Without a doubt, Indonesia is one of my favourite travel destinations in Asia. This country warmed my heart with its cultural and linguistic diversity, a great amount of remarkable temples, picturesque landscapes, cloud-swept mountains and delightful local cuisines. Due to the limitless possibilities that it offers, I certainly do not mind returning. A such, I willingly accepted the invitation by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Indonesia to explore and experience the charms of four selected provinces (South Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara, East and West Java) through a familiarisation programme called The Trip of Wonder, in line with the Wonderful Indonesia campaign.
MAKASSAR, SOUTH SULAWESI
1. Discover Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park
The first place we visited was the Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park. A visit to the park gives travellers the great opportunity to witness the Rammang-Rammang karst area, covering approximately 43,000 hectares and contains 286 caves (including 16 of the regency’s pre-historic caves). Located in Maros Regency, this park is a symbol of Sulawesi Island beauty and tranquility. Besides the karst area, another draw that makes Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park as one of the must-visit place in South Sulawesi is the waterfall, perfect for cooling down and immerse in pristine nature.
Getting there: If one wishes to experience a bit of adventure, try riding a local mini-bus called pete-pete from several stops at Makassar to Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park.
Tip: There are gazebos available near the waterfall, ideal for enjoying meals and relaxing. Do bring extra clothes if you wish to get wet.
GPS: -5.015780, 119.684789
2. It Feels Like a Private Island at Kodingareng Keke
Your trip to Makassar is not complete without visiting the uninhabited island of Kodingareng Keke Island, one of the 11 islands that make up Spermonde Archipelago in Makassar. Though Kodingareng Keke is just a small island with limited building or infrastructure, it is still worth to be discovered due to its great underwater scenery – it is the best snorkeling opportunity to see adorable marine creatures, including blue starfish.
Getting there: Take a return boat trip from Kayu Bangkoa Port to Kodingareng Keke that costs IDR 600,000 per person
Tip: Do bring your own snorkelling gear (fins are highly recommended if you wish to go further from the beach); drink and food (since as there is no shop available on the island); and sunscreen (if you really need it). Best time to visit is between June and September.
GPS: -5.103396, 119.289102
3. Catch Beautiful Sunset from Pantai Losari
Makassar offers breathtaking sea views since it is located on the Southwest coast of Sulawesi that faces the Makassar Strait. Pantai Losari, a beach that can be found on the western part of the city, has become popular among locals and foreigners to experience viewing of sunset and sunrise, tasting delightful local culinary offerings and participating in random festivals held there.
Getting there: The sunset and sunrise spot is located near Mesjid Amirul Mukminin (Floating Mosque) at the Western end of the city. Travellers can access it by walking or taking the local public transport.
Tip: Try mouth-watering local dishes like coto Makassar (a stew containing beef and innards with seasoning broth made from ground peanuts) and pisang epe (grilled banana) that are widely available at the food stalls nearby.
4. Savouring Local Dishes
I suppose experiencing the local food is a huge part of travelling. Thus, embarking on a journey to Makassar is a treat for the taste bud because the city is considered as a major culinary destination in Indonesia. During the trip, I sampled a few of local dishes that I never before seen anywhere else in Indonesia. First one was pallubasa, which you can have at Palbas Serigala. It is popular among Indonesians for its hearty meat stews. Similar to coto Makassar, pallubasa is a thick and rich mixed beef soup containing the offal of cattle and buffalo cooked for a long time. Egg yolk is added to the soup to make it more enticing. As for dessert, Muda-Mudi restaurant serves up the thirst-quenching es pisang ijo, which is heavenly when consumed during hot Makassar weather. The dessert is made up of peeled banana wrapped in pandan-flavoured dough and served with shaved ice, condensed milk, vanilla syrup and tapioca.
GPS: -5.160517, 119.421105
GPS: -5.151028, 119.421940
LOMBOK, WEST NUSA TENGGARA
1. Indulge in Sasak Culture at Sasak Sade Village
Located in Central Lombok, Sasak Sade Village is a traditional village of the largest tribe in Lombok, which is the Sasak. This village gives the opportunity to travellers experience the rich Sasak culture. One can expect to see the row of traditional houses that are typically built from wood or bamboo for the roofs and walls, and a mixture of ash and clay for the floor. It is interesting to know that buffalo dung is used to wash the floor – it is believed that the dung keeps mosquito away and make the floor warm. Stepping further into the heart of the village, travellers may see women busy with yarn and traditional loom in front of their own houses while the men generally farm at the garden, some even work as tour guides. Sade village is also famous for ikat weaving (dyeing technique used to create the designs on fabric) and unique handicrafts made by the women. Be sure to grab some of the artful handicrafts or woven fabrics as souvenirs.
Getting there: Sasak Sade Village is located about 30 kilometres from the city of Mataram. You may opt for a tour package or simply hire a one-day supir (driver) to bring you around and explore the nearby attractions.
Tips: It is highly recommended for you to follow the guided tour so that you can understand and appreciate this village better. You may request for it at the village entrance (price is around IDR 100,000 per person for one session).
GPS: -8.838918, 116.291848
2. Gili Trawangan, Meno and Air – The Pearls of Lombok
While every year millions of tourists are drawn to Bali, Lombok seems to hold so much potential due to it being less discovered, especially its smaller islands. Lombok has around 35 smaller islands and islets called gili; the popular ones are Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. Gili Trawangan is the liveliest and well known among the three gilis, also ranked alongside Bali and Borobudur as one of Indonesia’s top destinations. It is ideal place for travellers seeking vibrant bars, happening parties, seafood restaurants, upscale resorts, water activities and catching up sunset or sunrise view. Meanwhile, Gili Air is the closest to Lombok mainland and a favourite spot for budget travellers. Gili Meno is the smallest and least developed, perfect for snorkelling offshore amongst hawksbill and green sea turtles.
Getting there: Travellers need to take a speedboat trip either from Bali (around three hours) or Teluk Kodek (around 30 minutes) to Gili Trawangan.
Tip: Motorised vehicle is prohibited on the island. It is possible for travellers to explore the island by simply walking around the island (taking maybe two to three hours depending on pace), cycling or riding on cidomo (horse-drawn carriage).
1. Conquering Mount Ijen
Ijen Crater – also known among Indonesians as Kawah Ijen – is one of the popular destinations in Banyuwangi, attracting countless mountain enthusiasts and hikers. The largest acidic lake in the world and mesmerising blue flames at night are enough reasons for travellers from all over the world to come to East Java. The three-hour hike (duration depending on the person’s pace and stamina) leads to the top of Mount Ijen where one can descend near the lake to see the blue flame and enjoy the majestic sunset view from the rim of Mount Ijen. The best time to start hiking to Ijen Crater is in the early morning, around 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. – the earlier the better so that travellers can reach on time. Why should travellers take the trouble to experience such an adventure when being in Indonesia? It is because the blue fire is a unique phenomenon that can only be seen in two places in the world: Ijen Crater in Indonesia, and Iceland.
Getting there: The hike is suitable for experienced and non-experienced mountaineers without respiratory illness. Wear highly-filtered gas mask to protect against the toxic sulphur clouds. Best time to go is between June and August.
Tip: Travellers can take 4×4 vehicle that costs around IDR55,000 per person to get to the starting point of the hike up to Ijen Crater.
GPS: -8.059094, 114.240509
2. Baluran National Park – The Little Africa of Java
Baluran National Park is unique in many ways. Located in Situbondo Regency, this park has a relatively dry climate and a quintessential savanna, making it the only place in Indonesia that allows travellers to enjoy close encounter with exotic animals like the Javanese wild ox (banteng), barking deer, feral water buffalo and various other species in an African-like setting. Expect to savour an undeniably stunning view of the Mount Baluran (an inactive volcano) located in the centre of the park. Baluran National Park has an observation tower on a hill at Bekol that provides the opportunity to see animals from a distance. When travellers journey another 15 kilometres from the park entrance, they are bound to stumble upon a beautiful white beach called Bama Beach, the habitat for coral reef, fish and mangroves.
Getting there: Best way to visit Baluran National Park is by hiring a local driver from Situbondo or Banyuwangi (Around one hour and 30 minutes’ drive from both regencies).
Tips: The panorama in Baluran undergoes a dramatic change depending on seasons – the best time to visit is during the later half of the dry season, which is from June to October.
GPS: -7.831093, 114.387969
Located near the charming little market town of Ciwidey, approximately 50 kilometres south of Bandung, Kawah Putih (White Crater) is one of West Java’s charms due to its surreal turquoise coloured lake inside with a stunning backdrop of tree-clad cliffs surrounding it. Since it is located 2,500 metres above sea level, the local climate is normally chilly with the temperature around 10 to 15 degrees Celcius. Travellers should spend a few hours and stroll around the crater to admire the area’s natural splendour.
Getting there: From Bandung, the trip takes a little over two hours depending on traffic. Once arrived at the Kawah Putih entrance, travellers need to take angkot (a mini-van) that will transfer them to the crater.
GPS: -7.165885, 107.402129
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 12.2. Read the magazine for free HERE.