Lombok’s Tourism Icon Makes Lonely Planet Guide
Imagine working as an English teacher at a secondary school in a quiet town in eastern Lombok when one day you are summoned to meet and talk to two foreign travelers. Since you are one of the few people on the whole island who speaks English, it makes sense to bring the travelers all the way across the island to meet you.
At the time, this journey would take at least a few hours if circumstances were good! The foreigners are called belanda (the colonial Indonesian term for a Dutch or western person). They were actually Canadian and this encounter started the welcome story of one of Lombok’s iconic figures in tourism.
That was 1979 when this well-respected teacher, Pak Radiah, met the belandas from Canada. Back then the tourism industry on Lombok was non-existent, however, all the neighbors knew Mr. Radiah was the right person to speak to these first foreign travelers. But communication was not easy, since most of his knowledge of English came from listening to radio Australia and reading books. Since then, Pak has improved his English. Thanks to his knowledge and reputation, Pak earned a citation in Lonely Planet’s first Lombok edition in1983.
It was quite a challenge for Pak Radiah to find out what the travelers wanted to see in Lombok. After some basic conversations, he realized the visiting tourists were intrigued by Lombok’s tropical nature as well as the daily life and cultural values of Lombok’s eastern Indonesian people.
Chapter two of Pak’s tourism career emerged when the government asked Pak Radiah to expand his home to accommodate travelers. At first he could offer four rooms, then quickly expanded to six. Pak Radiah and his wife have welcomed travelers at their home ever since. The majority of the travelers at first were young and adventurous backpackers, but now all kinds of travelers come to the island thanks to improved infrastructure. The local government has also made successful efforts to promote Lombok as a tourist destination.
One thing has remained the same and that is Pak Radiah himself. He may be the tourism authority on Lombok but that only increases his motivation to actively seek interesting activities and sights to show to his guests. His home includes a fishpond and a beautiful garden with over fifty kinds of plants and trees. Each specimen is labeled with names in English and Indonesian, a sign that the teacher in him is still very much alive.
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