|Like Bali (read the previous blog entitled, "Bali") Lombok has its own famous surf spot, and ironically, it too is named Kuta. Besides their names and surfing reputations, Kuta, Bali and Kuta, Lombok have nothing else in common.
Sitauted on the Southern Coast of Lombok Island, travelers do not just stumble upon Kuta, Lombok, instead it is a true destination point. Hugging a magnificent coast line, Kuta Lombok might still be a small blip on the Indonesian and world tourism radar, if not for the recent influx of exploratory surfers. Surf guru's come from far and wide to attempt the cornucopia of waves offered in and around Kuta. This discovery has also led to heightened foreign interests, increasing overseas investments ten fold in recent years. Resort construction projects of epic proportions are now only awaiting Lombok's International Airport (completion scheduled for next year), to move forward with their mulit-million dollar projects.
Currently though, only a hand full of hotels and restaurants dot the village of Kuta. Women walk up and down the dirt roads selling piles of sarongs precariously stacked atop their heads, farmers walk their water buffalo back and forth through the center of town, and the bracelet mafia scour the streets from morning to night. Who are the bracelet mafia? Carrying fold-up cardboard displays with cheap bracelets fastened inside, this group of Kuta children have created probably the most lucrative business in all of Kuta. They pull you in with, "Hello Boss", or, "Hello Miss", followed by a quick introduction and handshake. From here, they state their case. "I am saving money to buy books for school". And finally, they unleash their mighty weapon...big, brown eyes. Dah, dah, dum!
Friendly greeting, make it personal, state your purpose, and eye contact, I'd say the bracelet mafia know more about marketing at the age of 5, then I learned at the age of 19 in Business Marketing 101.
Kuta Lombok is also home to, by far, the best restaurant in all of Indonesia, if not all of Asia. Appropriately named, "Bule" (for those of you who remember from my previous blog's, "Bule" means tourist) this otherwise invisible restaurant, makes other restaurants turn invisible after only one meal. Or three, or four, or in Clay and my case...6 times (in 3 days).
Greeted at the door for lunch and dinner by not only Budi (the chef and owner) himself, but the late Michael Jackson. Well, his music anyways. Budi and his family only own one C.D. and it just so happens to be M.J. From now on, every time I eat fish, I can't help but hum Thriller between bites.
Budi has held the position of head chef for a variety of 5-star hotels around the world but decided to settle back in Kuta Lombok (his home town) to open his own 5-star establishment with single-star pricing. A modestly written menu entices your taste buds, but Budi's verbal additions are what clench the meal decisions. He not only tells you exactly what time his fish were caught, he tells you point blank which fish will be the freshest. Take Thanksgiving for example. Turkey and Stuffing finally met their match. A decadent seafood tempura appetizer, 3-hour old Grilled Red Snapper in a Tomato, Onion, Garlic, Chili reduction for the main course, and a literally, "fresh off the boat" (the fisherman walked the catch right into the kitchen), jumbo king prawns drizzled in butter garlic for a second main course.
The only thing better then the food was the price. Each delectable meal cost between 25,000 and 35,000 Rupiah (2.50 to 3.50 USD). To put it into perspective, these 5-star, 2 course meals, ran cheaper then a combo meal at McDonalds.
I don't know about you, but I'm salivating just writing about it. Time to move on before I move back to Kuta Lombok and the amazing, Bule Restaurant.
Back to Surfing. Unlike Kuta Bali, getting to Kuta Lombok's surf spots are an adventure all their own. Adventures that require not only a surf board carrier, equipped motorbike, but more importantly, a bum of steel. A nice paved highway may lead to Kuta, but where it stops, torn up, half-paved, pothole laden roads pick up. 10 minutes feels like 10 hours to your poor backside.
Motor biking over these neglected roads introduced me to more Lombokian life. Hearing the faint hum of a motorbike in the distance, is all the catalyst Lombok children need to drop what they are doing and run from their homes to see who is coming. The beacon of white skin speeding towards them means two things; English Practice and High Fives. Stretching their thin arms across the roadside threshold and straining their palms into wider targets, the kids prepare for the famous, " Highway High-Five. Slowing the motorbike to a less-threatening pace, my hand would meet theirs in a delightful slap. The kids would laugh and scream with excitement, running after us screeching, "Hello", and, "Goodbye", as we wizzed past.
Finishing our abbreviated surf mission in the south, due to a few recurring injuries, we began our journey back to the Island Bali for an even longer journey back to the States. Home for the Holidays. Nothing beats a Yankee Christmas!!