Top 10 experiences in Indonesia

Indonesia is a country of huge diversity, hopping from one island to the next, the range of experiences is incredible. If you decide to take a trip to this fascinating country, and you definitely should, don’t miss these ten experiences.

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Chasing dragons in the Komodo National Park

When you visit the Komodo National Park you take a trip back in time. Here plants grow that grow nowhere else in the world, and animals roam long since extinct in the rest of the world. The most famous is of course the mighty Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard.

The  park comprises several islands, all with plenty of opportunities for hiking and dragon spotting. And there is also plenty of action going on under water, with some of the best dive and snorkel spots in the world. In my couple of days in the park I saw giant manta rays, dolphins, thousands of bats, turtles, sharks and of course the dragons.

Getting to this park might be a bit of a pain, either you come by expensive flight or very long boat ride, but it is most definitely worth it. Come soon because the number of tourists increases every year.

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Watching the sun rise over Gunung Bromo

You wake up in the middle of the night from a warm bed in your guesthouse. You get dressed in the warmest clothes you took with you and you face the cold outside. From the small town of Cemorro Lawang you start climbing the long road up to the crater rim. The road turns into a small forest path and in the distance you can see the sky turning from black to orange, you start to worry that you’re going to miss what you came for. But just in time you reach the crater rim, you find a quiet place away from the hundreds of tourist groups. With a warm ginger coffee in your hand the show can begin.

The sun rises over the Bromo Tengger Semuru crater. Ahead of you is the vast sea of sand and the three volcanic cones rising from it.

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Diving and Snorkelling on Pulau Weh

Little known and little visited Pulau Weh might just be one of my favourite destinations I’ve visited. This tiny island just north of Banda Aceh in Sumatra is a diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise and the perfect place to get away from it all and chill for a few days.

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Climbing a volcano

‘Just a few more minutes’ you think, as you can see the peak right in front of you. Every step you take is a torture, you spend the last day or so hiking only uphill, but it’s these last steps that pose your greatest challenge. Whatever it takes, you have to reach the summit before the break of day. Finally you take those final agonising steps, just as the first rays of light appear on the horizon.

There’s something very rewarding about climbing a volcano or any heigh mountain. Somehow standing on top of the world makes you appreciate how small we all are and how beautiful and overwhelming the world can be. It also makes you realise that if you fight hard enough any obstacle can be overwon.

Indonesia is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, so there are plenty of accessible peaks to choose from. Some popular hikes include: Gunung Rinjani, Lombok’s tallest volcano with it’s large lake and thermal pools. Gunung Agung, Bali’s tallest peak. There’s also Guning Merapi, the country’s most active volcano and Guning Kerinci, South East Asia’s tallest volcano.

 

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Climbing to Nirvana at the Borobudur

Watching the sun rise over the largest Buddhist temple in the world, the Borobudur, will take your breath away. The temple was build around 800 AD and not much else is known about who build it or why. The temple was buried under volcanic ash and jungle growth for centuries. It was rediscovered again by the dutch in the 1800’s. Over centuries the monument was restored and renovated until being declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991. Since then the Borobudur has become the most popular tourist attraction in Indonesia.

In spite of the large crowds surrounding the temple on a daily basis, it’s still well worth a visit. Come early and you have the place pretty much to yourself. The size and beauty of the place is overwhelming.

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Seeing the mysterious blue flames in Java’s Ijen Crater

Facing poisonous fumes, acidic waters and steep drop offs, all to see one of Indonesia’s most mesmerising sights. In east Java’s Ijen Crater blue fire rises from the earth and every night tourists with a death wish descend into the crater of an active volcano to see them. Dangerous it may be, but few sights are more worth taking a risk for. Once you see the blue flames for yourself you will forget about the fact that standing inside an active volcano may not be the best idea.

Come at night to see the blue fire, and stay for sunrise because the views of the highly acidic lake and the Bali sea in the distance are not to bad either. This is also a chance to see some of the hardest working men on the planet do their work. As the sulpher miners climb into the crater every day to carry around 80 kg of the yellow rocks back down. Their story is as fascinating as it is troubling, another reason why you have to come and see this place for yourself.

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Exploring the bizarre funeral rituals in Tanah Toraja

Tanah Toraja is a small region in the island of Sulawesi, here they perform the world’s most elaborate funeral ceremonies. Families save money for decades to afford these elaborate rituals which include the sacrifice of several buffaloes and pigs, hundreds of guests, giant graves dug in rock faces or caves and dolls called ‘Tao Tao’ that represent the spirits of the deceased.

The whole ceremony can last for days and the most bizarre thing is that the local people welcome tourists. In fact, they see it as a great honour when foreigners attend their loved ones’ funerals.

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Taking a motorbike trip across Bali

Bali, love it or hate it (I do both), but you can’t deny that there is some stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and great temples. You also can not deny that it’s extremely touristy, so much so that some places have lost all the charm they once might have had. The best way to see the ‘real’ Bali and get away from the main tourist trails is by getting a motorbike and spending several days cruising around.

Amazing volcanoes and lakes, hidden valleys and temples, secluded beaches and great snorkel spots are within your reach if you have your own wheels.

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Jungle trekking in Sumatra

North Sumatra is home to the Gunung Leisur National Park, one of the most pristine rain forests in Indonesia. Here you have a chance to see Gibbons and if you’re very lucky (I wasn’t), Orang-Utangs in the wild. But even if you don’t see wildlife it’s a great experience to spend a few days in the jungle, hiking the treacherously steep and slippery paths, swimming in lush and cool rivers and camping by hot springs. Go to the villages of Ketambe or Bukit Lawang and arrange a guide from there because you should never go into the jungle by yourself.

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Learning about the fascinating Balinese culture

Besides stunning nature, Bali is also home to a fascinating culture unique to this island. They practice their own variation of the Hindu faith complete with their own types of temples and religious ceremonies. Attend a Balinese dance performance, visit some temples and try to catch a ceremony, try the extremely spicy Balinese cuisine and get a Balinese massage, both rough and relaxing.

It can be quite difficult to get an appreciation of the culture if you only visit the touristy places as they can appear a bit sanitised and boring. But if you follow my previous advice and get your own transport you can visit some places not destroyed by tourists yet, and see the Bali that has inspired countless of artists and writers for decades.