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Forget Bali. For a slice of quiet paradise, head to Somewhere Lombok instead

Drawn by the views, people, culture and family ties, two sisters from Hong Kong relocated to the quiet Indonesian island to open its newest luxury boutique hotel, Somewhere Lombok.

Forget Bali. For a slice of quiet paradise, head to Somewhere Lombok instead

Somewhere Lombok is a new high-end boutique hotel opened by sisters Valia and Claire Gontard. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)

From Lombok Airport, a half hour’s drive takes one to Somewhere Lombok. Through small towns, up winding hillsides, across a section of unpaved, rocky slopes and then, a sudden splash of fuchsia beauty from bougainvillea cascading over stonewalls frame calm blue waters, signalling the arrival at the hotel. 

Stepping into the reception, the view mesmerises. This "somewhere" in Lombok is a faraway oasis, a real-life painting of mountain ridges, grassy fields, sheets of blue water as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by the hypnotic ebb and flow of white foam curling up a crystalline white beach. The prized view is from the infinity pool, buffered by a garden where poufy seats nestled close to the ground promise languid afternoons surrounded by wild grass and skyward coconut trees.    

Somewhere Lombok is a new high-end boutique hotel opened by sisters Valia and Claire Gontard, whose parents are French and Chinese. The newest member of the Design Hotels brand, it is located in South Lombok, overlooking Prabu Village and the Are Guling Bay beloved by pro surfers. Despite feeling miles away from any bustle, the hotel is only a 10-minute drive from the town of Kuta. And unlike the more crowded and congested Bali – a 30 minutes flight away eastward – Lombok, home to a majority Muslim population is still a sleepy island where cockerel crows and prayer calls form part of the daily soundscape. 

The hotel is surrounded by views of mountain ridges, grassy fields and sheets of blue water. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)

The hotel comes with a sentimental backstory. Claire and Valia’s maternal grandfather was born and raised in Lombok before leaving for China as a teenager. His memories of the island spent among nature and close to the sea resonated with the sisters, who grew up in Hong Kong. 

When they visited Lombok in 2013 as young adults, they were as captivated as their grandfather. “Back then, there were only limited accommodation and food options available, but the waves, the scenery, the people and the atmosphere just drew us in, and we couldn’t stop coming back,” shared Valia.

The sisters now live here, united by a new adventure. Before this, Claire was an analyst in London while Valia sojourned around Central America, Indonesia and Australia where she enjoyed stints in the F&B industry. “We found a beautiful piece of land that we couldn’t pass on,” said Claire on the hotel that is a labour of love and whose operations the sisters tend to closely. 

This may be their first hotel venture but they are not foreign to the hospitality industry. “Our parents own Kimamaya Hotel and a few other businesses in Niseko. After our studies, we both did a ski season in Japan where we helped rebrand and run the restaurant in the hotel,” shared Claire.

Hong Kong-based SW Design created the architectural setting. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)
The infinity pool. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)

The pair certainly has what it takes to create unique travel experiences, given the palpable care given to every aspect of the experience at Somewhere Lombok – from the food, service and space to the choice site itself. “Our best-selling point is the view, and the inviting and warm space that we have created for our guests. From the moment you walk in, you are welcomed with warm, friendly faces, and you can’t help but relax and unwind,” said Valia.

The unpretentious and minimal yet thoughtful spaces featuring concrete floors, expansive roofs and timber screens contribute to this feeling. Luxury comes in the from of the picturesque vistas from every part of the hotel, as well as simple delights such as a beckoning hammock overlooking the valleys by the lounge or the fresh mahi mahi fish, grilled to perfection and served with chilli butter dipping sauce in the restaurant that feels as casual as a friend’s dining room.

The restaurant serves fusion cuisine with a focus on fresh, locally sourced produce. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)

Hong Kong-based SW Design created the calming architectural setting, while the sisters’ uncle’s award-winning design studio Eight Partnership developed the branding and interior design, with advice from Studio Amal and contribution from the sisters themselves; Valia’s photography of Lombok’s people and sights adorn the walls of the 20 villas.  

The land was tricky to reckon with, shared architect Adrian Wu of SW Design. “The site is uniquely situated on two lots, each with very different land formations. At one end is an open plateau with amazing panoramic views of the bay, and at the other end stretches a rugged hillside overlooking the valley. The architecture drew inspiration from the duality of this landscape.”  

Luxury comes in the form of picturesque vistas from every part of the hotel. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)

He placed the social areas that include the reception, restaurant, lounge and bar next to the pool on the plateau. On the more secluded hillside, he cascaded the villas across four tiers. They are accessed via a slightly challenging trek down a flight of steps flanked by lush planting.

Traversing down to the villas, one cannot help but pause to take in the expansive view beyond of miniature houses and grazing cows in the distance like a child’s playthings sprawled on a green, looping mat. This vista can again be appreciated from the balconies of the villas, where mini plunge pools entice longer sessions of outdoor relaxation. “Both [the social spaces and villas] share a similar progression of spaces from arrival [that opens] up to the view,” described Wu. Level differences amplify this.

Part of the narrative of Somewhere Lombok is respect for the land, its people and culture. Eco-conscious travel is definitely a draw for the modern traveller today but more than that, the sisters felt a personal accountability to the land. This informs the hotel’s dedicated ecological push and optimal use of natural resources. For instance, the timber is locally sourced, and the social areas are naturally ventilated to minimise reliance on air-conditioning. The villas were also positioned south to maximise daylight so as to reduce reliance on artificial lighting.

The villas feature balconies and mini plunge pools that entice longer sessions of outdoor relaxation. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)

“Before this, the site was bare land and a former illegal mining area. We have replanted a lot of vegetation around our building not only for aesthetic reasons, but also to refresh and cool the air for hotel guests,” highlighted Mendi Siahandan, head of operations at environmental engineering consultancy Eco Mantra that ensured that the best sustainable practices were employed.   

“Somewhere Lombok manages its waste responsibly as well, by separating them into categories and sending them to a facility where we have confirmed that the waste is treated properly and does not end up in an illegal landfill. We are trying to eliminate as much single-use plastics as we can so the drinking water for guests are provided in glass bottles filled from our internal water-drinking station,” he added. Other ecological features include rainwater harvesting and wastewater recycling to irrigate the landscaping. 

Likewise, design director Anton Clark of Bali Landscape Company designed a scheme that could flourish in the dry Lombok weather without complicated maintenance. “Sustainable landscape design was the fundamental approach for making the gardens at Somewhere Lombok by using over 80 per cent drought-tolerant and indigenous species. This has less impact on the environment, less water use and improved impact on the biodiversity,” he explained.

In furnishing the interiors, the sisters worked closely with local industries. “It was very important for us to support the local community, who did a beautiful job. We also worked with local farms and fishermen, trying to source as locally as possible to support the villagers living around us,” said Claire.

The interior of the villa. (Photo: Somewhere Lombok)

In the villas are hand-woven rugs and textiles by Kriyatex – an atelier in Central Java – handmade pottery and ceramic vessels from Indonesian atelier Casakaya, as well as woven baskets by Mami whose workshop is less than a 15-minute drive from the hotel. Local artisans produced the poolside tables and umbrellas, while Sensatia Botanicals from Indonesia supplied the vegan, reef-safe and eco-friendly bath amenities.   

In 2017, the sisters brought their grandfather back to Lombok where he reunited with his sister whom he had not met for more than 25 years. Claire shared: “Our beloved grandfather was overjoyed when we told him we would start a project in Lombok. He always spoke so highly of his home. We showed the piece of land before construction started. Unfortunately he passed on before we opened the hotel. He would be very proud of us and we’re positive that he’s watching us closely.”

While he was not able to see the fruits of their labour, he certainly provided more than enough inspiration. The sisters are currently expanding the hotel with more villas. “In the long run, we hope to welcome you to other Somewhere locations around the world. We have big plans for the brand,” enthused Valia.

Source: CNA/st