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Welcome to The Lombok Guide – Lombok's complete tourism paper and your guide to the best that the island has to offer. The Lombok Guide is published on Lombok every fortnight and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island. Use the Guide to explore Lombok and check out the best hotels, restaurants and sight-seeing options, to make your Lombok holiday special.

Lombok has hosted an unprecedented number of weddings over the past year, with many visitors choosing this high season as the best time to invite friends and family to fly in to witness their marriages while holidaying on our tropical island. From simple, intimate ceremonies on the deserted white sand beaches, to lavish weddings at top star-rated resorts, and everything in between, Lombok is the ideal setting for that perfect, once in a lifetime occasion. Read our special report on page 10 about the romantic wedding trend emerging in Lombok.

The Gili islands continue to be the big winners this high season, breaking all previous records for foreign tourism arrivals. Hotel Vila Ombak, The Beach House, Pesona Resort and other major hotels on Gili Trawangan report full bookings this holiday season and it's sometimes difficult to find accommodation on the islands. It's hardly surprising, with the fantastic beaches, snorkelling and diving attracting visitors from all over the world.

Mainland businesses in Senggigi and Kuta are also enjoying good crowds, with tourists packing the restaurants and bars at night. Major clubs Marina Café, Sahara Club and New Tropicana have had a busy month, with visiting guest stars playing at all venues to keep the crowds happy.

To find out what all the buzz is about, pick up a copy of The Guide from the locations listed on page 30 or visit us on the web at www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you'll be enchanted!

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Lombok, with its beautiful beaches and romantic atmosphere, has always been a popular destination for honeymooners. Now the island is developing a new market for couples looking to tie the knot in a unique and memorable setting.

Every year thousands of couples from all around the world come to Bali to get married and weddings have become big business for the many wedding planners, hotels and agencies that arrange and host weddings there. Weddings are also big business for the restaurants, hairdressers, make up artists, photographers, and other associated industries that help to make up the entire wedding package.

Now Lombok, just like its sister island Bali, is becoming increasingly popular for weddings and a number of local hotels are reaping the benefits of being the first to put together complete wedding packages for visiting westerners.

In particular, Puri Mas Boutique Resorts and the Senggigi Beach Hotel have become wedding venue specialists over the past two years, with both venues hosting an unprecedented number of weddings during this high season. Puri Mas has two locations, both equally suitable for special occasions, with its main resort located on the stunningly beautiful beachfront in Mangsit, and the Puri Mas Villas location in Kerandangan Valley, with fantastic tropical gardens and romantic bales surrounded by water lily ponds.

New Zealand manager, Sara Sanders, says that weddings are becoming a regular event at the resorts and they love being part of the new trend. “People come from all over the world, sometimes just couples with a few friends, looking for somewhere special to get married; at other times, we are hosting large groups of family and friends. It's such a romantic occasion, everyone in the resort gets involved. Last week we hosted a themed garden party for the ladies in one wedding group. They chose to have a romantic old fashioned garden party, complete with period costumes and hats, rather than a traditional hen's party. The gardens and the antiques at Puri Mas were perfect for that type of party and, of course, the Pimms flowed freely!”

The Senggigi Beach Hotel is already well experienced in wedding management, having been popular for a number of years with local people getting married. The beachfront location, with the resort's Bamboo Bar and Basilico Restaurant right on the sands of Senggigi Bay, is ideal for hosting weddings from small groups to huge receptions of up to a thousand people. The setting is glorious at night, with tables and chairs set up on the beach and flaming torches lighting up the ocean in front.

The Pool Villa Club, an exclusive group of sixteen luxury villas within the grounds of resort, has been very popular with honeymooners for the past five years and now the trend is moving toward couples choosing the Senggigi Beach for both wedding and honeymoon.

Dani, from Australia and Jon, from England, chose the resort for their wedding last week, celebrating together with around 40 friends and family from both countries. Most of the wedding party chose to stay in the Pool Villas, which are spacious enough to accommodate group parties and get-togethers before the wedding day. “We knew when we first came to Lombok that this is where we wanted to get married, so this year our family and friends have flown here to be with us and celebrate our dream wedding,” Dani said. “Lombok is so romantic and everyone has had a great time, the staff has looked after us like royalty!”

The resort arranged numerous activities and parties for the wedding guests during their stay, which culminated in a romantic wedding ceremony on the beach at sunset, followed by a cocktail party and champagne at the Bamboo Bar. The wedding dinner and reception, which lasted well into the night, was held on the beachfront, complete with a stage and live band from one of Senggigi's popular bars playing. The party was so successful many of the hotel guests couldn't resist joining in!

Of course, many other visitors to Lombok choose to have a more low-key wedding, with barefoot weddings on the beach being popular. Lombok beaches are renowned as some of the most beautiful in Indonesia, with white sands and clear turquoise seas providing the perfect tropical island setting. Lombok's many small restaurants and bars are also suitable for simple, low cost weddings. Restaurant Taman, one of Senggigi's most popular restaurants, hosted a wedding for over a hundred guests earlier this year. The entire restaurant was decorated with flowers and traditional decorations and the romantic ceremony took place on the upstairs balcony. The restaurant prepared a specially chosen luncheon for the reception, which also took place upstairs. Guests then gathered downstairs in the garden for drinks and wedding cake, baked by the restaurant's bakery.

The wedding trend in Lombok seems set to become a feature for the future. As one of the guests at the Senggigi Beach Hotel wedding said, “When Dani first told us they were getting married in Lombok we didn't even know where it was. Now we're going home to tell everyone about Lombok… it's fantastic!”

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A business that started as a small antiques and handicrafts showroom has grown to be an international exporter and one of the best interior design businesses in Lombok.

Agnes and Rahman Mulachela opened Galeri Nao in 1994 with a small showroom that sold local handicrafts and antiques collected from around Indonesia. Rahman had already been exporting Balinese and Lombok handicrafts and garments for several years as a side job while studying at Mataram University and, with Agnes' European experience and contacts, the couple started exporting their products to Europe.

As demand for the unique handcrafted items grew, Galeri Nao started designing their own range of interior accessories, supplying clients in different European countries, the USA and Canada, including big retail stores like Vroom & Dreesmann in Holland.

One of their main clients in the beginning was the famous French interior designer Jérôme Abel Seguin, from whom Rahman learned a lot in the field of design. Galeri Nao supplied Jérôme with pieces that were used to decorate the windows of famous shops in Paris, such as Club Med and Hermes.

After a few years of dealing mainly with interior accessories and antiques, the couple started to create furniture, focussing on developing a range of very unique and distinctive pieces with a contemporary and minimalist style, and using amazing local woods and recycled old objects from different areas of Indonesia. One of the main features of their work is the painstaking finishing, which highlights the beautiful grain of the wood.

The style was an immediate success and Galeri Nao now has a large range of international clients, including upscale galleries in Santa Fe (New Mexico), High Point (Virginia), Madrid (Spain) and the famous trendsetting furniture group Xtra in Singapore.

Their unique creations have also been featured in magazines in France, Singapore and Indonesia.

The Gallery also produces furniture for many upmarket villas and hotels in Lombok, Bali and Jakarta. One of their biggest projects over the past few years has been designing and manufacturing most of the furniture used in the hotels and villas of the Qunci Villas group, including the recently opened Qunci Pool Villas.

Rahman's enthusiasm and love of the natural shapes and textures of wood is evident in the individual pieces on display at Galeri Nao's showroom in Meninting. Massive root systems form stunning feature pieces for a villa or hotel, either as a practical room divider or as objet d'art. Huge slabs of aged timber are transformed into dining tables, the edges often left in the natural freeform shapes and the grains of the wood lovingly sanded and polished to highlight the colours and patterns.

Jungle vines form unique decorator pieces, tree fern stems reveal a startling grain similar to Australian aboriginal artwork and frangipani trees are transformed into eye-catching interior décor. Rare woods, such as mahogany and teak, are polished into collector's items ranging from small bowls and vases to large tables and flowing lounges. An old recycled sea trunk is beautifully restored, ready to grace a lucky new home. Even parts of old buildings are stored at the showroom; ancient pieces of hand carved wood rescued from demolition and waiting to be brought back to life by the talented design team.

Galeri Nao is located on the main road from Senggigi to Ampenan, just after the intersection to Sandik, and is open every day except Sunday. Agnes and Rahman are happy to discuss individual design ideas with clients and to work with them in creating unique pieces, whether for the home, villa or resort. The Gallery has years of experience in exporting around the world and offer a professional packing and freight service.

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Visitors to Lombok were treated to a week of free peresean performances in the Senggigi Square last week. The “stick fighting” competitions were held every day, starting on Saturday, 16 August.

Peresean, or stick fighting, is a popular traditional sport in Lombok. Competitors fight using long rattan sticks, attempting to strike their opponent, while using shields made from toughened cowhide to protect themselves from blows. The sport is highly dangerous, but also extremely entertaining as competitors strut in front of each other, attempting to psychologically intimidate their opponents and refusing to show pain. Enthusiastic referees are on hand to ensure that things don't get too out of hand.

The free performances are an initiative of the Senggigi Youth Association (Asosiasi Perkumpulan Pemuda Senggigi), headed by Ibrahim (Chairman) and Hajjir (Secretary) from Senggigi, and were sponsored by funds donated by cafes, hotels and businesses in Senggigi.

Ibrahim and Hajjir said the Association was formed with the support of the Kepala Kampung (Village Head) of Senggigi, Pak Mohammad Ilham, to encourage the young generation in Senggigi to preserve their cultural heritage.

The Association will also hold a Prahu Dayung competition on the Lebaran Ketupat holiday, around 7 October this year. The competition, which features races using small traditional canoes, will start in Mangsit and finish in Senggigi. Each team will consist of five or six rowers per canoe and local businesses are encouraged to sponsor a team for the event.

There are around 100 young unemployed people in Senggigi village who are keen to participate in the programme. Ibrahim said that the local community recognised that not everyone would get jobs within the tourism industry, so the Association planned to have participants learn and perform cultural activities, both to conserve traditions and to boost self esteem. The groups could then practice performing in Senggigi, which would provide an added attraction for tourists and visitors to the area.

The Association also hopes to create a Gendang Beleq troupe, or possibly two troupes, for Senggigi in the future. Gendang Beleq is a unique Lombok gamelan troupe which features large drums (gendang meaning “drum”, beleq meaning “big”). Although most areas of Lombok have their own Gendang Beleq troupes, Senggigi and the entire Kecematan of Batu Layar has no Gendang Beleq performers. Troupes have to be hired from other regions when ceremonies or other events are held in Senggigi.

With a small amount of funding, the Association would be able to find teachers for the young people and to purchase the necessary musical instruments to form their own troupe. They hope that in the future, the young performers will find employment playing at ceremonies and hotels in the area.

The Association needs sponsorship, no matter how large or small, for ongoing events to encourage the young people of Senggigi to be involved in their cultural traditions. If you can help, please phone Ibrahim on 0817 578 9800 or Hajjir on 0817 572 9695. Both organisers speak English and would welcome your support.

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Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, used the opening of the Sanur Village Festival on Thursday, 7 August 2008, to remind people that Bali is in need of a new or alternative airport, due to the problems of expanding Ngurah Rai airport.

Wacik said that Ngurah Rai Airport is overloaded and difficult to expand by lengthening the runway, widening runways to accommodate larger aircraft, or expanding apron areas. The answer, according to Wacik, "is to build an alternative airport or a new airport."

Wacik told the press that he had discussed this matter with Bali's Governor-elect, Made Mangku Pastika. Possible locations for a new airport are not limited to Denpasar and the Badung regency, with Wacik citing Singaraja in Bali's far north as a good candidate for a new airport location. The Minister said that sufficient land for a new airport exists in Singaraja and a new airport there would address the imbalance of development currently existing between the Island's North and South.

Whether or not a new airport will be an urgent matter for consideration by Bali's new governor remains to be seen. The Minister invited Bali's leaders to put egotistical considerations to the side and to formulate a viable action plan for a new airport.

At the same gathering in Sanur, Minister Wacik discussed foreign tourism arrival totals for Bali. In 2007, nearly 1.7 million foreign tourists came to Bali and in 2008 that number will hit between 1.9 and 2 million. In 2009, the Minister predicted foreign tourist arrivals to Bali will reach 3 million. "This is a realistic target," insisted Wacik.

According to the Minister of Culture and Tourism, these surging tourism numbers leave Bali no choice but to create an alternative airport.

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As reported on balidiscovery.com, the government is taking dramatic moves to save PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines (MZ) from imminent financial collapse. In addition to cash relief of US $32.6 million and plans to lay off 50% of the carrier's work force, the government has now agreed to delay the payment of Rp 56 billion (US $6.1 million) in outstanding taxes due from MZ, as part of the overall restructuring programming.

The State Minister for State-owned enterprises, Sofyan Abdul Djalil, told Bisnis Indonesia that the temporary tax reprieve had been agreed with the Minister of Finance.

According to Sofyan, the restructuring of MZ will be handled by PT Perusahaan Pengelola Asset (PPA), a government-owned asset management company. The taxes owed by Merpati have been placed in abeyance to allow the airline the opportunity to complete the termination of 1,300 workers, a central core of the airline's restructuring. When the terminations are completed, MZ will be left with 800 employees; 500 dedicated to airline operations and 300 at the Merpati Maintenance facility.

Merpati also plans to stop operating jets and focus its future operations on less-expensive-to-operate turbo-prop equipment flying on pioneer routes.

Merpati's recently appointed managers are busily trying to assess the true extent of the airline's debts. Meanwhile, some observers place Merpati's debt at around Rp 2.2 trillion (US $239 million) against an asset base of only Rp 1 billion (US $108,000). In its current un-restructured state it is estimated that Merpati is losing Rp 20 billion (US $2.2 million) each month.

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Marina rocked on Friday 15 August when Canadian band “Dearest” guest starred there

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Lawyers for the three Bali bombers on death row in Indonesia argued in court Thursday against the use of firing squads, saying they amounted to torture and demanding a stay in the executions.

Indonesia's constitutional court opened hearings over the Islamists who have been sentenced to death over the 2002 attacks on the resort island of Bali which killed 202 people, mainly foreign tourists.

The men – Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Ghufron – who are being held in an island prison off Java, have asked to be beheaded instead of shot and claim they are eager to die as "martyrs" for their Islamist cause.

Defence lawyer Mahendradata said the court had to order a stay of execution while the petition was being heard. “Do you think that a dead man's plea can still be reviewed by a court? It is unconstitutional,” he told the judges.

The attorney general's office has said it hopes to execute the militants, convicted in 2003, before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in early September.

Meanwhile prison authorities said security at Nusa Kambangan prison island in Central Java had been tightened to guard against "disturbances" ahead of the executions, the Antara news agency reported. Fishermen have been prohibited from operating in waters around the island and security at local ports has been stepped up, the report said.

The bombers have exhausted all avenues of appeal against their convictions and officials have said there is no need to delay the executions any longer as the constitutional challenge to firing squads is a separate matter.

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On Sunday, 17 August, Indonesia cut three months off the 20-year sentence imposed on Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby as part of Independence Day celebrations, an official said.

"Corby officially gets today, on Indonesia's independence day, a three-month cut off her sentence," Yon Suharyono, the head of the Kerobokan penitentiary where Corby is being held on Bali island, told reporters.

It is customary in Indonesia to show clemency by reducing sentences and, in some cases, setting free prisoners to commemorate certain occasions, particularly Indonesian Independence Day and Idul Fitri (the national celebration at the end of Ramadan).

He said it was the second time authorities had cut the 31-year-old's sentence after it was reduced by three-months in 2006.

With today's remission, Corby is expected to be freed by 12 April, 2024, he added.

The former beauty therapist was found guilty in 2005 of trafficking 4.1 kilograms (nine pounds) of marijuana to Indonesia. She claims international smugglers placed the drugs in her luggage.

Many Australians believe her claims of innocence and see the sentence as harsh.

Suharyono meanwhile said the only female member of the so-called "Bali Nine" ring of Australian heroin traffickers, Renae Lawrence, had also received a four month cut from her 20-year sentence.

The group's three ring-leaders, Scott Rush, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, are on death row in Indonesia.

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Bisnis.com reports that the Government will create a coordinated system for handling foreign yacht visits to Indonesia following the recent embarrassing seizure and placement under “custom seal” of a large number of yachts participating in “Sail Indonesia” – a sailing regatta travelling from Darwin to Ambon.

The Director General of Destination Development for the Department of Culture and Tourism, Firmansyah Rahim, said a number of issues will be addressed in the new system, including the designation of ports for entry and departure of yachts and the appointment of agents empowered to handle “Sail Indonesia”.

Firmansyah said the recent “custom sealing” of 106 foreign yachts by the Customs and Excise Department in Kupang (West Timor) was the result of a failure to present a required written guarantee. In fact, an agreement for “Sail Indonesia 2008” was already in place stipulating that written guarantees would not be required.

Explaining the current imbroglio, Firmansyah said that “Sail Indonesia” would use an insurance program or the intervention of a local agent to meet custom department requirements. “Unfortunately the organising team, in this case the Foundation Cinta Bahari Indonesia, did not undertake cooperation with a local agent to meet the demands of Customs,” explained Firmansyah.

On Saturday, 2 August 2008, the Customs and Excise Department in Kupang sealed the 106 yachts for failing to have the required entry permits. To avoid a future repetition of this unfortunate occurrence the Government will appoint special agents to handle visiting yachts in the future.

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Horizontal on Gili T is better known for great cocktails and adult parties, but the popular venue showed its other side when around 40 children turned up to celebrate India’s 2nd birthday!

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