Indonesia: More than Bali and Beaches

Indonesia: More than Bali and Beaches

posted in: Asia, Indonesia | 0

It's been over 8 months since my last post and over a year since we've been back from our honeymoon, but I really want to finish documenting our trip. I'm going to commit to a post at least every other week until I'm done. There's only five countries left but a lot to discuss. The next stop on our trip was Indonesia.

We always heard about Bali, Indonesia but I hadn’t heard much else about the country.  Situated between the Indian and Pacific oceans, it is the world's largest island country, with more than thirteen thousand islands. The country is very diverse, but there is a shared identity defined by a national language, ethnic diversity, religious pluralism within a Muslim-majority population, and a history of colonialism and rebellion against it.

We would be spending most of our time on the islands of Java and Bali, but after our experience, we’re excited to explore more of what Indonesia has to offer.

Day 336 (3/31/17) – KL > Yogyakarta

We had an early flight at 6am so we had to call an Uber at 3am to pick us up the driver got a little lost finding us but we made it to the airport on time. It was a short 1.5 hour flight and we arrived in Yogyakarta by 8am. We had arranged a private driver (500,000 idr per car) to pick us up at the airport and take us for a tour of Yogyakarta. We started with the Prambanan temple and the Ratu Boko temple ($25pp for combo ticket). Prambanan reminded us of the wats in Angkor, Cambodia but not as grand and ancient. Ratu Boko had some nice views but we didn't think it was worth the high entrance fee. We originally wanted to go to Sultan Palace but it closed at noon on Friday and we were too late. There wasn't much there but ruins and rubble. Afterwards, we made our way into the city center to check out the Taman Sari (Water Castle) and grabbed lunch along the way. It was cute and small with a cheap entrance fee (30,000 idr) so we spent a bit of time here. It began to rain harder so we decided to skip the Merapi Volcano and head straight to our homestay near Borobodur. It took over 2 hours to reach Borobodur but we made it there by midday. We checked into our homestay and then walked to grab dinner at a nearby restaurant. Then back to our room for the rest of the evening.

Day 337 (4/1/17) – Borobudur

Beautiful Borobudor sunrise

Sunrises, sunrises, sunrises! The next few days were going to be all about the sunrises. Today, we got up at 4:15 AM for a sunrise drive to the famous Borobudur temple. Our host and his wife actually drove us on their motorcycles. The host took us in to the temple, told a few facts and showed us a good spot to watch the sunrise. Right when we sat down more people showed up and tried to get next to our spot so it was a good thing we got there when we did and had the inside scoop. We waited around for about an hour and a lot more people starting showing up but the view was magnificent! It was everything I imagined it would be like and more. The morning mist was magical and made the view even more beautiful along with the smoke coming from the mountain in the distance. We spent a good amount of time there taking photos and walking the complex to check out the different levels.. We walked around afterwards then went to have coffee included in admission. We were starting our human diet from the book Deep Nutrition so we couldn't eat the sweet snack that they provided. We finally made our way back to the homestay, which was a short 10 minute walk from the entrance, and had breakfast. Then back to the room for a nap and relaxation. Our host warned us but the homestay is right next to a temple and they play music at certain times of the day. I say music but it was mostly a guy screaming on a microphone with a semblance of melody thrown in there. We made it outside for lunch and then again for dinner but not much else.

Day 338 (4/2/17) – Borobudur > Surabaya

We woke up early at 5:15am to catch another sunrise view of the temple. The hosts drove us in their scooters to a view point that was new. We waited around for a bit but there was too much fog so we couldn't see much of the view. We left after a while and went on a scenic ride through the village. Our host explained to us the development of the villages and Borobodur because of the income from the tourists and how much the government is investing in these sites to attract by building homestays and common rest areas that will host public events and outdoor concerts. We arrived back at the homestay and had breakfast. We packed up and bought a bus ticket to the Tugu train station. The train ride took over 6 hours but it was comfortable (executive seat tickets). We arrived in Surabaya around 10:00pm and were picked up by our tour guide. We drove 3 hours from Surabaya to Cemoro Lawang at the base of Mt Bromo.

Day 339 (4/3/17) - Yogyakarta > Surabaya > Mt Bromo

Today’s sunrise view was of the famous Mt. Bromo.  Mount Bromo is an active volcano that sits in the middle of a plain called the "Sea of Sand." It is one of most visited tourist attractions in East Java. Our tour guide took us to the viewpoint on Mount Penanjakan but we got there early so we slept in a car for an hour. Then our jeep driver came around 3am and took us for and walked us up to the view point. There were a lot more jeeps parked on the road than an hour ago and more and more people were making their way up to the viewpoint. Unfortunately, it was very cold and wet outside. We waited at the view point for sunrise shivering cold but there were too many clouds and we didn't get to see the sunrise. Begrudgingly, we headed back to the jeep to warm up and the driver drove us down the mountain to the valley in front of the crater.

Top of the morning to you!

The drive stopped in front of Mt. Bromo so we could take some photos and he even let us pose on top of his jeep. We parked at the base of the crater and had 1.5 hours to explore the area and climb to the top of the crater. The trail to the top of the crater wasn’t too bad but the steps leading up to crater was a little rough because the ash cloud coming out of the crater was really sulfuric. When we reached the top, we could hardly breathe even when we tried covering our mouths. The ash cloud was also pretty thick so we didn’t have much of a view and immediately started heading back down. Afterwards, we drove back to Cemoro Lawang, a small town next to Mt. Bromo, where we had breakfast (included in our tour) at the Cafe Lave Hostel. After breakfast, we were dropped off at the Probollingo train station where we caught the 11am train to Banyuwangi for our Ijen tour. We arrived in Banyuwangi at 15:20 and were picked up by our next tour guide from Blue Flame Tours. We bought the 3D/2N tour Ijen Sukamade tour package for 5,300,000 idr total that included accommodations, some meals, transport, entrance fees, as well as a transfer to our hotel in Ubud on Bali island after the tour. The driver took us to our hotel and we had time to relax and nap before our Ijen Midnight Tour at 1am.

Day 340 (4/4/17) - Mt Bromo > Banyuwangi (Ijen) > Sukamade

Another early morning tour in Indonesia. Our guide picked us up at 1am and it was about a 2 hour ride to get to the base of Ijen and we tried slept along the way. Ijen is a volcano complex in Java. It is famous for its blue flame which is the largest blue flame area in the world. The blue fire is ignited sulphuric gas, which emerges from cracks at temperatures up to 600 degrees Celsius / 1112 degrees F.

The blue flame is down there but couldn't get a good pic

When we arrived, our guide gave us a box of sweets (the most delicious pandan and chocolate brownies from Amanda's Brownies) that we left in the car for afterwards. We started our walk around 3AM when the gates to the viewing area opened. It was about a 3km hike up hill to the top of the mountain. After all these early mornings and difficult sleeping arrangements, we were feeling extremely tired so we took a lot of breaks on the way up. We finally made it up to the top just in time for sunrise. We took a bunch of photos but it wasn't really a nice sunrise because the sun was positioned behind the nearby mountains and it was cloudy. On the way down, we stopped by the blue flame area. The flame itself was very pretty and blue but had such a strong sulfur smell that we couldn’t get too close, even with the gas masks on. We were running late so we hurried through pictures and started our descent. Eventually, we made to the base around 7AM and drove back to the hotel to freshen up and check out.

That's a lot of eggs for one turtle

A new guide picked us up for the Sukamade portion of our tour at 10AM. It was a long 6 hour drive to Sukamade because more than half of the trip was very bumpy unpaved roads through the jungle. Sukamade is home of a turtle sanctuary where we booked an experience to release baby turtles to the ocean. We reached our homestay in Sukamade around 4PM and had time to rest and freshen up before dinner at 7PM. The homestay was very basic with a squat potty and it seemed like it was the only property in the area. We had a simple dinner of veggies and fried chicken. At 8PM, we had a brief orientation and then headed down to the beach to wait for the mother turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs in the beach. It was a lot of waiting around but one of the guides finally told us there was one down the beach so we headed there. We didn’t want to disturb the mother turtle so we waited for her to finish laying her eggs and covering them up in the sand. We couldn’t see much while she was doing this but when she was done, the ranger shined his light on the turtle as she made her way back down the beach into the ocean so we could take pictures and follow her. It was amazing and a very slow process but she lays a crazy amount of eggs and has an awful lot of sand to move to place them in the beach. After seeing go back into the ocean, we headed back to where she laid her eggs and counted how many she left (152 eggs). We put them in the sack and took them back to the sanctuary where they incubate and monitor them. We were pretty exhausted so we went to bed right away and were excited about releasing the baby turtles in the morning.

Day 341 (4/5/17) - Sukamade > Ubud

He's my special little guy!

Around 6AM, we met up with the ranger and were given a bucket of 20 baby sea turtles that had hatched the day before. We brought them down to the beach and released them one by one. They were super adorable and 20 were just not enough. We needed probably 100 more. The ranger told us not to help them as they made their way into the water so they can learn to fend for themselves. It was tough because we heard that many times birds of prey come to the release spot and eat the turtles as we release them. Luckily, no birds were around today and all our little guys made it safely to the ocean. Afterwards, we went back to the homestay for breakfast and then packed up for ride back to Banyuwangi. It was another 6 hour drive through jungle to the ferry harbor with a 1 hour stop at Red Beach for short swimming and lunch. At Banyuwangi, we hopped on 1 hour ferry ride to Bali to spend the rest of the trip there. We were picked up by a private driver and had another 5 hour drive to Ubud. It was a really long but satisfying day and once we got to our hotel, we knocked out.

Day 342 (4/6/17) – Ubud

Ubud is known for its good restaurants (many of them serving delicious organic food) and traditional crafts and dance. It is also home to many yoga studios and retreats. For breakfast we ate at a nice café/yoga studio that had really fresh ingredients and made a mean cappuccino. Even after the coffee, we were pretty tired from all the early mornings and the long travel day yesterday. After breakfast it started raining so we ended up taking a rest day and worked on errands.

Day 343 (4/7/17) – Ubud

The luwak coffee is on the right, a little over-rated

Today, we rented a scooter and drove around Ubud. It was a little nerve-racking because the road was a single lane road with tons of scooters and cars but it was a lot of fun to drive. Bali, and Indonesia in general is famous for its coffee so we drove north through some rice fields and then to the Bali Pulina coffee plantation for a free coffee tasting and to try the luwak coffee. Luwak coffee is coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. Fermentation occurs as the cherries pass through the civet's intestines, and after being defecated with other fecal matter, they are collected for processing. At the plantation, the workers gave us a brief tour of their facilities and a background on how they make luwak coffee. We got to meet one of the civets and feed them coffee cherries. Then we were seated in a terrace cafe with a gorgeous view of the rice fields. The tour included a taster flight to share that has 8 different types of coffees & teas most of them all sweet but still tasty. The luwak coffee was extra at 50,000 idr but we had to try it so we ordered one. Unfortunately, the luwak coffee is not worth the hype. It was served unfiltered and tasted chalky and had a pretty bitter taste. It might have been better filtered but it was pretty muddy. We relaxed for a bit and then took pictures with the view. After, we got back on the scooter and drove back near our homestay for lunch. Later, we drove to a barber so I could get a haircut (80,000 idr for shampoo & cut). Then we headed back to the homestay to freshen up and chill. For dinner, we went out to a nearby spot and then headed back to the room.

Day 344 (4/8/17) – Ubud

It was raining today so we stayed in and only went out for meals. Luckily Ubud has a lot of delicious restaurants and we didn’t have to walk far for food. Plus, the homestay gave us some umbrellas to carry around.

Day 345 (4/9/17) – Ubud

Delicious, fresh breakfast

It was another rainy day today so we just stayed in, relaxed, and went out for meals. We mainly stayed around Ubud and didn’t make it to the popular Bali beaches. There's a reason why so many yoga retreats take place in Ubud and Bali in general. The island is gorgeous, the food is healthy and delicious, and the people exude calming energy despite all the coffee. We would love to return to actually do some more yoga and explore more of the island.

Our flight to Cairns was at 1AM so we packed up and called an Uber around 9PM. The Uber driver that showed up wasn't the one on the app so we were a bit baffled. Then the driver says we have to pay in cash and he'll cancel the ride. We refused and he was on his phone for a while. We finally got him to start driving and we made it to the airport in an hour but it was a very scary ride. The guy was a terrible driver and had major road rage. We checked in and waited for our flight. Australia lets you do e-Visas but unfortunately we forgot to buy them. Usually the visas takes 24 hours to process but our flight was boarding in 3 hours. Luckily the attendant was super helpful and he got on the phone with a worker at the visa department and was able to get them to issue the visa within 45 minutes.

See the full gallery of Indonesia here: Indonesia.

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Paul is a lawyer taking a mid-career break focused on capturing all his adventures during his yearlong honeymoon around the world.

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