Mataram is the capital of Lombok. The town actually consists of four different towns Ampenan, Mataram, Cakranegara (Cakra) and Sweta. Ampenan has most of city sights, including Negeri Nusa Tenggara Barat museum, which gives a good overview of the culture of Lombok. Cakra is the best place for eating, sleeping and shopping. It also has the Water Palace, which is worth a visit and the largest temple of Lombok, Meru Purse. Mataram is the administrative centre and Sweta the transport connection of the whole island.
As a center of government administration, Mataram has many large, impressive public buildings and substantial houses. The city also has transportation and shopping facilities. The main square is used for art exhibitions, theater, dance, and wayang kulit (puppet theater) performances. In other parts of Mataram, there are a variety of old-style markets and neighborhoods featuring traditional craftwork like basketware and gold- and silver-threaded sarongs, or wraparound garments.
Ampenan port was once Lombok's main port, but it now relies mostly on fishing vessels. Cakranegara has significant Balinese and Chinese populations; the Chinese have been brought by the Dutch to provide cheap labor. Although officially 3 separate towns, Ampenan, Mataram and Cakranegara actually run together, so it's difficult to tell where one stop and the next starts. There are banks, travel agents, mall, interesting shops, traditional markets and few things to see, but the town is not a major attraction.
The main commercial centre of Lombok, has a thriving Chinese and Balinese Community. Most of the shops and restaurants are run and owned by Chinese.
Once was the main port of Lombok. Old buildings with mix population of Chinese, Arabs, and Melayu. You can find many local restaurants with great Chinese and Sasak foods.
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