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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 two weeks 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.

We go to print with this issue two days before Idul Fitri, the celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan. Idul Fitri, or Lebaran, is one of the most important times of the year in Indonesia… a time of celebration and reunions with families and friends. The Indonesian government estimates that around 15.8 million people will be travelling across the archipelago over the next two weeks, returning home for the holidays. This will create a lot of congestion at airports and ports, but mostly on the roads, with an estimated 10 million people travelling by land. We hope that those who are making the journey for Lebaran reach home safely.

The Idul Fitri celebrations are very like Christmas in the west, with families getting together and everyone celebrating and feasting on special foods after the month of fasting. If you are in Lombok at this time, be sure to accept invitations to visit local homes and join in the festivities.

Exactly one week after Idul Fitri, Lombok holds a unique event called “Lebaran Topat”, attended by people all over the island. The main events will be held around the Batu Layar area and nearby beaches, just south of Senggigi. See our special feature on page 10 for a report on all the fun local events at this time of the year.

To find out all the latest news and happenings, 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!

To all our readers, The Lombok Guide wishes you a happy and safe Lebaran… Minal aidin wal faidzin!

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As the month of Ramadan comes to an end, the local festivities are just about to begin! After a month of fasting and self control, Lombok is ready to celebrate and the fun started on the last night of Ramadan – 30 September – with the Takbiran parade.

Pawai Takbiran is celebrated throughout the towns and villages of Lombok in recognition of the successful completion of the holy fasting month, with the main parade finishing in the Lapangan Mataram, the park opposite the Governor's office in the city. Local communities gather together in the days beforehand to construct miniature models of their mosques, holy characters and other Islamic symbols. Some of the models are quite elaborate, featuring detailed reconstructions of mosques, complete with minarets and carefully painted domes.

Takbiran itself is traditionally a “lantern festival”, or a festival of light, and lights feature highly in the parades. Mosques are lit from within, giant reconstructions of the Kabbah in Mecca glow with fairy lights, and smiling people dressed in traditional Islamic clothing carry huge glowing letters spelling out words from the Qur'an. The parade culminates in the park with thousands of the Takbiran floats lighting up the night as fireworks explode overhead. It's an awesome sight and the festival atmosphere makes Takbiran well worth participating in, if you happen to be in Lombok on the last night of Ramadan.

The next two days are especially happy occasions as the whole nation celebrates Idul Fitri, also known as Lebaran. Similar in spirit to Christmas for westerners, Lebaran is the time for friends and family to get together, with several million people travelling across the Indonesian islands at this time to reunite with their families. People working in the far off islands, as well as many of those working abroad, will try to come home to their families at this important time – for many it is the only time in a year that the whole family will be together.

The first day of Idul Fitri will start with early prayers at the mosque, then the day is spent in visiting parents and families, and often, visiting the graves of family and friends who have passed away, to pray and remember their spirits at this special time of the year. Lebaran is a time of happy reunions and the greetings of “minta maaf, lahir dan batin”, meaning to ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings throughout the previous year. It is a way to let bygones be bygones and to start the new Moslem year afresh.

Of course, there are new clothes to wear on the day (baju Lebaran), which is why the shops in town have been packed for the past week. There are also special feasts to prepare and tables loaded with festive goodies to share with visiting family and friends. If you are invited to local homes during this time, don't miss the opportunity to share in the happiness and feasting on delicious traditional foods!

Then, one week later, Lombok celebrates again with its own unique festival called Lebaran Topat. This celebration is only held in Lombok and the origins are sketchy, but Lebaran Topat has now become an important event in the annual calendar. This year's festival will start around 7am in the morning with a parade from Narmada to the Makam Batu Layar (the gravesite on the hill before Senggigi, near Batu Bolong). Batu Layar is an important traditional landmark in West Lombok; a site of ancestral graves and the final resting place of one of Lombok's holiest men. On many weekends there are bus loads of people from East Lombok and other villages around the island visiting the graves and praying in the shade of the old musholla overlooking the ocean to Bali.

At Lebaran Topat, thousands will flock to Batu Layar to pray at the graves and to wash themselves and their children in the well there, which is believed to contain holy water. Groups of families and friends will then spend the day picnicking on the nearby beaches. The traditional food for this occasion is, of course, topat rice that has been wrapped in bundles of plaited coconut leaves and steamed. Topat are served with a variety of different dishes, especially the delicious chicken and coconut milk curry called Opor Ayam.

The thousands of people from all over the island participating in Lebaran Topat will cause major traffic jams on the road from Ampenan to Senggigi – it's an event you can either join in, mingling with the crowds on the beaches, or avoid altogether by not planning to travel on that day. Later in the day there is usually a live band and music at a public party held in the park near Warung Menega in Montong. Of course, all are welcome to join in at any of these festivities… let the celebrations begin!

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Hold your breath as the official invitations to the “Walk in the Stars” party at Qunci Pool Villas go out to 50 lucky ladies this week. One of the hottest events of the year, the party features a catwalk by Lombok's ladies, special male guest models from Africa, media coverage by top fashion and destination magazines, and… rumours buzzing this week… some of the same theatrics that make the Ku De Ta “White Party” so much fun! The guys aren't missing out either, with confirmed attendance by stunning Indonesian supermodel Karenina and sexy model-turned-actress Dominique.

We love the food at Seafood Nikmat! The city eatery, headed by the personable Pak William who trained in Australia, serves up some of the most innovative fresh seafood in town, every day of the week. Especially good are the Crabs in Padang Sauce – you choose the fresh crabs and they arrive cooked to perfection in a delicious spicy and piquant sauce similar to Singaporean Crab. Also divine are the King Prawns in Garlic Butter, served sizzling on a hot plate at your table. The fish and seafood is fresh every day and kept on ice, ready to be chosen and cooked to your requirements. The success of this unpretentious street-side restaurant probably lies with the variety of sauces and cooking styles available – choose from spicy flavours such as Rica-Rica, Tiga Rasa, Padang, exotic salted egg or oyster, and non spicy cream or cheese sauces, garlic or lemon butters. If you love seafood, at great local prices, visit Seafood Nikmat soon!

Square Restaurant is introducing two new set menus to the list this month, showcasing the culinary style of Executive Chef, Wayan Budiana (formerly of Mozaic Restaurant, Bali fame). Having sampled most of the dishes on the new menus, Lombok diners are in for a taste treat with such sublime offerings as Foie Gras served with Apple Chutney and Mild Spicy Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce, Sea Scallops pan seared in a Madras Curry Beurre Meuniere Sauce with Bok Choy and Saffron Rissotto, Roasted Lamb Rack with Gnocchi Potato, Mint Infused Demi Glaze and Blue Cheese Sauce, and Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Vodka Spicy Tomato Sauce topped with Dill Crème Fraiche. Too many delicious goodies to list, including mouthwatering sorbets and the to-die-for “Square Fallen Chocolate Cake”! Both five-course set menus are exceptional fine dining value at Rp 250 000++ per person.

Definitely not hot is the kiosk in Mataram Mall selling Play Station games and accessories, just in front of Tiara Shoe Store. The stall has the dubious policy of not allowing customers to check games and accessories prior to buying and then backing that up with a “no refund, no exchange” policy. When I pointed out that this was hardly legal or fair, the retailer laughed and agreed! PS gizmos aren't cheap and this policy is sure to break some local kid's heart (and his bank!) Shop elsewhere and support retailers who do give a damn!

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August foreign arrival figures for Bali continue the year-long trend of breaking records for foreign arrivals every month of 2008, with 187 584 visitors counted at Bali's airport, a 12.57% improvement over August 2007 (166 633). This makes August 2008 the best August on record in Bali tourism.

Foreign arrivals from January to August 2008 now total 1 298 046 – that's 20.5% better than the record-setting 1 077 200 foreign visitors who came to Bali in the same period in 2007.

Assuming that Bali maintains the same rate of improvement through to the end of the year, Bali Discovery.com projects that total visitors for the year 2008 are likely to just break through the 2 million mark.

Here's a glimpse of Bali's main source markets for the period January - August 2008.

- Japan - Still Bali's top producing market. Arrivals for the first 8 months of 2008 equaled 243 795, a 5.29% improvement over 2007.

- Australia - With 194 115 Australian visitors coming to Bali for the period January - August 2008, arrivals are running 56.04% ahead of the same period last year. Watch for these record-breaking numbers to continue to improve with a number of new flights scheduled to come on line from Australia during the last quarter of 2008.

- Taiwan - Reflecting the numbers being diverted to Mainland China due to eased visa restrictions for Taiwanese, arrivals for the first 8 months of 2008 ex-Taiwan stood at 94 477, down 7% from the same period last year.

- South Korea - With 88 703 South Korean Visitors during January - August 2008, this market chalked up 4.17% growth over the same period last year.

- People's Republic of China - Arrivals for the first eight months of 2008 from mainland China grew 58.32% - totaling 84 089. Visa-on-arrivals and better air access are managing to help sustain the dynamic growth from this market.

- Malaysia - Malaysia is now Bali's sixth largest source of foreign tourists bringing 80 177 people during January - August 2008. That's a 20.63% boost over the same period in 2007.

- France - The strongest European market for Bali is now the French recording 52 080 visitors during the first 8 months of the year. In year-on-year terms, that's a 23.18% improvement over 2007.

- Germany - Bali's ninth largest source of foreign visitors is Germany bringing 50 676 tourists to Bali during January - August 2008. German traffic has gown 18.38% since 2007.

- USA - The removal of travel warnings do make a difference. 46 923 Americans came to Bali January - August 2008, a full 30.1% more than during the same period in 2007.

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Ever sinceYe Jeon Korean Restaurant opened in Senggigi, I've been meaning to try the food there, so it was with some shock that I realised that the restaurant has now been open for eight years and I still hadn't visited! Perhaps a lack of familiarity with Korean food had kept me hesitating, but it was time to put that nagging curiosity to rest with a visit.

Ye Jeon first opened in the Senggigi Square, when that complex was still quite new and then, when the Senggigi Plaza was built, moved into larger premises next to Happy Café. The restaurant is reached up a flight of stairs, past the gift shop (which I noticed has the best selection of scented and decorative candles in Lombok, among other interesting items!) Upstairs is spacious and airy, with low tables and cushions providing traditional style seating inside, while outside on the balcony are tables and chairs set up to catch the breeze and take in the scene on the street below.

The menus, consisting of two separate books, appear confusing at first but that is simply because one menu deals with set meals, while the other allows diners to choose individual dishes and add side dishes to their selections. Menus feature good photos of the foods to make choosing easier and are also translated into Korean for the many tourists who visit the restaurant for a taste of home.

After perusing a range of beef, seafood and vegetarian dishes, we decided to try the popular Korean dish, Bulgogi Bakban and another interesting-looking dish called Bibim Bab. The Bulgogi is a Korean-style beef BBQ and a small barbecue is set up on the table so that diners can cook the meat to their desired taste. The sliced beef is served in a tasty sauce, with finely sliced onion and herbs – aromatic and delicious.

The Bibim Bab is steamed rice topped with assorted vegetables and beef, with fried egg on the top, served in a cast iron pot at the table. Alongside is a small dish of sambal (spicy paste) which is mixed into the pot, together with all the other ingredients. The heat of the pot keeps everything hot as the various ingredients are mixed around, resembling something like fried rice or local nasi goreng. The taste, however, is different than Indonesian fried rice, being lighter and fresher, and flavoured with distinctively Korean spices. The rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot is really scrumptious – a crunchy, tasty surprise at the end.

As this was a set menu, the Bulgogi was served with a range of accompanying side dishes. Small bowls held fresh soy bean sprouts, finely sliced sautéed potatoes, spiced local spinach, young papaya in a tasty dressing, sliced omelette, sesame leaves with spiced oil and the famous Korean dish, Kim Chee. I had only ever tried Kim Chee at a local hotel and didn't like the taste, but Ye Jeon's Kim Chee is a roll of tangy fermented Chinese cabbage layered with mild chilli and is strangely addictive. All these side dishes can be mixed with the Bulgogi or the Bibim Bab and steamed rice to provide a range of taste sensations.

Having now sampled and enjoyed the taste of real Korean food, we decided we are coming back to try the other dishes, such as Blue Crab cooked with prawns and cockles in a tasty vegetable soup, or fresh fish cooked at the table, and the Gim Bab: Korean-style sushi with different fillings. In fact, a lot of Korean dishes resemble Japanese food more than any other, but the spices and sauces used are different.

At first glance, the dishes may seem a little pricey, but this is because Ye Jeon imports all the spices and herbs, as well as their noodles, from Korea to keep the taste authentic. Local beef, chicken and seafood are used and all dishes are prepared fresh when you order. The set menus are large, so it is easy to satisfy three or four appetites with a couple of dishes and this type of food is ideal shared with a group of friends, with all the dishes and the barbecue in the middle of the table and everyone sampling the different tastes. It seems a shame to have waited eight years to discover how fresh and tasty the Korean food is at Ye Jeon!

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Renewed efforts by national legislators to strong-arm a controversial anti-pornography bill through the National Legislature has many Balinese joining a national movement to defeat a moralistic piece of legislation seen as threatening national unity.

If passed in its present form, it is feared that the “RUU Pornografi” would impose a fundamentalist sectarian moral code that could sacrifice woman's rights; outlaw traditional forms of artistic expression; declare a number of ancient Indonesian monuments to be obscene and subject to potential demolition; and allow individuals and groups to impose their standards of obscenity on others.

Of particular concern are clauses in the new law that purportedly allow and encourage community-based vigilante groups to enforce the legislation.

Reflecting demonstrations taking place across all of Indonesia, a series of large-scale demonstrations have been held in Bali protesting the new law. Thousands of protestors have joined demonstrations, some participants in various states of undress, holding banners and posters claiming the new law will destroy national culture and be divisive to national unity.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), more than 5,000 people occupied the lawn in front of the Provincial Parliament Building in Denpasar to protest what the participants see as the criminalisation of Balinese aesthetic values which celebrate the human form on an island where the symbolisation of male and female genitalia (i.e. lingga and yoni) are present in statuary, ancient monuments, religious offerings and cultural performance.
One public protest last week before the offices of Bali's Governor Made Mangku Pastika saw protestors symbolically seal the building's entrance with a pair of men's underpants.

AFP quotes Wayan Sayoga, a Balinese intellectual as saying, “Balinese and other ethnic groups have a different view on what sexual or pornographic materials are…We can view nudity without being trapped by lust because we look at it from an aesthetic perspective.”

Other protestors asked if the new law would suddenly label as “immoral” Balinese women whose traditional kebayaks reveal cleavage, half-naked Balinese Kecak dancers or male citizens of Irian Jaya who favour the koteka or traditional penis gourd.

On an even more practical level, it remains unclear if the new law would mandate the removal of priceless pieces of art from Bali's traditional museums or will force scantily-clad tourists to flee from Bali's beaches and swimming pools.

To counteract the law now being driven rough-shod through the parliament by mostly Islamic legislators, protests continue across the nation while teams of Bali's political and community leaders are travelling to Indonesia's capital to lobby against the new legislation.

Some political observers see more sinister forces at play in the current effort to pass the RUU Ponografi, claiming there is political capital to be made by certain groups eager to further seditious acts of provoking widespread feelings of cultural and political disenfranchisement via what is, in its ultimate aim, a surreptitious agenda for national disintegration.

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The National News Agency, Antara, warns that the government is preparing to impose tax penalties in 2009ranging from 20% to 100% on individuals and corporations found not to have an official tax registration number (NPWP).

Indonesia's Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that punitive tax penalties for un-registered tax payers is only one of an entire range of measures in new tax rules to be introduced on 1 January, 2009. “This is to make the public aware of the need to obtain a tax number by introducing disincentives for those who do not have a NPWP,” explained Mulyani.

The absolute need to have an official tax number has been combined with across-the-board reductions in payroll tax rates. After January 2009, payroll (PPh 21) tax subjects found without a NPWP will suffer a 20% penalty for any tax due. Similarly, taxes due on investments, services and income sources (PPh 23) from individuals or companies not holding a NPWP will suffer a 100% tax penalty.

As a further incentive for voluntary tax registration, those holding a NPWP after 1 January, 2009 will be allowed to travel abroad without paying the current Rp 1 million Fiscal Tax.

On 30 June 2008 the Indonesian Director General of Taxation announced its intention to exempt Indonesian residents who possess an official tax number (NPWP) from paying the unpopular Rp 1 million (US $107) Fiscal Tax each time they depart on a foreign trip.

The fiscal charge, which is paid at special tax kiosks at Indonesian airports and seaports, is technically reimbursable and can be credited against final payroll tax liabilities.

The new move designed to enhance bureaucratic efficiency and encourage Indonesian's to register and pay taxes, will only be available to the estimated 4.9 million individuals who have registered and obtained an official NPWP registration from their local tax office.

Tax officials are hinting that the “fiscal free” facility may only be a temporary measure, with the entire policy up for review on 1 January, 2011, two years after the introduction of the trial "fiscal free" period.

Government officials have been quoted in the national press as saying they are confident that any loss in revenues from the fiscal fees will be more than offset by increases in the national taxpayers' base.

In 2007, the government collected Rp 2.5 trillion (US $268.8 million) in fiscal fees. The total fiscal payments collected in 2006 totalled Rp 1.2 trillion (US$129 million).

Under the new rules, travellers need only show the NPWP of the family head to be exempted from paying the fiscal charge. Dependents under the age of 21 can also be exempted under their parent's NPWP, while children under the age of 12 are not required to pay the fiscal fee.

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Drummers, giant holy letters and fireworks at the Takbiran Parade
Pelecing Ikan, Pelecing Kangkung and other goodies are popular for buka puasa in Lombok
Fireworks are fun at night!
Takbiran Parade
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Airlines who cancel or delay flights from Mataram's Selaparang Airport must now give passengers compensation, in accordance with the length of the delay.

Selaparang Operations Manager for PT Angkasa Pura I, Ketut Subamia, confirmed on Friday, 26 September that the new regulations for the air transport industry have now been applied.

Previously, General Manager, Ketut Erdinuka, told NTB Governor, Muhammad Zainul Madjdi, that the airport would be conducting monitoring during the Lebaran period, from 1 October. “This is the obligation of the airlines,” he said.

Under the new regulations, if the airline's departure is postponed 30 - 90 minutes from the scheduled departure, the airline must provide refreshments to passengers. Passengers delayed by 90 - 180 minutes must be given food and drink and/or be rerouted on another airline. For delays of more than 180 minutes, passengers have to be given accommodation, rescheduled flights or a refund of their money.

Selaparang Airport handles three international flights per week and 40 take off and landings per day, serving Mataram routes to Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Malaysia and Singapore. Nine airlines use the airport: Garuda, Citilink, Lion Air, Wings Air, Merpati, Silk Air, Batavia, Indonesia Air Transport, Trans Nusa and Travira Air.

The average number of passengers arriving and departing Selaparang Airport in 2008 is 231 international and 10 290 domestic passengers per day.

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Seen in Teluk Kodek

The ultimate touring bike!


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The Chief Public Prosecutor of West Nusa Tenggara (Kejati NTB) has charged the Head of the Public Health Service, Baiq Magdalena, with corruption. Magdalena is charged with loading the purchase of health equipment by Rp 7 billion in 2005.

The Prosecutor alleges that Magdalena reported purchase of around fifty items of health equipment, including a heart monitor, totalling Rp 24 billion in the 2005 annual budget. However, a check of the true value of the equipment has shown that it was worth only Rp 17 billion and did not meet the specifications shown in the budget.

Incredibly, it has taken over a year to bring about the corruption charge, while prosecutors waited for the Board of Examiners in Bali to confirm the true price of the equipment.

Prosecutors were investigating the case last week and had not yet arrested Baiq Magdalena, who was on a visit to the Health Minister in Jakarta. They were also interviewing another four witnesses in the case.

In the latest news, on Saturday, 27 September, the Governor of NTB, Muhammad Zainul Madjdi, has said that he will not defend Magdalena who has now been formally charged with corruption.

The Governor said that the government will not support Magdalena by providing legal aid, adding that it is not ethical for someone to abuse their position of power, nor to cover the corrupt actions of their subordinates. It is the intention of the government to hand all corruption cases to the Public Prosecutor and to pursue the return of public money and government losses through the process of law.

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Support for Indonesian Islamic parties is stagnant, with voters in the world's largest Muslim-majority in favour of secular parties ahead of elections next year, a new poll has shown. Only 16.6% of Indonesian Muslims would vote for an Islamic party compared with 60% who would plump for a secular party, the study by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) found. Some 24.4% of voters were undecided.

The results represent an eight-point rise in support for secular parties since 2005, while support for Islamic parties has hovered between 16 and 18 percent – within the survey's three percent margin of error. The survey was conducted with a sample of around 1,200 Muslims, who make up roughly 90 percent of the country's population. “Islamic parties have never obtained majority strength in national politics, and based on the data we have obtained, the trend looks like it will continue,” said LSI lead researcher, Dodi Ambardi.

The poll found that economic concerns trounced other considerations, with 76% of voters putting the economy and social welfare as their top priority, compared with 15% who prioritised national unity. Only 0.8% ranked morality and religion as the most important issue.

The poll comes amid fierce debate in Indonesia over an anti-pornography bill being pushed by the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and other Islamic parties. The bill has received support from secular parties such as the country's largest party, Golkar, but is strongly opposed by liberals and minority groups as a threat to traditional cultures in the diverse archipelago.

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All the ingredients for a great holiday...
A fab pool, always interesting characters to meet at the beachfront bar, and one of the best seafood barbecues around!

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blue water express
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