I went to Indonesia for a study trip for one of my university classes and decided to make the most out of my time off to see as many parts of the country as I could. I’ll start by saying that there are SO many things to see and do on different islands, and since everything is quite cheap the most important thing you’ll want there is time. I managed to see Bali, Lombok and parts of East and West Java.
Unfortunately one of the bad things about Indonesia is that it’s usually not a good idea to book trips and activities online due to the questionable legitimacy of many sites. So most things you book when you’re there, and it’s pretty normal to have to barter everywhere you go. I’ll do my best in this post to give advice on how much you should pay for certain things. But that being said, the people of Indonesia are some of the kindest and most humble human beings I’ve ever met.
I flew to Lombok from Bali so that I could hike Mount Rinjani and see the nearby waterfalls. After being harassed at the airport by at least 6 different taxi companies, I chose one that was $50 AUD to Senaru Village, a 3 hour drive up into the mountains with scenic windy roads and hundreds of roadside monkeys. Something you notice straight away being in a taxi is how often they BEEP! It’s customary to beep when going around a corner, when entering traffic, when letting someone into traffic… My taxi driver was quite peculiar – he didn’t wear a seatbelt and he spoke on his old school Nokia mobile phone the whole time which he was actually holding upside down. Nevertheless he was a very friendly guy and offered to also give me a ride back to the airport the next day. I had no idea that when he suggested that, he meant he would stay in Senaru overnight and hang around until it was time to take me back. He parked his car at my hostel and ended up playing cards with the family that owned the hostel while I did the hike. It made me realise how valuable our money is there. I ended up giving him an extra $30 on the way back for staying around for the night.
Mount Rinjani & Tiu Kelep Waterfalls: Mount Rinjani is the second largest volcano in Indonesia with it’s summit at at 3726m (12,224 ft). Before going to Indonesia I did some research on what I wanted to see and do, and this one topped the list. I only had 2 days to spare before meeting my friend in Bali, so after reading a travel blog of a couple who hiked to the rim and back overnight, I decided on doing the same. The crater rim is two thirds of the way up the volcano, at 2600m (8530 ft), from a starting elevation in Senaru Village of 600m (1968 ft). The experience marked a big milestone in my life – it showed me how far I could push my mind and body past my limits and the rewards were totally worth it.
There are a number of ways you can do this trek depending on how much time you have.
- Do a 4 or 5 day summit trek if you want to get to the summit at an easier pace.
- Do a 2 day trek to the crater rim and back down.
- Do an overnight hike to the crater rim (what I did).
All the treks up the mountain are operated with a guide which is probably a good thing; I don’t think you’d really want to do it without a guide especially in the dark. There are two ways to hike up, which are on opposites sides of the volcano, and each one starts in a village where trekkers stay the night before they start the hike.
I booked a room through booking.com at a hostel/hotel in Senaru village called Rinjani Base Camp, you can book it here. It was $27 AUD for the night, and I arranged a guide through them when I got there. Senaru village is a quiet little area that attracts quite a few tourists wanting to hike up the mountain. The place I stayed was owned by a cute Indonesian family who spoke next to no english. When we pulled up in the taxi I was a little unsure of if it was the right place as it kind of looked like a house and absolutely nothing like a hostel, and I didn’t see one other guest the entire time I was there. Something I quickly learned about Indonesia is that everything seems very unorganised especially in spots that aren’t major cities. Once I’d gotten my room they asked if I wanted dinner, and the mother of the family made me fried chicken with rice as the son was trying to make conversation with me in the only english he knew. I found out that he was 13 years old and liked smoking cigarettes.
My view from the dining area at Rinjani Base Camp
Hotels in Senaru Village
I met my guide in the afternoon when I got back from seeing the waterfalls before having a nap. It cost around $100 AUD for him to accompany me the whole way up and down and bring all my food and water. The food included a pineapple, pineapple cream biscuits (bizarre but delicious) and rice and veggies at the top. He even rubbed my back while I was chucking up the delicately cut pineapple he brought me (I am fairly sure I was sick due to the exhaustion and rapid elevation changes). My guide and I had some small talk on the hike but as we got more and more puffed we came to a mutual decision of both listening to our own music and tapping each other if we needed something.
This hike is very physically demanding and I would recommend practicing some uphill hikes before going. I started at 10.30pm so that I could get to the top just before the sun came up, which worked out perfectly. The views at sunrise were absolutely incredible and such an amazing reward. It took 7 hours to get up to the crater rim, with one hour at the top to watch the sunrise, and then 4 hours to go back down. There were a lot of stops on the way up because of how steep and exhausting it was, not to mention how many mini panic attacks I had from walking into so many spider webs. When we’d reached the crater rim, my guide took out the rice and veggies for me to eat while watching the sun come up. The hike was seriously incredible and I currently have framed a huge canvas of the picture below to remind me of the experience.
Mount Rinjani at Sunrise
If you start the hike from Senaru village, a must-do are the waterfalls just outside of the village. I wish I got more time to explore the area as it was so luscious and tourist free. There are a few different waterfalls in the area, and I initially got lost trying to find the main one. I’d read a blog beforehand on how there isn’t really a sign to the main one so I started walking on what I thought was the right track, but as I got further in the path got narrower and practically non existent. I’d absolutely lathered myself in the thickest Bushman’s insect repellent gel as there were mosquitos everywhere and Zika virus was airborne at the time. I slipped on the way back out and covered my legs in scratches and dirt as it had stuck to the repellent. I finally got myself on the right path which required walking through a few streams but the end result was totally worth it. When you head down the steps to get to the waterfalls, you will see one waterfall at the bottom directly in front of you. To get to Tiu Kelep (pictured below), head down the path to your right until the path ends, at which point you have to cross the stream to the other side. Follow the stream all the way along until you reach the waterfalls.
I made a decision to not bring my Nikon and only take my action camera, so the photos aren’t as great as I’d hoped for, but I’m glad I didn’t bring it as my backpack dipped in the water a few times and I could have fallen in pretty easily. The main waterfall, Tiu Kelep, had no one there and was a paradise I could enjoy completely on my own. The water wasn’t too cold either; perfectly refreshing for the warm weather.
Tiu Kelep Waterfalls
Tiu Kelep Waterfalls
Gili Islands: My friend Emily and I decided to do a day trip from Bali to the Gili islands. In retrospect I wished we had of stayed there a night but we didn’t think of it when booking the trip. We got a bus from our hotel in Seminyak to the port on the other side of the island where we got a boat to Gili Trawangan. When we got there we booked a snorkelling trip from one of the main ticket booths near the boat offloading area, and decided to pay a little bit extra to have our own boat and driver, which was worth it in the end. It gave us more versatility with where we went and we got maximum time in the water as well.
There wasn’t as many fish in the area we were in as I thought there would be, but there was one huge turtle who kept circling us and we followed him around for quite a while. The scenery looking out from the island is pretty amazing.
Mount Bromo National Park: One of the more difficult places to get to if you are on a budget. I flew to Surabaya from Bali and wanted to try and get the bus and train to where I was staying but I was scared to risk it. I ended up getting a taxi to Pasuruan and having my Air Bnb host pick me up from Pasuruan which ended up costing overall about $180 AUD return trip. My host Dedy was a really nice guy, you can find him on Air Bnb here. The room was comfortable although the shower was pretty woeful. He took me to the main street in the town to get dinner at a small takeaway shop. It was pretty clear that they don’t get many tourists as I was being stared at the entire half hour by everyone in the shop. I thought at this point being in Indonesia for over a week that I had gotten used to the staring but this was a new level.
Dedy organised a jeep tour for me which was super handy – I think most options for places to stay near Bromo offer that for you as it’s not really something you can safely book online. From memory it was about $80 AUD for the day. I got picked up by my driver in at around 3.30am to head up to the best spot to watch the sunrise, and although I had to wait a long time to see the sunrise I was glad I got there early because the crowds came in like crazy right before the sun came up. Most of the tourists there are from other parts of Indonesia.
I had no idea what sort of view I would be looking at as it was pitch black when I first got up there and I hadn’t been able to see anything the night before, so it was pretty surreal watching the sun rise against this view. The area below the volcanoes is covered in fog which we ended up driving through shortly after sunrise.
Mount Bromo from sunrise spot
After watching the sunrise, I met back at my driver’s jeep which was nearly impossible to find amongst the hundreds of jeeps parked near by. He took me driving around the area a bit and parked while I hiked around 3km return right to the edge of the volcano where the ash cloud was coming out. There were options to get a horse ride to the top as well. The railing that I’m leaning on in the photo above was only a few meters long, so you could walk further around and be standing right on the edge with no railing at all. I got asked to be in a few photos by some local Indonesians due to my fair skin and blonde hair.
Kuta: One of the major holiday spots for Australians, but with a little less ‘class’ than some of the other spots on the island. On Kuta beach, you might be lucky enough to do a baby sea turtle release depending on the time of year and amount of time you are there. You can find the release times through events on the Bali Sea Turtle Society Facebook page here. The activity is free, all you need to do is grab a ticket beforehand and go back at the designated time, where they give you a container and a baby turtle to hold onto and take to the shore. All turtles are released at the same time and it’s a super cute experience watching them waddle into the water.
Baby Sea Turtle Release on Kuta Beach
Seminyak: A nicer main area to stay at, with a lot of beach front resorts. We stayed at Pelangi Bali Hotel which overall was a really nice place to stay and good value for money. The pool had a swim up bar, a large pool and a huge spread for breakfast. There’s a few surrounding markets and streets with more upmarket shopping in Seminyak, as well as beach bars with beanbags and umbrellas on the sand. We used Seminyak as the relaxation part of our holiday before heading to Ubud, and it was absolutely perfect for it. The weather was warm and there was some pretty good food in the area.
Uluwatu: The home of the infamous Single Fin beach party every Sunday. After seeing the beautiful cliff coastlines I wished we had stayed here for a few nights as the views were so beautiful. The taxi was around $30 AUD from Seminyak to Uluwatu. The drinks are a bit more expensive than usual at Single Fin, and it is a huge tourist hub with people from mostly Australia and Europe. We got there late afternoon and it was already ridiculously busy, so plan to get there pretty early if you want a good spot to sit to watch the sun set. Pro-tip: If you want cheaper drinks, there is a convenience store just down the road which has way cheaper drinks than inside the bar, mainly Bintangs and Smirnoff Ice drinks.
Ubud: I booked an Air Bnb a few kms outside of Ubud, and it was one of the most scenic places I’ve ever stayed. We had our own infinity pool (shared with one other villa room) and a huge rainforest garden right in front of us. The host was very friendly and offered to book us a taxi or bring us anything we needed during our stay. The only downside was that we couldn’t walk to the main street in Ubud so we needed to get a taxi every time, but it wasn’t really a problem as the taxis are so cheap. You can book this Air BnB here.
View from the room – Maison Rouge Villa
Maison Rouge Villa
One of our taxi drivers, his name is Wayan Midun, offered to give us a day trip of Ubud the following day to take us to the rice fields, the monkey forest, Tenenungan waterfall, the coffee plantations, Pura Tirta temple and a viewpoint for Mount Batur for $60 AUD, which was an insanely good deal. He is very proud of his Balinese culture and has lots of information about history and things to do and see in the area. You can find him on Facebook here.
Tegalalang Rice Fields
Locals selling postcards – Tegalalang Rice Fields
Pura Tirta Temple
Pura Tirta Temple
Don’t forget to check out my video on Indonesia here!
On the list for my next Indonesia visit
Kawah Putih Ciwedy – White Crater
Mount Kelimutu incl. Tri-Coloured Lakes
Sting-less Jellyfish Lake – Pulau Kakaban