There are tropical resorts and then there are tropical resorts. Oberoi Lombok forms an important part of the tourism heritage of Southeast Asia. It and its sister property, Oberoi Bali, were the first genuine five-star resorts to be built on their respective islands, with both properties designed by the esteemed though relatively unknown Australian architect Peter Muller. Muller, now in his early 90s, is an internationally-regarded pioneer of luxury resort design, or tropical modernism, as it's been dubbed. The Bali property, built in 1978, provided a model for the lavish properties that eventually followed and that transformed the island, for good and bad, into a tourism sensation. The 50-room Oberoi Lombok followed the Oberoi Bali branch two decades later, with both resorts remaining largely unaltered from their original celebrated designs, aside from certain modernising touches to reflect the technological expectations of the modern traveller.
The resort, owned by the eponymous Indian-based Oberoi hotel group, is perfectly located in almost two hectares of immaculately landscaped and maintained grounds beside Medana Bay near Tanjung, on the north-west coast of Lombok. The resort is also conveniently close to the beach landing spots for the fast boat passenger service from Bali, while Lombok's Bandar Udara Airport and its domestic and international connections is a two-hour or so drive down the island's mostly spectacular western coastline.
Muller based his design of Oberoi Lombok, and its sister property on Bali, on traditional local building principles as well as ensuring the resort respected its splendid natural setting and local culture. Aside from the thatched-roofed villas and airy public spaces spread out across the resort compound, one of the property's most attractive and dominant features is its infinity pool. It serves as a welcome guest facility and a tranquil aesthetic feature, soothingly reflecting the surrounding ocean waters and tropical vegetation.
When this reviewer visited in the low-season earlier this year many of the more luxurious villas, some with private pools, were closed for an annual spruce-up. My ground level, thatched-room luxury pavilion is still a spacious 90-square metres, counting a private terrace area, perfect for dining or just relaxing. The marbled bathroom includes a sunken bath and a small and decorative private enclosed garden and pond that can be admired through a glass panel. The interior room can tend to be on the dark side but with the superb natural and built environment inside and outside you won't be spending too long lingering indoors.
Compared to Bali with its proliferation of restaurants outside of the main hotels and resorts, places to eat aren't as plentiful in this quiet corner of an already quiet Lombok, with the island still pleasingly far less visited than its over-developed neighbour. Fortunately the Oberoi Lombok's Lumbung Restaurant, headed by a talented expatriate Indian-born chef, serves outstanding Indonesian, western, and, yes, Indian cuisine either undercover in the enticing open-sided restaurant space or coolingly al fresco beside the reflective pool.
This resort is a hard one to leave, even when you're still staying there, though most guests won't be able to resist a day or half-day excursion to spots such as the increasingly popular and somewhat glitzy Gili Islands group, a short, high-speed boat ride from the Oberoi Lombok's timber jetty. A 90-minute scenic drive from Lombok's north-west coast is Indonesia's second largest volcano, Gunung Rinjani, rising to almost 3800 metres. Below the mountain is the village of Senaru, the starting point for walks to two appealing waterfalls, Singang Gile and Tiu Kelep, with the latter by far the most impressive. Guests at Oberoi Lombok can also take a leisurely and complimentary cidomo, a traditional small horse-drawn cart, into the nearby rustic village of Tanjung.
Despite its vintage, Oberoi Lombok, like its counterpart on Bali, has somehow defied the odds, scarcely dating, and remaining relevant with its understated architecture and gorgeous setting. To stay here (and, you may choose, at its original Bali counterpart) is not just to stay at resort but to experience a veritable design classic that proves that ostentation is not the only way to be noticed in paradise.
Doubles start from $US345 a night. Oberoi Lombok, Medana Beach, Tanjung, North Lombok, Indonesia. Ph:+62 370 6138444
The sensitive architecture and extensive gardens, designed by Australian Peter Muller, should you pause to truly appreciate and interpret them, make for a memorable stay.
If you hanker for a glitzy, fast-paced resort than the no singing, no dancing Oberoi Lombok will almost certainly not be for you. Try one of the newer properties on Bali instead.
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of Oberoi Lombok.