BALI TRAVEL BLOG / BALI INDONESIA ITINERARY & MUST SEE SIGHTS
Bali is the main draw for most tourists visiting Indonesia: it is a perfect pool and party spot with a vibrant Asian soul, tourist attractions in excess and the right mix of mayhem and relaxation for a proper break away from the "real world". The more exciting trip that we did in 2011, went beyond Bali though. It was my husbands first proper overseas adventure - with just two weeks there wasn't much poolside action, but we packed in plenty of backpack type exploration, extending out to the Gili Islands, Lombok, Flores and Komodo Island.
1. The Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are three white sand islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, & Gili Air) located between Bali and Lombok (best got there by speed boat or ferry from East Bali). They're car-less with small tropical bars and restaurants lining the beaches, and you can walk around each in less than an hour. The views are incredible and the seas around them are full of diverse marine life - so a great spot for snorkelling or diving too. Accomodation is also cheap. We simply turned up from Bali without a reservation and were met at the boat by various locals offering to show us their "hotel". A 5-minute walk inland and we found $15US/night accommodation in a gorgeous (private) Indonesian hut, with half a dozen other huts surrounding a small pool, and private outdoor showers out the back of each hut. The bed was comfortable and there was a fan. We were able to utilise freely provided bikes to get around the island too, which made for some amusing late night rides back in the dark after a few drinks at the beachfront bars.
2. Komodo & Rinca Islands
A couple of days beaching on Gili Trawangan and we were eager to get out and explore a bit further. We headed to Lombok for a night and then took a flight across to Flores. There, we chartered a local boat and crew (not at all expensive) to take us on a two-day sightsee to Komodo and Rinca Islands. The big draw of course, was the Komodo dragons. The views and marine life turned out to be stunning as well though. I might have tried to drown my husband while we were snorkelling off the boat after wondering a little too much about what was swimming around us, but its a very cool region for it. Komodo village is an interesting place too. It is an isolated spot - one of the locals painted a picture of a 4-hour boat journey for any woman going into labour. Wandering the village there were children playing happily everywhere and random (very cute) goats. One local offered a life sized carving of a Komodo dragon for us to purchase - we settled on a much smaller hand-sized one. We were also taken on treks up into the interior of both Rinca and Komodo Islands, by a local guide, where there were plenty of Komodo dragons to see. The large concentration of dragons were found around the conservation centre at Rinca though.
Flores itself is an interesting visit too. Arriving in Flores means landing on a tiny airstrip in what feels like the middle of nowhere. The rustic little seaside town of Labuan Bajo is just a short drive away though. We found accommodation on the hill, looking down over the beautiful harbour, for about $15US/night and there are a handful of rustic bars for enjoying a beer near the waterfront - much needed to take the edge off the heat. Theres not much else to see in Labuan Bajo itself, but its the gateway to Komodo and Rinca and an easy place to organise a local charter too - simply a matter of walking down to the mariner and beginning negotiations. You can then also head inland if you're interested in something a little more intrepid too - as we did.
Heading in-land across Flores, we passed rice fields and tropical shrub covered mountains, small villages and shanty houses, and endless children everywhere we went. Eventually we arrived at Ruteng, a town near the centre of Flores. The draw had been the "Flores hobbit" - a prehistoric ancestor found buried in a cave near Ruteng (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_floresiensis ). Our visit there was really interesting - seeing the actual area that the fossils were found and wondering about the history of our forgotten ancestor. We discovered many other gems along the way though too, hiring mopeds and exploring the surrounding countryside, finding a beautiful waterfall and witnessing the lives of people here - so different from our own at home.
4. Bali: Ubud & The Monkey Forest
Denpasar, Bali, is just one big tourist fly-in. Endless hotels, nice beaches, and chaotic shopping suburbs. Its a fun place to visit. Great for sitting beside a pool or on the beach with a drink within easy reach. My first visit here, I developed an addiction for fresh watermelon drinks, served from the sunken poolside bar, situated immediately next to a beach with the obvious benefit of seaside views. Massages are offered cheaply and there is always someone offering something for you to buy. Relaxing chaos? For a bit more quiet, you can head up inland to Ubud. Theres a very cool monkey forest there, as well as yoga retreats, temple and historic sight seeing and lots of traditional crafts and art to shop for. It was from Ubud that we then hopped across to the East of Bali to take a speed boat out to the Gili islands.