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fiffy May 5th, 2007 10:10 AM

Where to go in Indonesia?
Hi there,
We are thinking of going to Indonesia for the holidays this year (december). We would like to go to Bali, but are curious if it is very touristy? We like to go to moderately travelled places (although heavily travelled is fine if it is spectacular!) with a good combination of culture, beach and adventure. We'd have 10 days - so could spend a few in bali and a few else where if there are better more interesting places around indonesia to explore. Looking forward to any advice!

thank you

Femi May 5th, 2007 04:21 PM

You might want to consider Lombok. It's less heavily travelled than Bali, and so the atmosphere is a little more relaxed.

It's only a short flight from Bali by puddle jumper. There are nice beaches to boot.

marmot May 5th, 2007 05:02 PM

Very touristy gets a "it depends" answer. Yes, the beach area of south Bali is highly developed and gets plenty of visitors. December is peak season both for Europeans and Australians and the popular resorts are operating at full capacity and charging their highest prices.

Once you get into the heartland which comprises some 95% of Bali's landmass, however, tourism thins out considerably and indigenous culture, natural beauty and arts and crafts pick up proportionately.

Lombok has some very nice beaches, though, I'd not rate it as high as Bali for natural beauty and cultural attractions.

I'd also suggest visiting Central Java which is about an hour's flight from Bali (Denpasar to Yogya). The area is rich in 8-9 Century Buddhist and Hindu sites and has a wonderful cultural and artistic tradition of its own as well as being profoundly beautiful.

Anywhere you go in Indonesia you will have ample opportunities for adventure travel -- mountains to climb, volcanoes to peer into, rivers to raft, reefs to snorkle, waves to surf, rain forests to trek. There's a lot to do and you'll have no problem filling up 10 days.

Indonesia is a BIG country with 17,000 islands and each one has a story. Borneo, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Komodo, the Spice Islands, Papua you could just keep going. . . But for an introduction, I'd choose Bali and Java.

Having said all that I still really like the beach in Bali. After all the nature and culture a good dose of sunshine and shopping, spas, restaurants is always welcome.

So my itinerary would be: 3 days in Central Java, 4 days in the Ubud area of Bali, 3 days at the beach in Seminyak.

fiffy May 5th, 2007 06:40 PM

Thank you, this is very helpful!
A couple follow up questions -
*can you tell me more about Ubud? Is it somewhere to use as a base for day trips? Or more a destination in itself?
*Also, are there less "resorty" places to stay in south bali (e.g. less expensive)? We are more of the Low-to mid-budget type people!
*Lastly, is it possible to explore more of Bali? By scooter or something? We did this in Koh Samui years ago and it was fantastic. Trying to get a feel for the size of the island and variety of things to do. We love the beach for activities (snorkelling etc) but are not the type to lie on the beach for 3 days.
Thank you again for your help - I really appreciate it!

marmot May 5th, 2007 10:12 PM

Ubud is about 1/3 up the center of Bali. It's a small town with lots of shops, restaurant and places to stay. It is both a destination in itself for art and culture and a base for exploring north, east and west Bali.

Bali -- and Indonesia in general -- is a great destination for low to mid budget. I would recommend starting with Ketut's in Ubud and going from there. Ketut will arrange cultural events and adventure trips and provide fascinating commentary on Balinese life.

Somewhat outside of Ubud I would recommend the Alam Sari. Like Ketut the owners provide a lot more than a place to stay. It's a whole cultural immersion.

Lot's of people like to see Bali by scooter or even bicycle. Personally, I'd suggest getting a car and driver as they're not terribly expensive and the locals know the roads and the rules. Hiking, trekking or just walking is wonderful all over Bali.

I'm not sure how to answer your question about less touristy place at the beach. The southern beaches simply ARE touristy -- for better or for worse -- but there are plenty of inexpensive places to stay. I don't know your budget but I would recommend the Sofitel in the mid-range.

In North Bali you get some of the best snorkling (and diving if interested). At the recommendation of another Fodorite, Kimjapan, my son and his friends stayed at the Taman Sari.

jenskar May 6th, 2007 05:33 AM

Fiffy, I had the same concerns before we booked our trip to Bali last year as it's been on the tourist radar for so long. I can't begin to describe how glad I am that I went, as Balinese culture has a way of seeping into everything in Bali, so even when you are in the more developed areas of the south, you still know you're in a very different, special place. We happened upon two temple blessing ceremonies the first full day, one just down the road from our hotel in Jimbaran.
There are great reviews of hotels on tripadvisor, with pictures taken by other travelers. That forum too has a great many people on it who go to Bali often at a wide variety of price ranges, so you could get some good ideas there.
Marmot's suggestion of Ubud as a base for day trips is excellent -- it's only an hour and a half from the southern beaches so easy to reach, frankly Bali is small enough that you can see quite a bit of it doing day tours. We especially enjoyed the dances at the Palace in Ubud, our trip to two of the mountain temples, heck we just enjoyed everything so I'm not sure why I'm picking !! There is always something going on spiritually in Bali, so there are plenty of opportunities to see festivals, etc.
We did use a driver -- about $45 US included parking and gas for very long days. Most of the drivers who are licensed also function very much like guides -- so you learn quite a bit more using one of them. Ours was Dean -- if you do a search here you'll find his contact information.
We had ten days, spent 3 beach/5 Ubud/2 beach -- with 4 of those days touring around with Dean. I have my travel blog pictures up at:

megamiles May 6th, 2007 07:57 AM

So many great places to visit in Indonesia. We have been going there for over 20 years and just love the place.

For your first visit, I would suggest you try Bali which is a delight. If you go I would suggest staying in either Sanur or Ubud, as they are a lot nicer (in my opinion) than places like Kuta.

It's a small island so very easy to go to any place with a day trip. Although we have driven there, it can be quite dangerous, and we now use a driver for our daytrips.

We can certainly recommend a great driver in Bali if you need one.

We highly recommend KETUT SUDIARTA as a driver. Ketut is very safe driver, has a good command of English and a very good sense of humour which kept us thoroughly entertained during the trip.

His rate is very reasonable and you can do either a 1/2 day or a full day. His phone number is 081 239 32604, and email [email protected].

We have recommended Ketut to many friends who have visited Bali, and they all raved about his service! A good guy!
Tell him 'Mr. Mark' says hello.

Check the positive comments on the Bali Forum.

Hope you have a great visit.

Becalm May 6th, 2007 03:51 PM

Marmot has given you great advice as is typical for her. If you wish to avoid the populated beach areas of the southern beach area that she mentions, consider eastern Bali around Candidasa. The beachess are not as nice, however there is more culture and natural beauty there and also snorkeling. Consider staying there for 2 or 3 days days exploring the shore and nearby villages, temples and volcanos. Three days in the hills of Ubud exploring the villages and culture of central Bali

Becalm May 6th, 2007 05:01 PM

I hit the touchpad by mistake and my message posted prematurely...

Three days in the hills of Ubud exploring the villages, culture and natural beauty of central Bali in and around Ubud is definitely a spectacular experience.

Then as Marmot suggests fly to Central Java (Yogyakarta) and spend 2 or 3 days (depending on travel time) in the rural area north of Yogyakarta called Mangelang. This area around Borobudur is has a unique beauty and serene nature that for me is stunning and indescribable. Some describe it as magical and I would agree. For my experience in this area read my trip report:

For safety, it is not recommended to rent a car or motorbike to drive in Indonesia. As the others suggested hire a proper tour guide who will safely drive you around and as a tour guide make sure that you experience the culture and adventure that you want such as blessing ceremonies, local festivals and hiking through rural areas. Our tour guides in Indonesia made our holiday special. As you can see from this thread, everyone has a favorite driver whom they have be-friended. In the Yogya/Borobudur area, Rohmad Hidajat is superb.
Several long time posters on this forum recommended Putu Arnawa to us and you could do no better especially for providing access to local village and cultural events.

Budget hotels can be found in all these areas. Provide your budget range and suggestions can be made. In the Javanese countryside near Borobudur, the Manohara is the really the only recommended budget choice @ US$50 a night providing a private bath and A/C. Splurge for (expensive) lunch by the pool one day at the nearby five star Amnajiwo Resort. An indulgence for sure but truly memorable.

Look through a few guidebooks to help you with your planning. The Eyewitness Travel Guide for Bali is a good one.

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