Trip planning help

Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 12:36 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2014
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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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Join Date: Jun 2003
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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
  #3  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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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
  #5  
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Join Date: Apr 2014
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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
  #8  
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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
  #9  
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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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