Why We Shouldn’t Have Gone to Lombok Before Gili Air

By David

Yes, it was beautiful, but was it worth it?

Yes, it was beautiful, but was it worth it?

After three perfect days in Bali, we trooped east to the next island in the Indonesian archipelago, Lombok. We had heard Lombok was how Bali used to be before it became over-touristed and devoid of the real and natural beauty that made it so popular in the first place. We can’t speak too much about Lombok as we were there for less than 24 hours, but we absolutely loved Bali, so I don’t think we’ll jump on the “skip-Bali-head-to-Lombok” bandwagon.

Heading to Lombok at all was a bit of a mistake for us. As seasoned travelers (ugh, I hate myself for saying that), having two time consuming and financially costly mistakes (you can read about the first one here) in one trip was a bit embarrassing, but to be cheesy, you live and you learn, right?

The reason we regret visiting Lombok is pretty simple: we just didn’t have enough time in Lombok to justify making a stop there. Instead, we should have just gone straight to Gili Air from Bali by boat because it’s cheaper, quicker, and easier.

Still, every mistake has a story. Our time in Lombok was no different…

The Death-Defying Journey to Medana Bay Marina, Lombok

We landed in Lombok at 6:30PM after our Lion Air flight was delayed for two hours leaving Bali. We knew to expect a long, two hour drive from the Lombok airport to our hotel, Medana Bay Marina, but we thought we’d be able to at least see a beautiful sunset as we drove and take in the sights. That, unfortunately, was not the case as it was pitch black by the time we got into our taxi.

Mr. Rudy in Bali told us we should pay no more than 500,000 Rupiah for a taxi from the airport to Medana, but we should try to haggle down to 300,000 ($25 USD) if we could. Apparently Lombok taxi prices are cheaper than he thought as the taxi counter we went up to in the airport quoted us 300,000 IDR right off the bat. We didn’t feel like haggling down any further, so we accepted.

Through the black night, our taxi twisted and turned and zigged and zagged through the curvy mountain roads. Between flashing headlights, constant car honks, and blind corners on narrow roads with nothing but cliff drops to either side, it was not the most pleasant of rides. We experienced the same drive as we were leaving Indonesia a few days later, that time in the daylight, and it’s safe to say the darkness of the first ride made it much more terrifying.

But we survived, arriving at our hotel two hours after arriving in Lombok. Unsurprisingly, Google Maps did not have the correct location for Medana Bay Marina, but luckily our driver knew where he was going. Because we were relying on Google, however, we were unconvinced we were in the right place when our driver drove down a random, sketchy, seemingly completely suburban road, and then pulled into an empty lot with an abandoned-looking building with all of its lights off.

Perhaps we were still shell-shocked from the night drive of terror, but our first thought was, “He’s not going to kill us, right?”

Then, in a sudden twist, it seemed like he was trying to save us.

Our driver started reversing faster than normal. Alexis and I looked out the front window to see two men had appeared and were running towards our car through the darkness. We asked our driver who they were, but he did not respond.

Did he not understand us, or was he just too focused on getting us out of there? Hilariously, Alexis then reduced the situation to the perfect childhood Cowboys vs. Indians/Cops vs. Robbers plot line: “Are those good guys or bad guys? Good guys or bad guys??” she frantically asked. Despite my rising concern, I couldn’t help but crack a smile. Our driver still did not respond, but he suddenly stopped the car.

The men approached the car and started speaking to the driver in Bahasa. They laughed. Despite my urge to wonder if they had now joined teams to murder us together, I let myself relax a little. As they laughed more, the tension subsided. The driver got back in the car and explained that this was Medana Bay Marina, and that the men told him the hotel was around back. We had no choice but to trust him as he drove us back towards the abandoned building, drove around the corner, and into view came lighted pavilions and the hotel I remembered seeing online.

We made it.

After a couple awkward laughs at our misunderstanding, we were greeted with welcome drinks and ordered dinner. We ate and drank and listened to the waves just past the pavilion as we calmed our nerves and finally fully relaxed.

Why You Shouldn’t Go To Gili From Lombok

In addition to the flight delay, it was simply an oversight on our part to not realize that two nights on Gili Air would mean just one on Lombok, and even if our flight had landed on time, 4:30PM to noon the following day is simply not enough time to do anything worthwhile in a new location. As our situation was, we didn’t arrive at our hotel until 8:30PM and after we ate dinner, showered, and calmed down after a stressful two hours on the road, we were beat. The next morning was when we fully realized the error of our ways. We had no plans for Lombok, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Our only reason for being there was to get to Gili Air.

So the list of negatives goes like this:

  • We spent all day prior at the Bali airport sitting through delayed flights and missing the sunset
  • We had to take a two-hour drive of death across Lombok
  • We paid twice as much for our hotel on Lombok than any other lodging on the trip
  • And all of this took away from time we could have spent on Gili Air, which as it turned out, was basically heaven on earth

The alternative to this ill-conceived plan (the option we strongly recommend to everyone) is to just catch a speed boat from Bali directly to Gili Air.

Mr. Rudy said his company can organize this as well. His email again is: funafuti@rocketmail.com.

Unless you have a real reason for going to Lombok, don’t use it as a jumping off point for the Gili Islands like we did.

Review of Medana Bay Marina

Although in hindsight we wished we never stayed here, that has nothing to do with the hotel itself, which besides the slightly pricey nightly rate, was wonderful. At $40 USD a night, it was twice as much as every other accommodation we had on this trip. That rate was definitely reflected in the room quality, however.

Medana Bay Marina bed with towels and flowers in Lombok, Indonesia

Medana Bay Marina had by far the nicest shower, most comfortable bed, softest sheets, and overall cleanliness of anywhere we stayed on this trip. It was the level of hotel we would expect to see in America, not Southeast Asia. If this is the level of luxury you’re looking for, then $40 a night is a steal, but for us, we don’t need that nice of a place to stay, so $40 felt more like an unnecessary splurge. Except is wasn’t unnecessary as it was the cheapest option we found around Bangsal Harbor, the place we needed to be to catch a public ferry to Gili Air.

Besides the room, the grounds were beautifully manicured. We even talked about how nice it would be to have a wedding there.

Palm trees at Medana Bay Marina Grounds

View from our hotel room’s porch

The food at the hotel restaurant was both delicious and reasonably priced. Breakfast was included in the nightly rate, which made the cost a little more bearable.

The hotel is on a beach, but it’s not a very nice one. Not one that would be ideal for laying out in the sun or swimming, at least. As the name suggests, it was more of a marina than a beach. The docks were right off the hotel, and based on the informational brochures we saw around the hotel, they definitely seem to cater to seafarers making their way into Lombok by boat.

So many cool sailboats!

So many cool sailboats!

After a pleasant night’s sleep, we awoke the next morning, ate our included breakfast, took a short stroll along the beach, headed back to the hotel to pack up, and then headed to Bangsal Harbor where we would catch a boat to the Gili Islands. The hotel called us a cab and the short 15 minute drive cost about 30,000 Rupiah ($2.50 USD).

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2 thoughts on “Why We Shouldn’t Have Gone to Lombok Before Gili Air

  1. Pingback: Gili Air: Three Steps to Paradise | Roses on the Road

  2. Pingback: 5 Travel Lessons From Our SE Asia Trip | Roses on the Road

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