Our month in Indonesia: £420, 10,000 miles and 4 islands.
It’s been a few months now since I attempted to start up a blog but due to working two jobs and having too many weekend plans (and generally being a bit forgetful), it wasn’t too successful! With this in mind, when the lovely Lisa got in touch and asked if I fancied blogging about my recent trip to Indonesia the answer was a given – YES! So here we go…the story of ‘Our Month in Indonesia: £420, 10,000 miles and 4 islands’ begins!
My boyfriend and I were planning a trip to Australia when he suggested a stopover in Indonesia, having travelled some of South East Asia before he knew that I’d love it and that there was lots for us to see, do and eat! This stopover turned into four weeks. Our first stop was Bali, Kuta to be exact, and we arrived in the middle of the night on Tuesday 10th January.
I should probably explain where the name for this post comes from, if you hadn’t figured it out already £420 ($680 AUD) was the total amount of money that I spent, and the same for Luke. This seemingly small amount of money enabled us to smartly travel 10,000 miles and visit four different islands having experiences that we’ll never forget.
We landed to an extremely humid and uncomfortable atmosphere, not ideal after 24 hours of travelling! But we found ourselves a taxi (that it seems mugged us off big time) and got en route to our accommodation, Suka Beach Inn. Once checked in we were keen to find ourselves some water and get straight to bed hoping that the 7 hours’ time difference would work in our favour, little did we know how much jetlag would affect us…we were awake for HOURS and breakfast couldn’t come quick enough!
The first day began with me sampling my very first Nasi Goreng, a favourite of Luke’s, fried rice with vegetables and egg – not my idea of breakfast, but delicious all the same. Due to being completely shattered, our first couple of days were spent trying to adapt to the humidity, making the most of the hotel’s pool and exploring the local area. Oh, and napping! We napped a lot in the first couple of days!
We visited Kuta beach early in the week, despite it’s cool reputation we hated it – it was so dirty! It was jammed with tourists and completely filthy! We did however, manage to spend a while admiring all the surfers, hoping that by the time we return to the UK we’ll be as good as them!
Thanks to Luke’s previous experiences of South East Asia he was keen for me to get stuck in and experience local street food, so we soon scouted out a little back street where ALL the locals seemed to eat. I bloody loved it, I straight away became a massive fan of Mie Goreng (fried noodles, veggies and egg). It was amazing, our favourite place was a tiny little shack looking place, rammed with locals, teeny little benches to sit on and was absolutely roasting! But two meals from there cost us 30,000 rupiah – £1.84! Safe to say we ate there a lot that week!
By day four we were sleeping solidly and getting up to lots of exciting explorations! They were as follows and I would highly recommend every single one of them:
Ubud – only a short bus ride from Kuta.
The Monkey Forest is the coolest place ever, just a huge haven for monkeys to run wild! The monkeys have understandably become used to humans wandering through the forest and are therefore not shy, which is awesome. If you buy the bananas from within the forest then you’re allowed to feed them, and they will come right up to you and take the bananas from your hand. They will climb all over you and as a result of their cheeky nature we have Luke’s favourite photo of the trip so far …
The rest of the day in Ubud was spent wandering the little side streets and looking in market stores before heading into the centre and seeing the Palace of Ubud and the Lotus Pond Temple. I had high hopes for these places after having spent hours researching them on pinterest, and they did not disappoint, the Lotus Pond Temple looks just as it does in all the photos I had seen, impressively large lotus filled ponds surround the daunting walls of the temple.
Uluwatu Temple was our next stop.
It’s spread out over an impressive stretch of the cliff edge, with the main temple at one end and then a protected walk way along the cliff to a view point. The views from here are amazing, you can see right out across the ocean, luckily we had a clear sky and rain free day (extremely rare for January!) so we got to enjoy the stunning views.
A lovely little area with the nicest beaches we had seen in Bali. The sea there was full of surfers and the beaches were super clean with very few disturbances. Just off the main beach in Nusa Dua you can see the Water Blow, where huge waves hit a little groove in the rocks and shoot tens of meters into the air. We sat for ages just watching it happen over and over again.
Before leaving Bali for Java it was only right we enjoyed another of our favourite yummy meals, vegetables in coconut and ginger for me and Gado Gado for Luke (peanut flavoured vegetables and rice) – great end to a fab first week!
It took us one bumpy, hot, uncomfortable four hour bus ride to Gilimanuk and then the ferry over to Java. The ferry is ridiculous, a total of 60 pence each and just half an hour! We soon realised that we were in the minority, and learnt from a very friendly Javanese guy that western backpackers don’t use local ferries! Still, it was a cool experience for us.
On arrival in Java we had the standard greeting of tonnes of people trying to get us to use them for the next leg of our journey, it’s hard to come by legitimate taxis, and in Java it was unheard of. Amongst the locals was one guy who turned out to be a bit of a hero, he got us on a local bus and en route to Banyuwangi, with his business card for tours of Mount Ijen (Mount IjeN was our one and only reason for visiting this part of Java!). The homestay we had booked into was far from ideal but thanks to Fendi (our new friend from the port) we got ourselves a little trip organised and we were collected from our homestay at midnight, and were hiking Ijen by 1am.
Ijen is an active volcano and is where you can see the ‘blue flames’. It took us a couple of hours to hike to the top of Ijen in the dark, and a couple of rest breaks for me, before then starting the climb down into the crater. You can smell the sulphur from the top, and buy the time you reach the bottom you can’t go for much longer without using the gas mask.
It’s something that is 100% worth doing in Java, it’s so cool and you can sit for ages watching the blue flames come out of the volcano! Most people climb out of the crater in time to watch sunrise from the top, which I imagine is lovely. But in the dark we’d made out a lake that ran through the surrounding cliff faces, so we chose to wait until we could see it by daylight – it was so worth it, it looked awesome! And it was also pretty cool to see the volcano from the inside in daylight!
By 7am we were back at the bottom and ready to leave, Fendi had been waiting for us the whole time and offered to take us back to our accommodation via a waterfall, which after the mammoth hike we were both super keen for! It was so beautiful to look at and was just the refreshing swim that we needed! We even sat for a while and let the little Garra Rufa (tiny spa fish) give us a free pedicure!
Heading for another active volcano fix, we headed to Mount Bromo the next day! This time we were lucky enough to bump into another crowd of people that had the same plan, so we were able to make our way up the mountain together – tonnes cheaper and a lot more sociable. Luckily, this volcano was a lot smaller and a lot easier to climb, thanks to the final stretch being just 246 concrete steps, I couldn’t have hacked a repeat of Ijen the day after!
We climbed Mount Bromo in the afternoon and were again taken aback by the size of the crater and the fact that you can get so close to an active volcano, in the UK this would never have been allowed. We could literally walk along the edge of the crater! Pretty cool thing to see despite the horrifically strong smell of sulphur again!
In the hostel at Mount Bromo we had our first cold nights sleep! Everything we’d read and everyone we’d spoken to had warned us about how cold the nights were there, but we couldn’t believe it was true. We were frozen! So much so that I slept in my coat and we both squeezed into my one man sleeping bag! Still, it was a nice break from the humidity – every cloud.
From Mount Bromo it was time for us to make our way to Yogykarta, here we would spend time exploring the markets and temples, and eating copious amounts of delicious street food.
A few of the ‘must sees’ when in Yogykarta include:
The Water Castle
This is the Sultans old baths, very small and takes very little time but interesting to see none the less!
The Sultan’s Palace
Not like any other palace we’ve ever seen before, way less grand but super cool. All 1000 of the Sultans work men live within the grounds and it’s these guys who assist him in running the city, rather than the government.
A 9th century Hindu temple that is, without a doubt, impressive to every single visitor! The temple used to consist of over 200 individual temples, but thanks to recent earthquakes only 16 remain. It’s hard to pick a time to visit Prambanam when it’s not full of tourists or school children but this didn’t matter for us, if anything it was a bonus as we were given a free tour by local students who were there to practice their English.
One of the Wonders of the World and the world’s largest Buddhist temple! We visited this temple the day after we’d seen Prambanam so we were unsure of how impressive we’d find it but it was totally unnecessary – it was just as amazing as we’d been told. Visiting both of these temples was the most money that we’d spent to see anything on our whole trip at this point, but definitely money well spent!
After our mega busy few days in Yogykarta we were all set to head to the capital city – Jakarta! This was the worst journey to date…an 8 hour overnight train with bench seats, knee to knee with strangers and completely rammed. It was however, two train tickets were less than half the cost of one plane ticket – so we consoled ourselves with that thought. But still, never again.
We had a very brief 48 hours in Jakarta, but this was plenty for both of us. As the capital city of Java, we had to visit it, our time was mainly spent wandering the city, dodging traffic, and exploring the monas, the cathedral and the old town. Oh and going to the cinema. City life in Indonesia isn’t for us – so when it was time for us to catch our fight to Lombok we were more than ready, especially after having kindly been sent on our way by our lovely homestay host who sent us packing with tea, cakes and fruit. Score.
Lombok was, without a doubt, my favourite island that we visited. Our first stay here was in Kuta – completely different to Bali’s Kuta! It is so much less touristy and a lot more chilled. We had our first beach day of the whole trip whilst here (how did it take me three weeks to get Luke to agree to a beach day?!?) and we barely saw more than 50 people on the beach all day. Heaven.
As can only be expected from Indonesia in the wet season, we were caught by the mother of all rainstorms whilst getting the last out of the daylight…this didn’t stop us.
It was also here that we felt most confident to hire a moped and see the sights as a local would. We spent the day on our very own little ‘beach road trip’ through the mountains along the coastal road visiting about six beaches in total. Thank god Luke had a hidden moped driving skill because I was not so good!
After a couple of chilled days in Kuta we headed for Senggigi. After another day on a moped visiting various different beaches and bravely tackling Mataram city centre we were ready for our last island hop of the trip – Gili Air!
We had heard and read such great things about Gili Air, so we were both very excited to visit – expecting glorious sunshine and scorching heat in ‘paradise’, we had a whole 2 days of rain…not ideal. To a certain extent it didn’t stop us exploring, but on such a tiny island (we cycled the whole perimeter in half an hour!) there is only so much you can do in the rain! We’ll definitely go back at some point as we could both imagine how amazing it could be if the weather was perfect; walking, cycling and horse riding are the only methods of transport; it seems the ideal place to relax, spend time on the beach, drink great beers and eat local food. It’s such a refreshing place to visit, like nowhere I’ve ever really been before. One big difference is that when it rains, the power cuts. On the whole island. One night we couldn’t get dinner anywhere because the power was out and there was no telling when it would be back…definitely somewhere to visit in the dry season!
When our very wet stay on Gili Air came to an end it was time for us to make our way back to Bali in advance of our flight to Australia, when we got back there and were greeted with another 24 hours of solid rain we were both more than ready to leave. With Luke’s birthday being just a week away, we booked a swanky hotel for our penultimate night in Bali (before then camping out on the airport floor on our last night!) for a bit of luxury treat! And THANK GOD that the weather was lovely for our last day – I don’t think we could have hacked another 24 hours of rain.
We had a blissful 24 hours of chilling by the rooftop pool, birthday beverages and an incredible all you can eat breakfast. The hot water shower and princess sized bed were personal highlights for me, whereas Luke was ALL about the breakfast! Coffee and pastry galore.
It seems crazy that I have managed to sum up so many amazing (and some not so) experiences into less than 3000 words, I could talk about our time in Indonesia forever.
Along with all the fascinating and beautiful things that Indonesia has opened our eyes to, it has also taught us that creepy crawlies aren’t so bad to share a bed with, the oddest looking foods are often the tastiest, ‘just in case’ items should not be packed, washing in cold water does not achieve the same results, mosquitos seem to love deet, and that all boundaries you might have in a relationship are demolished when you travel together…
If you enjoyed this post, head over to Sweet Beads to read more of Matilda’s blog!