Bali's little sister island Lombok has all the innocence of untouched beauty, with a little more shine and a whole lot less traffic than its big sister island.
In fact, travelling through its streets will literally take you back to the days of the traditional horse and carriage, which are commonplace in Lombok. I couldn't wait to discover this road less travelled.
After a three-and-a-half hour boat ride from Bali, which stops at the neighbouring Gili Islands, we finally arrive at Lombok and head to Tugu Hotel Lombok, a luxury resort destination set on the white, sandy beaches of Sire. If you want to get there faster, there's a direct boat service that takes only one-and-a-half hours, so make sure you check out what's available online before you book.
As soon as I arrived, I organised a list of things to do: the day spa, a cooking class, and a visit to a traditional market. This may seem like a simple plan, though sometimes that's all you're really after when looking for the perfect holiday escape.
Spas in Lombok
Spas are mainly found in the major hotels, however there is a growing trend to develop specialist spas offering more unusual packages. You can indulge in unique treatments like Ayurveda as well as the full range of massage techniques; body scrubs and wraps in the upmarket five-star hotels and also in the smaller boutique hotels.
The translation of "Hening Swarga" means "heavenly silence", and if you're like most of us, running around in our busy cities, frantic all day long, there is nothing better than knowing you're headed for a massage treatment that is defined by its tranquility.
I can honestly say I have never had a massage like this before. Tugu Hotel's Hening Swarga Spa is situated facing the beach, and this open-aired pavilion allows for the natural tunes of the ocean to filter through while a talented masseuse relaxed muscles I never knew were tense.
Other spa suggestions in Lombok
Recommended by Condé Nast Johansen's Luxury Spa's 2012, Puri Mas Spa Resort and Developing Wellness Retreat is one to check out. Enjoy a traditional massage, signature facials or therapeutic reflexology.
Sheraton Resort Spa
Oozing a rustic and traditional Indonesian aesthetic, Laguna Spa makes for an ideal outdoor spa location, facing the ocean. Three beachside balé s (traditional gazebos) are perfect for outdoor massages like the Thai Yoga Massage, a unique marriage of meditation and yoga stretches with Thai massage.
Cooking Traditional Lombok Cuisine
A fantastic insight into the flavours and history of a place can be revealed through taste. Guided by the head chef from Waroeng Tugu, our menus spoke of ancient traditions and an exotic richness behind Indonesian dinning. Enjoy the meal at Tugu's Lara Djonggrang Bar, a traditional hut fit-out with hundred-year-old thick, wooden benches, a long old teak bar and seductive artworks. It's seriously sexy and definitely worth the visit.
Love a bargain and shopping? Head to the ancient markets of Sembalun and bring $10 with you to play with ... you'll be amazed with the things you end up buying! Here, you'll find everything from spices to fabrics, exotic fruit or traditional Lombok-style sweet breakfast. I couldn't resist purchasing a couple of traditional Balinese dresses, cute sandals, woven baskets and a fabulous fabric bag.
This is a local market and not recommended for tourists alone, so make sure you come with a guide to ensure you get the most of the experience.
With its predominantly Muslim culture, and therefore low consumption of alcohol, Lombok isn't big with nightlife which is great if you are looking for a detox (especially after spending time in Bali!). The best area to head to for a bit of nighttime action is Senggigi, with cool bars and plenty of restaurants and cafes. Our top picks include de Quake on the beach at the Art Market, budget diner Bumbu, and high-end Square.
Described as pearls in the ocean and located just north of Lombok, the Gili Islands, which comprises the three islands of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, are fringed with white sands and lush palm trees.
"Gili", which means "small island", has a great laidback charm. Even with the increased tourism and popularity, you still feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Bali, and back home seems like a lifetime ago. If you're into scuba diving, hiking, photography, or just looking for inspiration, make sure you head to the islands for the perfect escape.
Big sister Bali
And what about big sister Bali? This island is always memorable for me. Check out these awesome spots:
-Seminyak for shopping at boutiques like Magali Pascal, Shakuhachi and SKS.
-Dine out at Mamasan. Step into colonial Britain in Shanghai during the 1920s with marble-top mah-jongg tables and oversized tan leather Chesterfields in a purpose-designed industrial high-ceiling warehouse. Head upstairs for a more relaxed dining/bar experience and try book in for a cooking class, too. Other excellent dining choices include Sarong, Ku De Ta, Metis, Potato Head, and Café Bali.
-Stay at the luxurious Karma Kandara. Book a couple of nights here if your budget allows for it, and ensure you try out their new "Manis and Martinis" specialty at the gorgeous Karma Spa. After a little pampering and a great drink, you'll be ready for a gorgeous dinner at the restaurant or a beachside DJ down at Karma's private beach, Nammos.
-Try out a health escape at the Alila Ubud, perfect for yoga, detox and a healthy breakfast before a swim in the infinity pool.
-Or save your money for shopping by staying at the Holiday Inn Baruna Bali. Clean, modern rooms with amazing breakfast included, right on the beach in Kuta. It's set back away from the craziness of Kuta, yet it's still close enough to enjoy all the attractions of Bali.
How to get there
Ready to book now? To get to Bali, we flew on Air Asia X
, now flying Sydney to Denpasar (via Kula Lumpur only). The best flight to book is a late-night flight, and you should try to sleep the majority of the way. If you do book a day flight, remember to pre-order your meals and arrange entertainment (or bring your iPad). It's a really long seven-hour flight without it. Coach class is comfortably "cosy", but if you want a little more luxury, Air Asia X offers a premium class ticket with flat-beds at a fraction of the price of major airlines.
Various local airlines, public ferries and fast boats offer connections from Bali to Lombok (scroll to the top of the story for more advice about how to get to Lombok).
For more travel tips from Lauren, head to princesswithabackpack.com.
Click here for hotel reviews and booking info for Lombok, Indonesia