Meeting the Indigenous Sasak in Lombok, Indonesia

The Sasak are the largest ethnic group on the island of Lombok, Indonesia. About 80% of the inhabitants of Lombok are Sasak and this is also the name given to the local language spoken on the island. The Sasak live mainly in the rural areas of Lombok and work in agriculture and fishing but also in the handicrafts inherited from their ancestors. We spent two days in the Tetebatu region, in the centre of Lombok, where we stayed with a Sasak family. A beautiful green area in the middle of rice fields and at the foot of the Rinjani volcano, where the immersion in the local life and in the Sasak culture makes the trip even more beautiful!

A night at the Sasak Homestay in Lombok 

We spent a night with Roni and his family at Al Sasaki Homestay. Al Sasaki is the project created by Roni, a young Sasak man in his thirties, who decided to leave his job in construction to become a host and guide in order to share moments of his life with travellers from all over the world. With the help of his family, and over many months, Roni built a room with a bathroom next to the family house in order to be able to welcome any traveller who wants to come and spend an authentic moment in his community.

So we spent a night at Roni’s house with her family and community. Initially, we were looking for a guesthouse because we wanted to spend time with the locals, away from the touristy and luxurious accommodations that flourish in southern Lombok. It was then by chance – and by luck – that we found her guesthouse.  And we were rewarded because Roni is very open to exchanges. And he speaks French wonderfully well! As soon as we arrived we had a lot of conversations together. Roni was happy to share with us information about the Sasak culture, about life in Lombok but also to tell us about his background, his project, how the inhabitants lived during the pandemic,…

The Al Sasaki guesthouse is located in a small rural village in the Tetebatu area – Kembang Kuning – at the foot of the majestic Rinjani (where we went afterwards to climb the volcano in 2 days). The locals consider Tetebatu to be the “Ubud of old”, as it is much more untouched by tourism and construction. I noticed that we met very few travellers in Tetebatu, they were mainly backpackers looking to get off the beaten track. That’s good, so are we!

On the agenda of this evening and the day that followed: a lot of discussions, the preparation of the meal (we helped Roni’s aunt and cousin to prepare a traditional Sasak dish, the Ayam bazar: chicken, coconut milk, curry, garlic and chilli. It was really delicious!) and then a guided walk to discover the richness of the region with Roni as our guide.



When making coconut oil with Roni’s aunt

Discovering the region with Roni

After a good night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast, Roni took us on a tour. For almost 2 hours, we walked through rice fields and various agricultural lands: aromatic plants, medicinal plants… In the region, where it rains frequently, there are fields everywhere: rice fields mainly but also tomatoes, chillies, courgettes, white choice beans, avocado trees, cocoa trees, banana trees, coconuts, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, cashew nuts… in short, it grows well here! We feel so lucky to be with a local guide who explains everything to us, is very open and always has a smile!

The walk then takes us to a small waterfall well hidden at the bottom of a small cave, where Romain goes for a swim. We finish with a little walk in the forest, to try to see some black monkeys and… Bingo: they are all there! Dozens of howler monkeys are walking in the trees above us, it’s like being in the primary forests of Costa Rica (remembered during our trip to Costa Rica in 2021).
At the end of the morning, as a surprise, it starts to rain… And it’s far from being a little spit! Roni, who doesn’t panic, makes us improvised umbrellas with banana leaves to protect us… Phew, so we can continue the tour! However… In a few moments, it becomes impossible to walk because it is raining so hard, so it is the right time to take refuge in a Warung (local restaurant).

The day ends with a very nice activity with Roni’s family: the preparation of coconut oil. Coconut oil is to Indonesians what olive oil is to Italians, it is used everywhere all the time. So we participated in the making of a vial of coconut oil and now we are so happy to use it for cooking… 🙂

My experience

Although too short, this homestay was really rewarding. Roni was really incredible. He made us discover the many treasures of Tetabatu, took us through the rice fields, the waterfalls, talked to us about his culture, his life, the local handicrafts, and allowed us to live a very precious immersion moment. We feel really privileged to have lived an experience in the heart of a Sasak family. Thank you to Roni and all her family for these intense and unforgettable moments. A moment of authenticity and sharing that we will keep in memory for a long time!

 

How to stay with locals in Lombok ?

  • The best way to stay with a local is to look for a guesthouse, which is often simple and basic accommodation run by local people. Many of these guesthouses are not found on booking websites such as Booking and can be found either by word of mouth, by asking around or by searching on Google Maps.
  • In our case, we found Roni’s house “Al Sasaki” through Google Maps
  • It was the reviews of other travellers that convinced us to come and spend a night there
  • If we had had the opportunity, we would have stayed at least 2 nights, and it is also possible to stay for several days to get a better idea of the beautiful region of Tetebatu
  • For those who wish to stay longer, Roni also offers to take you to discover the local handicrafts: the making of sarungs, pottery, bamboo work.s.

Staying with locals is often an experience that allows you to be close to the locals, to share and exchange, and to travel at a different pace.  There are some villages in Lombok, such as Sade, that welcome tourists who want to discover the Sasak culture. We did not go there because we thought we were falling into a “tourist trap”. Maybe we were wrong… Don’t hesitate to share your feedback if you go there

To know more about it

Originally from Malaysia, the Sasak were originally animists* before converting to Islam. Some Sasak are now called “Watu Telu” and follow a cult that combines animist, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic influences.
* Animism: the belief that nature is governed by spirits analogous to the human will.

 

Indonesia: 10 days in Lombok

 

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