Jewels of the sea and timeless tales greet Sarah Douglas At Tugu Hotel Lombok.
There are places that stay with you. They linger in your memory and tug at your emotions. Sire beach in Lombok is one such place. I fell in love at first sight and was thrilled to be heading back.
It was with more than a little excitement my writer friend and I rushed through Bali airport for the 20-minute flight to Lombok. It’s the first time I’ve visited the mainland since the earthquake last year and I’m hoping for the best. Our destination is the Tugu Hotel on Lombok’s pristine northern beach.
I’ve enjoyed some great lunches at this unique hotel in the vast open dining hall with soaring ceilings. The hall was inspired by the Hindu Majapahit legend of a beautiful princess who was turned into a snake and a rooster. Ten metre tall statues of the princess Dewi Sri act as pillars in this astonishing restaurant hall, while a carving of the rooster with a snake tail runs the length of the roof and overlooks the brilliant green pool. Like most things at the Tugu Hotel, it tells a story, of good and evil, of warring Hindu Gods and finally, of balance.
Each of Tugu’s hotels bear the mark of its founder, an art collector, who created a small group of boutique hotels and resorts reflecting his love of art, architecture and the culture of Indonesia’s islands. Each hotel tells a story of its location and its history, this one is no exception.
Our Tugu Lombok experience begins in the lobby, created from an old building that was dismantled and reconstructed here. It belonged to a Malay businessman who migrated from Sumatra in the early 19th century. Malay, Chinese, Arabic and European influences come into play and the entire house now acts as the lobby. You know as soon as you arrive that this is no ordinary hotel.
The Manager, Hanny, greets us and offers us a choice of rooms. Accommodation at Tugu Lombok ranges from a Presidential Villa, two amazing seaside villas, garden villas, bungalows and suites.
Sprawled across a beautiful piece of land running along the peaceful beachfront, each area of the hotel has its own character and a story behind it.
On Hanny’s suggestion we followed her to the Bhagavat Gita suites and we never left. There are seven suites in this section. Each is vast, with antique four-poster beds, tall antique doors that open to a private garden with a bale, a private pool and views across the sea. Inspired by the wayang tales of the Mahabharata they are fitted with antique furniture, giant carved mirrors and feature bathrooms created from river stones with an outdoor bath.
Although we would be sharing a bed for our two-night stay, we barely registered each other as the bed was enormous, the mattress a dream and the goose down pillows soothed our dreams. It really was an incredible room.
Tugu sits on one of the prettiest beaches I have seen in Lombok. Surrounded by luxurious villas on large pieces of land, with Lombok’s stunning golf course behind you, you barely know anyone else is there.
We hardly unpack before heading out to the beach. The sand is the colour of the creamy pearls that are farmed here. The water sparkles in aquamarine, shallow and with barely a ripple of waves.
As the sun sets, fishermen stand waste deep in the calm water and the only sounds are the breeze gently rustling the trees above and the soft wash of the ocean.
The beach is where afternoon tea is served. With such a long stretch of beach there is space for guests to find their own piece of paradise. Weathered wooden furniture and sunbeds dressed with traditional batik spread out from the little bar where softly spoken waiters serve you tea and drinks throughout the day. Afternoon tea is a mix of traditional sweet and savoury snacks with tea and coffee served in large pots.
Two days is barely enough time to register all there is to see and experience at this resort. Every walk introduces you to reminders of the past. The Hening Swarga Spa is inspired by a lost temple from the 10th century. The Rama Sinta hall, where weddings and celebrations take place, symbolizes one of the eternal love legends. An antique barong sits outside, billed as the oldest in existence, while the front of the hall is an antique joglo, a reminder of the past that is preserved beautifully. It could be overwhelming were it not for the incredible amount of space.
Every small journey at Tugu Hotel is like this; delightful, magical, special with an incredible reverence for Indonesia’s stories and its indigenous people. Luxury never looked quite like this and that is why Tugu Hotels are such treasures, each different; vessels for legends, art, history and architecture.
On our second day we took a boat to the Gili islands. Unfortunately Tugu’s boat was unavailable, it looks every bit as romantic as the resort itself. Gili Air is a short 15 minutes from Tugu so snorkeling, diving and cruises are some of the activities on offer here. After a beautiful afternoon on the islands we happily returned to the calm of the resort for a swim before dinner.
The menu at Tugu offers a mix of local and international dishes. For our final dinner the manager surprised us with a stunning rijstaffel dinner, a royal procession of dishes that combine the best local cuisine from the menu. A family were seated at the centre table, decorated with local offerings. Other guests were casually seated around the restaurant.
We sat overlooking the romantic bar, decorated with Javanese art and antiques, served by waiters in traditional Sasak dress from Lombok’s indigenous culture. It was a feast and a wonderful way to end our stay here.
Saying goodbye was not easy, we loved our room, our fellow guests were equally enthralled by the resort and included people from across the globe.
Before leaving we had one last swim and then a massage in the astonishing spa temple overlooking the gardens and the sea. From Tugu we were heading to the other side of Lombok. While effects of the earthquake can still be seen and building is going on in all the small villages we passed here, Tugu was largely untouched.
Before re-opening, the Tugu staff and management worked tirelessly to fundraise and rebuild communities in Lombok that had been affected by the quake. This commitment to their staff and the island that inspired this Tugu resort is reflected in the people we meet. Their eyes sparkle, their smiles are truly genuine and knowing that they work for a family business that puts their lives first is reflected in their faces.
This is my second stay at a Tugu Hotel, the first was in Canggu, an equally enthralling hotel. I would return in a heartbeat. My love affair with this part of the island of Lombok continues and is now fed by the magic of this place, it is a very special resort and I can think of no better way to experience the very best of Lombok, its people and its heritage. I know more than I did before and am richer for it.
Loved this travel story? Check out more gaddabout tales from The Yak here.