TRAVEL - Until a few years back I wondered whether there were still places on our wonderful planet where they had not yet invented tourism. The peninsula Bima with the namesake city on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia is such a place where a tourist, or a 'bule' in the local language, still is a rare something. Several months a year I try to settle down in this earthly paradise.
I see an average of four to five tourists every month in the city. The most 'bule' stay one night and then they move on. In the rest of the peninsula is it even a greater rarity to discover tourists. I was recently in a small village where a very old lady managed to tell me that I was only the second white man who ever visited her village. Twenty years ago there was someone passed by once before. Travellers have no idea what they will miss by not halting in Bima.
The local government does not invest in tourism, on the one hand it’s a pity for the local population, because many people are still living in poverty and some are working for less than 10 euro per month. In 2002 this region was also proclaimed by the United Nations as the least developed part of Indonesia. On the other hand, it is an enormous wealth for the few tourists who visit. Many places are still untouched and everything can still be visited without passing a cash desk and tourists shops. The local people love to guide you around for a small tip and they like to tell their story with great pleasure (whether or not a little bit exaggerated).
Tourists usually visit only the palace of the sultan (called Asi Mbojo) in the centre of the city. However there is so much more to discover in this city and on the wider peninsula. If you take some little time and hire a taxi (you can find already one for 40 euros per day) than you can easily explore this beautiful peninsula. Many places don’t have paved roads, but the most taxi drivers are trained to drive through potholes and bumps.
In Donggo on the other side of the Bay of Bima you can discover the ancient Hindu site Wadu Pa'a with inscriptions in ancient Sanskrit from the 7th century. In the mountains of Donggo you can also find an old traditional house. But you will find more traditional houses in Maria. These ‘Uma Lengge’ would be more than 200 years old. To go to Maria you cross the high mountains from Bima city direction Sape on one of the few paved roads - on the mountain pass you can everywhere spot little monkeys in the wild. Sape is a small harbour town where you can arrange a two-day boat trip to the nearby Komodo islands with their world famous giant monitor lizards. The Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Sape you can go also in no time to Pulau Ular - or Snake Island. Close to the smaller island Siangiang with its active volcano far above the sea level, you can sail to Snake Island in 15 minutes with traditional boats. On this rock in the sea you will discover exotic sea snakes with very unique colours: silver combined with black.
As well as in the north as in the south of Bima you can discover beautiful beaches. Most of the beaches are pristine and often you can spend an entire day without too many people. Often you can stay there for hours alone. Except on Sunday, then the local people sometimes also goes to the beaches. It’s absolutely worth to go to the black beach in Wera in the north of the peninsula and to the red beach in Karumbu in the south of the peninsula. Close to the city Bima you can also find some nice beaches, there are often a lot of local people. The most beautiful beaches are those of Rontu and Wanne located on the Indian Ocean. In Rontu is a small village (of a few huts) where people live from harvesting seaweed. The huge white beach look totally deserted. Close to Rontu is also the beach of Wanne, here you can swim impossible because close to the coastline the ocean goes immediately in the hurling and the waves are very enormous. Also in Wanne you're often a whole day alone, because there’s no village in the neighborhood.
The population mostly speaks only the local language and Indonesian. The most people in Bima don’t speak English – even not the young people and in hotels – and that makes it something difficult to communicate. Perhaps this is also one of the reasons that tourists stay away. However there are still a few elders who speak Dutch - these are more and more rarer -, this is a consequence of the Dutch colonization. Also you can find still some buildings and other things built by the Dutch people. Discover the beautiful little tower building in the middle of the market in Raba, but also the old swimming pools in Oi Si'i and Maria.
In and around Bima there are also a lot of places that are worth to walk. Climb certainly on the small hill above Bima city and have a wonderful view of the city with the great mosque, the Bay of Bima with on the other side the world famous volcano Tambora, the vast rice fields, close to the airport the huge salt fields and nearby the grave of the former sultan and an old Hindu temple.
Would you like to come to Bima? From Bali and Lombok you have daily air connections and from Mataram in Lombok you can also reach Bima by bus and ferry. You can always contact me and maybe I’m in Bima and than I'll give you a personal tour. I can show you a little local school in the mountains around Bima and I invite you to one of my favourite local restaurants along the waterfront on the Bay of Bima. Nowhere I have ever eaten a better nasi goreng than there. See you?
Text & pictures: T. Hanan S.
Published in Dutch language by: Wereldwijzer Reismagazine
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Thierry Hanan loves to travel without something to plan in advance and let everything just be what it is. Thierry Hanan has no fears to leave just on foot or by hitchhiking. Destination? Somewhere, nowhere and everywhere.
Thierry Hanan Scheers,