In comparison to the west coast, the east coast is not well promoted and travellers rarely visit this part of Lombok are strongly Islamic and there have been reports of harassment in the past, although we find that most people are merely curious about strangers and eager to welcome visitors to their homes. Decent accommodation is very scarce in this part of the island-there are certainly no luxury hotels or resort! Be prepared to rough it a little, and to eat local food at the small warungs and street stalls. For the adventurous, East Lombok is a rewarding experience with stunningly beautiful deserted beaches, and a close-up look at the lifestyles and culture of the Sasak people.
Masbagik, the main hub and the gateway to East Lombok, is a bustling town of shops, mosques and buses. Nearby is Penakak-an important centre for pottery making in Lombok. Turn off the main road, about 1,5 km past the large mosque, at the sign for Penakak, which is just over a kilometre east of Masbagik. There is a large sign post just before the road drops steeply downhill, turn right just after this signpost into the village. There are around a dozen shops selling decorated pottery, which is made in some of the smaller villages around Penakak. Pieces range from huge garden pots to dishes and decorative platters, some with distinctive paintings and designs carved into the clay. The brown earthenware bowls, pots and cooking utensils used by the local people are also made here.
Penakak was once an important pottery making centre, under sponsorship from the New Zealand government. Since the support stopped, the production of the village has declined, but there is still a good range of pottery at very cheap prices available, all of which can be shipped to anywhere in the world.
Selong is a pretty town and the capital of East Lombok. The atmosphere is very laid back, reminiscent of a large town in the 1950's, with wide tree-lined streets and old Dutch Colonial architecture. On the western edge is an interesting cemetery commemorating those who fought in world War II. Back on the main road heading east, after Pringgabaya, a sign-posted road leads into the mountains to Sapit. Perched high on the southern slopes of the Rinjani mountain range, Sapit is a small scenic village with one of the few places to stay in the area.
Hati Suci is a small home-stay for travellers and is perched on the edge of the forest to take advantage of the views. The rooms are very basic, but there's a small restaurant and the friendly owner, Tashi, organises trips to the nearby hot-springs, as well as guiding trekkers up Mt Rinjani, Lombok's famous volcano. Further east, the main road leads to "Kayangan" at Labuhan Lombok. The main port for east Lombok is attractive and there are fine views from the hill on the road to Kayangan. There are many boat builders in the area, as well as basic places to stay and a bustling night market with street stalls selling inexpensive local food and snacks.
South of Labuhan Lombok, the rugged and dramatic southeast coast is a fantastic area to explore. Tanjung Luar is a dusty local town with not much for tourists, but the fish market here is famous. Visit early in the morning when the night's catch arrives and marvel (or be disgusted!) at the incredible array of huge fish and ocean life on sale-giant tuna, rays, barracuda and sharks of many varieties, including large hammerheads.
North of Labuhan Lombok the main coastal road is in good condition and leads through small remote villages separated by fields of tobacco and corn, with lovely views of the Alas Strait; the sea separated Lombok from the neighbouring island of Sumbawa. The coastline of Sumbawa Island looms surprisingly close.
In the small town of Transat, turn at the sign for Gili Lampu Bungalows and follow the dirt road to the restaurant. Six bungalows made from coconut and woven bamboo sit in a shady beachside garden. They are basic, but clean and comfortable. The largest has two bedrooms, a fan and a western toilet with cold water shower. At around IDR 100,000 per night, including breakfast, they're a again.