I’ve had the chance to be through many countries around the world, but Indonesia was the richest country I’ve ever seen. More than 17 000 islands, 5 recognized religions, many different languages, varying food culture. Just impressive. It’s so rare that you find such a rich and charming mix of nature, culture and history in one nation.
My trip lasted 17 days, I -desperately- tried to divide them between the too many top must-see places there. The result was: Jakarta, Yogyakarta (mostly known as Jogja), Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok.
I was collecting some useful information throughout my journey and I summed them up here to help you guys better plan your trip if you ever want to travel over there, or simply to enrich the knowledge of who is inspired by Indonesia or South-East Asia in general.
Stop 1: Jakarta. As our plane landed there, we decided to spend 2 days there and feel how it is like to live in one of the most crowded cities of the world. Indeed, it was worth it. Driving through extremely busy streets and taking a look at some famous monuments such as MoNat, Istiqlal Mosque and Kuta Tua was a lifetime experience. more than 10 million people live in Central Jakarta. Just for info, the total population of Tunisia, my home country, is around 11 million… Traffic jam has got a totally other dimension there. I figured out how naïve I was when I complain about the rush hour here in Germany, well anyway… My wife and I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to see the beautiful skyline of Jakarta at night, but luckily and awesome friend, whom we met there showed us this shot (Thanks Belli for that ! ;-) ).
Stop 2: Yogyakarta. Situated 550 km south-eastern Java (and Jakarta, too), we planned to travel there by train. But we found out all means of transport were fully booked because of the Christmas period. So the plane was the last and only option. Although both cities are in the same island, they are so different from each other. Food, language, landscapes… everything. What you must see here is of course the biggest Buddhist (Borobudur) and Hindou (Prambanan) temples of the world. I liked Borobudur way more. Especially when you reach it before sunrise time. A unique experience which is worth getting up at 2 am in the morning and 2 hours driving. Some last minute plan was to visit Merapi Volcano, the most active volcano in Indonesia, unfortunately tours up there were fully booked because of the long weekend holidays. Yes, in Indonesia you should either book in advance or avoid public holidays, as local tourism literally overwhelms all famous cities. Yes, 240 million people (Indonesia total population) should be considered in such plans.
Stop 3: Bali. The best way to travel overthere would be by train with a couple of stops on the way. First one is Mount Bromo, the highest volcano in whole Indonesia with the challenge to get on the top at sunrise (also a lifetime experience). Second one is Surabaya, a famous city closest to Bali. But you should have enough time to do this in-land trip across Java… . The first impression I got when I arrived to Bali is: This is not Indonesia, this is Australia. Bali is very popular among Australians, everything is in English and almost all local people can speak English. Bali is huge, you have to select which spots you wanna visit. We chose to stay in Sanur for the first a couple of days to discover South-Bali. We wanted to avoid Kuta, Bali’s main city as it’s over crowded, expensive and full of party, “over-drunk” people (yes, there must be an adjective created for them). We spent a day in Bali Water Bom, the 3rd biggest water park in the world. It was expensive but we made sure to get advantage of every cent we had spent there, worth the detour. Our second stay was in Ubud, Bali’s cultural city. I realized that I did not correctly understand the right meaning of “culture” before I visited Ubud. It’s also unexplainable in words. So if it happens that you are in Bali, just don’t ever omit a stopover in Ubud. This city is also the best place to try Rafting through a tropical forest. This experience would be given the best by “Ubud Rafting Adventure”, a local rafting agency based out there.
Stop 4: Gili Islands. The Gilis are 3 small islands near Lombok. The kind of small that there is only bicycles available on them. Very famous for their original atmosphere. If you are a party guy or girl, go for Gili Trawangan. If you are a honeymoon couple, Gili Meno is the best one. If you are in family or just want to spend some calm moments enjoying nature, choose Gili Meno. Our fully-booked-stuff problem obliged us to stay in Trawangan. The best thing there was to enjoy a full view of sun-sea sunset with the shape of Bali and its volcano in the scope. Undescribable beauty of nature. A cycling tour through the island is a must-do there too (60-90min). You will have great views on intime-Meno and wild-Lombok forests and mountains.
Stop 5: Lombok. Here you start getting out of popular touristy places in Indonesia. Lombok is (also) a huge island near Bali with a very high volcano (last eruption Oct. 2014) to the top of which no one has ever made it. Although it’s a big island, it’s quite simple to drive through it as the main places are connected with almost one road. We stayed in Senggigi for the same reason of avoiding crowded Kuta in Lombok. We also had the advantage of having a 10-min drive to Malimbu Beach, one with the most beautiful views in Lombok. Here you have to be more careful as there are unfortunately a lot of thieves (because of poverty). We started our stay with visiting the island’s famous waterfalls. 3 hours drive, 1 hour of “basic” but worth it hiking. Lombok waterfalls are a must-see if you missed the ones in Bali. The most beautiful beaches are near Lombok-Kuta. breath-taking landscapes with a special blue-color of the water. The one which I could recommend is not very famous for tourists (I consider this as an advantage as I tend to visit original and unknown places) and it’s called Selong Belanak Beach. Lombok is also famous of the “Pink Beach”, a beach with a special sand which has pink tint. We could not make it to visit it as it was literally on the other side of the island and only accessible with a boat.
Those 17 days were among the most enriching ones in my life. You always learn something through travelling. I made valuable friends, I tried a new food-culture, a discovered a new piece of history and I touched another side of this world. If you are a keen traveler and have always had a continuous will to discover South-East Asia. Indonesia is a must-discover.
Because sharing is caring, I will try to sum up in my next article some useful tips, pieces of advice and the best practices I’ve gathered through my stay there. Just follow me on my blog (just hit the button in page-footer) to get notified in the right time about my next writings.
I wish you have enjoyed reading about my experience, All the best – Ash.