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Leo_A Oct 29th, 2017 02:36 AM

Bali, Flores, Lomok and Java
I have finally found time to post about my wonderful trip to Indonesia – below are some thoughts & tips from my 16 day visit. We visited Bali, Flores, Lombok and Java on this quick trip.

• Started off at Bali like everyone else – but first few days were at Nusa Dua
• Nusa Dua is like everyone says, a very sanitized luxury version of Bali – but we found it a great way to start off the trip
• Loved the beach – the hotels there try their best to keep them clean, Bali collection a slightly pricy shopping area is also nice for a visit
• The hotels here are huge and very lush with landscaped gardens and lawns – if you don’t want to sight see, you could spend your vacation here, I am sure some folks do this.
• Loved that there were so many pharmacies and 7*11 type stores which helped with snacks and meds when needed (I had a fall a few days before the travel and had a painful lower back).

• Moved to another part of Bali post two days – Seminyak on the western shore of the island which is a more posh tourist hub compared to Kuta
• Nevertheless, it was full of tourists and lots of stores selling everything you would want to buy
• Spent hours wandering the shops and sipping drinks at the many restaurants in this place
• Loved the beach again – much more crowded that the beaches in Nusa Dua but lovely and clean
• Compared to Nusa Dua this was more lively and more to see and do – lots more tourists as well

• We now took a detour to Flores Island which is in eastern Indonesia closer to Timor
• We chose Garuda Indonesia basis advise on this forum vs low cost airlines which could cancel at the last minute
• Garuda chose to delay their flight by 3 hrs so we had a long wait at the domestic terminal
• Garuda does let you know in advance by email if flight times are changed so keep a look out for them
• The flight duration to Labuan Bajo our destination in Flores was only an hour, but the aircraft it self was a ATR – a tiny small plane
• I am at best a nervous flyer and all my fears came rushing back, I noticed I was not the only nervous one – several passengers seemed doubtful too
• The flight it self was uneventful, service on Garuda is good though basic as it was just a short haul flight.
• The main to dos in Labuan Bajo are visiting the Komodo National park for which this is the start point or base location, the other option was spending days diving as this is a wonderful spot for divers

• Our reason for visiting was the Komodo National park home to the Komodo dragon – basically a very large lizard which is poisonous and can only be found on a few islands in this region
• We chose to visit Rinca island which was closer to Labuan Bajo compared to Komodo Island which was larger and further off (needs two days to visit)
• We had also planned to visit Pedar island a little further off which had spectacular views and was an emerging popular spot for tourists seeking selfies
• Labuan Bajo it self is a small town with nothing much to see or do – but it is busy with lots of tourists passing through
• It does have lovely views of the sea and you do get to see multiple boats of all sizes
• We reached late post dinner due to the delay by Garuda – rushed to have dinner and rest as we had only one full day here and had an early start the next day
• Our hotel a basic place – not too much choice in Labuan Bajo
• We’d waited till we reached Indonesia to book a tour to Rinca island – the tour operator provided us with a small sized boat as that was all was available and a guide as requested
• The next day started at 5am, picked up promptly and driven to the harbor where we got onto our boat in darkness
• The boat was around 12 foot long and 6 feet wide it had a captain and a helper (aged 12) and our guide. We started for Pedar island as that was further off and on our way back we would stop at Rinca
• The first hour or two was great – lovely views of islands around Labuan Bajo as the sun came up
• But then as we got out into the open, the sea got rougher, so much so that the waves fell into the boat and drenched us all.
• Finally after like 20 minutes of this the guide spoke up with what was in all our minds – perhaps we should turn back, it was too windy and the sea too rough for the small boat. The captain and helper looked unfazed though.
• We had a quick discussion and then agreed that yes this was too hazardous to travel and we should turn to Rinca instead.
• Another half hour of being tossed around and getting drenched and then we were in calmer waters – I am not sure if we were in real danger but though it better to be cautious, and no amount of picturesque snaps would make up for any accident that could have happened.
• We reached Rinca with no further incidents and already there were many boats at the entrance – lots of people get up early for this
• The ticket and the guide were part of the tour so we started immediately – this was supposed to be the mating season for Komodo dragons so we may not get to see too many of the animals.
• How ever we were in luck – normally there are a few dragons who hang around the entrance where the rangers/guides have a kitchen and they get easy food
• We were in luck having reached early we got to see these dragons emerge from the near by forest and rush to their spots near the ranger kitchen
• And then as we started our walk around the island we got to see another larger dragon inspecting a nesting spot. We got amazing pictures of this animal and got quiet close.
• Komodo dragons can be lethal and just this year a tourist who had wandered by himself got bitten and had to be shipped out to save his life
• The rangers/guides just have a stick to defend themselves and they ask us to stay close to them but they obviously know what they are doing as very few attacks have been reported.
• There are 3 kinds of tours of the island – short (30 mins) medium (1 hour) long (2 hours) we chose medium
• We got to see water buffalo and deer and wild pigs and birds but no more komodo dragon as we walked along the path with the guide – apparently there are 2000 of them on the island but they kept away
• We’d gotten to see a few of these already and gotten good pictures so were content – the guide lived on the island and he told us how life was in this remote part of the world
• They have to constantly by wary of the lizards and travel all the way to Labuan Bajo for anything.
• Having finished our tour we headed back to Labuan Bajo – normally the day trip would include a stop at a tiny island called Keylor island just a few miles from the city
• We agreed with the guide we’d stop here for lunch – Keylor is tiny but it and the islands surrounding it are very picturesque
• It has a white sand beach and part of it was hilly – tourists could even scuba dive
• There were already a few boats there and we explored the island while the captain and helper cooked our lunch
• We loved the tiny beach and crystal clear waters – perfect for diving. By the time we had lunch many more boats of all sizes arrived
• Lunch which had been cooked on the boat was basic but delicious a chicken and rice combination – local Flores fare as per the guide
• The guide told us of his life – how his parents had been fisher men and farmers and how he had turned to tourism
• His children studied in Bali which had better schools and he had a very busy tourist season as lots of people came to the national park or for diving – he told us of tourists spotting groups of manta rays and how they circle you as you dive – sounded exotic
• It was four in the evening by the time we reached our hotel – long tiring day but exciting
• The next day we had a flight to Bali – again Garuda mailed us that the flight was delayed by a few hours.

thursdaysd Oct 29th, 2017 04:52 AM

Thanks for reporting. Will be interested to hear how Lombok is looking these days - I was there in 2004.

progol Oct 29th, 2017 11:15 AM

Enjoying your report! The boat trip to Pedar Island sounds very frightening - I think you were wise to turn back and stay in Rinca.

Hoping to visit Bali someday and your impressions are interesting.

Leo_A Oct 30th, 2017 03:49 AM

Thanks Progol for the encouragement

Thursdaysd – its thrilling to have a few words from you, I visited Sri Lanka in 2012 inspired by your trip report and used the same tour provider – thank you, I had a great trip, due to the suggestions and pointers in your report.

Leo_A Oct 30th, 2017 03:50 AM

• Getting back to Bali was like returning to civilization and of course its huge number of tourists
• We headed now to Ubud which is an hour away from Denpesar/Kuta/Seminyak, its become famous due to the book and film ‘eat, pray, love’

• Ubud is called the cultural/artistic heart of Bali, it is hilly and green – very lush indeed
• We had been tempted to book a villa to ourselves – there seem to be excellent villas with a pool for very cost effective prices on airbnb – but ended up with a budget hotel (Ubud Wana Resort) just out side ubud which had good recommendations
• Bali is excellent that way – has wonderful accommodation at all price points, with really good service
• The hotel was lovely – two pools, very lush greenery all around and some rice fields on one side
• It was a 20 mins walk away from the monkey forest – one thing about Ubud in high season, it can get very busy and traffic can crawl especially near the ubud palace so walking may be a better option

• We had till now done limited sight seeing now with Ubud as the base we set out to see a few spots either in south Bali or north Bali, I will just mention what I thought of each monument/attraction rather than narrate how we visited them
• Goa Gajah – or elephant cave close to Ubud though the entrance to the cave looks fascinating the cave it self was not too enticing and you may want to also visit another temple adjacent and downhill, I was not too wowed by this temple, the elephant is for the Ganesa inside (elephant headed god)
• Tanah Lot – this is an iconic temple on the western shore along cliffs and it becomes a kind or island in high tide, touted as a must visit it can get crowded in the evenings when people want to catch the sunset
• For this reason, we visited it early at around 9am and there was hardly any other tourists
• The tide was low and we walked up to the base of the temple where priests bless you with holy water, you cannot enter the temple itself as entrance is only for Balinese Hindus
• This is a largish site with another smaller temple also on a cliff side – very spectacular views
• Tirta Empul – in north Bali but not too far from Ubud, this is one temple where you actually see the Balinese people worshiping
• Women would carry offerings on their heads and kneel and pray, the temple is built around a volcanic spring – the water of which is considered holy
• We can see the spring and then the water is diverted to two pools where people can bathe/pray etc
• The pools were super crowded with locals and tourists, again for the locals this was a holy place and you can watch them kneel and pray at alters while tourists just gawked and waited in line
• Towards the back there is an enclosed area with no entry for tourists – but we could watch as rows of worshipers in white or colorful dresses knelt and prayed as the priest intoned – loved this temple as it was all so real

• The Balinese seem to spend so much time on rituals and worship – it is fascinating, for example every store or restaurant would have small offering parcels wrapped in leaves placed at the entrance and you would have to walk around them so as not to step on them – early one morning as we walked to the monkey forest we found an old woman making these offerings wrapped in leaves, it might have been her way of making an extra income
• Temple at Uluwatu – this is in south bali and again a cliff side temple, access to foreigners is not allowed but you can walk around the cliffs and look into the temple courtyard
• Spectacular views – again huge crowds for the sunset, but really lovely views
• There is also a sunset performance called Kekac dance telling the Ramayana story – apparently this was created just for tourists in the early 1930’s
• It was a sell out performance which started out nicely – you would need to read up on the story as there is no guide or translation but those who have seen similar performances in Thailand or Cambodia will know what is happening
• There is no music just a group of men in a circle chanting and the dancers in the middle – towards the end it turns into a fire show and partly farcical comedy - It gets really dark towards the end of the show
• Ulun Danu Beratan – a few hours away from Ubud in north Bali, set at the base of some wonderfully misty mountains (at least when we were there) and a lake – the temple is considered the source of the lake
• Again this is an iconic temple – its image mostly used for anything to do with Bali – the structure it self was underwhelming, I had expected some thing much larger. Its some what built on a small outlet into the lake so you can’t go into it.
• The surrounding lawns and gardens with the cool mountain air was wonderful just wish the temple was more impressive

• That’s it – we did not want to see too many temples as they start to merge and become similar after a while
• Apparently there are thousands of temples all over the island – with each family having its own small temple next to their home.
• We did visit a lot of other places though we’d booked a car with driver for each day and he charged us $39 per day and $50 if the spot we were visiting was very far (only happened once)
• The driver would double up as guide sometimes though we had not asked for it – his comments and recommendations were definitely welcome, the drivers (we had two, alternating every day, supposedly related to the tour operator who mainly communicated with us via WhatsApp) really went out of their way to be helpful – even climbing up and down hills with us
• And where we wanted to go and what we see was entirely upto us – we could change anything anytime which suited us really well.
• Some of the other things we did while in Bali:
• Borang dance – this is supposedly a dance from before Hinduism came to bali – a story of good vs evil and the triumph of good. The Barong which is the good in this story is like a lion combined with a dragon and the evil is a witch – complete with white hair and long nails, it was a charming dance, the tradition really shows compared to the Kecac dance we had seen earlier
• This was completely touristy – they have dance centers where tourists are brought for the performances and you can take pictures later with the dancers and the musicals instruments (Gamelans – something specific to and found all over Indonesia)
• Tegalalang Rice terraces – may be it is just me but I was wondering why this was even a place to visit, they have a walking trail where you can walk down a hillside to the village and see people tending to rice fields on the way, we went half way but were unimpressed, we’d seen a lot of rice fields in south east Asia earlier

thursdaysd Nov 4th, 2017 10:32 AM

Hi Leo - so glad my TR was helpful!

I really liked Tanah Lot, but didn't spend much time on Bali.

mlgb Feb 4th, 2018 02:06 PM

It is not true that it takes two days to go to Komodo Island.

For example, a typical schedule

Komodo Island One Full Day Tour and Cruise in Komodo National Park | FLORES ISLAND OF INDONESIA : Indonesia Flores Island - Flores Island Tours - Flores Overland Tours - Mount Kelimutu Three Color Lakes - Labuan Bajo of Flores - Ruteng - Bajawa - Riu

mlgb Feb 5th, 2018 06:02 AM

I'll be interested to see your review of the rest of your visit also. I wouldn't mind to go back and visit more of Flores and Bali, and maybe the west part of Java.

I really liked Ubud. It was busy but not the peak and a nice rest after the more rustic part of my tour. I walked quite a bit and seeing the everyday rituals was indeed interesting.

Leo_A Feb 19th, 2018 07:05 AM

Thanks mlgb for waking me up to this incomplete trip report, yes apparently it is possible to do the Komodo Island tour in one day – the itinerary and boat is very similar to what we had for our visit to Rinca island. But is it going to be a very long day as Komodo island is further away from Labuan Bajo than Rinca. A majority of tours offer day trips to Rinca and live aboard boats for two days or more if you include other islands like Komodo.We loved Bali and have very fond memories of the place – and yes I would want to go back. Seminyak and Ubud being our favorites. Some other places we visited while in Bali which didn’t get included in the earlier trip report are:Tamblingan Lake and Melanting/Manduk waterfalls – we did a trek one day from one water fall to another, Manduk and Melanting waterfalls being very close to each other. Bali has tons of waterfalls to choose from these were in north Bali and lesser knownThey are set in lush surroundings, some of them being gardens of spices – the walk can be taxing as one of the Melanting has a steep decent and getting back to the road can be very good exercise. It was refreshing and lovely as well as great walk. There is also the famous Cat Poo Coffee or Kapi Luwak – we got taken by our driver to a coffee place where they grow the coffee on the hill sidesThe Civet cats which ingest the coffee beans and make it Kapi Luwak were asleep in large cages, we didn’t try it (squeamish plus it could be exploitation of the Civets) But they had other varieties of coffee and tea which we could sample for free if we wanted to, and eventually buy some of the packs on sale.Then we also got taken to a silver jeweler boutique – quite a big place with all sorts of jewelryWe picked up a few knick knacks and as we had heard its best to bargain we did – very satisfied at bringing the price down by 40% I later read a review where they had gotten it down by 80% - so these trinkets sure are overpriced.Then onto a local painting workshop – they really is a lot of talent, some of the paintings are done by “proper” artists – it’s hard to resist obtaining a painting or two.Talking of art we got to visit the Puri Lukisan Museum one rainy afternoon – it is close to the Ubud Palace area. Had a lot of older paintings and information on earlier artists who made Balinese art famous.

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