Is Kuta, Lombok heaven on earth?

lombok kuta beaches
With our trip around SE Asia coming to an end, we wanted to find an island where we could unpack, put our feet up and chill out for a month before heading back west. We had read a lot about Lombok being a paradise on earth, as Bali was 20 years ago, an undiscovered jewel in Indonesia’s growing tourism industry.

With beautiful beaches, mosques aplenty and seemingly lots to do, Lombok it was and in particular the small village of Kuta on the south coast.

Heaven on earth?

Maybe for some, but most definitely not for us.

After 3 days we decided to escape but high flight prices and no clear idea of where to go instead kept us here. As we found some very cheap accommodation (thank you to Adi at Heavenly Homestay) and we needed to catch up on school work, we decided to stay, put our heads down and get through schoolwork– and boy has this been the longest month of our lives.

So why the negativity? Essentially it’s disappointment – more so out of seeing the potential for a place like Kuta, and what it is in reality.

The Beaches

I read lots about the beautiful beaches. Yes they do look beautiful from afar and on some online photos but the beaches were filthy and full of annoying people trying to either sell you a coconut, a sarong or some grilled corn.

View over Tanjung Aan beach in LombokView of Tanjung Aan

However, without question Mawun is gorgeous – a real desert island style beach where you feel in the middle of nowhere. For sure one of the best I have seen so far. Selong Belanak is pretty stunning too.

DSC01291The boys roaming Mawun beach

The spoilers are however the peddlers. The ones on Kuta beach are relentless – we have not come across such people throughout our whole time in SE Asia. A polite “no” and a smile does nothing but give them encouragement to harass you for the next 10 minutes. It simply spoils your time on the beach as you can’t relax – you spend half your time trying to politely get rid of these people. You spend 10 minutes per peddler with an average of 5 peddlers per visit – 50 minutes is a lot of time! Maybe the first trip to the beach you stay polite, but after a few times your blood starts to boil – we stopped going.

And then you have the rubbish – in the water, on the beach and behind the beach. It’s a shame. We visited Tanjung Aan and had to get out of the water as you could not swim more than 5 seconds without swallowing a crisp packet or ducking under a floating syringe. What could be a world class beach is ruined.

We realise this isn’t the locals’ fault but its nevertheless disgusting. What can be controlled by the locals is the beach and the areas where they dump their rubbish. No effort is made to clean the beaches – they look foul. Look behind corners and you soon discover mounds of rotting rubbish, plastic water bottles, cans and anything else the locals discard. We were especially shocked with the state of Selong Belanak behind the restaurants and shops – it is beyond comprehension how the locals can see this as acceptable. So the beaches really aren’t all that great.

Kuta beach itself is a dump and no good for anything other than kite surfing. The only pleasurable thing we did find was going to the far end of the beach towards the Novotel at low tide and finding star fish and other strange aquatic life.

Peddlers

As mentioned above you are constantly confronted on beaches by over-zealous sellers. At every single meal, in every single restaurant, you are constantly having to say “no” to a continuous stream of kids selling you bracelets, women selling “cheap price” sarongs, knock off DVDs and “I love Lombok” t-shirts. It’s like being in groundhog day; every day, without fail the same faces selling you the same thing with the same sales lines.

Monkey Tanjung Aan Kuta LombokThe first place we’ve visited where the peddlers are more annoying than the monkeys

Without doubt the prize for most annoying are the children bracelet sellers – at first they are cute, cuddly and entrepreneurial  – then you want to throw them in a dungeon. We learnt from locals of Kuta that these kids drive in from surrounding villages enmasse after school – they are not Kuta kids. The locals, such as the restaurateurs, cant stop this because the kids essentially come from very rough villages where fathers, uncles and cousins have been known to drive down with baseball bats if anyone dares tell their children what to do or not to do. Don’t be fooled by their charm – these kids are bad for Kuta’s tourism.

Surfers

If you are a surfer, then I can see why Kuta might be “heaven on earth”. This is because it is full of fellow surfers who all seem to share a common culture. However surfers can be annoying. Not all of them of course, but definitely the majority.

They stroll around town and into restaurants in bikinis and bare-chested (do you walk into a restaurant bare-chested or showing your bum in Australia, France, Italy or wherever you come from? I doubt it), their language is trashy, couples behave in really indecent ways in public.  I’m no sharia policeman but there is a time and place. There don’t seem to be any red lines for them. Perhaps this is something the locals should take control of; they don’t seem to lay down any sort of lines in terms of what is decent and what is not. In Pulau Weh for example, locals made is known if you were dressed inappropriately. In Kuta they seem stuck between some very conflicting worlds. Anyway surfer duuudes and dudettes, I’m not feeling the love; you kind of spoil the place a bit 🙂

Surfing lessons Selong BelanakSurfing lessons at Selong Belanak

Dogs

The number of wild dogs here is ridiculous. You can’t walk more than 3 metres without some mongrel coming across your path and this includes on the beaches.

Dogs on Kuta beachEverywhere….

The whole place is covered in dogs plus their shit and they are annoying. In fact, we stopped going to Kuta beach within the first week of being here because of the dogs… and the peddlers, which were a close 2nd in annoyingness. There is no control over the dog population which is dangerous – dangerous for the locals, for the tourists and especially the dogs. We have seen so many wondering up and down the main road with ears hanging off, huge gashes in their bodies or covered in blood and nobody does anything. Again, it reflects badly on Kuta unnecessarily.

Stupid road driving

We have seen crazy driving in Sri Lanka – I mean really crazy – but the driving here in Kuta is stupid crazy. The people here simply don’t give a damn if they knock you and your kids off your moped; in fact they laugh at you in the process. Whereas in some countries where the driving may seem chaotic, you can in fact come to understand the rules of the road. Here there simply are no rules – stupidity rules. Life is cheap and it shows in how little they care about their and others’ safety. Half of me is horrified by their absentmindedness, the other half is perversely enchanted by the idea of caring so little about the fact you’re a mortal being that you just don’t give a monkeys what you are doing and what’s going on around you. Oblivion….

Without doubt, perhaps the most annoying of all are the local cool kids who seem to think people enjoy listening to their large exhausts while having dinner or walking along the beach. It was like the sound of nails up a blackboard.

Smoking

Smoking seems to be a national duty for any male over the age of 13. They take it seriously…the men anyway. You never see a woman smoking. As a result smoking in restaurants and cafes is the norm. Coming from Europe, where we are now protected from the stench of cigarettes while eating, this is nauseating. However, there is nothing you can do as the owners of the cafes and restaurants all smoke and see you as impeding on their rights!

Rubbish

Kuta is covered in garbage, trash, rubbish, coconuts. We have visited many other islands where dealing with refuse is an issue but they always seem to be on top of it whether it’s regular burning of piles of refuse or using one particular area to throw their rubbish away. In Kuta it appears that the locals treat the whole village as one big dumping ground – they simply don’t care; there is no pride in the appearance of the place. You just have to walk down the main drag to see piles of the stuff covering any sort of green space. It’s foul. It’s bizarre.

Garbage on streets of KutaWho needs a bin when you have no bin?

 

So, I’m sorry Kuta fans, but Kuta really isn’t any sort of paradise. If you have nothing to compare it to, it’s your first time abroad and if you’re a surfer, then yes, maybe it’s glorious. If however you have seen some of Thailand’s beaches or swam in the clear waters of Pulau Weh, then you would think differently. It is however interesting to see a place like Kuta at this stage – it’s had a bit of tourism, mainly from surfers, and now more people are coming. The money is flooding in, construction everywhere, same story.

The good bits.

There were a few plus points to the place.

The food is pretty OK. If you can get up and get out on a scooter you can see some amazing bits of rural Lombok. Some of the scenery is breathtaking. If you want to learn to surf then this is a good competitor to Weligama in Sri Lanka. Prices maybe a touch lower in Kuta. Accommodation is cheap if you spend time looking.

Our top tip for Kuta, Lombok? If you are travelling on a budget, go at least once to the Novotel for their buffet breakfast. It is expensive but it isn’t – you will eat way more than you pay for and it’s lovely food on a really nice beach.

Also, go to the bat cave. It’s on the road of Kuta towards Mawun. You can’t miss the sign. Take a rain mac as you will be covered in bat crap. There are tens of thousands of the things and they surround you. Amazing experience. Stinky.

Bat cave Kuta LombokThe caves…it wasn’t very safe but it was cheap…and magical experience

If you do find yourself in Kuta, make sure you go to DJ Cafe for a coffee – it is rather super….and now Faris isn’t there to chose the daily specials.

DJ Cafe Kuta Lombok

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