a boat willing to do it for less, but at least we had the convenience of being picked up right outside our room.

Gili Nanggu was stunning, but you’ll have to take my word for it because our camera ran out of battery almost as soon as we got on the boat, noooo!

This is the best photo I can offer you – taken from our guest house on the mainland:

Snorkelling Gili Nanggu
Gili Nanggu from Sekotong

Snorkelling in Gili Nanggu

There is a little coral reef that you can swim out to from the beach, and we saw all kinds of different fish there. Unfortunately there was also quite a lot of trash floating in the water.

The beach has lovely soft white sand and plenty of trees to provide some shade. As we got off the boat, a man approached us asking for a “cleaning fee” of 5k per person. We hadn’t brought any cash with us so our boat driver spoke to the man and told us not to worry about it. Really, he should have let us know about it when we arranged the trip.

After we’d had enough of swimming and snorkelling, our driver took us further inland where there is a turtle conservation centre run by the one and only resort on the island. Here they have several pools of turtles grouped by age – one had perhaps a hundred baby turtles as small as the palm of your hand! We arrived just in time to watch them being fed fish for lunch.

I wished we had brought some money to leave a donation for the conservation project, so if you visit Gili Nanggu yourself do be aware that you’ll have this opportunity.

Stocking up on milk

When we arrived back at our room it was time for lunch. We found Warung Delicious, located about 1km east of the guest house, serving nasi campur and barbecued fish. Sitting there we enjoyed more refreshing views of the sea.

local warung sekotong
Warung Delicious in Sekotong

We then went on a hunt to find some milk for Abigail, as our supply had run out. The previous day I had bought the last two cartons from the shop over the road, so I assumed it wouldn’t be that difficult to find more in another shop. I was wrong, however, and after asking in a few places we realised we’d have to drive to the nearest Alfamart, 10km up the road in Sekotong town.

The rest of our afternoon was spent napping and swimming in the pool.

We had decided to eat dinner at the restaurant in our guest house for our last night, but annoyingly they didn’t start serving food until 7pm. Abigail is usually in bed by then, and she certainly wasn’t going to wait patiently for half an hour or more for her food to arrive.

They said they could give us plain rice, and after a bit of pleading with the kitchen staff we got some curry sauce to go with it.

Day 4: From Sekotong to Kuta

sunrise over the ocean
View of the Lombok sunrise from Sekotong

We were up early again to see the sun rise over the hills across the sea. After one final dip in the pool we packed up our bags and headed to Kuta. There were three possible routes on the map and we opted for the quickest. This happened to be the longest, but it used main roads rather than windy mountain roads.

good roads in Lombok
Driving from Sekotong to Kuta the roads were clear and smooth

While less scenic, this route was definitely easier for us with a fully loaded bike. The main road from Mataram to the airport is a well-maintained dual carriageway. There was far less traffic than we’re used to in Bali so it was quite a pleasant drive, and the views were still not bad.

on the way to Kuta
The road approaching Kuta, Lombok

It was easy to find our accommodation in Kuta, Lombok – Kuta Bay Homestay. Our first impression wasn’t great as they were constructing some new rooms and the entrance looked like a building site. Our room was tucked back far enough from this that the noise didn’t disturb us there, but it’s a shame the building work was happening right next to the pool.

Anyway, the room itself was big, clean and cool – even before we’d turned the air con on.

We headed straight out in search of some lunch. Our plan was to find somewhere on the beach but we walked the couple of minutes down to the sea and couldn’t see anywhere closeby. Rather than walk around in the midday sun until we found somewhere, we headed back to the town and had nasi padang at a warung called Rumah Makan Doa Ibu.

The food there was tasty but expensive by Indonesian standards – it cost 75k for two plates of rice, a banana juice and a bottle of water. To their credit, they do have a sign up explaining that their prices are expensive!

higher prices for padang food
“This is quality Sumateran cooking. The ingredients and preparation are of a higher standard than common mixed rice or nasi campur. The price is therefore also different.”

In search of the perfect beach

After lunch we wanted to hit the beach. Uninspired by the beach closest to our homestay we decided to explore the beaches to the east of Kuta. All we needed was somewhere that had a bit of shade for us to sit and looked nice for swimming.

We tried the first two we came to – Pantai Seger and Pantai Talak – but neither had any shade. Just a word of warning if you decide to go beach hopping around Kuta: it can get pretty expensive from the parking alone. I’m used to paying 2k for motorbike parking but here it’s 10k a pop. Not so bad if you’re spending all day there, but way too much if you just want to drive in, have a look around, then leave again.

herd of buffalo swimming
A herd of buffalo cooling off

On the way back up that road we passed a herd of buffalo having a swim so we sat and watched them for a while. Then we headed further east to Pantai Aan, which met both of our criteria.

Pantai Aan

Although there are some sunbeds for rent along Pantai Aan, there is also a scattering of trees providing shade for free. In addition, the warungs here are more than just a stall selling sugary drinks and fried snacks; there are several proper restaurants with menus and kitchens that cook fresh food.

sunbeds on the beach
There are sunbeds available to rent on Pantai Aan

The sand at Pantai Aan is beautifully soft and white, and the sea is bright blue. When we were there it also had a gentle breeze blowing up from the sea, which made the temperature much more comfortable. The only thing that brought it down in my estimations was the amount of seaweed in the sea. Since I was young I have always hated the feeling of seaweed wrapping around my legs when I swim. Still, it’s marginally better than unidentifiable pieces of rubbish (although there were some of those too).

white sand beach near kuta lombok
One of the best beaches we found near Kuta – Pantai Aan

When we’d had enough we just jumped straight on the bike as we were – sandy and wet – and then had a swim back at the guest house. One of the great things about being on holiday is you don’t have to worry so much about the mess!

For dinner we just went a couple of doors down to Regis Pizzeria. It was newly opened and the staff hadn’t learned what Diet Coke was yet, but the pizza was a generous size and had plenty of cheese, which is the most important thing really.

Development in Kuta, Lombok

The fact that this place had just opened was not unusual, as it turned out. On the main road we were staying on, I’d say at least a third of the buildings were being built or renovated and probably another third had just opened in the last few months. Kuta is clearly undergoing a wave of development, but judging by how quiet a lot of the places were, they need to do something to balance out supply and demand.

Despite all the development, Kuta still has a laid-back, small traveller town feel to it – totally unlike the town of the same name over in Bali which is full of budget hotels, nightclubs and rows of shops selling the same old tat.

The plus side of the development in Kuta Lombok is it boasts an Alfamart and two Indomarets so we didn’t have to travel far at all to get cartons of milk.

At the moment it feels like a perfect blend of western and local; you can get a decent cappuccino and fast wifi but you don’t have to look too hard to find local food for 10k or less (hint: it’s not at the western-style restaurants that serve Indonesian food).

But I expect this balance won’t last for long, as more traditional family businesses in little huts at the side of the road get demolished to make way for yet more restaurants all serving the same selection of food.

Day 5: Surfing at Pantai Selong Belanak, Lombok

I had to do some work in the morning so went to nearby Milk Espresso for a couple of hours. This place does great coffee and has a cute courtyard out the back where several people had their laptops out.

Work done, it was time to hit the beach.

Chandra had asked around about places to surf and found that Pantai Selong Belanak was the place to go if you didn’t want to pay a man with a boat to take you out to where the waves were.

road to pantai selong belanak
The hilly road out to the beaches west of Kuta

We enjoyed the drive along the windy roads through the hills, which took about half an hour from Kuta. The beach was well signposted from the main road, as was Mawun Beach on the way. I had earmarked Mawun as one to visit but we didn’t really feel the need after our day at Selong Belanak.

When we arrived it was high tide and the waves were rolling under the sunbeds that were arranged all along the beach. People learning to surf were crammed in all along the beach, and four or five people would attempt to catch each wave that came along.

Kuta Lombok surfing
High tide surfing at Pantai Selong Belanak

We secured some sunbeds and then Chandra went off to chat to the local surfers about tides and prices.

Lunch and swimming

Abigail was happy munching on crisps for quite a while (call it a holiday treat), so I lay back and relaxed. We were stationed right in front of a warung, Hary Seafood, so I ordered fried rice from there for lunch. Their prices were great considering the location. We also got some grilled corn from a guy with a little mobile cart.

Indonesian grilled cornIndonesian fried rice with chicken

As the tide receded, the sea became better for swimming. While Chandra was taking a break from surfing we all went out together, but Abigail stayed with him because there was still the occasional big wave that I wasn’t confident jumping with her in my arms.

Pantai Selong Belanak is another paradise beach; soft white sand and bright blue sea. It doesn’t matter that it’s a bit busier because there is still more than enough sea for everyone who wants to swim. The tide went quite a way out and then Abigail was able to play safely in the shallows without being held constantly.

white sand beach Lombok
Low tide at Pantai Selong Belanak is better for swimming

Disappointing burger; possibly buffalo

In the evening we went to a burger restaurant which was highly rated on TripAdvisor – Warung Drifters. Unfortunately, our experience was not that great. It’s quite pricey – 70-90k for a burger – but the reviews assured us the homemade patties were worth it.

First of all, we were given two menus with slightly different versions of the burger I wanted. One had beetroot (yuk) while the other had pickle (yum). I made a point of checking which was correct, and was told the one with pickle was the newer version. Great. Of course when it came, it had beetroot in it and not a pickle slice to be seen. I felt quite petty asking the staff for my pickle, but that was the reason I’d chosen that burger.

The burger itself was pretty big and the toppings (once rectified) were fresh but the “beef” patty was just… weird. Chandra thought it must be buffalo because of its very dark colour. I thought it must be stuffed with bread or some other filler because it was so squidgy – you could mold it with your fingers, which I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be able to do with cooked meat.

Also, it came with eight potato wedges. Any portion of potato wedges that can easily be counted is, in my opinion, too small.

I still ate it because it didn’t taste bad, it was just the wrong texture. Plus I wasn’t letting that money go to waste. But I am confused about how the place has such great reviews if that’s what they serve up.

Day 6: Around Kuta, Lombok

We decided not to go anywhere by bike today and instead resolved to visit the beach that was a short work from our room.

But before that I had some work to do. This time I went off to Nuggets Corner, which serves paninis and quite a lot of other things made with proper cheese. Also some healthy stuff. Coffee didn’t hit the spot quite as well as at Milk Espresso, though.

Chandra and Abigail, having had a morning of swimming in the pool and watching badminton videos on YouTube, joined me for lunch.

Then we lazed around the room for a while longer, making the most of the air conditioning we’d paid for. Around 3, once it was getting a bit cooler, we headed to the beach for a walk.

beached wooden boat
A boat on Kuta Beach, Lombok

Kuta/Mandalika Beach

The tide was quite far out and we took some cool photos of beached boats and patterns in the sand. A bit further round was the busier part of the beach, with lots of stalls selling drinks and snacks. There seemed to be lots of local families and groups out enjoying the beach, with children jumping in the sea while their parents sat under the trees.

kuta lombok beach
Local children enjoying the beach at Kuta, Lombok

Another feature of this beach (and most of Kuta, actually) is the children trying to sell you bracelets, keyrings, and other souvenirs. I had so far ignored them, but as we were walking along the beach three girls came up and started talking to me. They asked our names, and then one brought out a bracelet with brightly coloured plastic beads and said ‘for Abi’.

beach souvenirs from Lombok
Souvenirs from Kuta Lombok

Abi herself couldn’t have cared less but since these girls were friendly rather than annoying, I ended up buying the bracelet and a keyring. They were only 5,000 each (down from a starting price of three for 100,000) and Abigail enjoyed playing with the keyring figure for a while.

Rock hopping in flip flops

We headed down to where some rocks jut out into the sea. I wanted to see if there were any crabs or fish in the rockpools. There were lots of Indonesians down here taking photos of each other. Whether they were mainly locals or tourists, I don’t know. Either way, it was rather embarrassing when I slipped on the rocks and fell hard on my bum right in front of them all.

The only crabs we could find in the rock pools were tiny hermit crabs. They retreated inside their shells as soon as you touched them, so weren’t much fun at all.

For dinner, rather than trusting TripAdvisor again, we went to a place I’d spotted called Warung Amanda. It turns out that selecting a place that shares a name with you isn’t a bad way of choosing, because the staff there were friendly and we got to pick our own fish for them to barbecue.

warung amanda kuta lombok
This place seemed to be calling my name

We bought terang bulan from a street seller for pudding. If you haven’t tried it, do so as soon as you have the chance. It’s like a thick, buttery pancake filled with any combination of condensed milk, chocolate, peanuts, banana and cheese. And don’t knock the cheese until you’ve tasted it – my favourite combo is cheese, milk and peanuts.

Day 7: Back to Pantai Aan

Sunday was market day in Kuta. The market was right next to our homestay, so we went to have a look around in the morning. It was bustling with people out shopping for all kinds of things from fruit and tobacco to clothes and saucepans.

kuta lombok market stalls
Market day at Kuta, Lombok

Many traders just arrange their wares in neat piles on the floor to show them off – it’s definitely worth a look if you’re in the area on the right day (it operates on this scale every Wednesday and Sunday with a scaled-down version the rest of the week).

makeshift market stalls in kuta lombok
Selling fish and onions at the market

Today was our last chance to visit Pantai Ekas (the beach that prompted Chandra to suggest Lombok in the first place) and Pantai Pink (guess what’s special about that one). However from Kuta it would have been about a three-hour round trip to visit both beaches, and we weren’t in the mood for that much driving.

Back to one of our favourite beaches

Instead, we headed back to Pantai Aan, which we had enjoyed so much the first time around.

We stopped at a local warung on the way to pick up some nasi campur. The one we went to was called Warung Berkah, but there are several on the road alongside Pantai Mandalika as you head east out of Kuta.

warung berkah kuta
Nasi campur at Warung Berkah, Kuta

We chose a different part of this long beach, further away from the warungs and apparently popular with local families on Sundays. We found a shady spot under a tree and ate our lunch.

Abigail was tired so we got her to sleep and then went for a swim. Since there were more locals around, I felt more self-conscious about swimming in a bikini than I had done on the other part of the beach. Still, it’s not like I was the only foreigner there, as I had been in Sekotong.

We stayed a few hours then headed back to our room. Our choice for dinner that evening was Bucu Restaurant, which was great! If we’d discovered it earlier in our stay I would have gone back there, but this was our last night in Kuta so we just got to eat there once. I had the chicken cordon bleu which was massive, yummy, and very elaborately presented.

Day 8: From Kuta to Tetebatu

It had been my plan all along to have a couple of nights in the mountains, preferably with a view of Mt Rinjani and lots of rice fields. Half way through our two weeks in Lombok it was time for a break from the heat.

Someone we spoke to in Sekotong had recommended Tetebatu, so I booked two nights at Tetebatu Garden. I chose this place because even though it was away from the main strip (if you can call it that in a place this quiet), it promised rice field views and a waterfall in the back garden.

And wow, it didn’t disappoint!

tetebatu garden resort bungalow
View from our bungalow in Tetebatu Garden

We were shown to a cute little hut with two chairs on the balcony and a mattress on the floor. Despite being simple, it was clean and very nicely presented. And the view!

tetebatu garden views
The ‘back garden’ at Tetebatu Garden

The drive from Kuta to Tetebatu took about two hours, with a slight detour to visit Panjisari Women’s Group Weaving Village, which I’d read about while researching Lombok.

traditional weaving lombok
Using a traditional loom

It was cool to see how ornate, colourful sarongs were made on traditional looms, however it wasn’t exactly the women’s cooperative I’d hoped to find. It seemed that the women were doing all the work while the men sat around drinking coffee and smoking.

panjisari sarongs
Sarongs for sale at Panjisari Women’s Group Weaving Village

As we approached Tetebatu by bike we climbed higher and higher into the mountains. Grey clouds loomed overhead but the rain held off for us. At least they provided a welcome break from the heat.

road to tetebatu lombok
The drive up to Tetebatu

After arriving at our accommodation we grabbed some lunch at the warung on-site (a little pricey for Indonesian food but good portion sizes) and then went for a walk to find this waterfall.

In search of our local waterfall

stream in tetebatu lombok
The stream we could hear from our accommodation in Tetebatu

It was quite a steep trek downhill to reach a little stream, and then we walked for a few minutes to get to the waterfall. It’s about 6 or 7m high, so definitely a waterfall, even though it isn’t as spectacular as some of the other, better-known ones in the area. But the best thing about it is you have it all to yourself. We hadn’t come prepared to swim but decided to go back the next day to take a dip in the cold water.

After a walking along the stream a while longer we found our way back up the hill a different way and walked back to our room.

waterfall in tetebatu
Our secret waterfall in Tetebatu jungle

We set out for an early dinner since we’d been warned against driving around the area in the dark. Heading for the main cluster of guest houses in the village we found Rumah Daun Homestay which served a yummy vegetable curry.

A few local guys were sitting at one table jamming away on their guitars, so we were treated to a live music performance. This was fine while we were eating, but would have got quite annoying had we been staying in one of the nearby rooms.

After getting Abigail to sleep, we sat out on our balcony listening to the noise of the jungle – it is surprisingly loud at night!

I’m glad that we made it up to the mountains as it’s a refreshing change from the heat of the beaches. There’s a chance of actually feeling cold without the help of air con.

Day 9: Around Tetebatu

We were the only people in our homestay so enjoyed a peaceful breakfast overlooking the jungle. They didn’t have any bread for toast so Chandra went out to buy some so that Abigail could have something with which to eat her favourite peanut butter.

Our plan was to visit a nearby waterfall – one of the bigger ones – called Air Terjun Jeruk Manis (meaning ‘sweet orange waterfall’). One of the guest house owners told Chandra the way; left from here, turn right at the school, then something something… we ended up on a dirt track in a rice field.

tetebatu rice paddies
Probably not the way to the waterfall

I would usually turn to Google Maps for help, but up in the mountains the maps are very sketchy. A windy road can be shown as straight, and a main road is marked exactly the same as a muddy path through the forest. Plus, the GPS on my phone was dropping in and out, so there was no hope of rescuing the situation with the help of technology.

Not lost, just enjoying the scenery…

We asked various people the way, but they all told us different things (or confidently directed us towards what turned out to be a dead end). In the end, we had to retrace our steps and go there a different way. It may have been longer but at least I could use the map to navigate.

After over an hour driving past and through rice fields and villages, we arrived at the waterfall. Just as it was starting to rain. The parking guy told us we had to walk another kilometre to get there, at which point we decided the most sensible thing to do was just go home.

Visit a waterfall: fail.

views from our two weeks in Lombok
Farming in Tetebatu

On the way back I tried to find a shortcut and we ended up in yet more fields used for rice and other farming. There was a way through but it involved going up an incredibly steep hill. I wouldn’t have felt confident doing that with just one person on the bike, let alone three, so we gave up on that idea too.

Since we were already out and hadn’t achieved very much yet, we drove into the nearest town, Kotaraja, to find some cheap lunch and visit the nearest Alfamart.

Kotaraja mosque lombok
An ornate mosque in Kotaraja

Then we headed back to our room and hung out there all afternoon as the weather was pretty miserable. At least we still had nice views. We stayed there for dinner, too.

Day 10: From Tetebatu to Sengiggi

I’d had vague hopes of making it back down to our ‘local’ waterfall in the morning before we checked out, so I could at least check the ‘swam in a waterfall’ box. However, the ground was damp and I didn’t want to risk the steep walk down the hill and back up again, especially with one of us carrying Abigail. So no more waterfall for us.

We headed back down the mountain towards Sengiggi, our final beach stop of our trip. We had to drive through the city of Mataram, but just as we approached it the heavens opened and we had to stop and find cover. If we’d had more time we would have found a place to eat, but we couldn’t risk all our stuff getting soaked. The rain appeared so suddenly and so heavily we had to dive under the nearest roof, which happened to be a bike mechanic.

Waiting for the rain to stop

There wasn’t much to do there, obviously, except sit it out. We tried to work out various ways we could carry the bags and keep them dry under our single poncho. After about half an hour the rain had eased so we loaded up again and continued the drive to our accommodation in Senggigi, Sendok Hotel.

Arriving in Senggigi

Senggigi wasn’t what I’d expected at all. It’s much more built up and well-established than Kuta, but at the same time it looks run-down and past its best. Much the same could be said for our hotel.

Senggigi main road
Senggigi was rather dull

We walked through a dark restaurant to the reception desk, and were shown to our room – the furthest away of all the rooms they had. There was a nice swimming pool and well-maintained gardens which made for a pleasant walk to the room. However, the room itself was quite gloomy and the bathroom was damp and mouldy.

Fortunately, we weren’t going to spend much time in the bathroom.

Lunch at a warung near Senggigi Beach

Being held up by the rain meant it was well past lunchtime, so we dropped our bags and walked the short distance to the nearest beach, in search of food. We stopped at a local warung on the path to the beach and had nasi campur there. Then we walked along the beach and around the peninsular there, before returning to our hotel for a swim.

Senggigi surfing
A bit of surf just off Senggigi Beach

Worried that Abigail might be missing the food she was used to, I looked on TripAdvisor for a good place to have pasta in Senggigi. It recommended Warung Buana which, as it turned out, was right next door to our hotel. The carbonara pasta was disappointing – oily with nowhere near enough cheese – but the pizza was great.

good pizza in Senggigi
Pizza from Warung Buana

Day 11: Around Senggigi

We were up bright and early (well, two of us were) so we went on a mission to find a laundry. The hotel’s laundry service cost 25k per kilo (five times what we paid in Sekotong) so, err, no thanks. I went for a wander outside the hotel but everywhere seemed to still be closed.

After breakfast I did some work and handed the laundry mission over to Chandra. He eventually found someone who would wash our clothes for 10k per kilo – much more reasonable.

Late morning we set off with a great plan in mind: visit a pearl farm about half an hour north of Senggigi, eat lunch on the way, find a nice beach on our way back, swim, snorkel, and watch the sunset.

senggigi lombok grilled fish
Grilled fish on the side of the road, north of Senggigi

It started off well. We stopped about 10 minutes into our drive to order grilled fish from a warung at the side of the road.

Views from our lunch stop

This place had great views of the sea but we could see the horizon disappearing behind the cloud that was making its way towards us – and then the rain came. This wasn’t going to be a quick shower.

chickens in lombokgrilled corn and fish

We ate grilled fish and corn, and fed the leftovers to the resident chickens.

driving in the rain in lombok
We aborted our plans and drove back in the rain

Rainy afternoon in Mataram

Since it was still raining we decided to head back to our room and sit it out there. Beaches are not much fun in the rain, after all. We managed to get the three of us plus our bag under one poncho. Little Abigail had the best spot, tucked in between the two of us.

Once the rain stopped it was nap time, and once we were all awake and ready to head out it was nearly sunset time. We walked back down to the nearest beach and took a few photos, but the sunset wasn’t spectacular. We ate at Sunshine Restaurant, which is right on the beach but doesn’t have much else special going for it.

sunset senggigi lombok
The best sunset we saw during our two weeks in Lombok

Day 12: From Senggigi to Mataram

As our two weeks in Lombok drew to a close it was time for some city action.

It only takes about half an hour to get from Senggigi to Mataram, so we weren’t in any hurry to get going. We managed to squeeze in a swim before checkout time, and then left our bags in reception while we made the most of it not raining. I was determined to find this pearl farm, if nothing else.

We stopped off at Senggigi Art Market, which is basically just a collection of souvenir shops, many of them selling the same stuff you can get in Bali. And pearl jewellery – lots of that.

art market senggigi
Souvenirs at Senggigi Art Market

We continued on up the coastal road to the north, past the place where we’d taken shelter and eaten fish the day before, and on past the string of beaches north of Senggigi. They seemed to be teasing us with their sparkling blue water, knowing that we’d missed out on them yesterday and today our swimming things were tightly packed in our bag sitting at the hotel reception.

Beaches on the drive north of Senggigi

I have to say, if I were planning this trip again, one thing I would change is to stay further north of Senggigi. Perhaps near Nipah, Malimbu or Pandan beaches. Senggigi really didn’t do much for me.

Autore Pearl Farm

Anyway, we kept going along the coast until we reached the pearl farm I’d read about. Autore Pearl Farm is in fact more an expensive jewellery showroom in a hut jutting out into the ocean. I mean, the farm is there too but it’s underwater.

pearl farm lombok
Autore Pearl Farm

In the reviews I’d read, people commented how interesting it was and how much they’d learned. Disappointingly, we were just left to look around the jewellery cases. Most pieces had six- or seven-figure price tags (Indonesian seven figures, granted, but that’s more than our entire trip cost).

Chandra went in ahead of me and one of the staff, presuming he was my driver, took him aside and explained he’d get commission for anything I purchased. My guess is that they quickly worked out we weren’t going to buy anything so decided there was no need to bother with the guided tour or whatever it is they do for affluent customers.

There are pearl shops all over the place in Senggigi so my advice would be not to bother with Autore unless you happen to be driving past.

More beaches we didn’t have time to visit

On to Mataram

After that fairly pointless visit we drove back past all the inviting beaches to Senggigi and collected our bags. Then it was about a 40 minute drive to our guest house in Mataram, Puji Homestay.

This was a simple Balinese-style family complex with about eight rooms for rent. It was just right for us as it was cheap, clean, cool and well located.

It took just a few minutes to walk from our accommodation to Mataram Mall. There, quite overcome by the excitement of being back in a city, we had McDonalds for lunch. Followed by donuts.

Just… because

Mataram Mall is quite big but a lot of the shop spaces were vacant when we visited, and a lot of the others were local clothes shops rather than big-name brands. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, except the clothes tend to be a particular size and quality. It did have a games arcade with a soft play area so we all had fun in there.

In the evening we went to a local warung on the street and had chicken with rice.

Day 13: Taman Narmada, Mataram

In an attempt not to spend our whole three days in Mataram in shopping malls, we went about 8km out of the city to Taman Narmada (Narmada Park) in the east. In the absence of a beach, this was a really nice place to walk around and just sit and enjoy the scenery.

Narmada park mataram
The upper pool in Taman Narmada

We bought nasi bungkus from a warung just outside the entrance and then went in – the entrance fee was just 6k per adult. The park used to belong to a king and has a lot of Balinese influence in the architecture. It’s full of tropical flowers and various bodies of water.

balinese style door
Balinese architecture in Taman Narmada

There’s an ornamental pool with a fountain towards the top, a freshwater swimming pool on the next level down, and a big lake at the bottom with a river flowing along the far boundary of the park. There are tons of fish in the lake, and the markings around it suggest they sometimes hold fishing competitions there.

narmada lake mataram
The lake at Taman Narmada

A very cold swim

We had come prepared to swim (and for me that meant a spare change of clothes since this wasn’t the kind of place for a bikini). Entrance to the pool was another 5k each. There’s a shallow kids’ pool with some slides, and then a much larger pool with lanes marked out. I didn’t get the exact measurements but I’m sure it’s longer than the 25m pool I learned to swim in. It’s also flipping freezing. And the water in it is supposed to make you look more youthful. Here’s hoping.

swimming pool mataram lombok
Swimming pools in Taman Narmada

Another thing you can do in Taman Narmada, if you have the nerve and the spare cash, is take a ride on the zipwire that crosses the lake. It costs 60k per person.

zipwire at taman narmada
Selfie mandatory!

We passed a good three hours in the park, and on the way out bought some cheap jewellery from the souvenir shops there. Nice to see the marketing trick of forcing you to walk through the gift shop on the way out has made it over to Lombok.

Epicentrum Mall

Afternoon naps done, we headed to Epicentrum Mall, about a 10-minute drive from where we were staying. I’m tempted to move here based on this mall alone, as it’s bigger and better than any of the malls in Bali. There are plenty of local brands mixed with some international names like The Body Shop.

epicentrum mall lombok
Flashy Epicentrum Mall, Lombok

There’s also a big Hypermart, a cinema, and a huge soft play area with the biggest ball pit I’ve ever seen. We didn’t go in there because it was approaching dinner time and it cost 80k (for comparison, the one we’d been to the day before was 10k). Anyway, we were impressed.

We ate at an Indonesian fast food place which had an awesome little play area for the kids with a slide and wendy house. It was tough dragging Abigail away from there for long enough to get some food into her.

Day 14: Around Mataram

Being Sunday, we searched for a church to go to in Mataram. We couldn’t find one with an English-speaking service but went to GBI Rock Mataram which had lively worship and a large Indonesian congregation.

rock church mataram lombok
GBI Rock church Mataram

After that we went back to Epicentrum Mall on the search for an electronics shop which was supposed to be opening that day with a big sale. We knew this because they’d been handing out flyers the day before and Chandra had his eye on several things.

It turned out that the shop opening in the mall was just a smaller version of their main store and didn’t have many of the things advertised. When we looked up where their main store was, it was actually just around the corner from our guest house.

So Chandra went off to do his shopping while I put Abigail to sleep. Apparently the shop was absolutely packed and it took an hour for him to be served – glad I gave it a miss.

When he arrived back we swapped over and I walked to Mataram Mall to have a proper look around the shops there. As I’d suspected though, most of the clothes in the shops there were either too small, too hot, or both.

We all met back up and kept shopping for a while, then had nasi campur for dinner and walked home.

I began to pack for the last time.

Day 15: Back to Bali

We’d been planning to just get up and go in the morning, so as to have the best chance possible of arriving home at a reasonable time. But Abigail got a bit carried away by the idea and was awake before 6. Mummy and Daddy needed some more sleep so Mr iPad stepped in to help. We woke up properly just before 8 and ordered our breakfast.

What with eating, finishing packing, and waiting for our last lot of laundry to be returned, we didn’t leave our guest house until 9:30. It wasn’t a long drive to Lembar port – that was the reason we’d made Mataram our last stop. But we had to get petrol, and drinks, and food, so it was about 10:30 by the time we got our ticket for the ferry and secured our space in the queue.

The setup was a lot simpler at Lembar than it was at Padang Bai in Bali. Rather than having a half-way point to queue we were directed straight to where we would be boarding and had to wait there. This does mean there wasn’t anywhere to buy food, except for the people selling snacks and rice from the side of the road, presumably at inflated prices.

To avoid the horrible wait we’d had on the way over, we asked one of the staff if Abigail and I could get straight onto the boat, which was just being unloaded. They were absolutely fine with this so I took one of the bags and we got straight on.

The ferry from Lombok to Bali

This time, being one of the first, we got a decent spot. The boat had a different layout with a whole deck of air-conditioned seating (which, to be honest, is more what I’d expected from a ferry). There were also some mats which could be laid out on the floor.

space to sleep on the lombok bali ferry
Health and what?

I got the row right at the front so Abigail would have a bit of space to play. I was quite surprised when two men dragged mats up to the front and laid them down either side of us, completely blocking the doors, fire extinguishers and life jacket cupboards. When I pointed out to one of them that there was a door right there, he just locked it.

I thought someone would probably come along and ask them to move. Then I remembered this is Indonesia and really anything goes. So I went and got a mat of my own to put on the floor in front of us so we could sit and lie there. This turned out to be very useful, as the chairs were fold-down ones which Abigail couldn’t sit on without being swallowed up.

We were there for about an hour before Chandra was able to join us. Another hour later we actually left. That meant the very earliest we would be home, even if the rest of the journey went incredibly smoothly, was after 6pm.

The journey seemed rougher than on the way over, although the sea looked completely flat outside. The boat kept powering through though, and it was actually about three and a quarter hours later that we heard an announcement to say we were nearly there and should get ready to disembark. It was a relief not to have to do any hanging around at this point.

disembarking the bali lombok ferry
Stuck waiting to get off the ferry

The end of our two weeks in Lombok

Except that once everyone had stood up and lined up to go down the stairs, we had to wait about 15 minutes before we were actually allowed onto the vehicle deck. The captain presumably had trouble parking. So one final piece of advice if you’re taking the Bali-Lombok ferry is to wait until you can see the queue of people moving before bothering to pick up your heavy bags (and children) and head outside. The vehicles are so tightly packed it takes a while to unload them all anyway.

A glance inland revealed some dramatic clouds over the hills. I realised I’d been banking on good weather to get us home; if it rained we’d probably have to find a place to stay the night in Padang Bai. Fortunately there wasn’t a drop of rain as we completed the final drive of our Lombok road trip.

padang bai from the ferry
Arriving back in Bali

And that was our holiday over.

With Lombok being so close to Bali I’m sure we’ll go back another time, visiting some of the same places but trying some new ones as well. If you’ve been to Lombok with a toddler or child and have any tips for places to stay, I’d love to hear about them!

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