Sunday, February 13, 2011


The view from the hills over Kuta Lombok, on the island’s south coast, is one of untouched tranquility.
The land stretches out in shades of green, rice paddies peeping through the clutter of palm trees, the rugged coastline dropping hillocks into the achingly blue waters. From up here, the only sign of civilization is the ragged road and a telecommunications tower, but somewhere down there are villages of farming and fishing folk, engaged in the business of just getting by. Somewhere down there is a strip of guesthouses, restaurants and a surf shop, more superimposed on the town than part of it. One or two places offer live music but the main entertainment here is still the sunset. For many, Kuta’s quiet is the very reason they’re on this side of the Lombok Strait, rather than in Bali; the near neighbors are worlds apart.

Driving west along the coast road out of Kuta Beach Lombok is to go off the beaten track onto the battered, bruised and broken one, battling along on what is more pothole than road. This is not gentle country, nor an easy drive, but the destination is worth it. Those who just want to relax or hide can do so in blue-and-white bays, such as Mawan, where the most desirable beachfront property is overrun with bamboo shacks and brightly painted boats, the working fishermen apparently oblivious to the bikini-clad tourists paddling in the shallows.

Those who want to surf can find world-renowned waves, especially at Kuta, Gerupak or Mawi beaches. Or they can head further round the coastline to Bangko Bangko, also known as Desert Point, a windy outpost on the island’s westernmost tip, accessible via an arm-wrenching drive along a track of sand and rocks.

Desert Point has nothing but a couple of bamboo kiosks, gazebos and disordered bungalows, from which emerge incongruously oversized surfers, come for the legendary waves. Surfing done, they sit by the sand, clutching equally oversized Bintang bottles, watching the sunset as the fishing boats flicker like competitors in a recreational yachting race. Such rough, intense beauty was never going to stay that way for long. Investors
are snapping up great slabs of land, drooling over visions of luxury villas and tourist dollars (once they sort out the certification and lack of electricity and water).

The greatest of these is Emaar Properties from the United Arab Emirates, which has announced plans to build
near Kuta – for US$600 million, on some 1,200 hectares with seven kilometers of waterfront – five-star resorts, luxury residences, a marina, a golf course and boutique shops. In two years or 10, that view from the hills above Kuta will be changed utterly, and who knows what kind of beauty will be born.


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