When I told my friends that I am travelling to Indonesia this summer, many were concerned about the unstable and fundamentalist state of my chosen destination. But, what I found in my two weeks long stay in this South-East-Asian archipelago was nothing short of magical. Coexistence of religions, breathtaking views from volcanic mountains, amazingly colourful marine life, ancient temples and cannibal dragons, they have it all.
Of the 13,000 plus islands, I could only visit three major ones – Java, Bali and Flores, and three smaller ones – Rinca, Kelor and Padar.
From mountain tops to deep caves
My journey began in Yogyakarta in Java with a night time hike to the Merapi volcano, apparently the most active volcano in Indonesia. The idea was to witness the sunrise from a height of about 3,000 meters (yes such mountains do exist in the tropics as well). The arduous hike of about four-and-a-half hours through rocky, muddy and worst of all sandy trail with a steep slope towards the end, concluded with the mesmerizing sunrise – the rays spreading over the broad horizon. It was almost surreal.
The next journey took me to the depths of the earth – down to Jomblang cave. Once at the base, the sun rays created a ‘divine light’ effect, which appeared and disappeared within seconds from the opening at the top. Pindul was another cave that I floated by, sitting on a rubber tube – for this one had a river flowing under it. The beautiful rock formations and the colony of bats and swallows were a sight, indeed!
An ancient Hindu temple called Prambanan is dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva and the world’s largest Buddhist temple are worth a visit. Both of these were built in 9th century. Bali boasts of some fantastic Hindu temples as well.
Beaches and nature
Known for relaxing beach holidays, Bali did not disappoint. I visited the Padang-Padang beach that is famous for surfing, and went to the Pandawa beach, which has been named after the five Pandavas of Mahabharata and then headed to my hotel close to the Sanur beach.
Central Bali has an excellent rain forest that is home to 700 monkeys and is known as the monkey forest.
The northern town of Ubud boasts of its most famous agricultural landmark, the rice terrace. Balinese farmers use this sustainable form of rice cultivation in small terraces, preventing soil erosion and floods by making better use of the rainwater. One can watch the extremely soothing green steps of terraces for hours.
Islands and boat trips through the land of dragons and more!
From Bali, I flew to Flores island – and from a small fishing village of Labuan Bajo in Flores, I set out for a two-day island-hopping boat trip. Rinca Island presented the notorious Komodo Dragons up close in their natural habitat. One bite from these giant lizards can be fatal, so no selfies! Snorkeling at Kelor Island was amazing, as was the beautiful sunset.
The next morning, I hiked the routes on Padar Island, which has a Jurassic landscape of rough hills, dotted with green vegetation and amazing beaches. The top of those hills offer breathtaking views.
The final stop of the day was at Pink Beach for snorkeling. As the name suggests, the sand was pinkish and the water was crystal clear.
The people in Indonesia are extremely friendly. The major cities are very well connected via Singapore Airlines and KLM. And what’s more – you don’t need a visa for a stay less than 30 days!
Impressed, I am already planning my hike up the majestic Mount Bromo in Eastern Java, a visit to the aboriginal villages in Flores and Western Papua, a meeting with the Orangutans in Borneo, and a dive deep into the ocean to see the Manta rays “fly”.
About the contributor
Prat is materials engineer working in the field of laser technology in a Zurich-based multinational company. He has been living in Switzerland since 2011. Exploring the Swiss Alps and the world are a couple of his passions.
Text and images by Prat Das Kanungo
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