When you think of Indonesia, your mind is probably drawn to the paradise persona of Bali and its pristine white beaches with conch shells strewn across the coast and idyllic jungle-fringed sand. However, Indonesia is so much more than this one island of hedonism. The ancient Muslim culture alongside rainforests, temples and mountains means this is a destination that has something for everyone. From the adrenaline junkie to the culture vulture, there is an area and an activity that will suit.
Where To Stay
If you’re considering Indonesia as a destination to fulfill your cravings for wanderlust, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little perplexed about your accommodation. Indonesia is so vast, and there are so many places to visit including Bali, Java and Sumatra that the chances are you will need a good couple of weeks to explore on a multi-stop tour. You could opt to rent apartments along the way. Companies like RumahDijual sell fully furnished apartments to investors, many of whom then let out their properties to holidaymakers and travelers. By renting you’ll have more freedom when it comes to food, you can treat the pad like a home away from home, and you won’t have to worry about people snoring in the next bed to you in a hostel.
You could, of course, decide to go on the ultimate cheap as chips backpacking adventure with the bare minimum of stuff, just the money you can fit in your pocket and a smile. By heading to hostels you’ll meet like-minded travelers and be able to rest your weary bones for less than $10 a night. At the other end of the scale, you could live a life of luxury in extravagant five-star hotels as you island hop across this beautiful nation. If you have the money, you could hire a butler, a private chef and your own little patch o the private beach if you really wanted to. The possibilities are endless.
The stunning sweaty city of contrasts is home to over ten million people. The chaotic, busy streets are a hive of activity come day or night and will have you transfixed by its sights, aromas and sounds. The achingly hip and bohemian Menteng is the place to visit if you are somewhat of a foodie. With more nasi goreng, rendang and gado-gado than you can shake a stick at, you can experience taste sensations like no other. Street food vendors adorn every corner trying to tempt you with their tasty morsels. Nightclubs and bars with their neon lights shimmering in the moonlight will beckon you inside with the promise of fun, a little spot of hedonism and a drink or two. In the daytime, Jakarta has many smaller temples to peruse and enjoy. Immersing yourself in the culture of this island nation is easy if you head to its capital city for a night or two.
When we think about the sorts of wildlife we see on vacation; we may think of elk in Montana, elephants in Africa or dolphins off the coast of Florida. Never do we think we’ll have the chance to see orangutans and tigers in their own habitat. Venture to Bukit Lawang, and you can do just that. You won’t be able to stay in five star luxury, you’ll need to be physically fit to embark on a hike to the best vantage points, and you’ll need to be happy with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a campfire, but the reward of seeing the Sumatran rhino down at his watering hole cooling off in the midday sun is well worth the discomfort and hassle. You’ll get to experience the rainforest at its most humid and uncomfortable and undertake a once in a lifetime experience; definitely one to tell the future grandkids.
Forget Bali, Lombok is where its at. Like Bali was thirty years ago before the hordes of backpackers descended on it, Lombok is an unspoilt retreat… for now. As the crowds make Bali more of a tourist destination that has replaced its unspoilt beauty for high rise resorts; Lombok retains its romantic charm. Less crowded with more space on its white powder beaches, Lombok is cheap to visit and has the most incredible surfing, diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Another island of contrast belonging to this Asian gem is Papua. With the country’s largest national park, you can relinquish the coastal beauty for more rugged inland endeavors. Spend your time hiking within the forest along well-trodden trails. You may stumble across mangroves as well as take a scramble up a mountain. You might be lucky enough to spot the birds of paradise, an arfak astrapia or a turkey or two. The colors, scenery and sounds of the national park will stay with you for years to come.
If you want to explore the temples of Indonesia, there is no better place to venture to than Java. With the magnificent Borobudur, the largest and most exquisite Buddhist temple in the world, you’ll be witnessing the essence of Indonesian culture. Built in the ninth century, the complex consists of a wealth of iconic stupas. They adorn a mammoth otherworldly like structure that contains thousands of relief panels, Buddha statues and other deities. You may be lucky enough to see the site in all its glory when Buddhist priests and monks conduct special ceremonies at the top of the temple. Colorful placards and golden Buddhas sit amongst the chanting monks as they pay their respects and pray. For a little bit of tranquility among the business of touring, Borobudur is well worth a visit.
Indonesia isn’t just beautiful beaches and Robinson Crusoe-esque scenery, although that is worth a visit alone. The island nation is a spiritual, cultural and geographical melting pot of contrasts. There is no other country like it on the planet. Venture to this destination and you are sure to fall in love with Indonesia.