Indonesia

Vulcano Mt. Bromo in East Java

Did you know that Indonesia is the fourth most populated state after China, India and USA? With its 17.508 islands this country of Asia has a lot to explore from active volcanoes and their crater lakes to rare animals, good spicy food and the mix between Muslim and Hinduism culture (for Bali page click here).

Where to go? Top 5 Places

  • Bromo volcano on Java island for sunrise, climb to the crater edge and hear the active volcano bubbling!
  • Bukit Lawang, Sumatra to see Orang-Utahs in their natural environment – the best place to see them in the world even better than on Borneo island
  • Lake Toba, the biggest volcano lake of the world created 75.000 years ago because of an explosion of the supervolcano Toba. Nowadays there is an island in the lake called “Samosir” with the village Tuktuk and beautiful nature
  • Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta which is one of the seven world wonders
  • Diving in Tulamben, Bali (more in my article here and on the BALI PAGE)

How to get there?

  • flights from Kuala Lumpur are cheaper than from Singapore e.g. to Medan, there are ferry options from both countries to either Sumatra or Jakarta on Java but they are not as convenient and recommendable
Full of pure nature and culture – SUMATRA

SUMATRA

The most western island closer to Malaysia and Singapore is the biggest one of Indonesia as well. In comparison to Java and Bali the infrastructure and tourism is not that developed, the streets are very bad and it takes long to get from one place to another. On the other hand it is unique Indonesian culture to explore and quite untouched.

Where to go?

  • Bukit Lawang (bus from Medan 5 hours), for the Orang-Utah jungle trekking in Gunung Leuser National Park (tours with bukitlawang.com for 80€), only stay in the jungle if you look forward to the adventure, otherwise it is nice to have a shower after the exhausting hike and you see many Orang-Utahs in one day already! As an accommodation the “Bukit Lawang Indah” is cool for backpackers with guitar music in the evening, awesome cheap food and friendly staff for 5€ a night in a double room
  • To Lake Toba you get by “tourist bus” for 16€ (230.000 IDR), it is a Mini-Van or private car where more people get squeezed in, but still more comfortable than the local bus especially the air-con. On Samosir Island in the little village Tuktuk the “Bargus Bay Hostel” with single rooms for 50.000 and shared bathroom or double room for 80.000 is recommendable. Rent a motorbike for 60.000-100.000 IDR to drive around the island, if you start early you can surround the whole island, stop by hot springs to see and smell sulfid volcano landscape
  • Don’t spend much time in Medan, it is just another big busy city

JAVA

Main island with the capital and famous Borobudur temple in Yogyakarta, one of the seven world wonders. It is easier to travel than Sumatra and not as touristic as Bali but a very big island so all distances on the train or bus are long due to the conditions.

WHERE TO GO:

  • Jakarta, capital if Indonesia with about 30000 Mio Take DAMRI Bus from Jakarta to city center, no scams, with air-con, drives often until 11pm for 40.000 IDR p.P.
    • What to do in Jakarta? “MoNa” – the Monument Nasional with a big square and nice park, next to there is the Jakarta cathedral, really nice to visit after all temples in Asia, old quarter near Kota with buildings from the colonialism time of the Dutch and lots of street food around
    • How to get around in Jakarta? There is public transport by train, quite convenient but the taxi (Grab or GOJek) prices are unbeatable
    • How to get out? Trains from Jakarta go to Yogyakarta (which I took for 200.000 IDR Economy class, Surabaya, Bandung etc.
  • Yogyakarta with the famous Borobudur temple, one of the seven world wonders and the Hinduism temple Prambanan offers volcano nature around as well (Mt. Metapi) or beach destinations as well as a cave to explore. Malioboro street is a famous for street food and shopping in the city center, on the northern end you find the train station, on the other end the palace and water palace. Backpacker area with booking offices, hostels and bars is found in the south
  • Bromo volcano: one hour from Probolingo in the mountains this awesome and easy-accesible volcano comes up in the landscape of Java – don’t miss!
  • Kawah Ijen volcano: biggest acid volcano lake and the chance to see “blue lava” which come out from the sulphur mine in the dark
  • Book a tour from Yogyakarta or Surabaya to both volcanoes with transfer to Bali or the other way around from Bali for 60€ (800.000 IDR, entrance fees excluded) in 3 days/ 2 nights

How does the train works on Java?

Because Java is the biggest island of Indonesia the train system is the best in whole Indonesia. In Sumatra are mostly buses or flights the best option and Bali and the other islands are too small for long train rides. To see the beautiful nature of Java it is the best way to get around because the streets are quite bad and normally the cars drive like 40 to 60 km/h because of the bad traffic.

You can choose between three classes: economy, business and executive. Many travel website advise to take the executive class but for my trip from Jakarta to Yogyakarta that was about 350.000 IDR (25€) and a bit too expensive in my opinion if you compare to the cheap flight tickets around 30€.

Economy is still comfortable with air-con, double seater chairs (you don’t have your proper own seat, it’s like a bank for two or three people) and many locals to have an adventurous experience. Make sure to book seats in the middle to avoid smells from the toilet. The toilets are a hole in the ground but have toilet paper and soap!

On other routes the economy class is even cheaper like from Yogyakarta to Probolingo (near Bromo volcano) for 85.000 IDR (6€), maybe executive class is nicer on these long journeys.

Very innovative and practical is the check-in process on the train stations in Java: there are counter machines to print out your boarding pass in 2 minutes. So you don’t need to queue and wait for long, only need to bring out the confirmation printed out or your code from online booking to type in. But still be at the train station about 30 minutes before. There are many little shops to buy some snacks for the train ride.

In the trains itself you can get food like nasi goreng or instant noodles, but not fresh and in my opinion a bit overpriced (packages for 30.000, normally for 15k). Either the staff comes around in the wagons or you can go to the board restaurant.

My craziest train experience:

On the train from Yogyakarta to Probolingo I got to know the real local style of traveling by train. I don’t know what the Indonesians have to carry around but many of the have cartons and hundreds of bags with the. Sometimes it seems they are moving somewhere else with their paper cartons. Not that the journey is already long with 8 hours, a baby vomited next to me in the wagon and the Indonesians took secretly photos of me like an animal. Luckily I had my seat on the window to enjoy the beautiful nature with palms, rice fields and small local villages.

Mt. Bromo vulcano panorama

Good to know

Money: Indonesia has one of the most valueless currencies in the world, that means you are a millionaire because one million Rupiah (IDR) are about 70 Euro.

Feeling like a stranger: In Indonesia (esp. Sumatra and Java) tourists are like aliens sometimes. After my six months travel in Asia I felt the most as a stranger here. The people really stare at you when you walk on the street or sit in the train… okay, if you smile most of them smile back and say hello. But they all want a photo with you. Sometimes this “feeling like a superstar” is cool but after many times it gets annoying, even if they shoot the photos secretly.

 

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