The Province of West Nusa Tenggara, also known as part of the Lesser Sunda Islands, comprise Bali and eastward through Timor.
The two major islands in this province are Lombok and Sumbawa. Lombok is where the transition from the western to the eastern Indonesian fauna and flora begins. The northern part of the island is mountainous and verdant with tall trees and shrubs covering the land. The south is arid and covered by savannas. Large Asian mammals are absent. The shift gets more pronounced as one moves further east. Dry seasons are more prolonged, so in many areas corn and sago instead of rice is the staple food.
Lombok island has white virgin beaches, an age-old culture, separated by merely a narrow strait from Bali, it is only now being discovered as a tourist destination of exceptional charm. Here the motto is "you can see Bali in Lombok, but not Lombok in Bali". It is an existing reality, formed by the superimposition of strong Balinese influences in the past, upon a base that is entirely Lombok's own. At around the time Islam first came to these islands in the 16th century, four Hindu Kingdoms coexisted in apparent peace in what is now West Nusa Tenggara.
At present, Hinduism is the religion embraced mostly by the Balinese population of western Lombok. The indigenous people of Lombok, the Sasaks, are predominantly Moslem. Even more so are the people of neighboring Sumbawa.
At present, West Nusa Tenggara's cultural make-up is a composite of the four main population groups inhabiting the two islands: the Balinese, the Sumbawanese, and the peoples of Bima and Dompu. The region is famous for its "ikat" hand-woven textiles. Cattle and horses are the major export commodities of these islands.
Mataram and Cakranegara
Mataram is the capital of the province which has in the past decades joined with Ampenan, the port, and Cakranegara to become the province's biggest urban complex.
At around the beginning of the 18th century, Mataram was the residence of the crown prince of Karang Asem, a kingdom in southern Bali.
The ruler himself had his seat in Cakranegara. The royal palace no longer exists, but many of the old temples and pleasure gardens are still there.
Lombok's biggest Balinese temple is the Pura Meru in Cakranegara. Dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, it was built in 1720 by Anak Agung Made Karang, which has three courtyards. Three pagoda-like places of worship stand in a line from north to south in the innermost courtyard. The one on the north is dedicated to Vishnu and has a roof with nine tiers. The central one is dedicated to Shiva with II tiers on its roof and the southernmost one is for Brahma with a roof of seven tiers.
Nearby is Taman Mayura. Once part of the royal palace, it has an artificial lake set in the middle of a park. A raised path leads from the side of the pond to a pavilion built in the middle of the lake. In former days, justice was meted out and religious rituals were performed in this open-sided pavilion.
Taman Narmada, 11 kilometers east of Mataram, was built in 1727 by King Anak Agung Gede Ngurah Karang Asem as both a pleasure garden and place to worship Shiva. Its big pool is said to represent Segara Anakan, the crater lake on the volcano Rinjani where they used to make offerings by throwing valuables into the water. As he became too old to make the pilgrimage up the 3,726 meter high mountain, he had Narmada made to represent the mountains and the lake. Near the pond is a place of worship and a spring whose water is believed to give dedicated pilgrims eternal youth.
This may be the only Hindu shrine in the world where both Hindus and Moslems come to worship. About 7 kilometers west of Narmada, it was built in 1714 and rebuilt in 1878 to symbolize harmony and unity between the Hindu Balinese and Moslem Sasak population of the area, especially those who adhere to Lombok's unique Wektu Telu school of Islam.
The Balinese temple is built on higher ground, behind the Moslem section in the compound. In the lower yard is a spring in which pilgrims in the temple yard stage a mock battle between Hindus and Moslems, in which both parties hurl rice cakes at each other.
Pura Agung Gunung Sari
This great temple on a hill at Gunung Sari, about four kilometers from Mataram, was witness to the Puputan battle to the last man, fought on November 22, 1894, between Lombok's last Balinese ruler, Anak Agung Nengah and followers, and the Dutch troops under General Van der Vetter's command.
This is a village of weavers south of Cakranegara. Lombok is known for its brightly patterned songket cloth. People have been making it on their hand-looms for many generations.
Sengkol, Pujut and Rambitan
Time seems to have frozen in these three villages in southern Lombok on the road from the capital to Kuta Beach. All the houses and barns are built in the age-old traditional style where life itself appears to be as it always has been.
The arid savanna-like landscape of this area is impressive even in its starkness.
Batu Bolong Beach
Located 9 km from downtown Mataram, this beach has a huge rock with a hole in it. A Hindu temple lies on top facing the Lombok Strait and beyond is the contour of majestic Mount Agung of Bali. After sunbathing, relaxing and frolicking on this beautiful beach-front, try to stay till the end of the day to watch one of the most stunning sunsets you have ever seen when the sun slowly begins to disappear behind Mount Agung with incredibly flaming colors.
The Mayura Park is what remains of the once existing Karang Asem kingdom of Bali. In the middle of a large pond is a structure called Balai Kambang which at the time functioned as a legal court of justice as well as a hall for important meetings. Curiously, its architecture shows both Hindu as well as Islamic influence, whereas around the place statues made of stone are found in the form of a Moslem haj.
Another relic remaining from the Karang Asem Kingdom is the Meru Temple at Cakranegara, close to Mataram. The temple was built in 1720 during King A.A. Made's rule as a symbol of Hindu unity on Lombok island. Several structures are found in this complex, all of them designated to function for particular purposes, including the 33 stalls located next to the main temple.
Also known as Putri Nyale Beach, Kuta on the south coast of central Lombok is one of the most scenic and unspoiled beaches in this part of Indonesia. From Kuta to Tanjung Aan five km away, it is an unbroken stretch of clean white sand on the Indian Ocean. It is safe for bathing and swimming. Further to the west are the surfers and wind surfers beaches. Each year, on the 19th day of the tenth month of the Sasak lunar calendar on February or March when the Nyale fish come to the sea's surface, Kuta Beach is the site of great festivities. Fishermen sail out to sea while young men and women gather along the beach to join in the merrymaking, tease each other and perhaps meet to build a more lasting relationship.
Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan
Gili, in Sasak means "island". These three islands are clustered together just off the northwest coast of Lombok. Coral gardens abound in clear waters around the islands. Gili Air, the nearest island, can be reached in 10 to 15 minutes by outrigger boat from Bangsal harbor, near Pamenang.
Senggigi, north of Bangsal, belongs to the most scenic and most popular beaches on the island of Lombok with good accommodation facilities. Coral gardens grow in the sea just off shore.
Mount Rinjani, a 3,726 meter high active volcano, is one of the tallest mountains of Indonesia. At the floor of the volcano's huge caldera is the sickle shaped crater lake Segara Anakan, surrounded by steep walls. The mountain is popular with hikers. Sembalun Bumbung and Sembalun Lawang are two traditional Sasak villages on the slopes of Rinjani.
A village on the slope of the mountain Batu Lante, 60 kilometers south of Sumbawa Besar, where the houses are built in traditional architectural style.
Mount Tambora, Sumbawa
Not active at present, the 2,820 meters tall volcano Tambora is notorious for its savage eruption on April 5 - July 15, 1815.
Failing debris, hot gases and lava streams killed more than 12,000 people. Some 44,000 more perished of hunger in the aftermath of the explosion.
The top, now a big caldera, has two colored lakes. From the rim of the crater, the view on the rest of the island, the sea, Mt. Rinjani, and the island of Lombok is breathtaking. The mountain occupies almost the entire Sanggar peninsula.
Moyo Island, at the mouth of the Bay of Saleh, has a nature reserve with wild oxen, deer, wild boars and a great variety of bird species. Visits are best made during the dry season from June through August.
The former palace in the town of Bima is about all that is left of the Bima sultanate. The building is now being turned into a museum.
Dara, a village two kilometers from the town of Bima in eastern Sumbawa, is believed to have been the seat of the ancient Bima kingdom.
Shipwrights still make sailboats the traditional way in this port town on Sumbawa's east coast. Sape is a convenient point of departure for trips to Komodo island across the strait, home of the prehistoric Komodo dragon.
Other good beaches are found at Talolai and Hangawera, north of Bima, Lunyuk on the south coast of Sumbawa.
Note: Picure of Theatrical dance of Lombok (Sasak)