The other Kuta, Lombok
“No hot chocolate?!” The middle-aged French tourist snapped. “But what about the cheeldren?!” The young man behind the breakfast counter mumbled and shook his head apologetically. I watched as the Frenchman’s face contorted and scowled, breaking the trail of angry questions with a final “Never?!” before storming off.
After the roughness of three days on Rinjani, the manicured, highly segregated world of Senggigi was almost a shock to the system. So too were the rude and self-important visitors who moaned and constantly barged in front at the small buffet table, as though in a great hurry to reach their slices of toast and cold meats. I couldn’t blame the hotel staff for having consistently dour faces as they served these guests. Thankfully, Senggigi was just a brief stopover – for a long-awaited hot shower and good night’s sleep – before we jumped aboard a minivan to Lombok’s less-trumpeted southern coast.
Kuta Lombok was a vision of what its Balinese cousin may have looked like in decades past. Stands of coconut palms soared over small hotels and homestays, their fronds waving in the wind, and the main road along the beach meandered between thatch-roofed warung – shacks housing small convenience stores, cafés, and shops selling beach clothes, textiles and wooden carvings.
I drank in the laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere of this surfer’s haven, where the Indian Ocean foamed and lapped against two long pepper-sand beaches. We were struck by the colour of its azure waters, which turned to shades of milky turquoise as though straight from a painter’s brush.
All in all it seemed a happy coexistence. Up and down the main strip, surfers and adventurous sun seekers mingled with the local staff, greeting each other with easy smiles and high-fives before sitting together beneath the comforting whirr of a ceiling fan. From our room we could hear the din of motorcycle engines and the muezzin’s call to buka puasa, breaking the Ramadan fast at sundown. By night the stars arrived on the scene, and Bama would point out the Southern Cross, a novelty for someone who had always lived in the Northern Hemisphere. As I stared up at the evening sky, the surf echoing softly in the distance, I couldn’t be happier to have Kuta as a base for the next three days.