Trip planning help

Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 12:36 PM
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Trip planning help

Hi All. I use these forums regularly to plan trips, so off the bat, thanks to regular contributors for your valued perspective and information. My husband and I are going to Makkasar Indonesia for our former exchange student's wedding in April, 2020. While we're in the neighborhood, we want to go somewhere else. My husband has been to Asia before, but not extensively and I've never been there. I'm considering Bali just because of the convenience and location. However, I'd be open to other suggestions. We like history, snorkeling, beaches , ruins, getting to know local people and customs. We like our creature comforts, but aren't afraid to get out of our comfort zone either. My husband works remotely when we travel so good, reliable internet is important. I have no idea about internet in that part of the world. We often stay in airbnb, small hotels and off the beaten path. Thanks for any input.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 04:17 PM
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You'll have a lot of options. Bali is certainly the least complicated choice. There are non-stop flights between Makassar and Denpasar and once you're on Bali getting around is easy. You'll get mostly good weather in April, though Easter week (April 12) is usually a busy time. Wifi is widely available.

If you choose Bali, I'd suggest you plan a few days at on the ocean and a few days inland in the Ubud area. I like the beach at Petitenget for big wave surfer culture, lively atmosphere, lots of walkable restaurants and shops. In the Ubud area you can either stay in the town itself or in the surrounding countryside. Ubud is Bali's culture and nature center, performing arts, arts & crafts, religious ceremonies, rain forests, volcanoes, yoga, wellness, healing. Snorkeling is good in the northeast or northwest coasts.

The other obvious choice would be to explore Sulawesi (where Makassar is located). Sulawesi's tourism infrastructure is mid-range: developed enough to be accessible and remote enough to be adventurous. Internet is generally available, but not always. Makassar is the launching point for the rest of Sulawesi. You could visit Tanah Toraja in Central Sulawesi which is about 8 hours by road from Makassar and experience one of the most fascinating cultures on the planet, amid profoundly beautiful scenery. You could also fly to Manado in North Sulawesi for access to phenomenal coral reefs (Bunaken and the Lembeh Strait). There are also many pristine beaches along the southeast coast, but these take some work to get to.

Lastly, consider Java, the artistic and cultural heart of Indonesia, Central Java for ancient temples and East Java for volcanoes. Again, tourism is widely supported, but not quite as sophisticated as Bali. Except for certain remote mountain areas, internet is available. Bear in mind that April 23 is the start of Ramadan, which will impact your experience in Java and in Southern Sulawesi.

I'd suggest you do some research and narrow in on your priorities within the time that is available to you. Don't overplan, though, as things move slowly in Indonesia.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 05:23 PM
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I loosely followed the footsteps of two other Fodorites -- Kathie and Crellston -- through Java and Bali, benefitting greatly from marmot's input in the process. Here's my trip report:
A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 06:13 PM
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How long do you have after the wedding? It would be a shame not to see more of Sulawesi while you are there. I spent a week there, most of which was spent in the Tanah Toraja region. The drive was more like 10 to 11 hours (as opposed to the 8 hours mentioned by Marmot). The area is fascinating, and you will definitely need a driver, and most likely a guide. Allow for three full days in that region to see the funerals and other sites.

After that, I spent two full weeks in Java. The dance, music, and ancient site were fascinating. The only negative was the smoking. I spent a couple of days in Bali, and although it was beautiful, it is more heavily visited by Western tourists.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 07:57 PM
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Thanks for the suggestion about Selawesi. I should have explored that idea before dismissing it out of hand. I had second thoughts about Bali simply because of being touristy, but I figured there's a reason so many people go there. I'll read the trip report, thanks!! So, I'm gathering from your responses, you would stay in the area and not consider going to Vietnam , Cambodia, etc? Save that for another trip perhaps. It would be easy to not have to go so far when we already have a monster flight to get there. Good to know about Ramadan dates. Our exchange student is Muslim, so I'll ask her how to manage that. we may just stay in Makassar for Easter. Thank you so much! Always can count on fellow fodorites.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 08:44 PM
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You still haven't stated how long you have. Maybe that is flexible. Yes, I would stay in the region, and save Cambodia and Vietnam for another trip. You will be hard pressed narrowing it down to which islands to visit in Indonesia. I really wanted to see the Komodo dragons, but I thought a fourth island would be too much.

Here is my mini trip report, notes:
The Islands of Indonesia: 3 Down, 13,463 To Go

Makassar is a boring city with a handful of sites that can be seen in less than a day. I would move on. I met a nice British couple in Sulawesi who traveled more extensively than I did there, so that is a possibility. You may be able to visit more than one island if time permits, the Garuda flights are pleasant enough.

I tell people now that Java was one of my favorite trip segments ever. I would never have thought of it had I not seen so many glowing reviews here.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 11:25 PM
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I agree the scope of your trip really depends on how much time you have. I would definitely take advantage of your (relative) proximity to Tanah Toraja to visit that weird and wonderful culture. I'm sure your friends in Makassar could help you arrange transport to Rantepao where you will easily find guides to take you on day trips to funerals, burial sites and Torajan villages with their fantastical architecture. Because overland travel is limited in Sulawesi (the island has a pinwheel shape with miles and miles of coastline but few roads) you'll need to return to Makassar to connect by air to your next destination.

If you are serious about snorkeling or SCUBA then don't miss North Sulawesi. Otherwise both Bali and Java would be good choices. Areas of Bali are heavily touristed and parts are not. Most importantly the culture, arts and pageantry of Bali is alive and well. It's also a great place to start your trip and recover from jet lag.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 02:35 PM
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Thanks so much. As for time, we are a bit flexible since I'm now retired. I imagine not more than two weeks, not including the wedding which I think is only a couple of days. We are not ones to overplan. I make myself pare down my wish lists and really get to be in a place. I'm going to read your trip reports and I've looked at some reef pictures which is exciting. I love seeing /learning about cultures so the Tanah Toraja area seems not to be missed. Isn't the world a beautiful place? Getting harder and harder to keep it that way.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 02:33 PM
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I've done a bit of reading and researching. I'm thinking now of going to the north coast of Sulawesi for some snorkeling and going to Tanah Toraja on the way. Then, flying to Java for a few days. I'm looking at the Yogyakarta region. It's so hard to pare down. Let's, for the sake of argument, say we have two weeks for this. Is this doable or too much? Is flying all over the place not practical? Of course time and money are a consideration! And am I mistaken or do we need to have a guide go with us to Tanah Toraja? or get one there? I think we can manage in the other places and get a guide for particular areas when we get there. How much per day does a guide cost generally? I'm sure there's a range. Thanks for any further help with this. So glad someone mentioned staying on Sulawesi ! It sounds great.
Christy
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 06:30 PM
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I think you can accomplish North Sulawesi, Tanah Toraja and Central Java in 2 weeks. It's extremely difficult to get from North Sulawesi/Manado to Tanah Toraja without backtracking through Makassar. The interior roads are rugged and although there are flights to Rantepao at certain times of year, they are unreliable.

The two main reef areas in North Sulawesi are around Bunaken Island and the Lembeh Strait. The SCUBA boat operators in the area usually welcome snorkelers. I'm especially fond of Kungkungan Bay where you can snorkel right off the beach. Tangkoko Nature Preserve, which is not too far from Bitung, is wonderful rain forest destination full of tropical birds and small primates.

You will need to hire a driver to get from Makassar to Rantepao, but you can find a local guide once you are there. Your hotel will give you recommendations and help you with an itinerary including costs. The funerals are massive events, usually scheduled for July/August. They are quite interesting but involve a great deal of animal slaughter. My preference would be to visit the mountain villages and burial sites. The scenery is phenomenal.

Central Java/Yogyakarta is best accessed through Yogyakarta airport. Solo (Surakarta) and Semarang are other options depending where you're coming from/going to. All of these airports have good connections to Jakarta, Makassar and Denpasar. Singapore Airlines flies non-stop from Manado to Singapore. Within Indonesia my first choices would be Garuda and AirAsia.

The city of Yogyakarta has several historic sites and Prambanan temple on its outskirts. There are venues for performing arts and terrific shopping for arts and crafts, especially textiles. The Phoenix Hotel is a good choice in town.

Personally, I find Yogyakarta difficult to navigate (it's crowded, trafficky, and unbearably hot) and prefer to stay in the countryside around Borobudur temple, amid the small villages, rice terraces and volcanoes. From there you can visit the Dieng Plateau and the tea and coffee plantations. Try to avoid Central Java during Ramadan and 1-2 days prior.
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 02:37 PM
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Just checking in on my travel planning. A change in our plans is that our 26yo son is going with us. He is not as flexible as we are and so I've decided not to go north in Sulawesi. and we are staying about 10 days after the wedding---which is now a day later than planned. Glad we had not purchased our tickets yet! I'm thinking of spending half the time on Java around Yogyakarta region and half the time on Bali. Is there a great place for snorkeling on Bali that is not in the most touristy area nor will break the bank? and I'm aware of the travel distances and difficulty getting to some places not on the beaten path. Realize this will give us just a taste of Indonesia.
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 11:43 PM
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Bali has some good (though not spectacular) snorkeling along the north and northeast coasts. I would recommend Menjangan Island in northwest corner (near Pemuteran) and the area around Amed in the northern part of the east coast. Both are pleasant seaside communities with plenty of moderately priced choices in accommodation. I would avoid Padang Bai , Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan.

The dive shops will also arrange tours that pick up at resorts in Ubud or the southern beaches for snorkeling day trips. It makes for a very long day, but it's commonly done.
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Old Feb 18th, 2020, 08:24 AM
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thanks so much for the info. I'll definitely look at those places for snorkeling.
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Old Feb 18th, 2020, 05:57 PM
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I'm a novice snorkeler, so my input might have little merit, but FWIW, I enjoyed my very brief time in the water near Amed. See post # 146 of the trip report I linked in upthread.
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Old Feb 19th, 2020, 03:02 PM
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I read through everyone's trip report and loved the descriptions of your adventures. Thanks so much!!
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Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 09:21 AM
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We have our final trip plan. We fly into Denpasar, spend two nights, then go to Pemuteran for a few days. then, 4 nights in Makassar for the wedding. Fly to Yogyakarta for 5 nights. There's such a long layover in Singapore on the way back that we'll get to spend a day/night there. That is, if we get to go! (because of the virus). We were about to get our tickets on Korean and fly through Soeul . yikes. that was a close one.
We decided not to go north on Sulawesi because, with our son traveling with us, it's just too much. So, gives us another reason to go back.
My question now is, I remember Marmot saying Yogyakarta is too big a city to stay in the whole time. We hate moving around very much, so I'm looking at a place that's about 5km out of town. Is it too much of a hassle to go into the city from there every day? We'll go to Borobudur and Prambanan within those days as well, just for day trips.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 10:06 AM
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I know you said it is your final plan but why Denpasar and Permuteran? There isn’t a whole lot to do or see in Denpasar and Pemuteran is OK if you are into diving (but there are better places) but it is long way from anywhere. If you haven’t been to Bali before then I would have thought Ubud would be a better bet.

We spent a few days in Makkasar at either end of a trip to Tanah Toraja and Lake Tempe. It was possibly the most fascinating place we have visited in Indonesia. Some details and photos of our time there on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/indonesia/ it is a bit of a hassle to get there but so worthwhile!

Yogyakarta is a very hot and very busy biggish city but we didn’t find it too bad at all. We split our time between there and Borobudur where we had a night in the Mahanora hotel right next to the temple complex and another few nights at another small local place. If I were to return I would proably do the same but would not want to spend time on the outskirts of Yogyakarta and spend even more time getting to and from places.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 06:08 PM
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Like crellston, I'm wondering: Why Denpasar? Consider Ubud instead.

When I was in Yogyakarta (2016), traffic was astonishing -- just getting from one part of the city to another often took more than an hour, almost entirely in unpleasant traffic jams. I would not want to stay out of town unless it was a place very close to (and convenient for reaching) Borobodour and Prambanan. I believe the Manohara has closed since I was there, but it might be worth considering a place that is convenient for those two magnificent sites and then relocating to either Jogya or Solo, depending on which city holds more of the things you want to see.

Last edited by kja; Mar 3rd, 2020 at 06:11 PM.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 06:37 PM
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Same general comments as Crellston & kja. You are probably referring to Denpasar as the code for Bali Airport not the town. The airport is actually in the southern beach area of Jimbaran even though it's called Denpasar airport. The town of Denpasar is best avoided.

Pemuteran is a pleasant community and the snorkeling at nearby Menjanan is fairly good. If seeing marine life is important this trip, then you might re-consider north Sulawesi, for some of the most impressive reefs in the world, easily accessible from Manado. Otherwise, I'd suggest you devote your limited time in Bali to the Ubud area (again, not necessarily the town of Ubud).

The Manohara is back in business steps away from Borobudur monument. It's no longer in the budget category though. Having been renovated it's now in the moderate price range.

I'm not a fan of the town of Yogyakarta because it's sprawling, hot, trafficky and not particularly pedestrian friendly. But if you want the urban experience, the Phoenix Hotel is quite nice. A lot of the activities in Central Java will often entail traveling outside of the city center so being 5 kms outside of town isn't necessarily a disadvantage. It really depends on the environment and location of the hotel you choose.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by marmot View Post
The Manohara is back in business steps away from Borobudur monument.
Nice to know that option's there again! Thanks, marmot.
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