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crellston Aug 14th, 2014 04:56 AM

Help please with long Indonesia trip
I am hoping that Marmot sees this and comments, but of course, input from anyone else would be much appreciated.

We leave for an extended trip to Asia later this year and I am in the process of putting together an outline itinerary. One place causing me problems is Indonesia. I didn't fully appreciate the size of the country and the recent arrival of the Lonely Planet guide has served to confuse as much as help! We are planning on two to three months there sometime between May and September there. It is such a massive and diverse country we will clearly miss a lot - but what to include and what to leave out?

Having done some initial research, it seems reasonable to travel from west to east and splitting our time as follows:

Sumatra - 15 days
Java - 10 days
Nusa Teggarra 15 days
Sulawesi - 20 days

There is a possibility that we would spend a further month either on the way back from visiting our son in Australia or maybe after a brief visit to the Philippines and are thinking possibly Papua or Kalimantan - any thoughts? Having been to Bali twice we are giving it a miss this time, except maybe as a transit point to and from islands and/or Australia.

Our interests are culture, nature, hiking, diving and, where feasible, getting out on to the roads less travelled. Happy staying in budget type accommodation and homestays

We would aim to travel mostly overland using public transport where possible and flying where necessary or advisable for reasons of time or safety.

1.Any suggestions re itinerary or the above split of time? to make the most of the country?
2. What are the "not to be missed" places and experiences?
3. Any thoughts on which airlines and ferry companies to use or avoid?
4. suggestions for travel agencies (where tours are recommended)?
5. Recommendations for dive operators
6. Best airlines for getting to and from Australia.

Any, thoughts, opinions or suggestions would be welcomed.

thursdaysd Aug 14th, 2014 05:27 AM

Hi crellston - looking forward to your TR/blog, lol (especially i you go to the Philippines). Kathie's TR will do a better job than I could of filling you in on the sites around Yogyakarta.

My info is out of date, since I was there in 2004, but at that time Lombok and the Gilis were largely undiscovered. I think they are somewhat more developed now, but could still be worth some time. I can't think of anything good to say about Jakarta...

If I were going back I'd want to visit the Komodo dragons.

Kathie Aug 14th, 2014 07:41 AM

What a luxury to have all that time in Indonesia!

Do take a look at my trip report about Java. If you want to visit volcanos and the lovely temples in eastern Java, you may want a few more days. If I was going to visit volcanos in eastern Java, I'd skip Bromo (having seen the photos of lines of people!) and would visit different volcanos, perhaps the ones nearer Blitar.

I haven't (yet) been to Sumatra or Sulawasi or Nusa Teggarra. Watch for marmot to weigh in on those places.

I will look forward to your report!

sartoric Aug 14th, 2014 11:39 AM

I can't weigh in on Indonesia, but for getting to/from Australia consider Scoot. It's a budget airline based in Singapore. They fly into Sydney, Perth or Gold Coast. One way GC to Bangkok flight is AUD $209.

We've used them a few times, and have been able to upgrade to Scootbiz for as little as $100 once on board.

marmot Aug 14th, 2014 07:31 PM

I've traveled a lot all over Java and a few times to Central and North Sulawesi., but not to your other choices.

First, consider the dates of Ramadan and the following Islamic holidays (called Lebaran or Idul Fitri in Indonesia). In 2015 Ramadan will begin June 18. The big holidays are roughly July 15-25. If you can, avoid Sumatra and Java during Ramadan. Bali, Lombok, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Papua will be less impacted. I'm not sure about the rest of Nusa Tenggara.

During Lebaran millions of people will be on the move, mostly leaving Java for their home villages or islands, so you have to be careful of public transportation overloads.

My preference for getting from place to place would be to fly. It's the most efficient and prices are reasonable. Air Asia and Garuda are my top choices. After that, you're pretty much limited to whichever carrier flies where you want to go.

After air, I would choose private cars and drivers, trains (which are limited to Java) and long distance buses. The only ferry I would consider is the one between Java and Bali. Otherwise, avoid all ferries.

In Java you could easily spend 5-7 days in Central Java -- Borobudur, Yogyakarta etc. -- and 5 days in East Java -- Malang, Bromo, Ijen. I would be in favor of staying in the Borobudur area as well as a few in Yogya.

From Yogya I would fly to Surabaya and then drive to Bromo, which is about 4 hours. Your hotel in Bromo will arrange transportation.

"Bromo" is the name of one mountain and also a national park -- Bromo Tengger Semeru which comprises several other volcanic mountains. The experience of staying in the area is far superior to commuting from Surabaya or Malang. The tours take everyone to the same sunrise lookout, but there are many other vantage points for spectacular scenery and great treks among the various peaks and caldera.

If you continue farther east you can see the sulphur mining at Ijen. After that you can connect by ferry to North Bali or return by surface to Surabaya airport.

Sulawesi is a wonderful destination and I'm glad you're devoting a lot of time to it. In the far north you have Manado and the reefs around Bunaken on the east and the Lembeh Strait on the west. Kungkungan Bay is a favorite of mine. Tangkoko National Park is near by.

There is also excellent -- though more isolated -- scuba in South Sulawesi at Wakatobi.

Central Sulawesi is where you find the Tanah Toraja culture, centered around Rantepao. This is a fascinating culture set amid phenomenally beautiful scenery. Be forewarned, though, that animal slaughter features widely in the funeral rites.

It's not so easy to get from place to place within Sulawesi. You generally have to start in Makassar then fly to Manado for North Sulawesi and drive to Rantepao for Central. For Wakatobi you can take the resort charter from Bali, but it's on the pricey side.

West Papua has fabulous diving at Raja Empat and all kinds of nature and culture adventure excursions. The Baliem Valley Festival usually takes place in August.

Each island in Nusa Tenggara is somewhat different. Aside from Lombok and Komodo/Rinca, tourism is fairly undeveloped in the area. Facilities in Kalimantan are not as developed as they are in the Malaysian parts of Borneo. Sumatra doesn't get a lot of travel attention -- other than Lake Toba.

For better or worse, if you're going to spend two months in Indonesia you should have a look at the capital. I'm actually rather fond of the "Big Durian" despite its sprawling and spewing, though actual attractions are limited.

progol Aug 15th, 2014 02:40 AM


I've been reading about Flores, one of the islands of Nusa Teggara, and it sounds like a fascinating island for a range of activities. The appeal to me is the number of villages which have a very traditional culture - maybe not as dramatic as on Sulawesi, but perhaps a little easier to access. (marmot, is this accurate?).

Looks beautiful, too. There is diving as well, but I couldn't tell you how it compares to other places.

Looking forward to reading about your planning since I'm planning to visit in 2016 (though I won't have your kind of time to travel).

marmot Aug 15th, 2014 05:11 PM

Sumba, Sumbawa and Flores are definitely on my "to visit" list. There are adequate flights in, but once you're there getting around is difficult because tourism is relatively underdeveloped. There are cultural, religious and environmental differences among the three, but all are known for traditional villages, wonderful arts and crafts -- especially textiles, unspoiled beaches and reefs, worldclass surfing and some very good reefs.

This is yet another remote and luxurious resort:

crellston Aug 15th, 2014 10:52 PM

Many thanks for the responses, especially your Marmot. Already you have caused me to change our plan. I have been so concentrated on trying to avoid Tet in Vietnam and Easter in ten Phillipines that I completely forgot about Ramadan!! If I understand you correctly, travel etc. is not too bad at the beginning of Ramadan but July 15-25 is best avoided? My initial thought was to visit Indonesia probably in June - July. I may well now bring that forward tp May June.

Your suggestions for places to visit have been duly noted and entered into the spreadsheet :-) !

The information you have provided has been invaluable in helping me to plan. I have no doubt I will be back with many more questions over the coming months!

Kathie , thanks for providing the link to your TR and photos. All very helpful. On reading your TR and marmots comments, I think I will take a few days from Sumatra and add them to Java. Will probably spend a few days in Jakarta too just yo have a look see. My wife spent a few days there on a business trip a few years ago so I am under no illusions as to how chaotic it is!

Thursdaysd - glad you are looking forward to reading the blog! Where it will be is the big question. I have used Travelpod for years but it is getting a bit old and tired no so I have taken a leaf out of your book and set up a site on Wordpress. My task over the coming weeks is to learn how to use it....

Sartoriic- thanks for scoot suggestion. Love the sound of Scootbiz!!!

Progol - I too have been reading a lot about Flores ( even the name sounds nice!). Seems like it has a lot going for it but may be a tad challenging you get around.

Thanks all for your input. Keep it coming.

marmot Aug 16th, 2014 12:09 AM

Ramadan, the fasting month, will take place from June 18 to July 17. During this time places that are mostly populated by practicing Muslims -- like Sumatra and Java -- will be operating at half speed. People are sleepy (and grouchy as the day progresses), performances are curtailed, local (non-hotel) restaurants are shuttered during the day, drivers and guides are unreliable. So try to avoid visiting during the whole month.

The holidays that take place after Ramadan (I say July 15 to 25 roughly as people start travelling a bit early) are a mass exodus in which everyone tries to get to their home village, much like Lunar New Year in China. Trains, buses and ferries are overloaded and highways are overrun with motorcycles. Airports are chaotic. So definitely avoid traveling on the first days -- July 17/18/19 -- and be aware that all transportation will be difficult for about 10 days.

crellston Aug 16th, 2014 04:27 AM

Thanks for the clarification marmot. I think I will change things around a little and try for early may/ late April and get out before Ramadan starts, maybe adding in Papua on the way back from Oz. How is the weather in April/may?

marmot Aug 16th, 2014 04:03 PM

April/May is good for Java/Bali/Lombok/Sulawesi. I'm not up to speed on the other places. You might get some rain and some busy-ness around Easter week, but otherwise it's a good time for most of Indonesia.

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