An island of startling contradictions and contrasts, Lombok exudes an aura of the staid and the rural, a genteel way of life in a quiet backwater. Located to the east and across a deep strait from its illustrious neighbor Bali, the island of Lombok offers unique culture, beautiful landscapes and a far less frenetic, pressured atmosphere than Bali. However, savvy travelers agree that Lombok’s calm existence may soon come to an end, as it is fast becoming the new "in place" after Bali. The island was once ruled by a series of Sasak princes who spent their time fending off successive invasions from Sumbawanese and Makassarese attackers. In 1740, the Balinese established a stronghold here and imposed their culture on the Sasaks. Later, Lombok came under Dutch rule until the country achieved independence. The western part of the almost circular island is well irrigated by mountain streams and artesian springs. Here Balinese and Sasaks have sculpted handsome rice terraces; Hindu temples vie for attention with glistening white mosques rising from picturesque rural villages. More dramatic is the southern coast with beautiful sandy bays set between rocky outcrops. Most of Lombok’s attractions are concentrated in the western district of the island, within a nine-mile radius of the capital, Mataram. Members of Lombok's polyglot population - Sasak, Balinese, Chinese and Arab - continue their laid-back, traditional ways.