Sumbawa Besar isn’t popular with travelers. It only serves as a resting point on the long drive across the island. It only has one site.
But I find places like this interesting. I get burned out photographing sites, and enjoy observing how the locals live for a change.
I rather liked Sumbawa Besar. I’m not sure what I would have done there for more than a day, but the locals were friendly, and it was a nice place to spend the night.
I discovered how friendly the locals were as I drove around looking for my hotel. I had entered a land where Google Maps does not work.
This was the first of many times I dutifully used the poorly-researched Lonely Planet to pick a hotel in advance, put it into Google Maps, and drove to where the pin was. The pin was always completely wrong.
Some guys asked me were I was going. One of them got on his motorbike and led me to a hotel next to a mosque. I wouldn’t have trouble waking up tomorrow! The hotel was… basic. Traveling in Sumbawa is not for those who need luxury. But the lack of luxuries means it’s dirt cheap.
Eating in Sumbawa is also a basic experience. This is a land without fast food restaurants. Most of the restaurants are Masakan Padang places, with bowls in the window displaying what they have. They are pretty easy for travelers, because you can just point at what you want. Most of the food is fried: chicken, eggs, omelets.
Sumbawa Besar does have a site, the Dalam Loka palace. It’s a big wooden building the size of a city block. It was actually abandoned for years, and had fallen into decay. Some Japanese archeologists restored it to its former glory, and now it’s the pride of the town.
The other interesting thing to see in town is the market, which I visited early after being awakened by the mosque. The people were very friendly, and many wanted their pictures taken. I had fun practicing my Indonesian with them, and I marveled at the crazy chicken-killing machine.