Tom's Travel Blog

Independent travel around Eastern Europe, East Asia and beyond

Indonesia

by tom on 12/08/2018

The idea with the Indonesia trip was to get some time off work, and go and see one of the only countries in Asia I haven’t been to! This time I took 2 weeks off work, as 10 days didn’t seem like it would be long enough, and I was right. I didn’t get to complete my plan entirely, which was to go to the Togean islands in the north of Sulawesi, but it was still interesting and leaves something to do for next time!

Indonesia is a huge country and this becomes obvious when you start travelling. Every journey consists of several forms of transport, all to get to/from where you’re going to. There’s a strong Muslim influence on the island of Java, and more of a Christian influence in Sulawesi. Despite this, it’s still virtually impossible to find a beer in convenience stores, and you have to look quite hard to find one!

This time the photos are a mix of photos taken on my phone, and photos taken on my camera.

Saturday

  • Get flight to Jakarta. The instructions I had from the hostel on how to get there weren’t very clear, and it wasn’t very clear from the airport how you get to the ‘airport train station’. It also wasn’t very obvious when I was there that it’s a dedicated train station (this is obvious once you’ve been), but I spent quite a lot of time asking how you get to the train station, and getting from there to the train station for the train to central Jakarta
  • Get train to Kota, the main train station in the old area
  • Find Cafe Batavia, which was on my list from going there the first time, but not eat in it
  • Eat in a touristy restaurant that wasn’t very expensive (relatively) but still quite good
  • Sit in the ‘women only’ part of the train by mistake on the way home (usually the first or last carriage), much to the amusement of the women sitting there
  • Miss my stop on the way back, and have to get a taxi back to the hostel.

Sunday

  • Eat in a good buffet-style restaurant
  • Go to an area around the Central Business District that the girl recommended in the hostel, as they had a ‘car free’ day on Sunday morning, but I think I missed it by an hour or so, as it wasn’t cordened-off when I got there
  • Stand in the ‘women only’ section of the bus by mistake, going to the National Monument!
  • Go to the National Monument. I queued up to get inside here, but they wanted 20,000 IDR to get in, and you had to load it on a bank card, which you could only use at 1 or 2 other places, plus the upper floor was shut, so I decided against it
  • Go to the National Museum. This was actually quite interesting and I learnt quite a lot about human evolution and how people ended up in Indonesia
  • Eat in another buffet-style restaurant, close to the hostel
  • Go back to the old part of the city to walk around.

Monday

  • Eat in the same buffet-style restaurant as before (it was good)
  • Get a SIM card from a street vendor on the way to the train station
  • Go to the train station and buy a ticket for Yogyakarta. As I was waiting, I got talking to an Indonesian man, who’s son is in Norway, and whom he was going to go and visit for a month
  • Go to Bogor Botanical Garden
  • Go to eat in a BBQ restaurant and get charged too much (I thought the guy said 10,000 IDR for a fish, it was actually 100,000 IDR)
  • Get ready for the train journey the next day.

Tuesday

  • Get the train to Yogyakarta at 6.45 am
  • Find a guest house in Yogyakarta by walking around. I accepted the offers of some people on the street to show me their places, and found somewhere which is my ideal idea of somewhere to stay in south east Asia
  • Find a bar in Yogyakarta, for a well-earned drink
  • Buy a t-shirt with Jogja written on it, which actually looks pretty cool
  • Eat in a dirty restaurant, and start to feel ill.

Wednesday

  • Hire a motorbike and go to Prambanan. This is one of the 2 major monuments in Jogja, and I would say is probably my 2nd favourite temple in south east Asia, after Angkor Wat
  • Went to Candi Abang, an old hill-top fort. This wasn’t very interesting, but driving around the countryside was good and I stopped for Nasi Groeng in a small road-side restaurant
  • Try to go to Ratu Boko, another temple complex, but they wanted 360,000 IDR for it, and locals were charged 40,000 IDR. As I didn’t even have this amount of cash on me, I had to walk away
  • Walk around Prambanan with the sun going down.

Thursday

  • Still feeling unwell from 2 days earlier, I got barely any sleep, and got woken up by the call to prayer at 4.30 am
  • Ride a motorbike to Borobudur. This isn’t as impressive as Prambanan (I don’t think), but still one of the main attractions in Jogja
  • Eat in a better restaurant and choose the local chicken over the generic one (more tasty)
  • Do a quick circuit of the Kraton on Jogja before returning the bike
  • Have to pay twice for the laundry service (probably), as the women in the shop didn’t stamp my ticket the first time. Even with no English, I was able to make it pretty clear that I wasn’t happy about this
  • Eat in another restaurant, and get ill again. This time I got properly ill, and I think it sorted the first one out! This time I think it was because of the drink that I ordered, and possibly a dirty glass
  • Have a stressful time paying for a flight with Lion Air, as they didn’t accept credit cards less than 48 hours before a flight, so I had 2 hours to find a convenience store that they accepted payments from, explain what I wanted, and pay for it.

Friday

  • Get woken up by the call to prayer at 4.30 am. This time I had earplugs in, and it still woke me up
  • Get the train to Surabaya
  • Get a taxi to the hostel, and decide to change hostels, as the first one was in a business centre, quite dirty and makeshift-looking
  • Walk to another hostel and check in
  • Go to the House of Sampoerna, an old tobacco factory started in the Dutch colonial time for the locally-made Sampoerna cigarettes. The cigarettes are still made there by hand, and if you get there on time, you can view the factory floor where they make them. Each person hand-rolls cigarettes (they have automated plants elsewhere in Asia and Indonesia) and can roll up to 1 every 30 seconds
  • Get a taxi back to the hostel, as I was still feeling weak from being ill
  • Eat lunch and dinner in a mall, as this was the best suggestion from the people working in the hostel.

Saturday

  • Get a shuttle taxi to the airport. This was basically a car that the hostel had that they used to give customers a lift to the airport in
  • Fly to Manado
  • Find a hotel in Manado. I was instantly struck by the contrast with Surabaya; the streets were a lot quieter, traffic moved a lot slower and the pace of life was completely different
  • Walk around Manado, and find somewhere that looks good for dinner
  • After going back to the hotel to rest, I left for dinner but couldn’t find the restaurant that I found earlier. After walking around for a bit, I found somewhere else which was a cake shop and lamb restaurant. The owner could speak a bit of English, and explained what some of the things on the menu were, from which I chose a few things I thought sounded OK
  • Go to the only alcohol shop in the whole of Manado, and purchase 1 bottle of beer. I then sat in the only place that was really convenient to the hotel (the hotel reception) and drank it.

Sunday

  • Get a bus to Bitung, change for a mikrolet to Girian (a minibus that goes around town, looking for customer to pick up), and change for a pickup truck to Batuputih. This was literally a pickup truck with some wooden slats across the back, with whole families of Indonesians on, that only left when full, and is probably one of the most basic (and coolest) forms of transport I’ve ever been on
  • Walk around in Batuputih and find a guest house
  • Walk to the beach (suggested by the guest house owner), and walk down the beach, taking people’s photos. I didn’t intend to take many people’s photos, but so many people came and asked me, that I ended up spending 20 minutes at one point, just taking photos of people and their family members
  • Watch a speedboat race, that was taking place at the end of the beach, where the boats started out at sea, and then raced each other back to the beach. I think this is an annual event that takes place for 1 or 2 weeks every year, and the whole village gets involved.

Monday

  • Get a tour of the national park (the reason for going to Batuputih), and see:
    Black Macaque
    Tarsier
    Sulawesi Hawk Eagle
    Cuscus
    Kingfisher
    Woodpecker
    Lizards
  • The Black Macaques were travelling in a large group, and as I was getting closer to take photos of some of them, the group, consisting of large and small monkeys, were all passing me on both sides, both walking on the forest floor and climbing through the trees. I decided to back off a bit when I could see some bigger ones coming from the back!
  • After the tour, as I had a pass for the whole day, I walked back up the beach (in the opposite direction to before) and found a white sand beach that was in part of the national park
  • Go back to the part of the beach that had boat racing the days before, but there was no boat racing at that time.

Tuesday

  • Do the reverse journey from Batuputih back to Manado
  • Leave my stuff in the same hotel as before and buy phone data, change money, and eat traditional Minahasan food in the restaurant that I was trying to find before! This was probably my favourite meal in the whole of Indonesia
  • Get a Grab to the ferry terminal
  • Get a ferry to Bunaken
  • Walk around, trying to find a guest house. In the end I settled for the owner’s son’s room of one of the homestays, which was the only reasonably-priced place I could find.

Wednesday

  • Find somewhere to go diving the next day
  • Borrow snorkelling stuff from the dive centre and go snorkelling on the house reef. This is some of the best snorkelling I’ve ever done, and you could see turtles from the surface
  • Go to a bar in the evening.

Thursday

  • Get to the diving centre at 8am, with the plan of leaving to go diving at 9am (actually much later than this)
  • Do 2 dives in the morning, and 1 in the afternoon
  • Move my stuff from the old homestay to the new one (a tropical chalet)
  • Go to the same bar in the evening with the other people from the homestay. The homestays in Bunaken are all very sociable, with shared eating and common areas. In the bar, one of the guys who runs another resort came to buy some crisps, and while he was there, started playing the contrabass, a kind of huge, immovable bass guitar with 1 string. After that he called his friends who are in the same band, who turned up on a scooter, and they started playing music for 1-2 hours, with local songs included. We also had to sing along at one point.

Friday

  • Get a motorbike from the resort back to the ferry port. Somehow, the guy who drives the boat, is the same one who goes around collecting everyone for the boat, and was able to come to my resort and give me a lift back
  • Get the ferry back to Manado
  • Struggle to find a taxi to the airport, so go back to the same hotel from before. I got the guy who works on reception to order a Grab taxi, but as soon as the taxi turned up, I saw him go out and take some cash from the driver. This was instantly suspicious, as normally I would pay the driver directly, and then they asked me for 100,000 IDR, even though it was 60,000 IDR to come in the opposite direction. At this point, there was a taxi from a reputable firm parked directly behind him, so when I went to talk to the driver of this taxi, they changed their price to more what I would expect. So I didn’t waste people’s time, I took the original Grab taxi, but didn’t appreciate the opportunism of my previously hospitable host
  • Get a flight from Manado to Jakarta, via Surabaya. The flight was delayed for 90 minutes in Manado, so we eventually arrived in Jakarta, after having received various free meals and drinks as compensation
  • Get a bus from the airport to the area of Jakarta I was staying in
  • Get an o-jek from the bus station to the hotel. O-jek, the precursor to Go-Jek (competitor to Grab), is just a motorbike taxi, but instead of hailing them on the street, you need to use an app. As I was having problems with the app finding my hotel, I had to accept the services of an un-scrupulous-looking o-jek driver, who drove incredibly fast, without giving me a helmet, and then over-charged me when we got there. Even though we agreed the price before leaving, this was still significantly higher than using Grab or Go-Jek, so I could understand why these apps had become so popular
  • Get 1 or 2 more motorbike taxis, to get to and from the place I was seeing my friend.

Saturday

  • Get a motorbike to the bus station, and a bus to the airport
  • Fly back to Taipei
  • Get the MRT back home. Phew!

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