Friday, November 01, 2013

Thursday, 10/24/13 Lombok, Indonesia

Thursday, 10/24/13 Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok, Indonesia is an island adjacent to the island of Bali, Indonesia; it lies only 20 miles to the east of Bali.  For many years, Bali has been a major tourist destination, and it is very highly developed.  Lombok, on the other hand has not been a tourist destination, and it is virtually undeveloped.  In the past few years, Princess Cruise Line has been alternating its cruises between the two islands, and on this cruise, the ship visited Lombok.

The day did not start well for me.  There is no port in Lombok, and the ship anchors in the bay and tenders passengers ashore.  As passengers file onto the tenders, they are guided to fill in all the seats, and it turned out that I was one of the last passengers on my tender, so I was guided to a seat that was directly in the sun.  The ship had to anchor quite a distance from shore, and the time for the tender boats to arrive on shore was about half an hour.  By the time the tender reached shore, I was completely drenched in sweat and I was terribly overheated.  It was a brutal ride on the tender boat, one of my hottest experiences ever.  Once on shore, we were all guided to our tour busses, and the tour bus was mercifully air conditioned and very cool.  I recovered quickly and soon was feeling back to normal.

The port lecturer had warned passengers that few taxis would be waiting at the shore, so passengers would be well advised to take a ship tour.  As always, I had chosen the tour that would visit the most sites, and fortunately, the tour guide spoke good English.  The sites to be visited were widely separated, taking 45 minutes to an hour between sites.  As a result, the bus traveled over a wide area and I was able to see a broad section of Lombok.  As the bus drove to the first site, it was immediately apparent that the island of Lombok was truly third world.  The roads were two lane roads that were paved, but very narrow.  I came to see that all the roads and streets are very narrow, and houses and other buildings were built very close to the roads.  Roadside stands lined the sides of the roads.  There were no sidewalks and no places to park cars or trucks, so people had to walk on the shoulder of the roads and parking was common all along the roads.  Traffic had to weave among the pedestrians and parked vehicles as well as the thousands of motor bikes.  In addition, many horse-drawn carts clogged the roads; these two-wheel carts were usually painted in bright colors and pulled by one quite small horse.  Fortunately, drivers were accepting of this situation, and very patient.  The bus had particular difficulty as it was too large for many of the streets, and often drivers had to pull over to the side of the road to let the bus pass.

Virtually all the buildings were either shacks or very old.  The overwhelming sight was the horrible living conditions of the people.  Throughout the entire day over much of Lombok, I saw NO middle-income house -- no house that was not a shack, often constructed of corrugated metal, with corrugated metal roofs or tile roofs.  Trash was everywhere, often huge piles of trash near houses.  Everything in one’s view was in disarray; no sight was neatly kept.  Virtually every building was old and in great disrepair; new construction was underway in a very few buildings, usually new mosques.  Although electric lines littered the roadsides, cooking was clearly done by wood-burning, and often outdoors.  It was unclear whether any sewage capacity existed.  Heavy rains were common, and open drainage ditches lined the sides of the roads; often these drainage ditches were constructed of rock and concrete.

The bus passed a few schools, and the children were dressed in uniforms.  The hours for elementary schools was 7:00-noon, as they were not air conditioned and the heat was too great to permit afternoon classes.  We were told that high schools held classes until 3:00.  We passed many mosques, as most of the population is Muslim; we saw only one church.  There were also many temples, but they seemed to be ancient, and we were told that there are very few Hindus or Buddhists in Indonesia.

Despite the terrible living conditions, the people were friendly everywhere.  Patient on the roads, smiling at tourists, helpful, and often with knowledge of English.

Indonesia has vast natural resources, particularly oil reserves.  However, the wealth of Indonesia is concentrated in a very small number of people, while the great majority of the population lives in terrible poverty.  Compare that with Norway, where the oil wealth is owned by the state and shared by everyone.  As a result, living conditions in Norway are among the best in the world, with everyone having a nice home, nicely furnished, with nice schools, great roads, and one of the most advanced societies in the world.

The tour stopped first at a Seret Penginang, a songket weaving factory where women weave a colorful silk or cotton brocade that incorporates metallic fibers.  I took photos of some of the young women who were weaving.  Some passengers gave money to the young women, and later I noticed that a man collected all the money from the young women.  The bus then visited Lingsar Temple, a Hindu shrine founded in 1714 that now welcomes Buddhists and Muslims as well.  The temple’s sacred pool is home to eels that feed on boiled eggs tossed to them by worshipers.  After stopping at the temple, the bus next stopped at Pasar Seni, a market selling crafts and jewelry, some of which may have been made locally.  Outside the market, young men participated in a type of “swordfight”/dance in which they smacked sticks against woven shields held by “opponents”, accompanied by rhythmic music.  

For lunch, the tour stopped at the Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort, an upscale resort on Senggigi Beach, one of the nicest beaches in Lombok.  The resort seemed to cover almost the entire beach area, and it was very beautiful and peaceful, with palm trees and shade trees covering the entire area.  Sheraton had set up a large outdoor buffet luncheon under open canvas tent-tops.  The luncheon included many local food choices, with fruit for desert.  Unthinking, I made a mistake at the lunch; a waiter offered cold drinks -- fruit punch or Coke in large glasses -- and with all the heat, I selected Coke and drank it down.  However, later, I realized that the glass was filled with ice.  Previously, we had been warned to avoid the water, which I did, but I had not avoided the ice.  I was very concerned that I would suffer from an intestinal infection; however, I was fortunate and did not.  I narrowly missed misfortune with that mistake.  After lunch, the walk along the beach was beautiful, where I took photos.

Following the lunch stop, the tour went to the Mayura Water Palace, a temple complex completed in 1744 that includes a “floating” pavilion in the center of a large pool.  The temple complex also includes other structures and altars.  The temple is a national shrine, but is only lightly used as a place of worship.

The bus then returned to the port for the tender back to the ship.

The most important part of the day was not any of the stops, which I found of only mild interest, but the travel around the entire island between the stops.  The way the people lived was of great interest to me, the poverty and squalor, the shacks in which the people lived, the lack of basic water and sewage and garbage collection, the trash everywhere, were all very sad to me, knowing that Indonesia has great wealth in its national resources that is not shared, but is hoarded by only a few people.  We were told that the adjacent island of Bali looked this same way about 30 years ago, and that Lombok likely would be developed like Bali over the next 30 years.  However, I doubt that development would redistribute much of the wealth of Indonesia, leaving most of the people living in terrible poverty.  I found it very interesting that the people could be so friendly and so patient on the roads, living in such conditions.

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