Why Travel to Indonesia:
world's largest archipelago (13,677 islands), set in Southeast Asia, Indonesia has a huge
variety of wonderful landscapes and strange islands - the terraced
rice paddies of Bali, the forests of Sumatra, the bizarre traditions of the primitive Dani folk in West papua, the weird Tana Toraja buildings and funeral customs on Sulawesi island, the world's largest lizards, Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island and Orangutans on Kalimantan.
The people however strangely attired are generally calm and friendly; the
food is tasty and varied, the wildlife diverse and there is no shortage
Finally, masses of gorgeous, stylish, little ethnic hotels offer
chic comfort at the right price.
- Indonesia's star attraction, the previously sublime Bali is close to ruination due to corrupt over-development, traffic overload and modest crime levels.
- In some years, air pollution 'Haze' has been a problem in summertime.
- Moving from one island to another is time consuming and expensive.
- Because of its popularity, some places such as famous temples or Kuta town/beach in Bali are
too touristy and the local people can be unusually mercenary.
- Beware monkeys. Bali, for example, has colonies that just love to snatch off a pair of expensive sunglasses
and chew them to bits, grab a camera or handbag and scatter the contents or even get money out of your pocket, so ensure your belongings are stashed/zippered before getting close to the thieving little ba*****s, and forget the bananas!
- Dope sellers are often working with the police and can be very bad news.
- AIDS/HIV levels have been at epidemic levels recently in Bali, yet there are no compulsory medical checks on sex workers.
This country is the epitome of tropical so temperatures and humidity are generally high and vary little between seasons; and when it rains it pours! The mountainous central part of Bali e.g. Ubud, gets more rain and cloud than the coast and has lower temperatures.
Best months: June- September is the dry season, with less rain (n.b. not NO rain!) and lower humidity. Temperatures between 23C - 33C (73F - 91F).
OK months: April, May, October.
Worst months: December- February with endless rain.
Bali Island, rice terraces around Ubud
Bali is struggling to maintain a rich and colourful Hindu
heritage under the weight of uncontrolled development and the excessive traffic and noise that come with it.
Ubud, once a relaxed and charming rural town with shabby-chic
hotels and rice terraces is fast - and tragically - becoming a 21stC high-rise nonentity, replacing exotic festivals and fine
crafts with swarms of motorcycles, mercenary attitudes and opportunistic crime.
Visiting elegant temples (pura) of differing shapes, sizes and locations
is one of Bali's must-dos, though some have adopted a tourists-must-pay-and-pay strategy which is deeply unpleasant. e.g. Besakih, the island's premier temple is a must-avoid. The Monkey Forest temples and the however, are enjoyable and near Ubud if you can avoid being robbed by the macaques while Tanah Lot near Legian Beach is a busy but iconic sunset strip. Bali Temples Pictures.
Kuta beach, Bali.
Bali island encompasses a number of excellent beaches, depending on...see Best Bali Beaches.
Lake Bratan is a long drive but the cluster of temples along the waterfront, fine botanic gardens, good restaurants and boating
make it worthwhile.
For more Balinese isolation try heading three hours out from Denpasar
to the northwest coast for black sands, turquoise water, grey rocky
outcrops and green paddy fields. There's a lot to do here, including
bird watching in Bali Barat National Park, boating and fishing in
Gilimanuk Bay and diving or snorkelling 5 miles offshore at Deer
Java: Jakarta, well, we'd prefer to wrestle a Komodo Dragon than spend
another night in Java's unpleasant capital city, an overcrowded, chaotic, stinking, hot, muggy and deeply unpleasant city, crowded with poor living in rubbish dump slums alongside a handful of mega rich living in bling. There are, however, a couple of modest attractions if you're stuck there for a couple of days, some pretty good cuisine and many lovely people. More Jakarta.
Yogyakarta (also known as Yogya, Jogjakarta and Jogja) is Java's best town town, reasonably relaxed and good for Indonesian culture, museums, shows
and batik shopping. The Kraton (palace) is the town's biggest attraction - but that's not saying much as it has no great statues, no special reliefs and no wonderful paintings so if you're expecting lots of grandeur, don't go there. More Yogyakarta.
The real draw for Yogyakarta is as a base to explore Central Java's sights, volcanoes, tea plantations, the huge Hindu temple
of Prambanan and spectacular Borobudur, the finest Buddhist monument in
Sulawesi Island, Tana Toraja effigies of the dead.
island, Tana Toraja region: this island is not too difficult to get to and offers a lot - unique and bizarre indigenous customs (especially
the funeral ceremonies), boat-shaped housing, lovely rural landscapes
and excellent trekking. Sulawesi
Kalimantan wildlife: making up 2/3 of Borneo island (Malaysia and tiny Brunei control 1/3), Kalimantan is a large but little-touristed mass of mountains, wild rivers, primitive cultures, curious beasts and tropical forests, though the last three have been under attack for decades by Indonesia's illegal logging and mining industries.
Kalimantan's best tourist offerings are:
Tanjung Puting National Park is highly recommended for river/rainforest riverboat trips, walks, visits to animal research centres and forest safaris to spot varied monkeys, sun bears, leopards, deer, crocs, lizards, pythons, masses of birds and weird insects and of course orangutans.
water-based Banjarmasin city, a colourful complex of canals, stilt-buildings, the inter-galactic mosque Mesjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin and brilliant floating markets, though there is a hideous modern side too.
visiting Dayak people along the Mahakam River via longboat, especially at Tanjung Isuy.
- the Meratus
Mountains in the south for adventurous trekking, rafting, Dayak people and wildlife including orangutans.
- cruising the islands and beaches around Derawan island (Pulau) with superb snorkeling and diving.
West Papua, Baliem Valley fashions.
West Papua (Balim/Baliem Valley): strangest of all Indonesia's provinces, the Baliem Valley is home to the primitive Dani people who
retain - for the moment - a 'stone-age' culture. Hiking here
is often damp and accommodation can be basic (e.g. sleeping on straw
next to a mummified body) but you won't forget this place. Or the lack of beer! Baliem Valley
Trekking with Dani people in the Baliem Valley, West Papua.
Outdoor Activities in Indonesia:
Trekking: especially interesting would be Balim Valley in
West Papua (half of New Guinea island) for hiking with
very primitive but pleasant people in damp conditions - the deal is the experience of a totally bizarre culture, not the environment, or Tana Toraja on Sulawesi island for gorgeous
pastoral views, wacky housing and fascinating funeral ceremonies
Wildlife: Monkeys, particularly macaques, are noisily visible and sometimes
troublesome in many places but to see the big guys who share 98%
of human DNA - Orangutan - you'll have to take a trip over to Tanjung
Puting National Park in Kalimantan (Borneo island). Or head for Komodo Island to see the largest, most vicious, poisonous Komodo Dragons feasting on goats.
Jungle river boating: Tanjung Puting
National Park in Kalimantan is the place for tropical adventures.
Motor biking and cycling: bike hire
is widely available and cheap and but beware pot-holes, sudden storms and erratic local driving
habits. Defensive, sober driving is the survival key.
Water activities, Bali island: Most beaches offer windsurfing and kayaks but around Kuta and Legian the views are dull and surf makes going tricky so the posh beaches such as Jimbaran and Nusa Dua are better for less experienced sailors. Jet skis are commonplace.
There's often acceptable surf off Kuta beach but the best in the area is on one of the several beaches on the south-east side of the Bukit Peninsula at Uluwatu.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
is best off Bali's east coast (e.g. near Padang Bai), Lombok and Gili islands.
A Balinese cremation ceremony, Ubud.
Beware money changers, especially slick merchants in Bali who give great rates, count the money twice and surreptitiously drop several bills on the second count - after you've made one count! So, you should always count the bundle of notes last. If that's not possible he's a thief. Also, don't accept torn or very dirty money, you may not be able to get rid of it later.
- Don't change money in hotels, airport, banks or shops; the best rates will be at full-time bureaux de change in a competitive environment such as Kuta.
- Shopkeepers and hawkers can be extremely pushy and tourists often end up with kit they don't want, so shop around first and never express an interest in something unless you want to go home with it. If you do want it, bargain hard, starting with an offer of one third of the merchant's price (cue: outrage!). You should be able to finally buy at half the first quoted price (which will be too much), but don't hesitate to walk away.
- "Sing la Piss" is a useful phrase that's not difficult to remember. It means, more or less, "I have no money!"
- a good guide that you trust is worth his weight in rupiahs.
- Some Bali temples, notably Besakih, make outrageous demands regarding entrance fees and guide costs (guides that know nothing except that you should pay also for blessings!). Don't patronise the greed.
- Beware gas/petrol pump rip-offs by keeping a close eye on the price/litres.
- Indonesian Immigration Police at airports
are notoriously corrupt and avaricious so if there's any question mark about your passport then you can expect them to demand money with menaces. The best defence (apparently!) is to make a fuss, shouting loudly about corruption!
March/Apr, Nyepi (Balinese New Year), Bali, a few days
Bali, 10 days.
May (Full-moon)Waisak, Borobudur, 1 day.
June/July, Usaba Sambah,Tenganan (Bali), 1 day.
August, Caci Whip Duels, Ruteng (Flores), 1 day.
Aug-Oct (Sept is the peak), Torajan Funeral Feasts, Tanatoraja (south
central Sulawesi), 1 week.
Toraja Travel | West Papua