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Three cities
Ampenan, Mataram and Cakranegara

The center of population of Lombok is a city area in the west of the island, consisting of three neighboring cities: the old seaport Ampenan transforms into the governmental center of Mataram, which transforms into the trade city of Cakranegara. Just east of Cakranegara is Sweta, with the biggest market of Lombok and the bus-station of the island. The total population of the three cities is more than a quarter of a million and is about 10 per cent of the total population of Lombok.

Mataram is the capital of the province Nusa Tenggara Barat (Western Lesser Sunda Islands) and also the capital of the district of West-Lombok. The other district capitals, Praya in Central-Lombok and Selong in East-Lombok, are small and provincial compared to Mataram.

A wide, eight km long road with one way traffic through the three cities creates an easy flow of traffic, also because the cidomo are forbidden in the city area. This road starts are Jalan Langko in Ampenan, and ends as Jalan Selaparang in Cakranegara. Near Cakranegara is becomes the main road which crosses the island, and just past Labuhan Lombok it ends near the small harbor for boats to Sumbawa near Kayangan, 77 km from Mataram.

Each of the tree cities has it's own character. Ampenan, with it's maze of small streets, old buildings, Chinese and Arabic quarters and the sluggish harbor has most character and is most lively as well. Mataram, the governmental city, is branded by modern governmental buildings and has little to offer for the tourist. Cakranegara offers lots of art stored, weavers and interesting things to see from the time of the Balinese rule.

Ampenan: Old Seaport

The biggest part of Ampenan is located between two rivers: the Berinyok in the south and the Meninting in the north. Most of the inhabitants live along the Jangkok river, which crosses the heart of the city center.

From a bridge over the Jangkok, you can see the shallow fields of kangkung. These vegetables (Ipomoea aquatica) is known as Asian watercress or Asian spinach. The Chinese have the most poetic name for the tasty vegetables: kong xin cai, lit' empty hearted vegetable', named because of the crunch empty stems. Kangkung is one of the most loved vegetables in the Indonesian kitchen.

Along the mouth of the Jangkok are hundreds of colorful fishing canoes on the beach. Most fishermen go to the open sea at night to fish in the light of Pedromax lights. Their nice boats glide through the water under the sails which can be found in all colors, a view which is considered the most beautiful which Lombok has to offer.

The main street of Ampanan, Jalan Yos Sudarso, is dominated by shops of ethnic Chinese. Near the sea is a pekong (temple). Also close to sea, north of Yos Sudarso, is the Arabic quarter, a small enclave with streets which are barely wide enough to fit a car. The faces still have Arabic features here. Too bad the part of the Arabic quarter which was located most to the sea, is demolished by Pertamina to house the giant oil tanks.

The Malay quarter of Ampenan, mainly inhabited by descendants of migrants from Java and Sulawesi, is south of the Chinese shops. The quarter stretches as far as the Jangkok. Just off the coast, in the neighborhood of the bemo-station, is Kampung Sukaraja, the Sasak-quarter where members of the biggest ethnic group live.

Antiques and Places of Interest

North of the center of Ampenan, along the main road to Senggigi, is the market. Just a little further to the north is Sudirmans antique-shop, probably the best place on the island to buy authentic objects for people who don't want to search in the villages themselves. Pak Sudirman has received a presidential price for his efforts to revive the traditional ars on Lombok. He introduced the horses in many colors, which can be found in all shops. They are inspired on the prototype which is used to carry around young islamic boys when they have their circumcision.
Picture: Women
Directly besides the shop is a paved road to Pura Segara, a Balinese temple at the beach. Along the beach are fishing boats and stalls with drinks and food.

Between Pura Segara and the river Meninting is a vast old Chinese cemetery. All gravees are aimed at the east. After the failed coup of 1965, many Chinese were killed because they were ought to be communist. South of the Jangkok is a second Chinese cemetery, which doesn't have the character of the old one however.

Across the Meninting is a big number of fishing boats on the beach, which stretched along both sides of the Sasaka Beach Hotel, once the best of Lombok, but now old-fashioned and not well maintained. It's on the list to be renovated and extended.

East of the area and about six km north of Mataram is the village of Gunung Sari, in which workers make a lot of fake antiques from wood, leather, bone and bamboo. It's much cheaper to buy souvenirs here than in an art shop and no one will say it's real antique. You can see the friendly people working, and when you have some time, they can even teach you how to make your own.

Mataram: Museum and Offices

Who leaves Ampenan over Jalan Langko, passes the regional tourist office just before Jalan Suprapto - the road which forms the official border with Mataram. When you to right, to the south then you will see the museum Nusa Tenggara Barat after half a kilometer. Among the objects you can see are tools and products of art. Most objects have an English explanation with them. In a special place you can see 'mystical' personal possessions like amulets, which should have guaranteed a supernatural power or unassailable, or some which were used to predict the future with.

Not far from the university of Mataram is Jalan Gunung Kerinci 36, a good art store with a big variety: Lombok Asli. The Balinese owner, Gede Bandesa, and his New Zealand partner Ann Woodroffe have stimulated to improve the quality of their traditional works. They also designed new objects for tourists as well as exports, among them are the colorful masks and silk clothing with original Sasak-designs. They can als send anything you buy if you prefer to.

The center of Mataram is full of governmental buildings and is not interesting for visitors. The big office building of the governor has some traditional Sasak-architecture, but it most impresses because of it's size. It's along the main street, Jalan Pejanggik, on the corner with Jalan Corkoaminoto, which runs to the airport towards the north.
Picture: Horse races
The local population is not sure about the location where Mataram becomes Cakranegara. A small majority draws the border on Jl. Hasanuddin, where Jl. Pejanggik changes into Jl. Selaparang. It's not very important, but it changes the identity of the city somewhat.

Cakranegara: Weaving and Art

The city area is getting more interesting in Cakranegara. A booming Chinese trade community lives together with an old Balinese group. Just southeast of Jl. Hasannuddin is Pura Meru, a Balinese temple with a cremation place in front. Behind the pura is a small stretch of estate with the grave of Van Hamm, which was killed during the Dutch confrontation with the Balinese in 1894, which was dramatically lost. Two marble plates which remembered Van Hamm are stolen.

The weavery Rinjani with shop is located on Jalan Pejanggik 46. Here, the women weave traditional as well as modern patterns on machines which are still manually used.

Cakranegara counts two other weaveries and shops: Slamet Riadu is located in a small side street (Jalan Tenun / Ukir Kawi) just northwest of the Mayura Waterpalace; Sari Kusuma is located along the main street, past the gas station. The best time for a visit is between 9 and 12 AM; it's the time when lots of women are actually working.

The crossing with traffic lights along Jalan Selaparang with Jalan Hasanuddin and Jalan Gede Ngurah is the heart of Cakranegara. Follow Jalan Gede Ngurah towards the south and turn left in Jalan Pertanian towards Getap.

Ironworkers, tukang besi, work from 7 AM to 4 PM, but not during Fridays prayer in the afternoon. They make agricultural tools from shrapnel which mostly comes from old cars.

When you turn into Jalan Hasanuddin at the crossing above and follow this towards the north over the Berinyok and Jangkok, you will see the art center of Jangkok Rungkang. Here people work on good refined art, partially for sale in the shop near the entrance, and the others are exported to Bali. Most objects are made from parts of the sugar palm and have a decent price. East of Jalan Hasanuddin, before the Jangkok river, is a cattle market on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


East of the market along Jalan Gora there is a horseracing track named Selakalas, where often horse races are held on Sundays and holidays. Even for those who don't like horse races, a visit here is worth while because of the jockeys: little boys in ages of five to eleven years old.

The rules say that the jockeys have to stop racing when they have reached the respectable age of 12. the thought behind it is that the young jockeys are not vulnerable for bribery at such a young age. The children - tough ten year old veterans and newbies - wear ski goggles and helmets in special colors. They whip the animals to the finish line, where the champions arrive shining, and the losers crying in mud. They are the proud of their village. The horses also have their pride; it's not unusual that a horse bites it's direct rivals.

Horse races are held on Lombok for a long time already. The common cidomo is not a strange thing. The organised races have suffered from the government when they interfered in the 1980's. They gave tv's, motorbikes and bikes as prices.

The horses, in fact ponies, are classified at their height. The big guys are just one and a half meter high (fifteen hands). The biggest and fastest animals, classified as 'super' or 'XL', can be worth over US$ 5,000. The distance varies with every class; the smaller horses run one round on the 1 km track, the biggest 1400 meters. The track record is about 1 minute and 7 seconds.

The evening before the horse races the villages treat the animals well; they keep off the flies and sometimes relax the horses with gamelan music. Of course the horses are fed with the best grass and food, and with extra's like eggs, honey and ginger. In the morning they get a nice bucket of coffee with sugar.

Last revised on December 14, 2009
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