My 16 days in Indonesia

Old Dec 19th, 2003, 07:19 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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My 16 days in Indonesia

I travelled in Indonesia for the first time for 16 days in November. I consider my itinerary good and the execution successful, even though for the most part I was really playing it by ear. I hope it can provide some useful information for those who might share similar travel interests.

D1: Arrived in Denpasar from Bangkok in early afternoon. Unable to arrange to fly to Labuanbajo within the following 2 days to see Komodo dragons as I originally hoped, I decided to take an evening flight to Yogyakarta

D2: Morning in Yogy. Bought three-day-later Denpasar-Labuanbajo flight ticket in Merpati's local office inYogy and absorbed a bit of the Muslim culture. In the afternoon, visited Borobudur which was very nice. Not only the whole archaeological site is one of the most impressive in the world, it is also a good place to understand Buddhism ideas. A site guide is a must

D3: Morning visit to Prambanan, the biggest Hindu temples in Indonesia. Very interesting. Different from Borobudur in many ways but not as impressive. So one may want to visit Prambanan first. Afternoon wandering around the business district and the market area. Busy city life with lots of activities. Friendly people. Evening went to see the famous Ramayana ballet, a big dancing performance in an open air theatre. Turned out to be I was the ONLY audience for that evening. I was embarrassed, for me, but more for the outstanding performance group. But I stayed anyway. They did the whole hour+ performance very earnestly, for me one guest alone. I was deeply moved by their professionalism.

A clear evidence of the dire situation of the highly depressed tourist industry in the country

D4: Last day in Yogy. Museums, palaces, bird market, etc. Relaxed a little bit

D5: Minibus to Gunung Bromo. Fairly comfortable ride. Took 10 hours to get to the little village of Cemoro Lawang located at the start of the walk to Bromo. Made arrangement for the next day early morning visit to the volcano. Cemoro Lawang is a very tranquil and friendly place with nice cooler mountain temperature. Great scenery too. Could be a good choice for a relaxing longer stay of a few days

D6: 4:30am from the hotel(Lava View), jeep to Gunung Penanjakan to see the dawn across the Bromo crater. Spectacular view indeed. After the sunrise, jeep again to the Bromo crater. Climbed up to the tip of the crater. Somehow disappointed. Great view but perhaps because of all the talks, my expectation was set too high, especially, looking back after what I experienced in Gunung Kawah Ijen the following day. Returned to Lava View hotel around 7am. Convinced by two French travellers to change my plan to visit Gunung Kawah Ijen the next day instead of heading to Denpasar. Arrived in a village half hour from Kawah Ijen with the two French travellers in the afternoon. Very nice and very friendly village. A nearby waterfall definitely worth a visit

D7: Morning visit to Kawah Ijen. What a beauty! The view of the crater, the green lake, the surrounding landscape was more than just breathtaking and the beauty of the stinks, as the sign at the entrance of the trail put it, was equally stunning. One just has to be there to see what it means. Frankly, Bromo is simply not in the same league with Kawah Ijen. LP doesn't even pick up this gem. Shame on them! Around 11am we were at Banyuwangi across the west end of Bali. One hour ferry to Bali. Bid farewell to my new French friends. Caught a local bus heading to Denpasar. Around 4pm, I was in Denpasar

D8: Whole day in Denpasar. First taste of the Bali culture. Liked it. Toured the museum, some temples, the night market, the Puputan Square. Overall, Denpasar is not a place worth much time

D9: Morning flight to Labuanbajo, Flores. Arrived around noon time. Unable to find other traveller(s) to team up for a two day one night trip to see the dragons, I ended up hiring a boat alone with one captain and two cew members. 2days/1night trip starting early the next morning

D10: 4 hour boat ride to get to Rinca island. Beautiful Flores ocean scenery on the way there. Saw dragons, deers, monkeys, variety of birds, etc. Finally, near a warter hole, saw quite a few wild water buffalos bathing and two dragons waiting nearby at the bank for possible attacks. Yes dragons do eat buffalos. A park ranger accompied us all the way. Headed to Komodo islands in the afternoon. Evening stayed by the bats island. Talking and drinking and laughing. Time to go to bed. A clear but moonless night. Lying on my back on the deck, gazing into the deep space of the fascinating and mysterious southern sky while my Muslim captain knelt down and murmured his last pray of the day. Slept very well.

D11: At dawn, watched bats returing home, hundreds of them. Headed to Komodo island. Arrived around 6:30 am. A park ranger took me to the trail. I was the only visitor. Very active morning dragon activities. Besides seeing same animals also seen in Rinca(no buffalo though), saw some wide pigs. The climax of my visit was to suddenly run into two big dragons eating a newly killed deer. I came close to 3 meters from the dragons. One dragon was tearing flesh from the back of the deer and the other one stuck his head inside the deer thru a big hole on the dead deer's abdomen. The deer's head was almost gone, very gruesome. The dragon pull his head out staring at us, blood dripping down from his mouth with his yellow forked tongue flicking in and out. The most ugly monsters I had ever seen so up close in my life. According to the ranger, I was very lucky to witness such activities. Later celebrated in the ranger station with beers together. One hour later, snorkeled near a Komodo beach. Komodo area is one of the best diving/snorkeling place in the world, especially for seeing soft corals. Crystal clear water, stunningly rich and beautiful marine life, environment with no sign of any damage, and finally, nothing else around, just absolute beauty and tranquility, the whole ocean belonged me. Returned to Labuanbajo around 3:00pm. Evening, riding on the back of my new local friend's motercycle, went to a disco dancing bar outsite Labuanbajo. All local youths inside the place. I am not young any more but I had a good time there.

D12: Early morning snorkeling again in a site near Labuanbajo. Suppose to be the best in Labuanbajo's neihborhood. Disappointed. Late morning flight(delayed quite a bit) to Denpasar. Upon arrival, took a taxi to Ubud

D13 -- D15: Ubud and around Ubud. Visiting museums; absorbing the interesting Hindu cultures; joining day tour to see temples, rice fields; going to black beach outside the town; participating village ceremonies; exploring the markets; all these and getting rested after almost two weeks on constant move.

A few more words about Bali: Bali becomes a hot tourist attraction for very good reasons. The unique and very colorful Baliness practice of Hinduism is indded fascinating and the #1 reason for me. Before I came to Bali, I somehow suspected that the religious scene was pretty much show business for tourist dollars, like what is in China for the most part, but I was wrong, and I'm glad that I was wrong. They did everything for real and very scenerely. I talked in depth with some locals about their beliefs and the more I knew, the more I was impressed. It is not just a part of their life, it is their life. Great influence to their culture and unique practice perhaps in the whole world. Bali is also beautiful. There are many things available to enjoy as tourists. And people are generally friendly especially outside those tourist centers and outside the tourist industry. Staying in Bali is also very inexpensive, less expensive than both Java and Flores.

However, there is another side of the Bali face. In LP's words, "the destructive effect of tourism". The negative effect is far more pronounced in Bali than anywhere else I've visited in Indonesia, maybe even outside of Indonesia. The devastating situation for the tourist industry over the past 13 months after the bombing has only aggavated the problems.

D16: At noon, took a mini shuttle bus from Ubud to Denpasar airport. Arrived in Bangkok late in the evening. Stayed in a hotel near Bangkok airport and got ready for the following morning flight from Bangkok to Yangon to start the second leg of my SEA trip -- 10 days in Myanmar.

Some final notes:

Weatherwise, I was again very lucky. In Indonesia, November is supposed to be the begining of the rainy season , but in fact I got beautiful sunny days throughout my entire 16 day trip, except for heavy rain during one night and maybe two or three short afternoon passing storms.

Moneywise, since how much to spend on accomodations is a very personal thing, the only money issue worth mentioning here is the cost of visiting the Komodos. For one person, to hire a motor boat for 2 days on the ocean all included with 3 crew members, the ongoing price seemed to be anywhere between $45 and $65. I spent more because: I hired an English speaking local guide to replace one of the original crew members on the boat; I brought additional food and drinking water to the boat; I treated the crews/park rangers on occations. I paid $60 for the boat trip itself and the total final cost for me was about $100.

Some people like to use the phrase "once in a lifetime". I class my experiences in Komodo Island of Flores and in Kawah Ijen of East Java as two of my personal "once in a lifetime".

I left Indonesia with very fond memories.

I seldom visit same country twice and Indonesia is likely no exception. Nevertherless, the country will always be on the top portion of my most-favored list.
kang is offline  
Old Dec 19th, 2003, 08:01 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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So gald you got to Yogya, I think you are like the first person on this board to go there. It is one of my favourite places in Asia. I am sorry to hear how bad the tourist ecomony is there, not surprising but still disheartening.

Glad you also saw the beauty and reality of Balinese Hinduism; althoug there is a lot of tourist hype in regard to other cultural matters, they are quite devout and this does come through.
Cicerone is offline  
Old Dec 19th, 2003, 12:02 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Thank you for the detailed trip report. It brought me back to my trip to Java (Malang and Yogya) and Bali in 2000. I would agree with the recommendation to see Prambanan before Borobudur. That was a very gripping story about the dragons and I think I prefer to have heard about that from your account than to have seen it in person! I saw my first Komodo dragon in the zoo in Boise in September and I can hardly imagine it eating a deer.
marianna1 is offline  
Old Dec 19th, 2003, 05:09 PM
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Yogya is one of my favorite places. I loved Borobudor and even spent the rest of that day driving to the Dieng Plateau. It's in the caldera of a volcano, and has many geysers and such as well as small Hindu temples and shrines. The constant mist makes it feel mysterious (and cooler!). Prambanan was undergoing restoration when I was there (I expect it still is). I visited temples in a number of villages some distance from Yogja.

As a collector of crafts, I found that Yogja had even more remarkable crafts than Bali.

Thanks for a report that brought back memories of my own trip.
Kathie is offline  
Old Dec 20th, 2003, 06:05 AM
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I liked Yogya very much too. It is an important cultural center of Indonesia so not only the city itself is very interesting and charming, it also provides a different angle to look at and understand the country.

I bought the only large piece of craft in Yogya during my entire SEA trip. It is made from buffalo leather, a delicate traditional art named "Gunungan", meaning Javaness thinking of life. I love it.

Yes dragons kill and eat deers, buffalos and just about everything else walking on the islands, in a very nasty way. Here is a link talking about the dragon's feeding style:

really much nastier than you can imagine. Strange animal.

During the dinner with local friends on my last evening in Labuanbajo, a guy mentioned the news of new bombing in Turkey. No one cared to continue the subject. We all know the implicition of such horros to Indonesia's tourist industry, indirectly but definitely. Muslim extremeists. But Indonesian muslims are really one of the nicest people anywhere. Very sad indeed.

Thanks all for comments.
kang is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2004, 08:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Kang, I just wanted you to know that I have continued to think about Indonesia since reading your post. Yogja was one of my favorite places in Indonesia, and I started thinking about going back. I've made a change in my plans for my 2004 trip, and expect I will be headed for Indonesia instead of Bhutan this year. I'll probably go to Joga and the surrounding area plus Lombok. Again, many thanks for your trip report.
Kathie is offline  
Old Mar 1st, 2004, 05:11 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 714
Hi Kang,
Your trip report was delightful. i am planning to go to indonesia this sept. The itinary is really open at this point . Can you tell me where you stayed and how much?
mohan is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 12:22 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 93
Your trip was fabulous.
That's what travel is all about.
It reminded me my trip in 2001 to Bali and Yogyakarta. I loved Borobudur, Prambanan and the Ramayana ballet.
Can you provide us some of your pics?
I'm sure everyone here would love to see them. I took a lot of pictures during my trip.
cytrav2000 is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:22 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 55
Hi Kang. I live in Jakarta but I havent been to Yogya still. I will now!

Bali is one of my favorite places in the world and im glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks for sharing the report.

aarti is offline  
Old Sep 8th, 2006, 06:27 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 245
Unbelievable. I type in "Kawah Ijen" and I get one return: a report of Dec 2003! Yet, the volcano must be fantastic. Anybody been there more recently? After visiting, any flights from a nearby city to bring you back to Surabaya or Jakarta?
cram is offline  
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