I was really looking forward to Indonesia. Not only because of the country but also because my best friends from home happened to be there as well. Now, I love to meet new people along the way but it is great to see some familiar faces too. From Singapore I flew to Bali. After I arrived on the airport I looked around and all of a sudden there they were. The two smiling faces of my friends. It was awesome. They had arranged a very luxurious bungalow for me with FREE soap. Oh, and there was a pool as well, a big green garden and a fancy lounge. Perfect after a month of cheap hostels. Another friend from home arrived as well that day.
The next day, early in the morning we took the boat to Nusa Lembongan. It is a small Island close to Bali. There are no cars and the people on the Island grow seaweed for a living. When I think of it now, it is one of the best places I have been in Indonesia. We had a nice bungalow with a pool for cheap and it was a lot of fun to explore the island on a motorbike. There are a couple of beaches but to be honest, they are not so good for swimming. There are two small villages on the island and the rest of it is green and lush. From one side of the island you can see Bali and one of its volcanoes and it is great to watch this at sunset.
Around this hour, the locals go to the beach as well. Children let the wind take their kites high in the sky, men come back after a day of hard work with their boats full of seaweed and women are placing small offers with flowers all around. A magical moment. There are Mantas in this area too and you can spot them by boat and snorkel with them. Unfortunately we did not see them but the snorkeling was not bad.
After one week it was enough and we decided to go to Kuta on Bali for surfing. Kuta is super touristic and I cannot compare it with any other place in South East Asia. One busy street full of clubs, bars, restaurants and surf shops. It is not really my kind of place but the surfing is excellent and especially for the beginner. I had never surfed before in my life so it was my first time. I did not bother taking lessons so I rented a board, got into the water and waited for the first wave. I paddled, pushed myself up and surprisingly I was standing right away. Ok, to be fair, it was white rush but I managed and I loved it. We surfed for a couple of days and in the and I was able to catch a few good waves. Everyone should try it when they are in Kuta.
After Kuta, my friends and I went separate ways of a while and I went to Ubud. Ubud got a big tourist boost after the famous novella Eat, Pray Love from Elizabeth Gilbert. You can just see them walking on the street once you are there. Lonely 30+ women trying to discover themselves with yoga and organic food while simultaneously looking for the love of their life. I do not know if I should tell this but a couple of days before I went to Ubud, a girl left me this book. From all places I ended up reading this book in Ubud. Somehow I always felt like I had to hide the cover of the book with my hands. Besides this, there is a very good atmosphere in Ubud. It is super relaxed and a pleasant mixture of everything. There are a couple of temples, there are cozy restaurants and there is a monkey forest where you can watch…monkeys.
The area around Ubud is beautiful too and it is a good base for renting a motorbike and exploring the island. Road trips are the best. You are free to go where ever you want so you can see a lot. While driving around we saw the layered rice paddies, temples and local life. We had nasi goring (fried rice) for lunch along the road and free coffee and tea tasting at one of the plantations. In the touristic places the people can be very pushy but this ends the moment you enter the country side. The people are so friendly here, do not want to rip you off and love to have a chat. One day I ended up all the way at Gunung Batur, one of the volcanoes in the north. It was cold because of the height and cloudy but I could still see this big volcano with a lake in the front.
In the meanwhile, my friends were in Lovina in the north and I decided to go there as well. Lovina is nice and quiet and has black volcanic beaches. It is not touristy at all which gives it a nice and honest vibe. Because it is close at the beach, they have a lot of seafood and a very nice food memory is eating grilled fish and shrimps during sunset at the beach. Again, the area is great to discover on a motorbike. The roads are proper, it is easy to navigate and there are a lot of things to see. Temples, hot water springs, beautiful landscapes and waterfalls. We have made a lot of road trips passing small villages in the mountains and watching local life. Such a difference with our next destination, Kuta again.
It was not because we loved Kuta but the waves were calling us back. Of course we surfed again but this time I explored the area around Kuta a bit more too. If you drive to the south, there are a couple of beautiful beaches which you can visit and much more quiet than Kuta. Even more south there is Ulu Watu, a temple standing on high cliffs above the ocean. A wonderful place! There is good surfing here too and this is the place where all the advanced surfers end up. It is too dangerous for a beginner so I threaded myself on a cold beer and watched these surfers taking the big waves from the shore. Not bad at all either.
In Kuta, it was time to say goodbye to my friends from home and I went to the Gili Islands. The Gili Islands are three little pearls close to Lombok. Trawangan is known as the party Island, Meno as the real quiet one and Air is a bit in the middle. I started on Trawangan. Sure, you can party here but it is not like it is everywhere. It is still a beautiful island with white beaches and crystal clear water. On one side of the island are the restaurants and bars but on the other side is almost nothing. You can walk around the island in about two hours. But if you think that above the surface things are beautiful you should take a look under water. Great coral, Sea turtles and bright colored fishes are everywhere. It is truly an underwater paradise.
After taking a short trip to Gili Air I decided to stay there for a couple of more days because I liked it even better. The atmosphere was more relaxed and I just felt at home. I had an awesome bungalow and just spend my days in laziness. I was also saving up energy because ahead of me I had a big challenge.
Rinjani Volcano (Lombok)
I could see the peak already from the Gilis knowing I was going to stand on the top in a couple of days. The top of the Rinjani volcano in Lombok. Its peak is 3726 meters high and it takes 3 days to reach it. I bruised my toe before when I was on the Gilis by stepping on coral but it was a must so I went for it. I am glad I did because it was an awesome experience. The first part was through dense and misty rainforest. When we woke up the next day the sky was clear and the views amazing. After a couple of hours we reached a lower ridge with a great view into the crater. Inside the crater was a new and smaller one and a lake. We hiked down to the lake to have a swim and lunch. There were hot springs as well so they were a welcome nice warm bath.
After we had lunch we climbed the other side of the ridge and things were even getting more beautiful. There were waterfalls, clouds were coming in and once we had climbed above them the views were just spectaculair. I sat down for a while to watch the scene together with Sigur Ros on the Ipod. The next camp was on a ridge from where we could see the top. The guides prepared a meal and we went to bed early. The alarm was set on 02.30 am because we had to leave early if we wanted to see the sunrise from the top. It was freezing at this time but never have I seen so many stars. The way to the top was magical and I managed pretty well. I was the first one of all people to reach the top and spend 15 minutes in solitude on the top watching the night become day.
If you want to read more details of this experience you can click on the following link: My Top 10 Best Travel experiences. Satisfied I walked down with the sun on my face. What a great experience.
After this I spend some days in Kuta Lombok. It is so different than Kuta Bali. While Kuta Bali is touristy, busy and full of clubs and traffic, Kuta Lombok is quite unspoiled and peaceful. Most restaurants and bungalows are made of wood and it is a good place to take it easy. It has a nice beach and there is some surfing although the wind was too strong when I was there. I spend my days reading and exploring the area for a bit. It certainly is beautiful but it is the vibe that makes this place most special.
From Kuta Lombok I went back to Kuta Bali for one more time. I do not know why but it must have been the surfing. When I was there I was too fed up with the place so I decided to leave and fly to Java. Yogyakarta to be specific. I heard a lot of good stories about it and it was close to the temple of Borobudur which I definitely wanted to see. Yogyakarta has a strong art scene and I liked it a lot. My room was painted in some kind of psychedelic scene and the famous Batik paintings are everywhere. The people are friendly here and it is not hard to feel relaxed. There is an old palace which is in my opinion not that special and there are a lot of museums. There is one big main street where you can eat all kinds of tasty dishes.
Borobudur was everything I expected it to be. I went there early in the morning to avoid the big crowds but that is not the only reason to go early. In the morning, the forest around it is still in the mist and it is a beautiful sight together with the rising sun. This was actually the last big thing I would do on this travel so it was also a bit goodbye. Slowly I walked down all levels of the temple, all the way around each. Indonesia gave me so many great memories and I felt so thankful.
The country has beautiful nature and great food. The people are colorful and friendly. In the big cities they can be pushy but just ignore them and you are fine. I loved watching the people doing their rituals with flowers on Bali and the Gili Islands were extraordinary pretty. My first surfing experience was excellent and the volcano climb one of the best things I have ever done. I have only seen three islands but there are so much more. No, I am not done with Indonesia.