Situated on the western side of Lombok Island, the city of Mataram is the capital and largest city in the West Nusa Tenggara Province. In addition to serving as the provincial capital, Mataram is the center of the provincial government, education, commerce, industry and services. Public buildings, banks, post office, general hospitals, shopping malls, and hotels are found here, making it a perfect staging point before travelers explore the undiscovered splendors of Lombok Island and neighboring Sumbawa Island.
The city is in fact an amalgamation of four towns: Ampenan, Mataram, Cakranegara and Bertais, that were once individual kingdoms and townships. Nowadays, these have become the city’s sub-districts with their own distinct features. Broadly, Ampenan is an aging port city, Mataram is the governmental and office center for the province, Cakranegara is the major commercial center on the island, and Bertais is the overland center for public transportation. The four sub-districts are connected through a main road that stretches from Ampenan Street in Ampenan to the Selaparang Street at Bertais.
The Sasak people are the indigenous people of Lombok and form the majority of Mataram’s residents. Mataram is also home to Balinese, Chinese, Chinese-peranakan (people of mixed Indonesian and Chinese descent) and a small number of Arab Indonesians, mainly of Yemeni descent who settled in the early port city of Ampenan. Although urban dwellers, the Sasak of Mataram still identify themselves strongly with their origins and the indigenous Sasak culture. The diversity of ethnic groups living in Mataram is a result of the city’s long history since the time of the ancient Laeq and Suwung Kingdom who once ruled part of the island, the arrival of the Javanese Majapahit Kingdom, traders from mainland Asia and the Middle East, the subsequent invasion of the Balinese Karangasem Kingdom, all the way to the Dutch and Japanese occupations in more modern times.
The legacy of the Balinese Karangasem rule over the Island can be found at the Pura Meru Temple at Cakranegara. Built in 1720 by AA Ngurah Gede Karang Asem, the temple is the largest and one of the oldest Hindu temples on the Island. The temple consists of three main buildings, with the center having an 11 tiered roof and a 9 tiered roof on the side building. As in all Hindu temples, the Pura Meru Temple is dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Across the Pura Meru Temple lies the Mayura Garden that was also built by AA Ngurah Gede Karang Asem in 1744. The garden is highlighted with an enchanting moat surrounding the magnificent palace island in the center. The garden was initially called ‘Klepug’ which was taken from the echoing sounds of ‘klepug-klepug’ coming from the spring in the pond. After its renovation in 1886, the garden was called Mayura, from the Sanskrit language meaning Peacock. It is said that, around the pond there used to be many peacocks thathunt and kill the snakes in the area. The influence of both Hindu and Islam are depicted in its buildings and statues.
The complete history of Mataram, Lombok and the West Nusa Tenggara Province can be discovered through the many valuable collections within the West Nusa Tenggara Museum. Among some of the exceptional collections are the golden handled Keris (dagger), 1.239 ancient scriptures written on palm leaves, hundred years’ old hand written holy writings, currencies from the time of the ancient kingdoms, and some of the traditional Sasak handicrafts.
Other places of interest in the city are the tomb of Loang Baloq, the tomb of General Van Ham, the Rungkang Handicrafts Center, and the gold and pearl center in Sekarbela and Kamasan.
As from October 1st 2011, the Island of Lombok moved its airport from the Selaparang Airport to the larger and better facilitated Lombok International Airport at Tanak Awu, in the Central Lombok District, some 30 Km or an hour’s drive south east of Mataram. The Airport is served domestically by Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Batavia Air, Wings Air, and Trigana, while internationally, SilkAir serves the Singapore to Lombok route. From the airport passengers can get to Mataram by public bus. The special buses serving the route have a capacity of 40 passengers and its visual designs are also aimed to promote tourism in Lombok and West Nusa Tenggara. The fare from/to Mataram’s Mandalika Bus Terminal in Mataram is around IDR 15,000 to 20,000 and from/to Senggigi around IDR 20,000 to 25,000. Taxis will also be available to take passengers around the fabled island of Lombok.
The port of Lembar is situated 22 km south of Mataram. There are ferries every 90 minutes or so, 24 hours a day, between Lombok and Padang Bai on Bali, the trip taking between 4-5 hours. Any volunteer “porters” who carry your bags will expect at least IDR 10,000. A hotel pick-up should always be arranged well in advance and preferably confirmed by email. An alternative is to negotiate a trip with a private car operator upon arrival. You can take a bemo from Lembar Harbour to Mataram during daylight hours. The fare should be about IDR 5,000-8,000 to the Ampenan-Mataram-Cakranegara-Sweta area, but you may pay more if you have a lot of luggage.
Blue Bird Lombok Taksi (+62 370 627000) is the most common taxi available in Mataram. Both the Bluebird and white colored Express Taksi have a radio dispatch system and both companies cars are equipped with meters which should be used by their drivers at all times. Taxis can be booked in advance either by calling them yourself or by booking through your hotel. Taxis may be hailed down on the street anywhere around Mataram with the exception of the dark blue Airport Taksi the use of which is limited to arriving or departing airport passengers only.
Bemos are the name for minivan public transportation that run many set routes in and around Mataram, Ampenan and Cakranegara. They may be flagged down anywhere on the streets of Mataram. Bemos can sometimes be crowded and may stop and start frequently to pick up and set down passengers.
By Ojek (Motorbike taxis)
Prices are negotiable but a rule of thumb is IDR 10,000-20,000 for a short trip with a local motorbike rider if the destination is nearby, longer distances will require some informed negotiation.
By the Cidomo Horsecart
Horse carts known as cidomo remain a common means of transport in Mataram and they are often found operating throughout the congested streets near a produce market. Public bemos and metered taxis are more commonly used for transport in and around Mataram.
Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic of Indonesia