Despite a six-hour delay, we landed in Jakarta full of anticipation. We just caught the last shuttle bus into town. Despite the fact that Jalan Jaksa Street is the tourist district of Jakarta, it is rather difficult to find accommodation at midnight. Sandro made himself comfortable with a beer and watched out for the luggage, Linda went in search of a bed. Over an hour and 15 guesthouses later, a nice local offered us his living room. Exhausted, we accepted the offer. For one night, that had to be enough.
Traveling in Indonesia is relatively exhausting and time-consuming due to the long distances and the fact that it is an island state. The first longer distance we covered by train. At the Gambir Trainstation we bought a train ticket for CHF 18.00 and traveled with it for 9 hours across Java to Yogyakarta. Traveling also means adventure, and this train ride was definitely one, just marveling at the great scenery was worth it.
Effortlessly we had found a room in Yogyakarta. The next morning we headed to Borobodur Temple. This is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia and is also considered the Angkor Wat of Indonesia. The temple is impressive, strolling through the old walls, marveling at Buddhist figures and just enjoying the ambience had something mystical. If only there weren’t so many tourists. But yes, we are also part of it.
After the stopover in Yogyakarta we went on to Denpasar, Bali. A 16 hour night bus ride for CHF 20.00 brought us to our destination. Very comfortable beds made the trip bearable. Let’s see what Bali has to offer for us now.
From Denpasar we made our way to Ubud. First of all, we have to get organized and plan how to proceed with our trip. The planned 2-3 days quickly turned into a week. Ubud with its Balinese cultural charm has a lot to offer. It’s a good place to stay. With its Balinese handicrafts, beautiful paintings, demonstrations of Legong dancers and impressive temples, the hamlet has captivated us.
As a starting point we used Ubud to explore Bali by motorcycle. For CHF 4.00 per day this is affordable. Rice fields, rice terraces, beautiful mountain landscapes, volcanoes – Bali has a lot to offer. With the motorcycle this is the perfect way to experience as much as possible.
For our onward journey we decided to focus on Sulawesi and Sumatra. We had to realize that Indonesia is simply gigantic. You can’t do everything in two months if you don’t want to invest the time mainly for traveling. But we still spent one week in Bali. Actually, we didn’t want to include such touristy places like Kuta Beach in our program. But when we were there, the flair of the beach somehow fascinated us. We decided to take a surfing lessons. Kuta is ideally suited for this.
Out of nowhere, this plan died again – thanks to a motorcycle accident. Without sturdy shoes on the motorcycle – surely something that we will refrain in the future. Linda hooked her little toe on a number plate of another motorcycle, which bled pretty badly. Of course we stopped immediately. It went quite quickly and Linda passed out. Fortunately, the doctor was not far away. The latter then stitched the wound with a few stitches. It could have been worse. Stupid is just that now there is a week salt water ban. So no surf course. So we settled in Kuta and spent a week relaxing and taking in the hustle and bustle of the Balinese tourist mecca. Finally, we yet enjoyed some comfortable days and a nice stay in Bali. Now it should go on to Sulawesi for diving.
The Lembeh Strait is the macro divingparadise par excellence. We therefore had great expectations. In advance, we had looked around for a suitable dive center. Finally we came across Sulawesi Dive Quest. With USD 75.00 per day incl. three dives, accommodation and three meals a day a very good value offer. This was the first time we had booked anything in advance during our trip. Arrived in the empty resort we were then first of all a little shocked. The dive store looked anything but professional. A small wooden hut, without equipment and without tools. When we found the compressor, we were even more shocked. The intake was right next to the engine and the filter was pitch black. We had therefore already prepared ourselves for bad air. We were about to leave again. But we also didn’t really know where to go, because in Lembeh every resort is in a different bay and the only means of transportation is by boat. After discussions with the owner and modifications of the compressor we agreed to dive the next day. We were then very surprised to find that John, our guide, was a super guide with a good eye and courteous service. So we stayed – a good guide and as much macro experience as possible is after all the most important thing for the diver’s heart. We were very impressed by the muck diving. We were allowed to marvel at countless creatures, among others:
Mimic Octopus, Seahorses, Pygmis, Weedy Scorpionfish, Spiny Leaf Fishes, Frogfishes in every size, Ambon Scorpionfish etc. Of course it was also an advantage that we had the whole resort and especially the guide to ourselves. The food was also very good. In the end we had a very good time in Lembeh – despite initial difficulties.
From Manado we took the public boat for Rp 25’000 to Bunaken. The boat had to wait until the high tide came before we could finally leave. Next to motorcycles, cement bags, floor tiles, shopping supplies for a whole village and a few locals, we then found a place and we were ready to go.
On the direct way we were driven to the Lorenso Resort. We spent the first night there, but the place left a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness. So we looked for something else. With CHF 30.00 – CHF 50.00 for a basic room Bunaken is quite expensive by Indonesian standards. Shortly before despairing, we found a suitable place to stay with “Novitas Homestay” in the middle of the village among locals. For our room we paid CHF 20.00 including three meals.
Lovita was just great! Every meal varied, delicious and prepared with love. Free coffee, tea and water was also available as well as a very large terrace with dining tables, sofas and lounge chairs.
Simon and Belinda from England and Claudine and Damien from French-speaking Switzerland also checked into the homestay – we had a lot of fun during our week-long stay. One evening we even got musical entertainment from the village band. Until 02:00 AM the boys played music for us, we danced, played drinking games, drank palm wine and Lovita was happy when we went to bed.
We have dived only twice with Kuskus Divers. Bunaken is steep wall diving. The walls are nicely overgrown, but it reminded us very much of the Philippines where we worked. The yield with a few white-tips and black-tip sharks was not outstanding either. We saved the money for other diving destinations. In turn, we went snorkeling a few times, which is very nice in Bunaken. All in all a great time in Bunaken, especially thanks to the people we met.
Back in Manado, we first organized a plane ticket to Medan, Sumatra. We were lucky and could book a flight for CHF 120.00 with Lion Air (Manado-Jakarta-Medan). For a six-hour flight quite okay the price. We combined the two days of waiting with a trip to Tomohon. We were glad to get away from Manado. This is not a city in which to plan too long a stay.
Actually we wanted to climb the volcano “Lokon”. But unfortunately we were not allowed to do so, because he was active. So we decided to go to the volcano “Mahawu”. In about three hours we were up at the crater. It would also be faster via car, so you would just need to walk for one hour. Etwas Bewegung tut uns aber sicher gut, also sind wir gelaufen. The view was very nice, the volcano itself there are certainly more spectacular.
Afterwards we stopped at the market in Tomohon. A very special experience and not necessarily to the liking of Westerners. There was nothing that does not exist, from bats to rats. Shortly stroll through the aisles, take a few pictures and then quickly away again. Back in Manado we waited for our onward flight to Sumatra.
From Medan we went directly to Bukit Lawang, where we hoped to finally see free-living orangutans. The 90km drive, which took us over 4 hours, was quite exhausting. Crater-sized holes and cow turns have put pressure on the pace every now and then. Bukit Lawang is located on a river directly at the entrance to Gunung Leuser National Park. This was also our destination.
Tours are offered plenty, from a few hours to two-day tours. However, one thing should be better refrained from; going alone into the park. We opted for the two-day tour and negotiated with our guide for a long time until he offered us this for CHF 60.00/person. A few days later the trip started; in a group of seven tourists and two guides we set off into the rainforest. We were very lucky with the group, it was entertaining and fun. The climbs were steep, the descents likewise, and the heat oppressive. Up and down all day in sultry temperatures – we all reached the limits and the sweat flowed. Nevertheless, the efforts were worth it. A magnificent view and great rainforests rewarded us. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the first orangutan. No, there were three of them, which gymnastics in the trees above us and offered a magnificent spectacle. Further always steeply up the mountain, in between some power food and fried rice for lunch. The guides looked well to us.
Suddenly, three orangutans appeared out of nowhere again. We placed ourselves and promptly one of the three danced down the branches on a vine, sat down a meter beside us and stared at us. We stared back – completely awestruck. And happy. That’s what we dreamed of – every rescue center can pack up for such a unique experience.
About an hour later we reached our camp. Overjoyed, we jumped directly into the river with the clothes – they had to be freed from sweat anyway. The guides started the campfire and we were looking forward to a cozy evening. Then, out of nowhere, it started to rain. Well, I guess that’s why it’s called a rainforest. So we set up in the tent, watched our guides cooking, played cards and then enjoyed the delicious dinner. We slept well despite the hard ground, we were probably also exhausted enough. The next morning the sun was shining and we enjoyed the atmosphere. We discovered a waterfall for morning shower and refreshment, then a lovely lunch.
In the afternoon we went rafting back to Bukit Lawang. Unfortunately, we were already back after an hour – we would have liked to join in the fun a little longer. We were able to experience a unique trip that we can definitely recommend to everyone.
The largest volcanic lake in the world could not be missing in our Sumatra adventure. The trip is long, but doable in one day, provided you start early. Finally, the ferry takes us from Probat to Tuk-Tuk. The captain stops at every resort, so we can decide spontaneously where to get off. Entschieden haben wir uns fürs Samosir Guesthouse. Perfect for swimming, relaxing in the beautiful garden as well. This also corresponds to the main activity in Tuk-Tuk: relaxing. There is not much else to do here. The lake offers some home atmosphere and it was nice to swim in fresh water again. Our room was also built in the traditional Batak style. Moreover with a great terrace with view over the lake, and this for CHF 5.00. After a few days of relaxing we will continue to Pulau Weh.
After a 13-hour night bus ride, we finally arrived in Banda Aceh. In the middle of Ramadan, we then also noticed that the Muslims up here take pretty strictly – in contrast to other areas. So we accepted the slogans “no drinks please” and stayed as incognito as possible. By slow boat to Pulau-Weh, where we found a minivan in Sabang, which took us to the backpacker beach Iboih. After a little scene after arrival (the driver suddenly wanted double the price and forgot the English). Also this is probably the Ramadan times, annoying, but somehow typical Indonesian when traveling. When we walked the narrow paths through Iboih Beach, the annoyance was quickly gone. Pulau Weh is a little paradise! We found a nice room for CHF 6.00, directly above the crystal clear water. There’s something about marveling at the turtles and fish right from the terrace without getting wet.
Unfortunately, due to Ramadan, only one restaurant was open – Eka’s Place. The food was very good; however, imagine the wait when there is only one restaurant open on an island. It can take up to 2-3 hours. Last but not least, Eka decided to take a few vacation days. So now everything had closed except for a small store where we could buy noodle soup and cookies. One should think twice about traveling in Indonesia during Ramadan. Also the owner of our guesthouse suddenly decided to have some nice days; packed with guitar and backpack he disappeared for the next six days. Since the rooms were open and the keys were hanging on the door, Self Check-In applied from then on.
We were also looking forward to diving. With Rubiah Tirta Divers we found a great dive store. Well organized, nice team and very dedicated. The dives were great; beautiful underwater landscapes, many pinnacles, canyons and beautiful vegetation. Reef sharks, eagle rays, marble rays, turtles, schools of barracuda and generally a lot of fish was always the order of the day. A top diving area, which is relatively unknown. Unfortunately also very remote. In addition, we were even able to earn some money with 10 introductory dives, which we conducted. We turned down three complete diving courses because we wanted to enjoy the time diving ourselves.
The atmosphere in Pulau Weh was great – the whole two weeks we were a funny group with one American, two Spaniards and two Austrians. We often went to the neighboring island of Rubiah Island and snorkeled and played volleyball for hours. Pulau Weh will remain in our best memories.