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Thread: 11.2009 Indonesia (Part I)

  1. #1
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    Sep 2004

    11.2009 Indonesia (Part I)

    Having arrived in Indonesia we were slightly bored. The first thing we noticed was the higher living standard - the buildings were more solid and the road was in better condition. But it also meant more numerous and more chaotic traffic which we did not like at all. Suddenly there were people everywhere, but nobody waved to us anymore (instead, where ever we stopped people would come and touch our bike, sometimes even lean - or even worse, sit - on it as if it were theirs - we did not like that too much, but even our disapproving looks did not make them change their behaviour). And the landscape - it had become dry as if we were in Australia again - not a sign of the lush tropical vegetation we had met in East-Timor.

    Maybe it was because we were still affected by the magic of the landscapes and the people of the eastern part of the island that we could not really appreciate what Indonesia had to offer. But that is where we were and we better had to adapt. We realised that this is where the real (or at least stereotypical) Asia would start for us, with overpopulation, crazy traffic and overall chaos.

    Asia is a multicultural environment, and so is Indonesia. Although it is home to the biggest muslim community in the world, different religions are flourishing in different regions. One morning in Kupang, the biggest town in the Eastern Indonesia, we were woken up by a song coming from a nearby catholic church:


    In Kupang we boarded a ferry to the island of Flores. Since Indonesia is solely comprised of islands (and has more that 17 000 of them), getting across it will require us to use ferries 7 times before we reach Malaysia. The first leg, from Timor to Flores, is 12 hours long, and also the longest for us.

    The ferries in Indonesia are notorious for sinking, especially when the seas are rough. Not only is their seaworthiness doubtful, but they are constantly being overloaded.

    We took tickets to the economy class, which, as we learned later on the ferry, was comprised of small, unfomfortable plastic seats (the business class did not look too luxurious either, with stained mattresses lying side-by-side on the floor).

    We decided to stay on the car deck with the motorcycle until the ferry leaves the port (once again, there was too much curiosity about the bike, and we would not have deared to leave it there just like that), and then go looking for floor space to occupy with our own mattresses. But that is not how it went. Soon enough we realised that all the people walking around the car deck were actually going to stay there for the ride, and so we too put ourselves down just by the bike, one on one, and one on the other side of it. It was not enormously cosy or comfortable, but it would do for the night. And we knew the bike was safe with us.

    Here is also a short video about the life on board, and how we were tucked between the bike, the trucks and the crowd.

    So, in addition to all scooters, motorbikes, cars and trucks there was a whole lot of people down there on the car deck, and some birds and animals, too. At one point, a piglet came loose, which caused the muslim women to panic (in Islam, pigs are considered dirty animals), but most of the people seemed to be amused by chasing and catching the poor creature.

    Considering all the action we could barely sleep at all, but luckily the sea was calm from the sunset to the sunrise, so we made it to Flores allright.

    The island of Flores proved to be pretty curvy, so that once I even counted 29 curves in one kilometer. Otherwise it would be no problem, but most of them are sharp, blind curves, and many lorries just don't seem to stay in their own lane. Thank god I installed new brake pads in Darwin!

    (click to enlarge panorama)

    That said, Flores offered us some nice scenery. It was cool (literally, otherwise it gets hot as hell during the day here in the tropics) to ride through shady palm groves, but a roadside bamboo grove was something new and very exciting to us. We would hope to see them again somewhere, because it just is so photogenic.

    Mt Kelimutu is considered to be one of the most memorable sights in Indonesia. It is comprised of three crater lakes, each of which has a different colour (bluish, greenish and blackish) due to different chemical composition of the water.

    (click to enlarge the panorama and pic)

    But I think the most awesome sight were the numerous volcanoes dotting the island. They just look majestic, with their tips often disquised by the clouds.

    (click to enlarge pics and panoramas)

    And the coastline was nice, too.

    And the verdant rice fields were a proof of the fact that the rainy season had already started here.

    (click to enlarge panoramas)

    The people seemed more relaxed here. They say that some 18 000 years ago the small people called homo floresiensis lived here, until the taller and smarter homo sapiens came and conquered them. What exactly happened back then, nobody knowns, but the today's people of Flores are not too tall either. This is how they live and look like:

    Having crossed the island in the whole length, we arrived at its western tip in the town of Labuanbajo. Here we could feel a stronger presence of Islam, with imam reciting the Koran in the nearby mosque.


    After Flores we headed to Sumbawa, which was again pretty dry and did not have any serious attractions for us but the monkeys we met aside the road.

    We believe it might have been the same species as the one we met in East-Timor - the hotel owner had caught a monkey being lost in the hotel garden, and showed it to us.

    During another crossing we could see the famous (for the huge lizards) island of Komodo.

    (click to enlarge panoramas)

    But we landed on Lombok instead. Its centre is so heavily populated that the towns scattered around the main road through the island just blend, making it an urban (and thus pretty nerve wrecking) ride all the way. Thus we fled to the north coast which was much more rural and relaxed, with nice coastline and rice paddies.

    We took time to stop to take it all in, and take pictures of people. We were greeted with smiles.

    It was now time for the legendary Bali. We had absolutely no plans as to what to see and where to go exactly, and we did not have a map either (just the one on the GPS), so we just started riding.

    We saw plenty of Hindu architecture, and once we even spotted people going to a cremation ceremony, dressed appropriately. What was funny was that the people did not really seem to be mourning - they were laughing and smoking cigarettes instead, and did not mind a chat.

    But the sun was already setting and we needed a place to stay, so Kuta (with plenty of cheap accomodation, according to our guidebook) sounded like an option. As we arrived, we were caught by a real traffic jam, and we were stunned by the number of tourists. Sure, there are hotels, bars and shopping - what else could a person want? But we felt we were in a wrong place, and when we saw Western youngsters entering a restaurant in their swimming pants (come on, it is a muslim country after all, could you show at least some respect?) we just felt sick. The next morning we hit the road again, having lost hope of finding a calm place on this island.

    But we did! On the north coast we landed in Lovina where the low season seems to be hitting hard - there are plenty of nice hotels and restaurants, but there are just no tourists (OK, there are some, but it still feels refreshingly empty). The hotel we are staying at has cosy cottages with open-air bathrooms, and a super lovely garden with hindi statues and all.

    (click to enlarge panoramas)

    It is so quiet that even a crab came out to see where is everybody.

    As it seems we found THE place, we just decided to relax here for a while. It is also probably the cheapest (and definitely one of the nicest) place we've stayed so far on our trip, with only some 8 USD a night (breakfast included), so why not.

    In addition to just sleeping, eating, walking on the beach and writing reports we also went for a dolphin-watching tour. It was not a totally serene experience (we don't know how it is done in other places as it was the first time for us to go on a such tour) as there were some twenty boast circulating the bay and basically harrassing the dolphins - who ever saw them, started chasing them so that the screaming tourists could get good pictures. Our guide was more respectful, though, and preferred to stay away and wait for the dolphins to come to us. We did still get some nice shots.

    (click to enalrge panorama)

    We also went snorkelling (basically for the first time as well), which was neat. The coral is not so colourful here, but the fish were nice, and we even spotted a big turtle. Good time here on Bali!

  2. #2
    Subscriber Click here to find out how to Subscribe
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Northumberland, England
    Keep them coming

    Certainly keeps my mind off the 40 odd flood warnings in the region today
    We should learn from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism. [/I]

  3. #3
    Toy maker
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    A bit south of Chester
    As always

    What's the bloke doing with the pig on the boat? Escapee, possibly the evening meal?

    Keep going both

  4. #4
    GS pervert Click here to find out how to Subscribe
    Join Date
    Sep 2004

    Indonesian food special

    A couple of words about the food in Indonesia as well. We were advised before arriving here that Indonesians eat lots of rice, and since we normally try to do as the locals do, we were a bit unsure if we would be able to keep up with them. I mean, rice is good, but to eat it every day?

    Mostly you eat the stuff dirctly off from the restaurant "demonstration" shelf on the window where the food has been lying there for a whole day without any protection:

    Half-eaten and shitted by flys, if you arrive in the evening expect it's already pretty dryed out and quite cold. But in Asian way - still tasty! :lol3

    The truth is, however, that even the most basic of the basics - the nasi goreng or fried rice has been prepared in a different way every time we've tried it. But there are other ways to eat rice. Nasi putih or boiled rice can be eaten with different meat and stuff that we could not identify, but was still good. If only they put a bit less of chilli in their food!

    In addition to rice, noodles or mieare readily available and just as good. Sometimes the dirt cheap instant noodles are used, but here they know how to make them taste good. Once we were on a boat, we tried an instant noodle soup with some green stuff and egg, and although it looked almost gross, the taste was pretty good.

    About eggs. As you can see from the pictures from above, since meat seems to be a luxury for too many people in Indonesia, most of the food comes with a fried or a boiled egg.

    Another good thing we have tried is a noodle soup with meatballs. We ordered one at a roadside place (I suppose it was the only thing they served anyway). It was a simple dish, yet it tasted superb. Maybe it was the green lime inside it...

    And Indonesian version of bread which is basically a dry rice chip:

    About desserts.

    There are no such things as desserts here, unless you consider banana pancakes a dessert. But who cares when there are so many delicious exotic fruit on offer. We have loved the rambutans and the snake fruit.

    About drinks.

    Indonesia has one good beer - Bintang.

    The other one - Anker - is bearable.

    A good option here is to drink fruit juices, but sometimes there are none, so ice tea works pretty well.

    And as tea is good, coffee could be much better. It seems that most places brew it right in the cup so that all the ground coffee stays floating. If you ask for "white coffee", what you get is coffee with condensed milk.

  5. #5
    The future’s bright.... Click here to find out how to Subscribe
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Superb photos as always.... and an interesting read

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    KL, Malaysia
    Hello Tsiklonaut,

    Very nice to read your Indonesian leg, I lived there for 9 years from 81-90, and traveled in Timor, Flores, Sembawa, Lombak and of course Bali on many occassions. I particularly like Flores, where I was once the guest of the Bishop of Ende....

    The East of Indonesia is very different from Java, in fact Bali is the transition from East to West Indonesia, landscape, food and people change once to take the ferry into Java, then you will realy see "people" en mass.

    If you get to Singapore or malaysia PM me, I travel a lot but am around either in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur most of the time.

    Be sure to get to Bromo, Dieng Platau, and leave some days to explore Yogyakarta, the cultural centre of the Javanese civilisation. Of course then see Borobador.

    If you are taking your bike from Indonesia to Malaysia you really need to head for Medan and the port of belawan, it reliable and they are use to dealing with bikes. Other routes can cause headaches and cost big money.

    If you need any info on Indonesia in general, let me know. I still visit regularly and remember most of the routes I use to travel by bike. Unfortunately the raods have not inproved much since I was originally there, but there are great and relatively unused country routes that can be taken to avoid the bus filled main hiways.

    Dean in KL

  7. #7
    Subscriber Click here to find out how to Subscribe
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Galway, Ireland
    Keep em coming.Great pics

    If you need any help/info drop me a pm.
    I have relations in Medan..if that helps.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    ever had the feeling you've been cheated
    Great stuff again Mr & Mrs Tsiklonaut

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