The Ampenan-Mataram-Cakranegara-Sweta conurbation comprises four towns and stretches over 8km from west to east, but is easy to get around and offers a good opportunity to experience Indonesian city life. At the western end of the city is the bustling old port town of Ampenan, the jumping-off point for Senggigi a few kilometres up the coast. Merging into Ampenan to the east, Mataram is the capital of West Nusa Tenggara province as well as the district of West Lombok and full of offices and government buildings. East again, Cakranegara, usually known as Cakra (pronounced “Chakra”), is the commercial heart of the island, with shopping centres, markets and workshops. Sweta, on the eastern edge of the city area, is the location of the island’s main bus station. Most tourists come to the city for the day but an overnight stay is a good chance to try the city’s restaurants in the evening and visit early morning markets.
The vibrant markets offer a great chance to see local life. The Kebon Roek market in Ampenan and the market near the Bertais/Mandalika/Sweta bus terminal at Sweta are both worth wandering around but the friendliest is Cakranegara market behind the Jalan Gede Ngurah/Jalan Pejanggik crossroads.
The best one-stop craft centre is the Sayang Sayang Art Market, on Jalan Jend Sudirman, with handicraft stalls ranged around a car park. It’s a more lively offshoot of the Lombok Handicraft Centre, also known as Sayang Sayang, which is around the corner on Jalan Hasanudin at Rungkang Jangkok.
Lombok pottery has an international reputation, and the Lombok Pottery Centre, Jl Sriwijaya 111A (wwww.lombokpotterycentre.com), is the showroom of the Lombok Craft Project, which has fuelled a renaissance of pottery on the island. The showroom stocks a small range of products.