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A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

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Jul 1st, 2016, 07:27 PM
  #1
kja
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A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

My trip to Singapore, central and eastern Java, and Bali was absolutely wonderful, filled with of the kinds of moments that make me stop to say, “OMG, how is it possible that I am fortunate enough to experience these things?!?” What an awesome and fascinating part of the world, and what a memorable month!

I offer my most sincere thanks to the many people who helped me plan this trip, whether by responding to my questions or by sharing information through other means – you all contributed to what was, for me, a journey through awe-inspiring places and an itinerary that very successfully indulged my interests.
• Special thanks to Kathie and marmot, who generously and patiently shared their extensive knowledge of these areas.
• “Honorable mention” to those who provided information that helped me adjust my itinerary to include some special moments – AskOksena (robert), crellston, gr21, and tripplanner001.
• Many of you shared ideas about food and drink, including CaliNurse, jactetwatch (Larry), ms_go, Nelson, Rich, Smeagol, thursdaysd, and Tontorino.
• I appreciated advice about my overall trip routing and flight arrangements from doug_stallings, FromDC, Kay2, MinnBeef, Odin, and progol (Paule).
• And I was grateful to receive other tips from dugi_otok, Guenmai, and trotsky.
I can’t say I took full advantage of the information that any of you gave, but I am confident that my trip was far better because of your input. Fodorites ROCK!

I’ll begin with a bit about me for context:
• This was a 1-month trip. 

• I’m a reasonably experienced solo independent female traveler.
• This was my first trip to each of these areas and my first trip south of the equator. (I’ve been to Asia before, but well north of the equator – Japan, northern China, and South Korea.)
• I plan my trips with an eye to maximizing the diversity of my experiences. My tastes are fairly eclectic, but not entirely indiscriminate: I typically enjoy art, architecture, historic ruins, museums, religious structures, parks and gardens, natural scenery, buildings of state or defense (e.g., palaces and fortresses), markets (for their atmosphere, not for shopping), picturesque villages, good food and wine, folk traditions, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world.
• I generally don’t seek opportunities to relax (relying on meals and time in transit for that). Instead, I hope to take full advantage of every moment I have on the road!
• I’m not a shopper, but I do buy gifts for family and friends when abroad, preferrably as close to the end of my trip as possible.
• I learned a few phrases in Indonesian before my trip – not much, not well, and with a focus on civilities.

My plan for this TR is to
• Summarize my final itinerary and
• Offer my observations on the best and worst of the trip, overall;
• Provide a bit more detail about my time in Singapore and
• Offer some observations about the best and worst of my time in Singapore (insofar as my bests & worsts differ from those for the trip as a whole, or if something seems to me worthy of special mention);
• Provide a bit more detail about my time in Java and the best and worst of that part of my trip;
• And finally, provide a bit more detail about my time in Bali and the best and worst of that part of my trip.
Questions are welcome at any time!

Here’s my final itinerary:
• I left the eastern U.S. on Qatar Airways for Singapore, taking an early evening flight with a short stopover in Doha (less than 4 hours)
• Singapore: 5 nights at the Adonis Hotel (about 4.5 days)
• Borobudur: 3 nights at the Manohara Resort (about 2 days)
• Yogyakarta: 2 nights at the Phoenix Hotel (about 2 days)
• Surakarta: 3 nights at the Royal Surakarta Heritage (about 2.5 days)
• Blitar: 2 nights at the Hotel Tugu Blitar (not quite 2 days)
• Malang: 2 nights at the Hotel Tugu Malang (over a full day, if not quite 1.5 days)
• Bromo: 1 night at the Lava View Lodge (an evening and part of a morning)
• Ubud, 1st stay: 6 nights at the Kampoeng Joglo Abangan (more than 4 days)
• Bunutan / Amed: 1 night at the Bali Dream House (an evening and a morning)
• Ubud, 2nd stay: 2 nights at the Ubud Tropical Garden (not quite 2 full days)
• I left Ubud on Qatar Airways for the eastern U.S. on an late afternoon flight with a long stop in Doha (close to 9 hours)

If it helps, here are my key, final planning threads:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-singapore.cfm
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...ks-in-java.cfm
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/9-days-in-bali.cfm



With that, here’s what I liked best about the trip as a whole:
• The warm welcome I received from SOOooooo many people -- in Singapore and in Java and in Bali – such kindness!

• The chance to see and experience an incredibly diverse range of things! Granted, I plan my trips with a focus on incorporating a wide range of options, but even so, my experiences on this trip exceeded my hopes! I was priveliged to experience an extraordinary range of:

... Natural environments (even if shaped by man)! From the spectacular ash- and steam-spewing volcanos of Bromo (Java) to the, flooded rice fields in Java and Bali; from the shaded forests of central Java to the voluptuously and impossibly steep potato and peanut terraces of central Java and the Jatiluwih rice terraces of Bali; from the boiling cauldrans of the Sikidang Krator on the Dieng Plateau (Java) to the nearly still waters of a the Telaga Pacuh “sacred pool” near Blitar (Java)…. And the night sky, with such bright stars (I live in a city) and unfamiliar constellations! I could go on and on….

... Man-made environments, ancient and modern! From the breathtaking Borobudur mandala to Singapore’s modern architecture; from the traditional homes of central Java to the village compounds of Bali; from Singapore’s shophouses through the kratons of Indonesia; …

... Performing arts! From high tech light shows to dance and martial arts lessons taught in the coolness of Singapore’s subways; from the highly stylized Ramayana Ballet and Balinese legong to puppet shows, whether 2-D (wayang kulit) or 3-D (wayang golek), from the gamelan to the wayang orang….

... And speaking of gamelan, so many wonderful sounds! Gamelan orchestras and musicians; the sound of the gentle surf shifting the pebbles of the beach along the Amed coast; the whisk! of a woman’s machete cutting a swathe of ripe rice plants; the oddly engaging calls of the small lizards who shared several hotel rooms with me; and OMG, the adult males – from late teens and up! – who provided the chorus for the Kecek in Junjungan Village….

... Religious sanctuaries and traditions! From the ancient Buddhist and Hindu ruins of Java to the stunning Hindu temples of Bali, from grand mosques to the tiny Armenian church in Singapore, from koi pond of Singapore’s cathedral to the glorious waterworks of Bali’s sacred water temples…. And it wasn’t just the structures, but also the ongoing practice of differing religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, hints of anamism…. I hadn’t previously been anywhere with Hindu temples, and found myself deeply moved by what I saw, including several ceremonies and celebrations. And I was very deeply impressed by the respectful coexistence of religions in the places I visited – so inspiriing!

... The tastes! So many unfamiliar fruits and so many delicious meals! Wow! I had the option of “upscale Western” almost everywhere I went, and I rarely (but occasionally) made that choice. More frequently, I took the opportunity to savor local options. From the black-pepper crab of Singapore through the grilled carp of central Java, from the various curried dishes everywhere, and the nearly daily “OMG, what is this amazingly delicous fruit!” moments I encountered from day – WOW!

... The scents! From night-blooming shrubs in Singapore to the incense offerings in Ubud; from food stalls to spice markets; from the chocolate plantation outside Blitar to the coffee plantation outside Ubud... and so many more!

... Massages! Let me start by noting that before this trip, I had never – ever! – had a professional massage. But the idea of an affordable massage half-way there (in the spa within Doha's airport) appealed, and many of my guidebooks offered positive comments about the massages in Java and Bali. I must say that I welcomed a 30-minute massage after a 15-hour flight! And then, well, the prices for treatments at my hotels were so low, how could I not?!?

... So many interactions with non-humans! -- Birds feeding from my hand at the Lory House of the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore; riding a “small horse” at Gedong Songo, swimming with fish over the reef near Amed (Bali); trying to keep monkeys from my water bottle at the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud; …

... Markets! Fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, prepared foods, textiles (OMG, such glorious textiles!), birds, flowers, baskets – all so colorful! -- spices, traditional medicines, and (it sometimes seemed) anything that could legally be bought or sold.

Bottom line: I encountered a few nice things on this trip.

That said, not everything was a delight. So here’s my list of what I liked LEAST about the trip as a whole:

• The heat and humidity. I do not deal well with humid heat. At all. And OMG, it was HOT and HUMID!!!

• The flight. Honestly, I’m not aware of anything that an airline can do to make a 15 or 16 hour flight in steerage (aka economy) pleasant, but OMG, those flights were long and hard to tolerate!

• The difficulty in finding affordable wine, particularly in Java, but also in Bali, and even in Singapore. It’s quite understandable – there is no local wine industry, and the cost of importing wine is non-trivial, so I mention the issue not to complain, but just to provide information….

• A seeming fondness of some Idonesian restaurants for hosting bands that play decades-old “golden oldies” from the U.S. that did so (sorry, but honestly) quite badly. IMO, there’s something incredibly pathetic about “Don't Worry, Be Happy" when played too slowly and off-key. JMO.

• Did I mention the oppressive heat and humidity? Awful…!


Hmmm ... it seems that my "liked least" list is shorter than my "liked most" list! If you think that's because I covered Singapore, Java, AND Bali in these lists, you'll have to read on. ;-)
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Jul 1st, 2016, 07:46 PM
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Great - so looking forward to one of your reports.
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Jul 1st, 2016, 07:48 PM
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Wow kja...you are off to another great start. I can't wait to read more.
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Jul 1st, 2016, 08:01 PM
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Terrific start kja, glad the trip went well, and I look forward to the details.
I can totally empathise with the heat and humidity aspect, it can be quite draining.
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Jul 1st, 2016, 08:21 PM
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Oh good, I've been waiting for this.

Surprised you hadn't tried massage before. I see a massage therapist regularly - if it wasn't for her and my chiro my upper back would have seized up long ago!

I think the only solution to the pain of long flights in cattle class is to pretend we're on an inter-stellar exploration. Put everyone to sleep and stack them up.

Waiting to hear about Singapore...
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Jul 1st, 2016, 08:50 PM
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I'm delighted to see you start this report.

The massages in Indonesia are wonderful! I'm glad you partook.
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Jul 1st, 2016, 10:20 PM
  #7
kja
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Unbelievable – within hours, so many encouraging comments from delightful vicarious travel companions!

@ MaryW: I don’t think you’ll find much about ceramics in this report, except for a bit about … well, you’ll have to wait! Hint: in Singapore. (OK, I give: In Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Musuem. I thought of you while there!)

@ dgunbug: Thanks for your kind words! I hope you continue to find reason to read on.

@ sartoric: Really, heat and humidity can be daunting, can’t they? I’ve already said it; I will say it again. Often.

@ thursdaysd: I like the idea of the interstellar-like biomolecular suspension! Do post a trip report after your first such trip. ;-)

The problem with having now experienced several massages is, of course, that I want to have more – MORE, MORE, MORE!!! I’m sure I would enjoy every one! But every one will cut into my savings for my next trip.

@ Kathie: Although my experience is limited, oh yes, those Indonesian massages were wonderful! I’m also glad I partook!


More to come....
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Jul 1st, 2016, 11:11 PM
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It has been a while since I was last in Singapore. I've been going there since my first overseas trip at 16 - back in the dark ages. Its certainly changed but then so has everywhere. I still like it and now have a brother living there but don't get there often. I know the collection at the Museum and must get back for another look some time. I look forward to your impressions of both it and the city. I'm really looking forward to all the things that don't have to do with ceramics!
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 03:37 AM
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Awesome, kja. It brings me joy to learn that you came away from a special part of the globe with the experiences you had. And I love the way you bring it to life for us; it's so different from the other reports yet so much fun.
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 03:57 AM
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Wonderful! I've been looking forward to reading your report!

As you may remember, I had initially planned a trip to this region but had to cancel. Now, when we finally do go, I'll have the advantage of a kja trip for planning! Many thanks for taking the time to write this up.
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 09:59 AM
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kja, I've been patiently waiting for your report. Off to a great start. Looking forward to reading more.

jdc
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 04:21 PM
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kja
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@ MaryW: I’m glad you know the ceramics of the Asian Civilizations Museum – they are impressive! And I'm glad you are joining me for another trip.

@ tripplanner001: Thanks for the kind words! It is a special part of the globe, and I’m delighted to think that I can help bring it to life for you and others.

@ progol: I do recall that you had planned to take a similar trip before life interfered and hope that you are able to get to Indonesia some day – it is worth seeing! At least you got to see Sicily in the meantime -- another worthy destination!

@ jdc: Thank you for your patience! I hope you continue to enjoy my report.


OK, now for some specifics!

Day 0: I departed the U.S. on an evening flight and,
Day 1: Flight, continued
• After a really, really, REALLY long flight in an economy class seat – close to 13 hours -- I
• landed in Doha and
• headed to the spa for a reserved massage. As already noted, I was a massage newbie, but I had studied the spa’s website, so I knew that (a) bathing suits or appropriate lingerie were apparently to be worn everywhere within the spa and (b) the oils and lotions used in massages could damage clothing. So I had bought a cheap bathing suit just for my masssage. Once in the spa, I
• showered, changed into my new bathing suit, and met my masseuse ... who seemed a bit surprised that I was wearing a bathing suit. (It had seemed a strange idea! ;-) ) Out of the bathing suit and
• onto the table and
• OH that was nice! Afterwards, I
• soaked in a jacuzzi, dressed, and
• found a place near my departure gate to have a glass of wine before boarding yet another flight.

Day 2: First parial day in Singapore -- Arab Street and the Zoo

• After another 8 or 9 hours in the air , I landed in Singapore and
• took a shared van to my hotel, admiring the trees and flowers along the road into the city. It was mid-morning when I reached
• my hotel; as expected, my room was not immediately available, so
• I left ASAP to explore the area -- lots of shophouses! and the

Arab Street area – the Sultan Mosque, Malay Heritage Center, and more shophouses.
• While at the Malay Heritage Center, I asked a question … and the next thing I knew, a curator was at my side. He spent at least an hour with me, sharing all sorts of fascinating information about the building, collection, and grounds.
• Oddly, the walk back to my hotel seemed FAR longer than the walk to the Arab St. area. Go figure!

• My room was now available, so I settled in and showered. While in Singapore, I stayed at the Adonis Hotel, which I wholeheartedly recommend for those who want a well-located budget option with helpful staff and some greatly appreciated perks, such as
• a free happy hour. After a welcome glass of wine, I

• took a taxi to the Singapore Zoo,
• waited through some VERY long lines for the train through the park (OMG, the marked lanes have a butt-rest rail! Life can be GOOD! ),
• and was very glad to see the many animals that can be seen after sunset in the safety and convenience afforded by the train, and with kudos to the narrator who made sure to tell us what we were seeing. I then
• walked some of the well-marked paths, finding many interesting animals along the way.
• I particularly enjoyed the fisher cats: Their enclosure included a stream and some ponds, in which turtles and fish swam. One of the cats would sit at the edge, intently looking among the turtles for a fish, and then prepare to pounce and ... relax. Prepare! Relax. Prepare! Relax ... all without taking its eyes from the pond. And then, like any cat I've ever known, it would suddenly decide it needed to be elsewhere IMMEDIATELY and jump off into the surrounding vegetation. I never did see one catch a fish! ;-)
• I attended the rather hocky show. It seemed great for kids and there were many children in the audience who seemed thrilled. Too, it was nice to see the delight the parents took in making it possible for their children to have those moments.
• I succumbed to hunger and ate a BongoBurger, and then, finally,
• a long taxi ride brought me back to my hotel and some much needed sleep.


To be continued….
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 05:18 PM
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Looking forward to more. It was fun reading the threads when you were planning, so I know it will be super enjoyable to read the TR!
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 05:21 PM
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Good idea to take a taxi to/from the zoo. I used public transport and it took forever.
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 05:41 PM
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You're welcome. If you are ever back in Doha on a longer layover, the Museum of Islamic Arts is well worth a visit. Seems like the zoo is well laid out; I decided to skip it on my visit to Singapore given the limited time we had.
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 09:00 PM
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Enjoying seeing Singapore through the eyes of someone who hasn't been there before. It reminds me of my first trip to Singapore.
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 09:19 PM
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Great report so far, kja. Have never been to any of those places, although my company's Asian headquarters are in Singapore, so I will be particularly interested in your experiences there, in case work travel ever affords me the opportunity to travel there,
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Jul 2nd, 2016, 10:07 PM
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kja
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@ Lolazahra: I got some great info on those planning threads, didn’t I?! Glad you enjoyed them and hope you enjoy reading this thread, too.

@ thursdaysd: The taxi to and from the zoo was a great idea, but I can’t take credit for it: My hotel staff strongly recommended it, and I only agreed because I thought there was a real possibility, given jet lag, of falling asleep while on public transportation. I’m very glad I heeded their advice!

@ tripplanner001: I would like to see Doha’s Museum of Islamic Arts. In fact, part of the reason for the nearly 9-hour layover I had on the way back was to visit it, but it turns out that it’s important, when booking a flight, to pay careful attention to whether the landing is just about noon or just about midnight. Oops!

@ Kathie: If I’m reminding you of it, I hope you enjoyed your first trip to Singapore! As I understand it, Singapore has undergone some substantial transformations over the years; I would think it would be interesting to see the changes, too.

@ MinnBeef: Thanks for the kind words! I hope you find information in this report that would help you make a decision should you find yourself with an opportunity to visit this part of the world. It’s nothing like Japan – or at least, I find it quite different! – but it definitely has its merits.
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Jul 3rd, 2016, 02:56 AM
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Always enjoy reading your trip reports. It's like I'm traveling with you.

Waiting for me.

jdc
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Jul 3rd, 2016, 10:40 AM
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Great start - on my vicarious journey with you...
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