Indonesia Dilemma

Old Mar 1st, 2017, 05:04 AM
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Indonesia Dilemma

I am in the process of planning a long trip to Asia. some of the pieces are in place. we arrive in Vietnam late May and will spend most of June there. We leave for Australia and New Zealand 22 August the weeks before that we plan on working our way up through Malaysia and Thailand by train with side trips to Taman Negara and the Perhentian islands before flying from Bangkok to Sydney.

We will have a month from late June tp Late July unaccounted for and I am thinking of a return to Indonesia (after the end of Ramadan!). Based on our experiences getting around Java a couple of years ago, I am keen to cut down on travel hassles by not moving around too much and plan on staying longer, in fewer places.

My initial thoughts include:


Fly into Medan (maybe spend a couple of days there unless it is anything like Jakarta!)
- Bus to Bukit Lawang for Gunung Leuser NP for trekking and Orangutans - maybe stay 5 days
- bus to Berastagi for Lake Toba & Pulau Samosir and the Karo highlands 5 -10 days

Flores, Komodo and Rinca

From what I have read this seems to be one of the most scenically interesting regions, volcanoes, forests, beaches, diving etc. flying into Ende and working back to Labuanbajo with side trips to Rinca for diving and dragons seems to be a logical route.

Sulawesi seems interesting but it does seem a vast place and not especially easy to get around. the places that i and drawn to based on some initial reading are mainly Tana Toraja (funerals) and Bunaken/Manado for diving. seems a long way to travel just for those two things - am i missing something?

I have discounted a return to Bali as we have spent a fair amount of time there. Lombok and the Gili islands we have not visited but i fear it may be too late. The other place I briefly looked at was Kalimantan - loved Malaysian Borneo - is Kalimantan worth considering

Any thoughts or input would be much appreciated as i am struggling to make a decision!
crellston is offline  
Old Mar 1st, 2017, 06:12 AM
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Some of my best trips have included chunks of time that were deviations from the original plan, places I learned about en route from other travelers. Have you considered leaving part of your itinerary blank? I now consider that one of the major joys of long slow travels.
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Old Mar 1st, 2017, 10:41 AM
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Other than Bali I haven't been to Indonesia, so I can't comment. But, we just got home last night from a six week trip, and I echo MmePerdu's advice. My takeaway from this trip and other trips of similar length is that these are not trips where one should have everything laid out ahead of time. Yes, do the research, but allow for lots and lots of flexibility because you may feel you need to change the balance in your trip, the weather may affect your plans more than you had thought it would, you may be sick of certain kinds of activities, you may choose relaxation rather than sightseeing etc.
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Old Mar 1st, 2017, 06:45 PM
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How about Papua New Guinea? It's certainly close to Australia/New Zealand. It's high on my wish list. I wish more posters here would go and scope it out for me, first. Crellston, would you and Carolyn like to volunteer?
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Old Mar 1st, 2017, 07:11 PM
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Too many good choices is the kind of dilemma you want to have. Outside of Bali and Java, traveling from place to place is always challenging, whatever island or island group you choose. Lately my life and work have concentrated on Bali and Java. While I don't have recent experiences in any of the places that you're targeting, I consulted my well traveled friends.

Surface logistics are always daunting in Indonesia. Once you've arrived at any one place you can take advantage of local transport within a limited radius, but getting to another town, area or island can be challenging by land or sea. The good news is that flights connecting the farflung areas are frequent and cheap.

I would encourage you to take another look at Sulawesi. The countryside is immensely beautiful and the arts and cultural traditions unique in the world. July is a popular time in Toraja, when many funerals are scheduled. The funerals are fascinating, but to me the real draw are the artistic traditions -- the eerie tautau effigies hidden in caves and rock ledges and the spectacular village architecture with soaring roofs and animist markings.

Makassar a city of about 1.5 million is a pleasant colonial town. It's about 8-9 hours by road to Rantapao, the center of Torajan activities. You may be able to fly in July, but scheduling seems to come and go.

Manado is the stepping off point for the phenomenal reefs and national parks of North Sulawesi. Bunaken Island has an international reputation, but I'm partial to the Lembeh Strait on the east coast. Both offer extensive marine environments.

I haven't been to Sumatra. Medan is a big city (over 2 million) with an intensely conservative Islamic culture and a pervasive Saudi influence. Surface transportation and parks and attractions like Toba can be heavily visited (by locals) in the most accessible areas, but once you get off the beaten track the scope and vastness is stunning. You'll want to avoid this area during Lebaran, the celebratory period at the end of Ramadan.

The island clusters of West and East Nusa Tenggara are high on my must visit list, both because of their rich textile traditions and great natural beauty. Flores, Sumbawa, Sumba and Rinca are a good combination with fairly accessible sea transport among them. Each island has its own cultural and religious traditions, both Christian and Muslim.

You hardly need another option, but CaliforniaLady's mention of Papua New Guinea brings to mind Indonesian West Papua and especially the marine reserve of Raja Laut. Then there's Banda in the Malukus . . .
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Old Mar 2nd, 2017, 04:20 AM
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Thanks so much marmot, exactly the sort of information I needed.

You have changed my thinking and I think I will strike Sumatra of the list. Your comments re the "pervasive Saudi influence" and intensely Islamic culture reinforces what I had read elsewhere and is more than I want to cope with on a day to day basis.

I will follow your suggestion take another look at Sulawesi and maybe look at some form of liveaboard or land based diving whilst there combined with Toraja and another location. If I decide to come to Indonesia then the choice is narrowed down to Sulaweis or Nusa Tenggara. I need you check out the flight logistics of getting around. Thanks once again for helping me clarify my thinking.

MmePerdu and julies- "Have you considered leaving part of your itinerary blank?" Indeeed I have. We have been travelling more or less continuously for the last 8-9 years doing just that. But I am aware of the logistical challenges of travelling in certain places - Indonesia being but one as alluded to by marmot. So I feel it is necessary to have at least a basic plan in mind. Our first port of call on this trip is Vietnam. We are arriving at our fav. homestay in Saigon and that is all the plan I have. Apart from knowing where we are NOT going we will leave it till we get there and see where the mood takes us.

CaliLady - we would love to trailblaze Papua New Guinea for you We have considered it in the past but what has put me off is how incredibly difficult it is to get there. I was chatting to a Kiwi Guesthouse owner in the Mekong delta who worked part of the year in Port Moresby and was just about to leave to go back. Apparently, it was going to take him 72 hours and many, many convoluted flight connections to make the journey! Maybe I am just a wimp?
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Old Mar 2nd, 2017, 05:35 PM
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Live-aboards are a good choice for East Nusa Tenggara as well as the Malukus and Raja Ampat. They range from luxe to basic, but the marine life is, I'm told, spectacular. I'm sure you're conscientious, but be very careful on the safety record and equipment of the vessel and the experience and training of the crew.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 03:09 AM
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I was talking to a couple who had used PKY for access to central Kalimantan ,they included Dayek village visits. We used PKB. Either way I think you go thru Jakarta airport.
We saw lots of wild orangs on the Sekonyer R, apparently this this month there was so much food that few needed to visit feeding centers other than mum's with babies. The Proboscis monkeys are fun, I think 2-3 nights is fine if just cruising,

I liked Komodo and Flores, LBJ was hot and has bad mosquitos but Ruteng is pleasant, You might arrange a driver to get farther East on Flores from Ruteng or LBJ. Flores has dengue, apparently worse than Borneo. The cultural aspects on Flores would have interested me if I wasnt with the birders.
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