From the moment I touch down on Lombok, I feel as though someone has pressed the slow-motion button on life. My husband and I arrive 45 minutes later than expected from neighbouring Bali, and as we rush towards our driver with apologies, he smiles and flaps his hand to instantly convey that time here is elastic.
It’s a point that’s driven home when, on the car ride to Puri Mas Resort in Senggigi, the main form of traffic we have to contend with is cidomo, the traditional horse and cart that clip-clops along beside us.
Just like that, the pace for our stay on this tropical idyll is set. On our first morning, after a lazy breakfast of taha telur (Indonesian bean curd omelette) and fresh papaya juice, we’re driven past beaches skirted by towering coconut palms to Bangshal Harbour. There, we transfer to a traditional wooden long boat that putters us just 30 minutes away to Gili Meno, said to be the most relaxed and romantic of the trio of islands off Lombok that are famed for their extraordinary snorkelling.
We don masks and flippers, topple off the side of the boat and snorkel around the edge of the Meno Wall, a marine ‘wall’ where the coral reef drops from five metres to 16. We peer through our masks at fat sea slugs, vibrant tropical fish, turtles and big chunks of coral, with shards of sunlight piercing through it all.
Post-snorkel, our boat deposits us on Lombok’s western shore at Mahamaya, perhaps the classiest boutique hotel and restaurant on the island. We walk across talc-fine white sand and into the airy restaurant where we feast on steamed curried fish wrapped in banana leaves and watch the cidomo (the only form of transport on the island besides bikes or your legs) trot along the sand in front of us.
The jangling of the horse bells proves too much to resist and before long we’ve jumped into one of the little carts trailing behind them, which pulls us past rogue chickens, ambling cows and kids playing in the dirt, for the five minutes it takes us to arrive on the other side of the island.
There, we paddle in crystalline waters and wish we had the time to mimic the handful of travellers lazing in the shade of the palm- thatched huts lining the beach.
Alas, it’s time to farewell this scoop of paradise.
It’s an altogether different landscape we explore late the following morning.
We drive for two hours through jungle and verdant rice paddies filled with busy rice farmers, then up into the rugged highlands towards the Senaru waterfalls. En route, we stop off at Mataram produce markets, where local women sell mounds of Lombok’s famous red chillies, stacks of leafy green vegetables and fresh tropical fruits, gleaming fish of all shapes and sizes, wooden boxes filled with grains and even piles of tiny jumping crickets. It’s colourful, energetic and mercifully devoid of other travellers.
When we reach Senaru, we walk for about 30 minutes through thick rainforest paths and wade through knee-deep springs to get to the waterfall, known locally as Air Terjun Tiu Kelep.
We step carefully through frosty water that creeps up our thighs as we move towards the powerful falls, which crash 40 metres into a deep freshwater pool. There, we close our eyes to feel the freshwater spray on our faces and let the mighty roar of the falls engulf us. Next time, we promise ourselves, we’ll spend more time in sleepy Senaru and take the hike up Mount Rinjani, an active volcano and one of Indonesia’s highest mountains that takes two days to summit.
Once we’ve dried off, we stop by the Senaru Sasak village. Approximately 85 per cent of the island’s population is Sasak, that some say dates back to 5000 BC, and the villagers here continue to live in the same way they have for many thousands of years.
We traipse through rows of bale houses built from palm leaves and our driver tells us that the villagers grow their own cacao, coffee, rice, nuts and vegetables, raise their own chickens and beef to eat, and weave their own ikat blankets and mats. It’s fascinating to witness this level of sustainability, an essential element of this ancient culture, still thriving on the island.
That evening I spend a blissful two hours at the Puri Mas Spa Resort where, surrounded by manicured gardens and an impressive selection of eastern antiques, I indulge in a Javanese Lulur treatment, which includes a body scrub, yoghurt mask, massage and floral bath. This ancient beauty treatment, which originated centuries ago, was traditionally given to young Indonesian women who were preparing to wed, and is hands down the most decadent treatment I have ever experienced.
I could easily fall straight into bed when it’s finished but I don’t want to miss the Rijsttafel, or ‘rice table’ traditional Lombok feast, served by candlelight by the beach as the ocean gets tinted rosé by the setting sun. My husband and I stuff ourselves with grilled prawns, Indonesian lamb cooked with coconut milk, Lombok chilli and turmeric, soft minced snapper mixed with grated coconut grilled on bamboo skewers … the spicy, fragrant dishes just keep coming until eventually we’re defeated.
Luckily all that’s left to do is stroll, in slow motion, off to bed.
There are six types of air-conditioned rooms at Puri Mas Beach Resort, starting from about PGK220 a night including breakfast. The resort is about a 45-minute drive from Lombok international airport. See purimas-lombok.com.