Ampenan is an old port town that is considered a suburb of Mataram, Indonesia, and is situated between the Meninting River in the north and the Berinyok River in the south. The majority of the population is concentrated along the Jangkok River coast, which cuts through to the town’s center.
From a bridge peering over the Jangkok River, the carpets of kangkung blooming in the shallow water are evident. The water convolvulus or Ipomoea aquatica, as it is officially called in English, is a leafy Asian spinach or watercress. Its Chinese name, kong xin cai, is more poetic and literally means “empty heart vegetable”, so named because of the tasty green’s hollow and crispy stems. Kangkung is one of the most popular Indonesian vegetables. Many women crowd the Jangkok bridge in the early morning and late afternoon, splashing water on the kangkung leaves.
The beach is lined with hundreds of outriggered fishing canoes at the mouth of the Jangkok River. Most of these boats are used to fish at night using pressure lamps. These canoes glide gracefully like water-spiders under their triangular sails, providing a memorable spectacle.
In the late afternoons, you can watch boats departing the port area near the Pertamina oil storage tanks. On visible days, you can see views of Bali’s Gunung Agung. At sunset, the old dock is crowded with men fishing from the piles. It is a beautiful sight to see the waters silhouetted in a golden reflection of the sun as it sets.
The main street of Ampenan is Jalan Yos Sudarso, which is lined with ethnic shops, mostly run by Chinese owners. There is also a pekong or temple near the sea as well as an Arab quarter by the beach, north of Yos Sudarso. This enclave is noted for its narrow streets, which are barely wide enough to fit a car. Many of the people you’ll see here have Arab features. Unfortunately, one section of the quarter near the sea was purchased by Pertamina and torn down to accommodate oil tanks.
South of the Chinese-owned shops, you’ll find the city’s Malay quarter, where the inhabitants are primarily descendants of Sulawesi and Java migrants. This quarter stretches all the way to the Jangkok River.
There is also a Sasak quarter in Ampenan known as Kampung Sukaraja, where the majority of Lombok’s main ethnic group live. This quarter is located inland near the Ampenan bemo terminal.
The town market is one of the main attractions of Ampenan. It is located along the main road to Senggigi north of the city proper. Further north, you’ll find the Sudirman’s Antiques, which is the best place to buy genuine articles on Lombok. You can save yourself the trouble of having to treasure-seek in the small villages. The shop is run by Pak Sudirman who has received a presidential award for reviving traditional crafts on Lombok. He is noted for introducing and selling bright wooden horses of various sizes in his craft shops. They are all modeled after the prototype Lombok boys used before the ritual of their Muslim circumcision.
The Pura Segara is next to Sudirman’s shop. This Balinese temple by the beach can be reached by taking the paved road from Sudirman’s. The temple is beautifully set near hundreds of outriggered canoes and fishing boats, some of which have unfurled sails and look somewhat like birds drying their wings. There are stands in the area that sell assorted snacks and drinks.
An old, large Chinese cemetery is located along the route from Pura Segara to the Menintang River. The cemetery spans a wide area and its tombs all face east. Many Chinese massacred after the 1965 coup on Lombok are buried here. The slaughter precipitated from accusations that the Chinese were sympathetic to Communist ideals. South of the Jangkok River, there is another Chinese cemetery, except the tombs there are less colorful and lack the same flair.
The Meninting beach across from the Meninting River hosts a fleet of fishing canoes laid out on both sides of the Sasaka Beach Hotel, which boasts one of the best accommodations on Lombok.
The village of Gunung Sari is known for its craftsmen who make “instant antiques” out of leather, wood, bone, bamboo, and horn. To be exact, the village is located about six kilometers north of Mataram and east of Ampenan along the old toward Pemenang. The goods in Gunung Sari are cheaper to buy than at the art shops. You won’t find any genuine antiques and no one will even try to deceive you. If you have the time, you can observe the friendly craftsmen work and learn from them how to make the antiques yourself. 
Muller, Kal, and David Pickell. East of Bali: From Lombok to Timor. Lincolnwood: Passport Books, 1991. ISBN: 0844299057.
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