It’s been way too long since our last blog post; there are a few reasons for this. Since the last post we have spent a month in Indonesia (and some time in Malaysia, but that will get it’s own post) where we were on the move a lot and also Indonesia isn’t known for it’s reliable regular internet. More often than not we found ourselves electronically marooned and out of touch from the outside world. One can argue that’s a big part of travelling, a statement which we completely agree with. However, it isn’t good for subscribers; but alas…here we are!
Indonesia, the country which gave us both our first big culture shock! After having spent a lot of time in Australia & New Zealand, we had felt that the Southern Hemisphere was not all that different from where we had came from; Indonesia firmly changed that. We arrived in Bali in the middle of the afternoon to heavy asian rain and caught our transfer to the homestay. The cars and scooters on the road were nuts. The driver (fortunately) didn’t seem phased in the slightest as people were pulling out all over the place and scooters skipping in-between other cars etc…New Zealand seemed appropriately quiet in comparison!
The crazy traffic was consistent throughout this country. Of the 5 islands from some 17,500+ that we visited in anything other than a completely “isolated from civilisation” setting, we were surely running for our lives when crossing the street. I intend to record doing just this at our next destination just for people to see!
Even though we spent an entire month gradually exploring from Bali to West Sumatra, the time quickly flew by and in some places felt rushed. It’s definitely a country to revisit in the future with more time available or alternative set our goals a bit lower so we can enjoy each area a bit more.
Whilst here we visited Bali, Nusa Lembongan, and the city of Malang in Java. We then flew to Jakarta and after onto Banda Aceh via Medan. Our last destination was Pulau Weh, and although it might sound like a lot it feels like we barely scratched the surface!
Out of the 4 (soon to be 6) places we have visited so far, Indonesia is definitely one of our most talked about. Certainly the one with the most random stories and memories and somewhere which when you see something strange you simply don’t question it “because it’s Indonesia”.
Hopefully the photos will show what we are trying to explain, along with emphasising just how beautiful it is in most places. Unfortunately we felt like we didn’t take enough photos, a lot of this was due to being on the move so much and being tired from it. We still managed 700 shots though, so we have plenty to show!
Expanding more on the route we took, we arrived in Bali and the next day headed straight for Nusa Lembongan. For those that don’t know, it’s a small island off the South Eastern coast of Bali. The guides recommend it as it’s advertised as Bali from 30 years ago, before it became a touristy hub of activity, which is naturally very appealing to us.
The idea of coming here was to relax for a couple of days and enjoy some Scuba diving. After being on the road non stop in New Zealand, we welcomed it with open arms. We were booked with Blue Corner Dive for both diving and accommodation. Ana was booked in to do another DSD and Jake was booked in for 2 fun dives. It was a well run operation with fun people and great diving. The underwater wildlife was fantastic and the coral was such a vibrant bright colour, it’s a shame the GoPro cannot capture it properly but we’ll return one day with a better arsenal of underwater photography weaponry to get the job done.
Nusa itself is a beautiful island with genuinely friendly people (both local and expats) whose main aim in life is to relax and have fun whilst doing it! After being here for a few days we went back to Bali and headed to Ubud. We decided to pretty much skip Denpasar as we hadn’t really read anything good about it.
We went straight for the monkey sanctuary (fortunately our accommodation was within walking distance) and enjoyed the architecture with the local wildlife climbing all over it and stealing bananas from each other. The next day we hired a scooter to explore Bali some more, with the idea of visiting some famous temples. The first on our list was Pura Tirta Empul; whilst it was busy with tourists we were also able to witness plenty of locals coming to pray and use the baths. It’s well worth a visit, but it’s worth noting that scammers wait by the gates and will argue with you until they’re blue in the face saying you need a ticket which isn’t the case. They only target individuals or small families and not larger tour groups as they know these have been pre warned and cannot stop whole hoards of people.
Remember we mentioned about the crazy traffic on the roads? Well, driving the scooter around was exhausting because of it! 3-4 hours we rode it around for on and off and by the end of it our heads were buzzing and we needed to lay down. It was definitely entertaining all the same though, and no doubt if we were there longer term it would just be a case of getting used to it.
After Ubud we headed north to Lovina and stayed right by the beach taken a road directly through the middle, up and over the mountain, amazing views throughout as always.
From here we planned to head west to Java, and so begun our day (and first taste) of real public transport! We knew to get a bus from Lovina to Gillamanuk and were simply told to go wait by the main road and a bus would be along shortly. Sure enough within minutes we saw a bus with the destination pretty much hand written on the front…this was a sign of things to come. We agreed a price and jumped on, you’ll see from the photos that the bus doors didn’t close (am struggling to remember if it had complete doors at this point) there wasn’t much left of the roof and the seats had also seen better days! To finish off, when it rained later on it didn’t have any wipers either, but hey 2-3 hours of bouncing along and a few eeek moments later, we made it!
From there we got the ferry to Ketapang, an uneventful journey apart from someone giving a constant sales pitch of every possible piece of tat imaginable with a megaphone that caused us to contemplate abandoning ship. Once in Banyuangi Baru we got to the train station with the idea of heading to Malang. Unfortunately the train had gone for the day so we bought tickets for a train to Bangil. After waiting around in the station and the train arriving at platform 3, we were then told to cross the tracks and go through a stationary train to get to our one.
So began the 6 hour cattle class journey which was surprisingly comfortable, with the exception of the leaking air conditioning and the toilet literally being a hole in the floor to the outside world; otherwise it was great. Then the question was raised on how we would get from the destination station to the hotel…not to worry! Jake thought “there are always taxi’s, so we’ll just get one of those”. Well, 3 guesses what didn’t exist in Bangil?
A bit stuck on what to do at this point we decided to start walking to the hotel and go from there, during the night, in the pouring rain which didn’t help matters. Along the way we found an information point and a guy who confirmed the lack of taxi’s. We were told our best bet was to find a bus. He then gestured to the road we were walking along which was more like walking along the side of a highway with the speed the cars were going. As we were feeling doubtful he offered to help. After 10 minutes or so and not a single bus going past; he then said he could take both of us on his bike. Now, whilst in Indonesia we have repeatedly seen more than 2 people on a bike/scooter (the most we saw was 5), we had never quite contemplated attempting it ourselves. At this point, after an entire day of travelling, we were ready to try just about anything.
Picture this, the guy brings the bike over, Ana jumps on behind him, takes off her backpack and holds it to her side, Jake then jumps on behind Ana, one arm around her, one arm around her bag, still wearing his own backpack and nowhere to put his feet but let them dangle precariously close to the tarmac. We’re ready to go, the bike doesn’t feel stable but we’re sure he’s done this before…then all of a sudden…
“Ah Mr, there is a bus!”
Thank…god…huge sigh of relief, so we wave the bus down and get on…it’s worth noting at this point the bus does not stop, we have to jog to keep up and jump on what followed was the craziest 10 minutes of the entire day yet. The bus was similar to the one we had gotten on earlier (no doors, holes in the roof etc) and we were sat at the front on a impromptu bench facing the driver, looking left to see where the bus was going. To our right were the rest of the passengers, and 4 or 5 rows back was a guy, on a bandolin, playing and singing his heart out at the top of his lungs, really hitting all the numbers…with everyone else not blinking or even reacting in the slightest…we had to check with each other to make sure we were not imagining this. Next we were approached for money for the bus fare, all the money was zipped up in Jakes backpack under a rain cover, so Jake leans forward to fetch it and then suddenly the bus slams on the brakes and performs a near emergency stop…queue Jake nearly falling off the bench and out of the side of the bus. After recovering from that, we see why the bus had to stop, there was a guy wondering the road (potentially drunk from the way he was acting) wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a crash helmet (safety first, right?) he moves and the bus continues.
Finally, after that ordeal the bus approaches the hotel we ask them to stop or in this case, slow down. We jumped off and reached the hotel to check in, we had made it! Sitting on the edge of the bed we were tired, wet, covered in dirt from the rainwater, shaking from pure adrenaline and borderline laughing (it was either that, or cry) and knew it was a day neither of us would forget anytime soon.
The next day was fortunately, an uneventful train ride to Malang. We spent a few days here, exploring the local area and we took a trip to see the Mount Bromo sunrise! Normally the tour entails going to the crater as well, but this wasn’t possible due to it erupting in December and it still being very active with ash/smoke still puffing out. We were picked up around 00:30-1:00 and then had a 3 hour drive out of town and up a mountain. We arrived around 3:30 and had a 40 minute trek up the a pathway to the viewing point, in the pitch black. Oh, and nobody told us it would be very cold either…thankfully we brought rain jackets which kept the wind off us! The next couple of hours were amazing, watching the twilight of the stars, watching the whole area and Mount Bromo itself come to life with light, and then to finish off, the sun piercing over the horizon and bathing everywhere in that early morning golden glow…it was glorious!
After Malang we flew to Jakarta and spent 4 days there. Despite the crazy hustling, bustling and the enormous amounts of traffic, we enjoyed being a bit closer to civilisation than we had been over the previous weeks. It was nice to be able to get around by a quick cheap taxi ride or by walking around and discovering things at our own pace. Fortunately no near death public transport experiences to report; crossing the road itself was ‘interesting’ with very few real crossings in place and even less that are policed/regulated. It’s quite a daunting experience to watch out for potentially 8 lanes of traffic and scooters weaving in and out all over the place (including pavements and footpaths), but you ultimately nobody is going to let you go. You just have to walk and people pretty much go around you or slow down enough for you to scrabble out of the way, its an odd feeling…but it works. Whilst we were here we also visited ‘Little Indonesia’, a thematic park showing history, architecture and costumes from different times and regions throughout Indonesia.
After Jakarta we flew to Banda Aceh for one night before getting a ferry to the remote island of Pulau Weh, which is the very most north western tip of Indonesia.
We spent a week diving here with Lumba Lumba Dive Centre. Ana completed her PADI Open Water course. The diving itself was fantastic throughout…such a large density of so many different varieties of fish; it was magical. Some sightings included a Devil Ray, Barracudas, Trigger Fish (in the thousands), a few sharks and more Moray Eels than we can remember. The Dive centre was fantastic, it was a nice break from being on the move so much and it finished off our trip to Indonesia very nicely indeed.
In summary there isn’t much else to add about Indonesia that hasn’t already been explained somewhere in the previous 2400+ words other than we want to go back and explore more! Next time heading East and seeing Komodo Island, Raja Ampat, the Gili Islands and Sulawesi to name a few and with more time to do it as well!
That’s it for this wonderful culture rich and intriguing place. The next post will be about Penang and Malaysia, stay tuned!
It also won’t be two months until the next post either!
Bye for now!
Jake & Ana