Friday, 15 March 2019

Travelling the Indonesian Islands - Part 1


Island hopping has long since been a travel trend. In this post, we explore the best ways to island-hop in Indonesia. A mysterious and undeniably beautiful place in the World, in the spirit of “Travel Trends” we are going to look, across two Blog posts, at different ways to travel and enjoy Indonesia, from the hip, trendy backpackers to the luxe-seeking spa-ers! In this Blog post, we’re looking at the place itself, and in the next one, the best places for different travellers.



It’s such a huge topic. Where do you even start? How about some stats:  


  • “Indonesia” is actually the World’s largest island nation.
  • The archipelago (love that word) consists of 17,000 islands! 
  • Covering 12 million square miles. 
  • 300 ethnic groups (all pretty much living in harmony I might add). 
  • Contains 20% of the World’s (living) coral reefs.


Bali is clearly the best known of the Indonesian islands, and we’ll talk a little about it, but Travel Trends is all about the lesser-known, so that’s what we’re going to focus on in this post.

JAKARTA & JAVA

Considered the “heart” of Indonesia, did you know that Java is the World’s most populated island?

Let’s not, also, forget “Java Man” one of the earliest fossils of “homo erectus” found on the island of Java in 1891, giving us one of the biggest insights into our ancestors.

You’ll most likely fly into Jakarta, the capital of the Indonesian Islands. Perhaps a shock to some, but it looks like any modern capital…but maybe more beautiful… A kind of fusion of Western skyscrapers and traditional Indonese elegance. It has a mixture you wouldn’t find in a lot of modern cities, however, in terms of handmade artefacts to one side and haute-couture to the other! You’ll also find beautiful colonial buildings, many of which are now used as fine-dining restaurants, dating back to the 16th Century. However street-food is a must-do, with Chinese being the predominant influence here.



If you’re interested in the original culture, you should definitely visit Setu Babakan in Srengseng Sawah, South Jakarta. Your Blogger believes that this is a must wherever you go, because you’re showing respect to the country you’re visiting that you’re interested in their history, their essence. This is one of the very last in-tact Betawi village communities in Jakarta and here you can see how they live, experience their culture and dance, fish, generally get a flavour of this area of Indonesia.

Whilst you’re here, you should also visit Yogyakarta, Indonesia’s “second city” and a pretty cool one at that. Jakarta is the responsible big sister, and Yogyakarta is the naughty little brother! All spiritual, cool, with all-night shadow puppet shows if that’s your thing! Still headed by a sultan, Yogyakarta is far from old-fashioned, as you’ll see from the shopping malls and fast-food places. It’s also a great place to base yourself if you want to visit the two major heritage sites of Borobudur and Prambanan.




You really should visit Borobudur. It’s the biggest Buddhist temple in the World. Built in the 8th Century. Now, your esteemed Blogger isn’t particularly religious but she is keen on the principles of Buddhism, and if you’re making the trip there, to get the most dramatic views, you should go at dawn or dusk…very spiritual, very enlightened, built with over 2 million blocks of stone, you will see ancient reference here to many things, one being cause and effect ergo karma.

Prambanan is Indonesia’s largest Hindu site, consisting of 244 temples. Not much is known about its origins, just that it was started in the 9th Century and is thought to have commemorated the return of a Hindu dynasty to sole power in Java. Due to seismic activity (a bit of an occupational hazard in Indonesia), the temples have been knocked down and lovingly restored more than once. It is the most breath-taking place, and you need at least a day to do it justice.


Right, this is a massive topic, so guys, we need to move on. You wanted off the beaten track Indonesian Islands? Let’s go native: the Karimunjawa Islands. 90km or so North of Jepara on the mainland (you’ll need to get a boat from there, and also find your sea legs as it can be extremely rough), Karimumjawa is an archipelago (that word again) consisting of 27 islands, only 5 of which are inhabited. Most of the population are Javanese, but there are some Bugis and Madurese families as well. Basically think white sand beaches and turquoise seas. Nothing too fancy. Very unknown. And where many Indonesians go for their holidays, so it must be good!


SUMATRA

Often in the news for its lively volcanic situation, in short you should expect to find a wild, wanton landscape, with beautiful lakes, and jungles straight out of the Jungle Book, filled with elephants, rhinos, tigers and of course, orang-utans! Then down to sea level, and idyllic, deserted beaches with the sea of your dreams…take me there right now!



 Still pretty wild and undiscovered, here you’ll find a melting pot of religions from Muslim, to Christian to Minangkabau of Pedang…all living in harmony thanks to their love, and fear, of their land.

At this stage, still, you’re probably better to do an organised tour, if nothing else, to get the most out of this wild place! And to have the chance to see the animals, swim in the right lakes, and find the right beaches.
Weh Island is off the scale… again, definitely off the beaten track.



KALIMANTAN

This is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be a proper traveller here, or at least, relatively fit and raring to have a go…You are quite likely to travel for weeks and not actually meet anyone who isn’t a local, so it’s advised that you learn some of the local lingo (Bahasa Indonesia) before you go. To get back en piste however, this is actually the Indonesian part of Borneo, so think rainforests and adventure. Also the best place probably in the World to see the orang-utans which is pretty awesome.



Let’s go even crazier and braver now, and let’s take a trip to the Derawan Archipelago (there we go again) where you will hang up your jungle trekking hat, and put on your bikini.  Out of the 31 named islands, the most accessible and, well, inhabited, are Derawan and the Maratua atoll.  For divers, the uninhabited Sangalaki and Kakaban islands are, basically, Mecca.  Here you’ll find stunning, undisturbed reefs, turtles, sharks, barracuda and mantas…it is very, very remote, so you must plan in advance.  No phones.  No Google.  Nothing.  But guess what, how wonderful.


BALI

We must touch on what is pretty much the best-known Indonesian Island. And really, Bali has something for everyone, as we mentioned before. 

Kuta is the budget traveller’s destination really, where you can stay for very little and party all night. Those with more money, or basically more grown-up travellers, would head to Seminyak for its beach clubs and designer kaftans…The beaches in this area are so great for surf, that Quicksilver and Rip Curl both have schools here! Further South it becomes more secluded, with some mind-blowing places to stay on a promontory known as the “burkit” with unrivalled clifftop views over the Indian Ocean.



Ubud is the spiritual and cultural capital with beautiful performances of the arts, places to visit and some beautiful spas. Head North for trekking through rice fields and visiting volcanoes, or the Bali Barat National Park for boar and deer. Should you want diving, you’ll find batfish, giant trevally and jacks off Menjangan Island…


In short, Bali has everything. Fabulous for the traveller on a budget with World class beaches and inexpensive hostels, and don’t forget, Bali has long since been a backpacker destination, so they are set up for younger visitors. Equally, you can find some of the most expensive hotels and resorts in the World there, too. Spas to die for. Yoga retreats galore. The World, in Bali, really is your oyster.

LOMBOK & THE GILI ISLANDS

Only 30 miles East of Bali, you’ll find Lombok. More chilled, with excellent surfing in the South, you’ll find Mount Rinjami and the stunning crater lake at its summit. Only 30 mins by boat will take you to the Gili Islands. Literally the islands of dreams, you will not believe the beaches and the ocean is real. There are no cars, so the means of travel is bicycle (we all know how that works for your esteemed Blogger…not!) or a type of horse drawn cart called cidomos. Here you’ll find retreats, spas, villa resorts the list is endless, and breathtakingly beautiful.


SULAWESI TO TIMOR

If we carry on along this route, we’ll encompass islands of dramatic, smoking volcanoes and caldera lakes, we’ll also take in Sulawesi. This is real travelling now, where the adventurous can take in Bunaken National Park and homestay with the Toraja people. Flores and Timor are pretty, colonial towns, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Once there, you must visit Komodo National Park and Rinca, the home of the famous Komodo Dragons, the biggest lizards in the World.


PAPUA

Did you know that New Guinea is the second biggest island in the World? Papua is the Western, Indonesian portion. Here you’ll find rainforests that the Raja Ampat archipelago (last time) which is part of what is known as the “Coral Triangle” and is recognised as the most biodiverse marine habitat on the planet with some of the World’s most coveted dive spots.


Here, dear Readers, we end our whistle-stop tour of Indonesian Islands, because I don’t know about you, but I am a bit island-hopped out!  However, one Blog post engenders another, so watch out for the next one, as we stay in Indonesia, and examine the best places to stay if you’re a backpacker, a luxe traveller, or anything in between!


We hope you’ve enjoyed your travels with us today! Until next time, dear Readers, happy travelling!



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2 comments:

  1. Really interesting! I did not know much about Indonesia, made me wanna go.

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  2. Thanks Carol! It's always so lovely to have feedback, and that's the reason we're doing this Travel Trends Blog, to hopefully help or inspire our Readers to visit somewhere different. Thanks again!

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