Sulawesi island, Tana Torajah
Sulawesi Island, Tana Toraja effigies of the dead.
Sulawesi 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 Pictures.
North Sulawesi is also a popular diving destination.
Kalimantan island, 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 sights
• 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 orang utans.
• 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, Balim/Baliem Valley
West Papua, Baliem Valley fashions in the year 1996. We don’t know what the current fashion is (that’s not the sort of place you go to every couple of years!) but really hope it isn’t shorts and T shirts!
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 Pictures
Surfing at Balangan beach on Bukit Peninsula, Bali
The west coast of Bukit from Balangan in the north to Uluwatu/Suluban in the south offers the best supported surfing in Indonesia, with excellent little places to stay, rental boards, rental scooters with board racks, cold beers, warm friends and often open to all abilities. See Bali beaches for more info
Trekking with Dani people in the Baliem Valley, West Papua, 1996.
The Balim Valley in West Papua (half of New Guinea island) is a fascinating place 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 August-October.
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 lizards in the world – Komodo Dragons – feasting on goats.
Jungle river boating: Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan is the place for tropical adventures.
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.
Motorbiking , usually rental scooters: bike hire is widely available and cheap and but beware pot-holes, sudden storms and grasping police who will bust you for any infraction (e.g. stopping with your tyre 1cm over the stop line at junctions), or even an imaginary issue, just so long as you have money in your pocket for immediate payment of the fine.
Defensive driving is one survival key, with helmet, obey all laws even if the locals don’t. And hide most of your money so if/when you are stopped and ‘fined’ you can open your wallet and the corrupt copper sees only a lonely 50k note (about $3 in 2016). More information on motorbiking below.
• Exchange rates are controlled these so there will be little difference between exchanges. Even hotels are not unreasonable. All popular town will have various exchange offerings clearly displayed. However, spending a million rupiahs on a modest night out may take some getting used to! At this time (2016) 50,000 Rps equals about 4 euros.
• Shopkeepers and hawkers can be 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!
• the police (polisi) are even worse, stopping foreign bike riders for imaginary infractions and demanding instant fines or a trip to the police station. I was busted for crossing an orange light on the road from Kuta to Sanur. Since when has that been a crime? The corrupt bike officer told me a court would fine me 1,000,000 Rps but he would take 500,000 to settle now. After a discussion he reduced it to 300k. When I suggested 100k he said “follow me to the police station.” I might have done so out of bloody-mindedness but my wife and I were keen to see Sanur ASAP so I paid the corrupt copper (300k = $24).
However, the next time I was busted for exiting a temple car park from the entrance I argued more forcefully and ended up paying 25000 RPs ($2)