Indonesia is a large country, and 2 months are barely enough. Sumatra’s Bukit Lawang is one of only four places in the world where Orangutans can be seen in the wild. Great experience!
There are lots of beautiful nature and active volcanoes in Indonesia. Also good swimming and diving possibilities.
Street vendors can be very aggressive. Be prepared to say “No thank you” many times 🙂
Be careful when shopping. Take a look around town before you buy anything. It is not unusual that an item can be bought for less than 10% of the first price you hear.
Left Singapore by boat, and headed for Indonesia. First part of the journey was 2 hours to the island Batam. From there we got into another boat in which we spent 5 very exiting hours! A small boat combined with a rough sea provided the ingredients for a dangerous ride. At one time I actually thought the boat would capsize… Then there was another boat-change, this time fortunately to a slow boat on calmer waters. 11 hours later the boat arrived in Pekan Baru in the middle of Sumatra. From there we took a bus north to Medan. Another 11 hours later (36 hours after we left Singapore) we finally arrived. The bus ride was as nerve wrecking as the second boat ride! Most bus drivers in Indonesia are suicidal and there are bus wrecks all over!
Medan wasn’t even our final destination. We were actually heading for Bukit Lawang and the jungle of Northern Sumatra. The bus ride to Bukit Lawang from Medan took about 3 hours – again with a crazy bus driver. Got a nice room in Bukit Lawang for just over US$1. The reason for visiting Bukit Lawang was the possibility for seeing Orangutans in the wild (or semi-wild). It is one of the few places in the world where this is possible. We booked a two-day jungle trek.
The absolute highlight of the trek happened only 30 minutes after it started. Just inside jungle we heard noises in the treetops. And then suddenly 3 Orangutans – one of which had a baby, surrounded us. It was an amazing experience. The Orangutans are only semi-wild, because they receive food from a rehabilitation center. But they live in the jungle and decide for themselves if they want the food or find it themselves. As time goes they learn to find food for themselves and they stop coming to the feeding place. We met the animals in the jungle away from the feeding place and were able to hand-feed them with fruit. They were very close and felt tremendously strong.
After a while, more Orangutans came and the guide felt we should move before we would be surrounded by the animals. We walked further into the jungle and at our next rest another Orangutan came to us. She was hand-fed with fruit.
Had a great jungle trek the rest of the two days. Heard other monkeys, saw giant ants, learned about the different trees and plants, saw a waterfall, swam in a river, slept on the ground and saw a large cave filled with bats. Pretty good!
Next stop was the beautiful Lake Toba, situated about 8 hours Southeast by bus. This time we took a tourist bus. They practice safer driving, but are more expensive. Lake Toba is very large. In the middle lies an island the size of Singapore. This island is called Samosir island, and that was where we were headed.
Saw the island by moped. The surroundings are beautiful with the almost always visible. Saw farmers plough fields with oxen. Drove about 80km during the day.
From Lake Toba we would go all the way to Jakarta. We took a public bus… 52 looooong hours later we arrived in Jakarta. On the way we crossed the Equator.
Spent an interesting day in Jakarta. At first we went to the harbour, which was very interesting. Part of the harbour was very old fashioned. Old schooners laid side by side for as long as the eye could see. People were carrying flour and cement across narrow planks. Between jakarta 50-70kg per person! The other part of the harbour was modern with cranes and trucks.
Saw the equivalence of the American Sea World with sea lions and dolphins, and Fantasy World – a kind of Disney World with great rides.
In the centre of Jakarta there is a tall monument. From this monument there is a great view over the city of Jakarta.
The train ride to Yogyakarta was 10 hours. On our way out of the train we witnessed the punishment of an apparent pocket thief. A large man came into the wagon carrying a stick, headed directly for an Indonesian guy whom he beat repeatedly with the stick. Then he dragged him out. There you go – don’t steal!
If you like batik, Yogyakarta is the place to go. Be careful of the price though, because people will try to rip you off. During the few days we stayed in the city we saw the same piece of batik presented to both US$250 and US$10. Forget about cutting one third of the price when bargaining. In Indonesia if you bid 10% of the starting price you are likely to get hung up on just that and still get ripped off.
Be aware that every salesperson will speak a few words in your language. Whether it is English or Danish.
Saw a Sultans palace in Yogyakarta and took a bus to the Borobodur, a famous Buddhist temple. Its a 1200 year old temple which is built entirely without cement. It is massive and 35m high. It used to be even higher, but a lightning took the top.
We also saw the Kaliurang volcano – although there weren’t much to see. There are an abundance of volcanoes in Indonesia – unfortunately we were out of time. We had planned on spending Christmas on Bali and in order to make it we had to continue.
Kuta – Bali
Spent Christmas and New Years in Kuta on Bali. It was kind of strange to spend most Christmas Eve in a swimming pool – I missed snowy Denmark!
There is not much to do in Kuta except for partying. The town is filled with tourists and annoying salespersons selling fake watches and the beach is terrible. It’s an okay place to relax though because there are plenty of restaurants and places to watch video.
After New Years we left for Lombok – the island just east of Bali. Took first a bus and then a ferry to Sengigi on Lombok. From there we took a taxi to Senaru – the starting point for treks to the volcano Mt. Rinjani.
We were three guys traveling together by now. We rented a tent, bought food and left for what was supposed to be a five-day trek. Due to different reasons it ended up being only a two-day trek, but it was good anyway. The trek started in 700m and went through jungle where we saw plenty of birds and monkeys. The volcano rim was in 2100m. It was a beautiful spot. We could see down the crater and to an even higher top 3700m high. We could see almost all of Lombok including the three Gilli islands. Spent the night at the rim and walked down the next day.
Took a bus across Lombok, crossed the water to Sumbawa by ferry, crossed Sumbawa by bus and took a ferry through an amazing sunset to Komodo. Komodo is where the infamous Komodo dragons live. Very large lizards – up to 4m long – live here. The dragons are not restricted to certain parts of the island, so you have to watch were you are going. On our way into the island we saw four black-tipped sharks circling around something.
The first dragon we saw was walking between some of the tourist huts…
Went for a guided tour of the island where we saw several dragons. Pretty amazing experience. We also saw wild pigs and dear which are the animals the dragons feed on.
There are approximately 2200 dragons on Komodo – and another 1000 on islands near by. The dragons are very dangerous – if you get bitten your chances are less than great. Their mouths are filled with bacteria, so they hunt by biting their prey and then follow it until it dies komodo of infection. The dragons are not usually aggressive towards humans, but they are suspected in two deaths.
We also went swimming in the waters off Komodo. Quite exciting considering that the dragons swims between the islands in the area…
After Komodo we went further east to the island of Flores.
From the ferry heading for Flores we saw both sharks and dolphins. We landed Labuhanbajo from where we continued to a town called Bajawa. Animal concern is not at the top of the list in Indonesia. A live pig was placed on the top of the bus when we left for Bajawa. It fell of the first time the bus turned. The bus just stopped and the – now bleeding – pig was placed on the top of the bus again.
Another bus we drove with had live chickens on all four sides – outside! The chickens were hanging from a rope going all the way around the bus.
From Bajawa we visited two villages still living in a very traditional way. We had a good guide and it was a very interesting trip.
Next stop was Riung situated at the North coast of Flores. From there we had access to a nice beach and good snorkeling. Not so many fish, but corals in all colours. Great.
Continued to a town called Moni. Here we took a great one-day trek three coloured lakes different coloured lakes. The view was great and the weather like wise. On the way down we saw traditional weaving.
That was it for Flores. We took a bus to Maumere from where we took a plane back to Kuta on Bali. There were some great views of the islands from the plane.
Bali – Ubud
Back on Bali we rented a car an spend 6 days driving around the island. Went to where we saw the Calonarang and the Kecak dances. Fantastic experience. Especially the Kecak dance was very intense. Saw the beautiful rice paddies so typical for Bali and went up North to the famous Gunung Agung volcano – the very large volcano always seen on Bali pictures. On the side of the volcano lies a beautiful temple.
Further along the way we saw Gunung Batur, another volcano, this one creating a large lake. Went back to Ubud where we saw more traditional dancing and then we headed back south past Denpasar and Kuta to Bukit Peninsula. Here on top of some impressive cliffs lies cliffs the temple Uli Watu. The view was fantastic.
That was Indonesia for this time. Spend a few days relaxing in Kuta and took then a plane to Auckland, New Zealand.
Indonesia is a vast country and the two months we had were hardly enough. There is plenty to see!