Lombok has always played second fiddle to Bali, its more famous neighbour. Sure, the Gili Islands just off Lombok’s north-west coast have been popular with surfers, divers and party-goers for a while now, but the main island has always been a bit off the beaten track for tourists.
While there is an international airport on the island, there are few direct flights there from outside the region, so it’s a bit harder to get to. If you’ve got time, it always feels more rewarding taking the scenic route, and the regular ferry from Bali offers just that.
As you might expect, being where it is just south of the equator, Lombok has a landscape of pristine beaches, lush greenery, and mountains (in Lombok’s case, Gunung Rinjani, at over 3700 metres, Indonesia’s second tallest volcano).
But unlike Hindu Bali, and like most of Indonesia, it is a mainly Muslim island. As Islam is relatively new to the Lombok - they say it arrived in the seventeenth century, in practice it’s an interesting mix of traditional animism, as well as Hinduism Bali, and a Buddhist influence from the days of the pre-17th century Majapahit empire.
This is reflected in reflected in much of the local artwork.
The artisanal sector stands out, where the Sasaks, who make up around 85% of the 3.5 million population, have maintained traditions and skills in pottery and weaving for centuries. There are still many villages and parts of the island where generations of artisans ply their trade.
As with much of Indonesia, there are relatively high poverty rates in Lombok, and many of the traditional sources of income, while important to Sasak daily life, often do not provide a sustainable income.
Though these days many rely on agriculture, fisheries and especially tourism to make a living, a large number of the population emigrate for seasonal work in neighbouring islands like Bali and Java, as well as abroad to Malaysia.
While we visit Lombok from time to time to meet with the potters and support staff at Lombok Pottery Centre, who supply our pottery, of course you don’t need to go there for business.
In fact, if we’re being honest, going there yourself on holiday for a bit of beach, hiking and buying the pottery directly would be a much more fun way of doing things!
You can find more information about Lombok at the Lonely Planet website.
While Lombok is certainly doable by yourself, if you like the convenience of tours Intrepid Travel also offer trips to Lombok that include visits to villages where you can observe pottery-making and weaving.