Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

The Islands of Indonesia: 3 Down, 13,463 To Go

The Islands of Indonesia: 3 Down, 13,463 To Go

Feb 1st, 2019, 06:26 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 909
The Islands of Indonesia: 3 Down, 13,463 To Go

CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 06:28 PM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 909
The Islands of Indonesia: 3 Down, 13,463 To Go


Last edited by Moderator3; Feb 1st, 2019 at 08:23 PM.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 06:29 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 909
The Islands of Indonesia: 3 Down, 13,463 To Go

I really enjoyed my September, 2018, trip to Indonesia. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever experienced. I would never have even considered Indonesia if it weren't for all the praises from this forum. Indonesia has it all: Friendly and kind people, nature, history, music, and good food.I want to thank all who helped put my trip together. I have previously thanked most of you, either via emails or on this forum. Anyway, I'm not one to write long trip reports, so I will just give some of the highlights, and then I'll stay after class to answer questions.

My husband has a big wad of AAdvantage miles, and since he is kind enough to share, I treated my princess self to Cathay Business Class. I have flown Cathay Business Class many times, and they sure do fuss over their passengers. The flagship lounge in Hong Kong (where I transited both ways) is not to be missed. They have a free restaurant and a coffee bar. What could be better than some tomato based ramen, washed down with a decaf latte and a brownie? Cathay only flies into the following cities in Indonesia: Jakarta, Surabaya, and Denpasar. I got my ticket almost a year in advance, and I was only vaguely settled on an itinerary, so I decided to fly into Denpasar, and out of Surabaya. I bought tickets on Garuda from Denpasar to Makassar (on day three, transiting from Bali to Sulawesi), and also Makassar to Yogyakarta (on day ten, transiting from Sulawesi to Java). The flights all worked out beautifully. Garuda is a highly regarded airline, and I got some Delta points, since they are part of the Star Alliance.

My itinerary:

2 nights Munduk, Bali
1 night Makassar, Sulawesi
4 nights Toraja, Sulawesi
1 night Sengkeng, Sulawesi
1 night Rammang-Rammang, Sulawesi
3 nights Borobudur, Java
2 nights Yogyakarta, Java
3 nights Surakarta (nicknamed Solo), Java
2 nights Blitar, Java
2 nights Malang, Jara
1 night Bromo, Java
1 night Surabaya, Java


Bali:
I only gave Bali two nights because I mistakenly thought it would be infested with tourists. Although the traffic was heavy, it was also bad everywhere in Indonesia. The scenery in Munduk was beautiful. On the first day, I hired a guide from my hotel, and we walked all the trails in the area, and saw the usual temples, waterfalls, and rice paddies. Although similar to other experiences I have had in Asia, I really enjoyed my guide--he was the kind who would pluck a flower and tell me all about it, or explain all the different types of coffee beans. On the second day, I went to a beautiful lake, and hiked around it with a different guide. Yes, there were many tourists in the Munduk area of Bali, but they were mostly young Europeans, who were there for the hiking. I did not see big tour groups. I left Bali all too soon, with the hope to return someday to see Ubud.

Sulawesi:
I flew into Makassar, stayed overnight, and spent the next seven nights with a driver hired via a third party one man travel agency. Crellston recommended the agency because his driver was wonderful, so when I asked the owner if I could have the same driver, he said of course. When I arrived in Makassar, the owner told me that the driver was no longer with the company, and he found a wonderful substitute for me. I thought, why didn't he warn me? Anyway, the driver for the next seven days turned out to be a whiney drama queen. You know the type--always late, asking me to pay for his lunch, instead of patiently waiting for a tip at the end, refusing to make me to dinner when staying at an isolated hotel, etc. I tried to not let it ruin my trip, but when you're together for so many hours, it's really difficult. The drive from Makassar to Toraja is ten hours, so asking for a substitute driver would not have been feasible.

In any case, I still enjoyed Sulawesi. I had seen picture of the funerals in Toraja a couple of years ago, and being a fan of culture, rather than just monuments, the area went high on my wish list. When I saw that Crellston and his wife went, I put it into my itinerary, and followed exactly what they did. I contacted the guide that they used, who was excellent. Her name is Ritha Balik, and here is her email. I would suggest contacting her directly, and finding a driver through her. She told me that she works for several agencies, so I am sure she would know the ones with the best drivers.

[email protected]


I enjoyed the three days I spent with Ritha. We did the typical tourist itinerary, which consisted of three days in the region divided geographically. We saw the north on the first day, the south on the second, and we visited the central area on the third day. Although I knew beforehand about the animal sacrifices at the funerals, I was not prepared for how much it would disturb me. Yes, I understand that these are cultural traditions, but I saw a pig strapped to a board, crying, and awaiting his fate. Another interesting aspect of the area is the fact that people are buried in holes drilled in large rocks, rather than in the ground. It takes a skilled artisan to hollow out the rocks, and then attach a door closing up the "tomb." Ritha showed me some videos of the annual event, which takes place in August, where families take out the buried people, and put them in new clothes. Boy, I wish I had known to go then, it looked really interesting.

Java:

My two weeks on the island of Java were divine. The main attractions on the island are laid out in a wiggly longitudinal line, so it makes sense to head either eastward or westward, stopping along the way, rather than radiating out from one spot for day trips. I followed kja's itinerary, which morphed from Kathie's and Crellston's. Her itinerary fit perfectly in the alloted time I had, so I decided to go for it. I usually don't travel at such a fast pace, but the drivers I had were absolutely amazing, and the trip flowed nicely. I hired all of the drivers well in advance from my hotels, although some of the hotels passed me along to an in-house agency. I did some modifications, for example, I asked each driver to "surprise" me with a hidden gem during our day out. My driver in Malang suggested visiting chocolate village. I assumed it would be a plantation of some sort, but it was actually quite commercial with all sorts of shops selling mostly chocolate. Initially disappointed, I heard a band playing, so I decided to listen. In the audience were four women, complete in Muslin conservative dress, who took turns singing with the band. They had the most beautiful voices, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I think back fondly on the experience.

I did so much during my two weeks in Java, and I have to say that every moment was wonderful. I will give you just five examples of moments I enjoyed:

1. Gedong Songo:
While in Borobudur, I stayed at the lovely Shankara Borobudur. It's a relatively new hotel, just down the road from the main temple. The Manohara Hotel is now closed, and has become a yoga center, so that is why I stayed at the Shankara. Anyway, the wonderful concierge there found me a good driver who took me on two day trips. I have to say that my favorite was Gedong Songo. I was determined to see all the Hindu temples there, so I decided to hoof it. Do did I ride a horse? Heck no, not on those hills. I decided to walk the entire area. It was brutally hot and humid, but I got through it, and a beautiful site it was, with gorgeous views, and a waterfall. When the day was finished, I ran to change in to my bathing suit, and jumped in the pool at the Shankara. Usually my neurotic side would make me do laps, but I just sat in the shallow end and people watched. How wonderful!

2. Jasing The Amazing Driver In Yogyakarta:
One of my drivers deserves "Best of Show," complete with a blue ribbon. My hotel referred me to an in-house agency called Jogja Prima Tour & Transport. The owner's name is J P Didik (no kidding), and his email is as follows:
Jogja Prima Transport <[email protected]>
Anyway, Jasing picked me up promptly at 8 the first morning, and he explained that he has a degree in archeology. Boy, I thought I hit pay dirt on this. Not only was he a great driver, he added sites to our pre planned itinerary, and he was just chatty enough to give me some great information. We added the Ullen Sentalu Museum in the Kallurang area. It's a private museum, and one can only see it via a private tour. Me a two well-behaved young euros (I was the annoying one asking tons of questions) had our own guide, and she explained that Yogyakarta and Solo were actually ruled by different branches of the same family, and showed us batik fabrics unique to each family. Jasing and I also went to many temples during our two days together, and he showed me how the rennovation process is done. In fact, we ran into one of his former professors (a lady) that was supervising a dig, and we were able to look around closely at the work being done. I take lousy notes, but I believe it was Candi Barong.

3. Wonosari Tea Plantation, Malang:
My Malang driver actually gets a second place red ribbon. We spent twelve hours seeing the sites around Malang, and I really enjoyed the Wonosari Tea Plantation. I had been to a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, and it consisted of a ten minute tour, and a guide that was more interested in making a commission on tea sales than explaining the process. However, I had an amazing tour at Wonosari. The guide was a young man who took me on a ninety minute private tour. Not only did he show me all the equipment, but we walked extensively through the plantation itself. We got to see all the different kinds of trees, and he described the type of flavor that one gets from each kind of leaf. Many families actually live on the plantation, so there was an aerobics class going on that reminded me of 80's style aerobics (the song was the Go-Go's, "We Got The Beat."). I joined in for a few minutes. Everyone in Indonesia is so friendly!

4. Bromo:
I thought the whole Bromo experience was fantastic. I stayed at the Lava View Lodge (icky rooms, but that's another story), and they arranged to have a jeep pick me up at my Malang hotel. We left at 7 AM, and did the southern Savannah route that y'all had recommended. What beautiful scenery! En route to Bromo, I especially enjoyed hiking down to Rainbow Waterfall, and I was the only one there at that early hour. At Bromo, after the sunrise and breakfast, I walked into the town, and walked on a trail. I thought the guys on horses with scarfs on their heads looked really cool (Indonesian cowboys). In fact, one of them sang and played the guitar at the Lava View Lodge restaurant, and performed such retro hits as "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and "Let It Be."

5. Gamelan Music:
The music of Java is amazing. I went to two puppet shows, the Prambanan ballet, and saw a small solo music performance at the wonderful Museum Sonobudoyo in Yogyakarta. Coming from a musical family, I was fascinated with the beautiful sounds coming from the orchestra. I finally had a chance to talk to the musician at the Museum Sonobudoyo, and he showed me his music. I was surprised that the score contains "numbers" rather than traditional notes. Attachment 1791ReplyForward

Last edited by Moderator3; Feb 1st, 2019 at 08:23 PM.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 07:12 PM
  #4  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,126
Welcome home, CaliforniaLady, and thanks for this wonderful report!

Iím very glad that my itinerary proved a workable starting point for you -- and as you note, you are joining me in the debt we owe to Kathie and Crellston, who forged the path for us.

And thank you so much for the extra details you added to your trip! Iíll have to remember the idea of asking drivers to add a surprise to each dayís plan.

I hope to follow you to Sulawesi some day,
and to hear more gamelan. It is enchanting, isnít it?
kja is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 07:36 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 2,760
I'm so pleased to hear that Indonesia didn't disappoint! Come back to Bali soon.
marmot is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 08:52 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 909
Oh my goodness, I have not posted a trip report since the new system came to be. I think I double posted, and the moderators mistakenly removed the one where I had the report. I saw that there were already two comments there, so I shall respond anyway.

kja - Thanks again for all your great inspiration. It was your enticing trip report that made me want to go to Java. I went to the Sangiran Museum of Man, which you had enjoyed, and I found fascinating. I also shamelessly copied you and had a two hour massage at the Hotel Tugu Blitar. Yes, the music of Indonesia is amazing, it's funny to think of orchestra "evolution" and how different are the musical sounds in Western culture.

Marmot - Thanks for answering all my PM's about weather/clothing and vaccinations and such. And yes, I shall be back to Bali. The culture seemed so different, people were a wee bit more outgoing and friendly.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 08:58 PM
  #7  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,126
Yes, that was weird! I hadn't actually yet deleted the message I composed in word, and so even though it looks like you at least saw that I had responded, I can re-post it:
Welcome home, CaliforniaLady, and thanks for this wonderful report!

Iím very glad that my itinerary proved a workable starting point for you -- and as you note, you are joining me in the debt we owe to Kathie and Crellston, who forged the path for us.

And thank you so much for the extra details you added to your trip! Iíll have to remember the idea of asking drivers to add a surprise to each dayís plan.

I hope to follow you to Sulawesi some day,
and to hear more gamelan. It is enchanting, isnít it?


Aah, that massage in Blitar!!! And the Sangiran Museum of Man -- I'm glad you went and enjoyed it!


Last edited by kja; Feb 1st, 2019 at 09:00 PM.
kja is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 10:00 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 2,760
Yes, Balinese and Javanese are different in temperament, which manifests in their music and dance. (Though both claim that their gamelan style is the more creative and improvisational). A House In Bali, by Colin McPhee, a young Canadian composer and musician who lived in Bali in the 1930's is a wonderful account.
marmot is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 10:09 PM
  #9  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,126
Originally Posted by marmot View Post
A House In Bali, by Colin McPhee, a young Canadian composer and musician who lived in Bali in the 1930's is a wonderful account.
I just ordered it -- thanks for the recommendation!
kja is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 10:12 PM
  #10  
Forum Moderator
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 1,561
Originally Posted by CaliforniaLady View Post
Oh my goodness, I have not posted a trip report since the new system came to be. I think I double posted, and the moderators mistakenly removed the one where I had the report. I saw that there were already two comments there, so I shall respond anyway.

We have re-opened the deleted thread and merged the two Trip Reports so all comments are now visible.
Moderator1 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2019, 11:36 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,431
So glad you enjoyed your trip CaliforniaLady and sorry that the driver for Tanah Toraja was so awful. We really struggled to find someone to organise our trip up there and then found Dodo the Penman who was streets ahead of his competition.. Our driver was great and Dodo was always at the end of the phone to sort out any issues (mostly translation with our driver). He should have told you about the switch.

No consolation I know, but we had a similar experience with our driver from Malang to Bromo and Ijen - lazy and always trying to rip us off with entrance fees etc. Absolutely hopeless.

Ritha was excellent wasn’t she! I don’t often use guides but she was one of the best ever. A great suggestion to contact her direct to arrange transport.

A great report, thanks for sharing.
crellston is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2019, 04:20 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,902
As you know, I love Indonesia and I'm glad my experiences inspired your trip. I still have many islands left to explore in Indonesia as well!
Kathie is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2019, 09:10 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 909
kja - Thanks again for all your inspiration. I have to say that I had trouble keeping up with you, lol. Every day was so busy, I could barely get myself in the swimming pools in the evening. The drivers on Java were amazing, everyone was on time, and no whining! My Malang driver asked me at the end if I enjoyed my day out, and, after I said yes, he said, "If you are happy, then I am very happy." Isn't that cute? I remember you mentioned in your trip report about the incessant male smoking in Indonesia. I asked my drivers, and they said boys start at about age 14, and the government encourages it, probably because of paybacks and taxes. One driver told me that girls smoke too, but in private. I would say that was just about the only downside of Indonesia.

marmot - Thanks again for all your planning help. Not to be outdone by kja, lol, I also ordered the book you mentioned. And those are interesting thoughts about the evolution of music and dance on Java versus Bali. I'm dying to see some performances in Bali now. When I saw the Ramayana ballet, I busted out my binoculars, so I could watch the musicians more closely, although I was seated in the first row.

crellston - Thanks for all your planning help, both on this trip and others. My Sulawesi driver, Tono, was ok, but just a wee bit annoying. I know that the infrastructure on Sulawesi is much less developed than on Java and Bali, so it makes sense that Dodo was the best travel planner that you could find. To his credit, he took me to a wedding the last day in Makassar, and I made a total pig of myself at the buffet. I told him about Tono, and he apologized and said that it's difficult to maintain good drivers who speak English, because those that do, tend to be more arrogant.

Kathie - Great to hear from you, thanks as always for your inspiration on many trips. Hope you are feeling well.

I forgot to mention a bit about the foods in Indonesia. Generally, I try to eat vegetarian in third world countries. I am a huge fan of wandering around open air markets in these countries, and the flies that I see attacking the fish and chicken (not always on ice), totally grosses me out. However, I found it difficult to go veggie on this trip, simply because the offerings were slim. I did enjoy Gado Gado on Java, which was my go-to lunch. It's basically some cooked cubes of tofu lying on a bed of lettuce or other veggies, with some sort of chips served on the side. I had this when I was strolling around by myself, so I would not have to worry where to eat it. I had lots of great fish all over Indonesia, but I have to say the best was the pamarassan fish in the Toraja region of Sulawesi. It's a black sauce that is not only tasty, but it looks pretty as well. When we stopped for lunch, Ritha encouraged my to try a different dish, but my addiction prevailed.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2019, 09:24 PM
  #14  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,126
Ah, the fish!
Unlike you, I wouldn't touch any fruit or vegetable that hadn't been cooked or reputably peeled -- no lettuce for me! (Sigh. I love fresh vegetables, greens included.)
kja is offline  
Feb 8th, 2019, 08:38 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4,393
Yikes! That many islands? I love educational subject lines!

Found this just recently, California Lady. Thank you for another from-the-Golden State travel story with your usual tips, honesty, and humor. I don't know that I'll ever get there alone (solo travel days are numbered ---or so say I now) but I very much enjoyed reading, learning, and admiring your party-of-one Indonesia adventures! Bravo!
CaliNurse is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 05:16 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,989
I am here for the title!

Thank you for this post, I might have to put this higher on my list.
flygirl is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 07:53 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 909
kja - It is difficult to decide on appropriate food restrictions for any given country, especially when trying new foods is part of the fun. You are correct, I probably should not have eaten raw veggies, but the salads were so enticing. The breakfast buffet items looked so heavy, I mean, who eats chicken at 7 AM? For breakfast, I typically had a salad, a veggie omelet, and five pounds of papaya. The last night of my trip, the host at the hotel restaurant brought me a complementary fruit smoothie. I assumed that they used tap water to prepare it, but I let my guard down and drank it. I was sick for several days thereafter.

CaliNurse - Thanks for the kudos. I too felt that this may be my last solo trip, but four months later, the travel bug is getting me again. The hardest part of being alone is the evenings, so I try to take a walk. If there's nowhere to walk, I hang out with my ipad in the hotel lounge, or even the lobby. There is always some good people watching to be done.

flygirl - I'm so glad you read the report. I enjoyed your wonderful live Vietnam trip report, but I didn't comment, since I have only been to Hanoi and Sapa. I admire the way you travel is such an unrestrictive way. You will find that Java requires advance planning for hotels and drivers, since one is on the move so much. However, Bali seems like a better place to plop oneself down somewhere and radiate out. Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Feb 9th, 2019, 08:49 PM
  #18  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,126
Originally Posted by CaliforniaLady View Post
It is difficult to decide on appropriate food restrictions for any given country, especially when trying new foods is part of the fun.
You just said a mouthful! It is SOOooooo hard to decide just how to fill one's mouth isn't it? Particularly when so many, many things are worth tasting! I'm sorry the smoothie "bit" you, and suspect that all too many of us have had that one thing that we were sure would be safe, only to learn later it wasn't. IMO, part of life and part of travel is deciding which risks to take.
kja is offline  
Jun 6th, 2019, 05:18 PM
  #19  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,126
Originally Posted by marmot View Post
A House In Bali, by Colin McPhee, a young Canadian composer and musician who lived in Bali in the 1930's is a wonderful account.
I can't thank you enough for this recommendation, marmot! It was a delight to read. I learned, even as it reminded me of my experiences in the area, and I was very impressed with the author's power to use words to evoke music. Wonderful!
kja is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
gard
Air Travel
8
Oct 17th, 2009 01:45 AM
Kaneohe
Air Travel
4
Jun 7th, 2006 03:01 PM
fishskis
Asia
4
Mar 9th, 2005 04:49 AM
Boonie
Air Travel
6
Feb 8th, 2005 05:31 AM
sheryl
Asia
5
Aug 17th, 2000 12:54 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:13 PM.