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Luscious Lombok

By Lee Hannon | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-07 09:21

Luscious Lombok

Flames dance as local snacks are cooked next to recycled Coke bottles filled with gasoline for sale to the streams of motorbike riders who buzz by like angry bees.

The juxtaposition of the flammable liquids and flaming woks would be enough to make a Western fire safety officer incandescent with fear.

It is a land of complete contrasts, not just to the Island of Gods, but also to the rest of Indonesia and the diversity it offers visitors without selling out its natural beauty to construction and commercialism.

From complete pampered relaxation in pristine turquoise waters perfect for snorkeling to jungle and volcano adventures under a wealth of waterfalls and springs, Lombok caters to all tastes and offers a bevy of places to stay, including some hidden treasures.

Secret Retreat's Tugu Lombok is a jewel filled with charm and character located on the pristine white sand beach of Sire, on the northwest coast of the island.

With just 19 rooms nestled on a private beach 45 minutes from the nearest town, the hotel feels completely spacious and rich in individual design with manicured lawns, freshwater swimming pools and a spa.

The rooms are characterized by colonial style, high thatched ceilings with swirling fans, antique doors and furnishings with a private tropical garden and plunge pool overlooking the ocean, complete with a custom-made rain shower.

The style is an exotic mix of an authentic native Lombok village house but with modern luxuries from another era. Rustic bamboo lamps sit next to iPod docking stations, a DVD player and a large flat-screen television hidden behind a wooden door for those who want to truly escape.

In fact, Secret Retreat's Tugu Lombok is like stepping into a forgotten world offering a reminder of Indonesia's thousands of years of history.

The hotel proprietor Anhar Setjadibrata began collecting Indonesian antiques in the 1960s, when he was a poor medical student.

His passion then grew to become a family mission to bring back to life the art, soul and romance of Indonesia, and to introduce them to the world through his hotel that transports guests to another world of ancient kingdoms and quixotic legends.

And legends it has in abundance. In the distance you can see the peaks of Mount Rinjani, home of the Goddess Anjani, and every visitor must awaken once before dawn to witness the magical sunrise it offers.

If you're not a morning person, capture the sunrise and return to bed. Here, the guest is king and breakfast can be served anytime, anywhere.

A member of the staff tells me to makan angina, which my phone translator says means "eat the air". I later discover the friendly waiter was not telling me to slim down but sharing an Indonesian idiom that I enjoy an adventure.

For those who cannot rest easy on pristine beaches with Long Island cocktails and sounds of the waves lapping against the shore, the island offers lots for the intrepid explorer.

Take a horse-drawn cart to the city of Mataram and see the local markets and traditional villages selling herbs and spices, or visit a traditional village and get down with the natives. Although my backside, and I'm sure the horse, wishes I had taken a cushioned taxi.

Just minutes away by speedboat are the tropical Gili Islands, a party playground with excellent diving and snorkeling as well as a wealth of the sub-species that occupies Kuta in Bali. Think Spring Break for Australians and replace rednecks with blondes.

The spectacle reminds me of Oscar Wilde's words: "Pleasure is the only thing to live for. Nothing ages like happiness."

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