Singaporebrides | Editors' Notes

August 2015

Sun, Sea, and Shoots in Lombok

The Jubilee Weekend is just over, and we’re already sighing for another long weekend. If you’re planning to use the rest of the year’s long weekends for some quick getaways, put Lombok on your list of idyllic islands to visit.

We were invited to this lesser known Indonesian island by Kebun Villas & Resorts. Right across the Lombok Strait from its sister island Bali, Lombok has recently been attracting the attention of travellers with its lush forests, powdery white beaches, and majestic coastlines in all their wild beauty. Away from riotous partymakers and booming commercialism, Lombok has retained an unspoiled, natural beauty and a relaxed pace. Largely deserted white beaches offer privacy for tourists to enjoy a rustic island experience, or take on the world-class surf.

The mountainous island is dominated by Indonesia’s second-tallest volcano, Mount Rinjani, a semi-active volcano whose fine, silvery black ash dusts the white beaches. Hiking trails lead up to the volcano’s crater, offering spectacular views of the surrounding Lake Segara Anak. The lowlands are cultivated with green fields of rice, corn, cinnamon, and other crops. A drive through the country offers breathtaking views of sunlight outlining tall ridges, and glowing amongst the tender new stalks waving gently in expansive fields. Lombok is also surrounded with tiny little islets, locally known as gili. Each natural, undeveloped gili boasts exquisite beaches and turquoise waters. The most popular of these islets are the Gili Islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, known for their abundant marine life and coral reefs.

Our own stay in Lombok was filled with scenic drives up and down mountainous roads in search of delicious local eats as well as beautiful shoot locations. Our host Bianca Fung, general manager of Kebun Villas & Resorts, took it upon herself to give us the ultimate local experience, so the moment we landed, we were taken to sample a favourite local dish, ayam betutu. We pulled up at a humble eating house, or warung, by the side of central Lombok’s one and only main road. With Balinese art and tropical fronds in the garden, and farmhouse tables and benches, the warung was a cosy space scented with the traditional smells of an open fire.

Mount Rinjani glowing in the setting sun.Mount Rinjani glowing in the setting sunSweet and spicy ayam betutuSweet and spicy ayam betutuBeef ribs in clear, fragrant broth.Beef ribs in clear, fragrant brothTehbotol, drink of choice when in Indonesia.Tehbotol, drink of choice when in Indonesia

Of course, our first drink in Indonesia had to be Tehbotol. I’d never tried this local tea before, but I was an instant convert. Sweet and fragrant, it was very refreshing. For dinner, we had the ayam betutu, beef rib soup, and stir-fried sayur, topped with fragrant, crunchy peanuts. Slowly roasted over a traditional charcoal and coconut husk fire, the chicken was tender, slightly spicy, and very tasty. The beef rib soup was surprisingly tasty for something so clear, especially when sprinkled with shallots. We were all completely stuffed and very satisfied by the time we set our cutlery to rest—a feeling that would come to feel familiar during our week-long trip of feasting.

It was pretty dark by the time we reached Kebun Villas & Resort. Set in Senggigi, Lombok’s most popular tourist district, the resort boasts luxurious private villas with garden compounds and private pools, and a suite of rooms on the resort highest point, offering a stunning view of the lush surrounds, and the hotel’s 75-metre infinity pool. Bianca hosted us in the incredible presidential suite, the Cendana Villa, a spacious three-bedroom with complete privacy. The lovely pool glittered in the night as we walked through our huge villa and garden to get to our bedrooms. The villa’s dark timber beams and high ceilings created a luxurious resort feel. Each spacious bedroom had a king-sized bed, a desk, a shower suite with double sinks and wardrobe, and a stunning outdoor stone bath in a private terrace. We’d arranged to wake up bright and early the next day for a recce trip to South Lombok, so early that night, I gladly made myself comfortable in the middle of my huge bed.

Entrance to Cendana Villa, our luxurious home for the weekEntrance to Cendana Villa, our luxurious home for the weekI loved how private our pool was!I loved how private our pool was!That adorable gazebo at the foot of the gardenThat adorable gazebo at the foot of the garden

In the light of the morning, we fully appreciated the size of our presidential villa. It was huge! Our two bedrooms were connected by a spacious lounge, with a home theatre system and mini bar. Outside, the landscaped gardens featured coconut palms, frangipani, and fountains. There was an adorable wood gazebo on stilts at the bottom of our garden, where you can sit and relax. On one side of the villa was a large, covered entertaining area with a pool table, that would be amazing for parties or barbeques. Next to it was the third bedroom, in a little villa of its own, complete with outdoor bath and terrace. And finally, my favourite part of the villa, the large private pool. It wasn’t like those tiny pools you can just sit in. It was long and deep enough to actually swim in, with a submerged lounge area to the side where you can simply bask in the sun. I couldn’t wait to try the pool out. But first, work.

After a quick breakfast in the resort’s restaurant, we headed out with Bianca’s team, Sam and Dewi, to recce possible shoot locations. First stop, Semeti Beach, a rocky little gem of a beach off the beaten track that we would never have discovered without Bianca’s local knowledge. It took a long time and some skilful driving over a bumpy off-track to get there, but boy, was the view worth it. We had arrived at the rocky coast at high tide, and were greeted with majestic waves crashing onto dark cliffs and giant rock formations. My heart just dipped at the sight. I love beaches, and this one, well, it was pretty beautiful. We climbed around a cliff bend to see if there was a spot we could use for our editorial shoot, and the view just kept getting more amazing. I was truly in love. The sea was blue and glittering in the sun, the waves with their rhythmic splash and dash, and the salty wind in my hair. I could have explored that rocky cove for a long time. But all the loose rocks and limited accessibility meant that we had to sadly strike Semeti Beach off our list of prospective locations. Glad that we got to experience it ourselves, we took a last look at the turquoise waters and spectacular waves, and headed back to the car.

A little slice of paradise at Semeti BeachA little slice of paradise at Semeti BeachJust look at those crashing wavesJust look at those crashing wavesExploring the cliffsExploring the cliffsThe beautiful view from the top of a hillThe beautiful view from the top of a hillIt was a long but scenic drive.It was a long but scenic drive.Locals doing their morning marketingLocals doing their morning marketing

It was another long drive to next destination, but one filled with beautiful scenery of Lombok’s largely untouched landscapes. The winding country roads took us through rice paddyfields glistening with new, bright green stalks. Farmers in wide straw hats stood calf-deep in wet fields that winked in the sun. Along the misty horizon, forested ridges rose again a blue sky for miles on end. When we reached the top of a mountain, we would ask Sonny to slow the car down, and lean out the windows to snap photos of the blue sea curving into a bay at the foot of a green hill. We drove through town and city areas, filled with rows of shophouses and bustling with the locals going about their marketing and business.

While there were cars and motorcycles on the road, we also passed many cidomo clip-clopping down the road. The small horse-drawn carriages, most of them brightly decorated with tassels and bells, are Lombok and Gili Island’s local form of transport. Before we could arrive at our next recce site, we had to travel another local way—by boat. Gili Nanggu is off the south coast of Lombok, and we crossed the sea on a boat that looked like a water spider, with its outstretched bars skimming the sea’s surface. A small islet, Gili Nanggu greeted us with a wide stretch of smooth white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters. The site Bianca wanted to show us was through a forest trail, dappled with sunlight and green leaves fresh from the recent monsoon rains. We emerged to find a quiet beach that was perfect for our editorial shoot. Also, it was deserted and private, so we could do outfit changes with ease—always a consideration for outdoor shoots.

Gili Nanggu and its turquoise watersGili Nanggu and its turquoise watersHad a go on the swingHad a go on the swingGreen Asri, where we had lunch in the middle of rice paddyfieldsGreen Asri, where we had lunch in the middle of rice paddiesMost dishes come topped with chili in Lombok!Most dishes come topped with chili in Lombok!We polished off a massive spread of otah, fish soup, bean salads, tofu, and stuffed omelette.We polished off a massive spread of otah, fish soup, bean salads, tofu, and stuffed omelette.

Shoot location settled, we spent the next couple of days working in bikinis on the pool deck, interrupted only by the little starlings who lined up in a row at the pool’s edge to bathe, their tiny little wings splashing. If our office were that relaxing, work would never get done. I ordered in some sinful chocolate churros, and had a nice time making tassels and planning the set up for our Neon Tropical Bridal Shower Inspiration shoot. And in between emails and arts and crafts, I took advantage of that lovely pool to work off some calories, because our local food adventure continued with Bianca bringing us around Lombok. We tried spicy pork at a tiny little store where we also saw barbecued bat, some very yummy mie ayam Jakarta, which reminded me of bak chor mee, and delicious ayam rarang with extremely spicy chili and amazing side dishes of crunchy tempei, beans, and starfruit leaves topped with toasted coconut. We even sampled the local rendition of Singapore’s ice cream in rainbow bread. On our third night there, we welcomed the rest of our group, Skyy the photographer, Dewi the makeup artist, and Anne Louise the model, to Lombok with the resort’s mini grill barbeque. After stuffing our bellies, we went back to pack the gowns and equipment we would need for tomorrow’s shoot—sunscreen not forgotten.

Coffee and churros for breakfast in my office for the dayCoffee and churros for breakfast in my office for the dayRice with an assortment of fried, steamed, barbequed pork and crackling. Topped with lots of chili again.Rice with an assortment of fried, steamed, barbequed pork and crackling. Topped with lots of chili again.Ayam rarang is seriously amazing, accompanied by starfruit leaves stir-fried with coconut and topped with crunchy beans, and a fresh bean salad. Oh, and a red chili sauce of course.Ayam rarang is seriously amazing, accompanied by starfruit leaves stir-fried with coconut and topped with crunchy beans, and a fresh bean salad. Oh, and a red chili sauce of course.Lombok private infinity pool villaSwimming for our supperA cidomo waiting for passengers.A cidomo waiting for passengers

It was still dark when we got ready to leave. When we finally arrived at the Gili Nanggu beach after unglamorously lugging all of our heavy equipment, everyone sighed in relief. That’s the worst part of outdoor shoots. But the gorgeous backdrops make up for it. The sun sparkled on the blue sea, and majestic rock formations led the eye to a huge cave. The waves were very obliging too, throwing up white foam to help create our sea siren mood. Behind the scenes, we were running around throwing veils into the wind, applying sunscreen on our fair redhead, and performing outfit changes while staring down sea snakes. With Skyy’s creative eye and the beautiful landscape, the editorial shoot was a breeze, and we finished our set in half a day. We couldn’t have done it without the generous help of Bianca, Sam, and Dewi from Kebun Villas & Resort, who so graciously sweated it out with us. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the results of our day in the sun in October’s fashion editorial!

I couldn't resist trying out the traditional sasak boat!I couldn’t resist trying out the traditional sasak boat after we wrapped up the shoot!The mie ayam Jakarta restaurantThe mie ayam Jakarta restaurantMie ayam Jakarta was super tasty and reminded me of bak chor mee.Mie ayam Jakarta was super tastyBid the African guinea fowl goodbyeBye, Kiki and Koko!

The next day, we had our tropical villa bridal shower shoot. It was a colourful and frantic flurry of hanging tassels, arranging swimwear, and setting the neon tablescape. We’d been living the relaxing tropical villa life for a week now, and I was really excited to show how a tropical villa vacation could be the perfect bridal shower for a bride and her girls to let loose. So with Bianca’s help sourcing props and flowers, we set up a really colourful and girly shoot featuring summer’s hottest trends like pink flamingos and gold pineapples. Read more about our styled shoot in our feature.

And with that shoot wrapped up, our stay at Lombok was coming to an end. We spent the rest of that last day soaking in the pool, walking through the nearby Art Market in Senggigi, or getting massages. The next day at breakfast, we bid goodbye to the resort’s pet African guinea fowl, and then reluctantly left our luxurious villa. It was a wonderful trip with wonderful roommates, and we owe big thanks to our lovely and very helpful hosts at Kebun Villas & Resort. May there be more ayam rarang and frangipani lined pools in our future.

Kebun Villas & Resort is located at Jalan Raya Senggigi km. 8, Senggigi 83355, Lombok-NTB-Indonesia, and can be contacted at [email protected].

Images by SingaporeBrides.

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Sun, Sea, and Shoots in Lombok