Nothing seems to be ordinary about Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago state. Situated in between Asia and Australia, the country boasts 13,466 islands, 350 ethnic groups and some of the world’s most rare animals like the Komodo dragon and Sumatran tiger. With its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes and renowned arts, Indonesia offers a diverse break for everybody.
At first glance it’s a daunting assault because it’s noisy and crowded, in fact it’s compared to the durian fruit, which has an intimidating outer appearance. But once you look beyond that and start exploring, you’ll find some fascinating attractions in the city located at the northwestern tip of the Java Island that is home to around 10 million people.
Taman Mini Indonesia Park
Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park: Perhaps the best way to understand Indonesia’s cultural and ethnic diversity is by visiting Taman Mini, as it is popularly known. You will find replicas of traditional houses, costumes and artefacts and their outstanding characteristics from 27 of the country’s 33 provinces.
Jakarta’s National Monument
Fatahillah Square: This is interesting because there are three museums around this square. The Jakarta History Museum previously served as the Dutch Indies City Hall and shows antique furniture and knickknacks from the past. Nearby there’s the Arts and Ceramics Museum and Bank Mandiri Museum.
China Town is another noteworthy stop, where you can find the National Archive building with the Chinese and Dutch influences in its architecture.
Jakarta’s National Monument is a symbol of the nation’s independence. The obelisk stands 137 meters in height and is capped with a 50 kg-gold flame.
Visit the Textile Museum to learn about batik, one of the country’s traditional hand-woven textiles. In fact, each area of Indonesia has a unique style of batik. Keris Gallery and Danarhadi are chains of batik stores that can be found throughout the city offering the best in batik fashion.
This island in the West Nusa Tenggara province forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Home to 3.2 million inhabitants, Lombok is striking because of its varied scenery. On one side you have numerous rice fields, off beaten tracks, rolling hills, mountain resorts and lush tropical rainforests. On the other there are fabulous beaches with pristine seas and world-class surfing, all making this 4,725 km2 island unique. What’s more, this burgeoning tourist destination offers many pure hidden treasures.
Local Crafts and Textiles
Kota Raja is a rural area where inhabitants make handcrafts like baskets, purses and bags from plaited bamboo, while Beleke is a small village where you can find rattan handiworks. Otherwise you can visit Sukarara, an incredible and beautiful village renowned for its hand-woven textiles. Here, you can find traditional Songket cloth hand-woven with gold and silver thread on simple looms. Penujak is just one of the many pottery villages where you can find clay objects, whereas Fancy Art House Gallery offers a wide variety of arts and crafts.
Markets and Villages
Rambitan is a typical Sasak village where the houses and rice storages are constructed with wood, bamboo and thatched roofs. Another interesting place is Lendang Bajur, a characteristic, small Sasak market where you can find a lot of local herbs, spices, foods and handicrafts. Better yet, Sweta market, the biggest one on Lombok, gives you an array of choices from fresh fruit to colourful sarongs.
For an amazing sunset experience, head to Nalimbu Cliff, the best precipice on the western coastline to watch the sun vividly dipping down. Pusuk Resered Forest is not only the densest tropical rainforest on Lombok, it also has a fantastic ocean view. The playful monkeys on the roadside are an added plus. Then again, for a picturesque mountain stop try Tete Batu, one of the resorts above Mt. Rinjani.
Pusuk Resered Forest
A guided hike is a great way to explore the Lombok countryside. Experiencing the rivers, jungles and rice fields up close and personal, and getting to meet some locals will leave you with life-long memories.
Some of the island’s best beaches, like Kuta and Tanjung Aan, are located on the southern coast of Lombok, just kilometres apart. The giant waves that break on the shore are a treat to the eyes as well as being a surfer’s paradise. Additionally there’s natural beauty with very dramatic landscapes, cliffs, lagoons and palm tree forests. Spot the bamboo rafts on which sea wood is grown while basking in the sparkling turquoise waters and unspoilt white sands. By visiting these beaches you can’t help the feeling that you have stumbled across one of the island’s most amazing hidden treasures, brimming with many secrets you wish to unfold.
Gems from the South Sea
If you’re a great admirer of seawater pearls, Lombok is well known for its exquisite South Sea Pearls, farmed in the clear blue-green seas. As the producer of some of the best in the world, you can find up to 27 shades of these outstanding translucent gems. You can also see how they are cultivated.
Gili Trawangan Island
If you want to escape from all the noise, pollution and chaos motorised vehicles cause, Gili Trawangan is the perfect destination. Get back in touch with the forces of nature by sleeping on the beach, backpacking, going deep underwater or taking a bike or horse carriage around the island. As an alternative tourist destination, the ultra-relaxed island is attracting thousands of visitors a day.
Diving and Snorkelling
All the Gili islands have excellent snorkelling and diving, with a magnificent array of sea creatures and plant life. Green and hawksbill turtles, manta rays and bumphead parrot fish are just some of the varieties you may swim across. Plus the underwater coral gardens are nothing short of spectacular. However, the Gilis are in an exposed position so drift diving is normal.
Seeking a Sunset
If you want to watch the sunset on Gili Trawangan, head over to the north east part of the island. The beautiful sunsets take place over Gunung Agung, the huge volcanic mountain in Bali.
Travelling the Motor-less Way
A great way to go around the island is to rent a bicycle, which can be found at the hotel or one of the rental places in the centre. You will cover 9km or so if you want to explore the whole island, and it’s a great way to stop at different beaches and take in the views or a well-deserved dip. If you’re feeling a bit less active and a little more romantic, taking a horse carriage ride is the other ulterior mode of transport.
Hotel Villa Ombak
Gili Trawangan is a 15-minute boat ride off the northwest coast of mainland Lombok. When it was a new tourist destination, Hotel Villa Ombak was the first international hotel there. Guests can enjoy the 114 rooms, huts and villas, which fuse modern amenities with traditional Lombok/Sasak architecture and artefacts, as well as the tropical bathrooms.
The largest tourist destination in the archipelago, found at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunder Islands, is well known for its arts, palaces, temples, rice fields and of course, the sun, sea and sand. What’s more you’ll find the perfect place to rejuvenate in one of the spas, surrounded by stunningly beautiful nature. Its fascinating facets also make it an extremely popular romantic getaway.
Bali has a large number of wonderful palaces, a legacy of the eight ancient kingdoms that once ruled the island. For example, Klungkung Palace is set amidst a floating pavilion, beautiful gardens and lotus ponds. Tampak Siring Palace is one of the five presidential palaces where you can see the paintings and statues collection of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno.
Besakih, situated at the foot of Mt. Agung, is Bali’s largest and most important place of worship with 18 sanctuaries.
By watching a Barong Dance performance, you’ll experience a mix of traditional Balinese dance, drama and music. A woman’s dance like LegongKeraton, and Gong, traditional Balinese music, usually come before the main performance. Most Barong dance acts deal with the struggle between benevolence and bad spirits.
A spa in Bali is a one of a kind experience. With the choice of traditional Balinese healing therapies, beauty rituals and modern treatments, you’re bound to find what suits you. In the most exquisite settings, you can relax and let the fresh flowers, roots, spices and essential oils that are blended together create an intense and pampering experience.
Ubud’s Cultural Calling
If you loved the scenery during the part Julia Roberts was falling for her soul mate in “Eat, Pray, Love”, then head straight for Ubud. North of Denpasar, Ubud is a cool area with an art market, museums and galleries. As Bali’s bohemian cultural centre, it is where you can find things like a typical Balinese painting. And if you’re really into art, a visit to renowned Antonio Blanco’s museum will also awaken your cultural senses. Pasar Ubud is another important stop as the traditional market is the ideal place to find typical Balinese souvenirs. Just northeast you’ll find Petalu, a village famed for its artists, dancers and wood and stone carvers.
Rice fields Rounds
Get spellbound in Bali’s natural beauty by taking a dawn rice paddy hike or cycle around the village of Nyuhkunin to see some of the most beautiful terraced rice fields on the island.