It all happened so fast – from the moment I got the text from my editor asking me whether I possess an international passport to the moment when I was in flight to Surabaya for a familiarisation trip called ‘The Most Unforgettable Experience Fam Trip’ organised by The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy Indonesia, in conjunction with Visit ASEAN@50 campaign.
There were a total of five media members who joined the trip: two from Malaysia, including myself; and three from Singapore. Our journey to discover #WonderfulIndonesia began at Surabaya, followed by the festive city of Banyuwangi, and ending at Bali, the island of the gods.
Being a newbie to travelling, I was enthusiastic to discover Indonesia, a country known for its natural wonders and secluded paradises. It was fun to experience what Indonesia has to offer, from culture and heritage to of course food! Follow this article to found out more about the journey to discover this phase of #WonderfulIndonesia!
Unearth #MajesticBanyuwangi, a destination on the up
Deriving from Javanese that means ‘aromatic water’, Banyuwangi is associated with local legend. Located in East Java facing the ever-famous Bali, Banyuwangi is two hours and a half flight from Surabaya. This newly developed place – once full of pesantren (Islamic religious schools) – is now becoming a landmark tourist attraction with year-round festivals of different themes that promote Banyuwangi’s unique culture and heritage. Whenever travellers visit the place, they are bound to greeted by some form of festival!
Interestingly, Banyuwangi is also home to the best of tropical nature. Here, travellers can explore amazing wildlife and unveil the hidden treasures with large doses of vitamin sea on its secluded and pristine beaches. People in Banyuwangi are mostly Muslims, therefore locals tend to incorporate Islamic elements into the destination’s tourism such as designating a Shariah-compliant beach that segregates males and females, and visiting selected Islamic schools to learn more about local life.
I noticed that the city’s roads, recreational parks and even the toilets are clean and well kept. According to M.Y. Bramuda, Head of Banyuwangi Culture & Service Acknowledgement, there is one festival called clean toilet festival, organised to educate locals on how to take care of their toilets, including offices, government buildings, schools and even public toilets, whereby they will be rewarded for doing so. Personally, I think it’s a wonderful way to encourage people to maintain their toilets clean and tourists-friendly.
Visit the majestic building of Pendopo Sabha Swagata Blambangan
During my journey to discover #MajesticBanyuwangi, I get the chance to visit the official residence of Pendopo Sabha Swagata Blambangan, the Banyuwangi regent. The place has several buildings, including private quarters, custom house of the Using community (Banyuwangi natives), and green house that is overgrown with grass planted on a 60-degree slope, making it look like the mount in the Teletubbies television show! Interestingly, the green house is a guesthouse that requires no electricity during the day and has seven rooms in total, equipped with toilet, and small kitchen. This building is open daily; travellers only need to register their names in a guestbook before entering.
Conquering the west of Mount Merapi to witness the blue fire at Ijen Crater
Recommended for mountain buff and hikers, hiking along the trails to the west of Mount Merapi to witness the blue flames and Ijen Crater is a must. What’s special about Ijen Crater – a quiet but active volcano – is the fact that it is a beautiful turquoise coloured crater lake, which is also the most acidic lake in the world! Being a site of labour-intensive sulphur mining operation, travellers might also see traditional miners manually gathering yellow sulphurous rocks and breaking it into smaller pieces. Being a hiking enthusiast myself, the magnificent view along the hiking trail is one of my favourites.
Travellers will start from the base camp and hike for about 3.7 kilometres to the top, taking two to three hours depending on travellers’ stamina. Should travellers experience respiratory illness or can’t endure further, there is ojek, a trolley taxi service provided by local people, to get you up there! The price varies, depending on one’s body weight.
- Travellers are advised to wear proper hiking gear or at least wear sport shoes and bring flash light because the hike can be a little dangerous at night. Proper gas mask is crucial as the sulphur gets thicker when you go down to the crater. As the temperature can drop to 5° Celsius, it is advisable that travellers bring warm jumpers and jackets that can easily put on and taken off. Best time to go is between July and August.
- When hiking, travellers should give way to traditional miners who often carry loads of sulphur chunks up to 80 kilograms in the basket on their shoulder along a steep trail down the mountain to Paltuding.
Entrance fee: IDR 100,000 on weekdays, IDR 150,000 on weekends
Tour guide: +62 853 3359 5321 (Mr Yanto)
After a long hike, travellers can refresh themselves at Jagir waterfall to wash away the smell of sulphur. Known as the ‘Triple Waterfall’, it is situated in Kampung Anyar, 21 kilometres from Ijen Crater. Being secluded in a rural area, Jagir Waterfall is truly magical and surrounded by forest-green plants. As travellers walk down about five to eight minutes from the parking area, they can hear the unusual humming sound reverberating in the air, topped by sounds of people giggling and having fun. When I first arrived at the waterfall, I swear that it seemed like time stood still so that we can enjoy mother nature as long as we wanted.
Price: IDR5,000 per person
Where to eat:
Located at the centre of the regency, Bik Atik Restaurant is perfect for experiencing traditional local dishes. My personal favourite is bebek betutu (steamed duck cooked in spice mixture), a Balinese dish with hot flavour due to its spicy sambal (sauce) made from sliced raw onions mixed with red chilis and coconut oil. To prepare the dish, it takes about 24 hours because it has to be cooked in leaf wrapping. Travellers should then wash down the dish with the rich and creamy avocado juice, known as apokat amongst Indonesians. The juice is usually served with dashes of chocolate syrup, making it all the more sinful.
Bik Atik Restaurant
T: +62 333 423165
C: -8.221854, 114.368484
Our local guide said that once a tourist asked him, “I’m in Bali, but where is Indonesia?” He laughed. We all laughed, because there is some truth to it actually: Bali is more famous among travellers around the world than Indonesia itself. Well, I can’t blame them because Bali is the centre of attraction filled with nature and heritage.
Being a newbie to Bali, I found Bali astonishingly beautiful and given nicknames like ‘the island of heaven’, ‘the island of temples’ and even ‘the island of the gods’. With Hindu as the main religion, Bali is indeed rich with culture and heritage, making it unique. The first time I sat my foot in Bali, I instantly understood why it is called the island of temples: it seems like temples fill up every corner of the island! From that moment, I knew that I want to explore every part of Bali and experience the culture as much as I can.
What to visit #WhenInBali
Ulun Danu Bratan Temple
Bali seems to have thousands of temples, and travellers should visit at least a few. I was lucky to get the chance to visit one of the most beautiful temples, which is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. Surrounded by the smooth reflective Lake Bratan near the mountains, this temple is also known as the Lake of Holy Mountain because the area around Lake Bratan is fertile and becomes one of the main sources for irrigation in central Bali. The temple complex has five compounds and one Buddhist Stupa built in 1633. There’s a spiritual feel as you walk into the complex there, as you will hear their prayer and quickly learn that you have to behave yourself and lower you voice. This temple is also famous because it is depicted on the IDR50,000 note. So, next time you go to Bali, be sure to take a picture of the temple juxtaposed with you holding the picture on IDR50,000 note.
Tips: Travellers are advised to wear modest cloth when visit the temple.
Opening hours: 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Entrance fee: IDR50,000 (adult)
Contact no: +62 36 8203 3050
Another temple that receives many visitors to admire its scenery is Tanah Lot, famed for its unique offshore setting and perfect for watching sunset. Located in Tabanan, Bali, the temple is placed on a large offshore rock that has been shaped continuously by the ocean tide. Legend has it that there are sea snakes guarding the temple from evil spirits. Usually, kecak dance will be performed here while other travellers came to watch sunset. I was unlucky because when we got there, it was raining and we missed the chance to watch the performance and sunset. But, the view from offshore was still amazing nonetheless because where else could you hear and marvel an ancient temple if not in Bali, right? I will definitely return to Bali one day to see Tanah Lot during a clear sunset.
Entrance fee: IDR60,000 per adult; IDR30,000 per child
#WhenInBali, one should experience:
Barong and Kris Dance
Travelling to Bali is not complete without watching the Barong and Kris dance, both an amalgamation of theatrical dance performance accompanied by traditional music. The performance represents an eternal fight between good and evil. There are two main characters: Barong, a mythological animal representing a good spirit; and Rangda, a mythological monster that represents evil. Before the show begins, travellers are given a handout that explains the story depicted in each act. Interestingly, the show not only focusses on the fight between the main characters, but also includes lessons and jokes that entertain the audience. The one hour show is performed daily, from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 am. After the show ends, travellers should not forget to take selfies with the main characters. Personally, I liked how their performers portrayed their characteristics during the whole show.
Tip: Be sure to arrive early to get front row seats because the show is usually packed with international travellers. Also, bring along handheld fan since the place can get warm and humid.
The barong & Kris dance
- Catur Eka Budhi
Jalan Waribang, Kesiman, Denpasar
T: +62 361 224596
Price: IDR 100,000 per adult and IDR 50,000 per child
#WhenInBali, one should not forget to:
Rejuvenate the tired mind and soul by treating yourself to a spa treatment
Take a break and treat yourself with a spa treatment at Aroma Spa Retreat located on the beach front in Sanur, Bali. With so many packages ranging from anti-ageing treatment to three days’ full package, Aroma Spa Retreat can transform travellers anew. After all, everyone needs to be pampered after an entire day of travelling from place to place. Here, you will get to be treated like royalty. The massage session starts off with pedicure and manicure, followed by massage session for half an hour and finished with tea to reenergise your body. Since this was my first spa treatment, I felt a little awkward but my masseuse was very professional and she made sure that I got the best treatment by asking if I had any injury and whether the pressure was acceptable. After the spa treatment, I felt like a whole new person; the massage session literally untangled my knots and I must credit the masseuse for her magic touch.
Aroma Spa Retreat
Address: on the grounds of the Prama Sanur Beach Hotel, Jalan Cemara Sanur Bali
T: +62 818 0538 0854
Where to eat #WhenInBali
Made’s Warung in Seminyak
Enjoy Balinese cuisine here at Made’s Warung in Seminyak, one of the most established restaurants on the island since 1969. The restaurant offers a huge selection of food from local cuisine to Thailand, Malaysia and even western! The best part is they have dedicated chefs for each cuisine served. Not just a restaurant, it also has boutiques, gelato parlour, and spa. The restaurant also has a live band performance at night that travellers get to enjoy while dining. The price here is reasonable and value for money. On top of that, they also offer a good service! I ordered Balinese cuisine which was rice porridge chicken. It’s so delicious and the portion was big enough for two persons.
Made’s Warung, Seminyak
T: +62 361 732130
Warung Pantai Jembrana, Pantai Selabih
#WhenInBali, one should eat their seafood! At Warung Pantai Jembrana located at the beach front of Pantai Selabih. It takes about one and a half hour from Gilimanuk or Denpasar. This eatery serves you a huge selection of seafood like grilled fish, fish satay and more. It is best enjoying your seafood with coconut water.
Warung Pantai Jembrana, Pantai Selabih
Jalan raya Denpasar, Gilimanuk, Kabupaten Tabanan
T: +62 821 4658 7512
Where to stay:
Rimba Jimbaran Bali by Ayana
Inspired by nature, Rimba is derived from the Indonesian language meaning ‘forest’. A heavenly place for travellers to unwind and renew, Rimba Jimbaran offers 283 stylish and modern suites. Travellers can enjoy exclusive and luxury amenities such as rimba pools, the ever-famous Rock Bar, and private beach at Kubu Beach Club. When I first sat foot here, I was awed by the bar’s innovatively cutting edge design that is Balinese in essence and the bar’s surrounding views. I thought to myself, “Wow, I can’t believe that I’m going to stay here for two days.” I instantly fell in love with the hotel as I walked to the west lobby with Instagram-worthy spaces for travellers to hang around such as the sitting area facing the infinity pool with the forest as the background. Being a hopeless romantic myself, I thought to myself that I’m definitely coming here for my honeymoon.
RIMBA Jimbaran BALI by AYANA
T: +62 361 846 8468