TRADITIONAL boats lined up neatly in a fisherman village ornate and painted with beautiful colors. On the other side the ruins of the harbor and colonial-style buildings stand tall in front of the Lombok Strait.
It is a charming sight to see. But more than eye candy or an Instagramable selfie point, The Ampenan Harbor and the villages surround was once a key parts of the Lombok’s history.
Ampenan lies on west coast of Lombok at the mouth of the Jangkuk River where it meets Lombok Strait. Today it just a small district of Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara province.
But in the past, Ampenan was once listed as the busiest port city in east Indonesia along with Makassar and Tanjung Perak Surabaya.
Flash back to the middle of the 17th century, Ampenan renown as a busy regional hub. It’s the main ports of Lombok Kingdom that shouldered the busy international trade between kingdoms and the nations around the world. In 1740s Gusti Wayan Tegah, The Balinese-Karangasem Ruler developed the harbor as a free port for the world trades.
Alfons van der Kraan in Lombok : Conquest Colonization and Underdevelopment 1870-1940 said many European famous merchant and traders live in Ampenan since 17th centuries. Such as George P Kings of England and Mads Lange a Danish legendary adventurer.
In 1856 British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace visit Ampenan on his way to complete The Wallace Line theory. His journey in Lombok is also make him famous as a co founder of Evolution Theory with Charles Darwin. He live near the harbor for a view weeks and note a special chapters about Lombok and Ampenan in his masterpiece The Malay Archipelago.
As a international trade hub Ampenan supported by infrastructure such as warehouses, shops and the main road that connected with Labuan Haji the harbor in the eastern part of the island.
The harbor also surrounded by four main city (principality) Cakranegara, Mataram, Pagesangan and Pagutan. They were designed as a modern city in a grid-pattern concept. It’s base on the Balinese-Hindu city planning with a Pura Miru Mayura in the center.
The city landscape are divided into several cluster based on caste. Each cluster consist of several rectangular residential blocks connected each other to the main road. The reign of Lombok-Karangasem Kingdom ends after the Dutch invasion in 1894.
The Dutch rebuild Ampenan into a modern port city complete with supporting infrastructure, banks, roads, bridges and warehousing centers. The trace of city planning system can still be seen today from Ampenan to Sweta.
Indonesian Culture Mix
As an old international harbor city Ampenan has been a melting pot of cultures for long time. Some of Ampenan native traditions are the products of marriages of different traditions from many nations and ethnic groups in Indonesia, namely Chinese, Arab, European, Sasaks, Javanese, Bugis, Sundanese and many others.
It’s still can be seen on the names of the villages in Ampenan such as Kampung Bugis, Kampung Banjar, Kampung Melayu, Kampung Arab, Taman Kapitan, Tangsi and others.
The influence of the multi ethnic traditions also in the daily language. Ampenan has it’s own accent. Such as bahasa anna-ente, it is a mixed of Indonesian or Sasaks with Arabic accent. The dialect is widely used as a daily language especially in Arab descent community in Ampenan. Beside that The Chinese also create it’s own style accent a combination of Malay and China language.
The marriages of culture for the centuries has change Ampenan to be a melting pot of Indonesian culture. A multicolor city where the Sasaks, the native and majority tribes in Ampenan live together with the settlers in harmony.
Although the majority of Ampenans are Muslim but other houses of worship such as Hindus Pura, Churches to Vihara are easily found.
The influence of multi culture interactions also can be found in Ampenan cuisine. Most of Indonesian authentic and peranakan food are available. From Chinese Capcai to Nasi Padang, from Arabian Kebab to Gudeg Jogja.
For the Lombok traditional food lovers, Ampenan is the best place to find it. Every afternoon the old harbor have food court with special sunset panorama as a background. The open air bazaar serve many Lombok authentic cuisine such as Ayam Taliwang, Nasi Sukaraja, Pelecing Kangkung, Rujak Terasi and many more. Walk to the east from Pasar ACC trough Jalan Saleh Sungkar hundreds food stall and restaurant await you. (LPG)