Incredible Indonesia: The experience, the lessons & the tips!

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself”. – David Mitchell

If we’re Facebook friends, or you happen to follow me on Instagram, it’s no secret that I recently made my way to Asia and have been flooding people’s newsfeed with pictures of that trip, ever since (my backlog for ‘throwback Thursdays’ is fully stocked!). A month of travel, through just a fraction of Indonesia, and even smaller part of Asia, without a doubt made one hell of an impression!

Getting there

As you may or may not now by now, my partner had been away for about four months on an exchange program to Indonesia, this meant we had to ‘suck it up’ and do the long distance thing. There was no question as to whether or not we would make it work. But, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging. It had nothing to do with trust and honesty, and everything to do with missing that person constantly and falling into this new custom of life, almost forgetting what it’s like to be together. It took work, and effort to stay a constant part of each other’s life, anything worth having takes some effort, right? Technology and facetime made this very easy, and even in life’s busy chaos, if it was five minutes we had, it was five minutes we gave.

What made this even more motivating? Not only the prospect of being reunited but being reunited for a month of travel! We used this time to plan our trip, to celebrate the end of the long distance slur, it was time to do what we do best, go on an adventure! It was the first time that I had made such a long trip to an unknown country all by myself, 15 hours to be exact, and even though I had been back and forth between Amsterdam and Aruba so many times, this was obviously different. I was excited and nervous and slightly overwhelmed. Excited for the trip, nervous to see my guy again and overwhelmed with the preparations and new experiences awaiting.

Our trip started on Java, and continued into an island hopping adventure, through Bali starting in Seminyak and Ubud, continuing to Lombok on Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Senggigi and Kuta, making our way back to Seminyak, Bali just in time for new year’s eve, winding down in Uluwatu and finalizing where it all started, back in Jakarta.

The Experience

We kicked off the trip in Jakarta (more so west of the city in a nice little town called Lippo Karawaci), though, I must honestly say I didn’t get to see much of the city, or Java for that matter, it was more of a pit stop before continuing on to Bali. I really wanted to see the environment that had become his ‘world’ for four months and was excited to meet the people that I had heard so much about during that time. So after two nights there, we packed up and got ready for our next stop; the island of the Gods, Bali!

The island of the Gods

Arriving in Bali, we made our way to Seminyak and were bursting with excitement. This town was a perfect little beach town, trendy, super chill, and with lots going on! We got settled in at this great little boutique hotel, where we were greeted with warmth and smiles, rented a scooter and got ready to explore. It did help that my partner had been to Bali twice before during those four months, and so already had an idea of how to get around and where to go.

The first full day there started out with an amazing early morning yoga session for me and continued into chilling at the beach and surfing for him. I absolutely fell in love with Seminyak. Our time there consisted of major chilling, lounging, eating amazing food at great places, some shopping and reconnecting with each other, it was absolute bliss.

After about three days of ‘honeymoon’ bliss, it was time to move on to Ubud! I was especially excited for Ubud, I had seen so many stunning pictures of the green jungle like environment, rice fields everywhere, giant banana trees, I couldn’t wait! The drive up to Ubud was a shaky one, our driver was not particularly sharp and wouldn’t stop trying to sell us trips and activities, we arrived there nauseous and tired. After a good power nap and recovery, we were ready to explore. It is worth noting that our trip to Indonesia took place during the rain season, which meant every so often we had to deal with some rough showers, and the worst of it was in Ubud.  Unfortunately, this did slightly get in the way of some of our plans, such as trekking up Mount Batur. But we did have some amazing experiences there, regardless!

I had another amazing yoga session, but this time right between the rice fields, outside in the open air! The next day we went white water rafting on the Ayung river, this was without a doubt one of the most beautiful, and unique things I had ever experienced, I had never seen anything like it. Stunning! Bouncing on rapids, for two hours between giant trenches of stone and greenery, with random waterfalls bursting out the sides. Truly beautiful, and being able to share that with my best friend just topped it off. We went to the monkey forest, enjoyed some great live music by a band we came to love (Ika & the soul brothers!) and had great food! Here too we spent three days, before moving on to the next destination, the Gili islands!

We made our way from Ubud, down to Padang bai and grabbed a fast boat there to Gili Trawangan. The boat ride took about two and a half hours and was the roughest boat trip I had ever experienced in my life. Due to the rain season, the ocean was incredibly rough, when I say rough I mean so rough that I could’ve sworn we were going to capsize about 20 times, the waves were huge, people were puking all over the place, and though we didn’t get sick, thankfully, we were ready to get off that thing asap (mostly me, somehow my boyfriend was quite amused by all of it with a cold Bintang, the local beer, in hand). Finally, after 2 hours we could see land again! And we soon set foot on Gili T.

Lovely Lombok

Gili T has a reputation for being a super busy, tiny, party island. And, well, it was exactly that. On the Gili islands, there are no motorized vehicles, everything is done either by foot, by bike, or by horse and carriage. I am not a fan of biking, whatsoever. Unlike my boyfriend, I wasn’t raised in the Netherlands where people seem to come out of the womb biking. It was hot and busy and humid and I was on a bike through rough sandy streets, and due to the regular rain showers, there were puddles and holes everywhere, you can imagine I wasn’t amused. But, it was definitely a part of the experience! Gili T was fun, between the mushroom shake that shot us to the moon and back, lounging on the calmer south side of the island and our great boutique hotel, it was a fun little island and a great experience. After another three days here, it was time to grab a boat to the island next door, Gili Air.

Gili Air is often referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ island. Calmer, less crowded. Gili Air was fun, though after a few days on Gili T, maybe not a ‘must’. Here we went snorkeling and saw turtles! A beautiful experience. We also met another couple traveling and spent some time hanging out with new people. After another three days here (though a day or two would have sufficed) we grabbed another boat and were off to Senggigi on the main island of Lombok.

We were excited to arrive in Senggigi, we were back on a scooter (this made me happier than it should’ve) and were getting ready for the next phase of our trip, which included Christmas! Here too, we had great food, lounged, met great people, and made a two-hour scooter trip up to see some absolutely stunning waterfalls. We drove through a stunning green jungle like environment, while kids on the side of the roads were jumping and waving at us, some while happily bathing in a nearby river. We finally got to see the first sunset of our trip! Due to rain and some clouds we hadn’t seen one yet (and if you know me, you know I’m obsessed with sunsets). We got lost and were helped out by a local on a scooter who was very proudly leading the way back to the main road we needed to get to the waterfalls. It was all so beautiful. After our time here was up, about four days, we made our way to Kuta, Lombok!

Kuta (Lombok, not to be confused with Kuta, Bali) was absolutely beautiful with stunning beaches, blue waters, and white sand. A beautiful part of the island, untouched compared to the big tourist attraction that is Bali, and even the Gili Islands. This required some adjusting from our part. Here too I had an absolutely amazing yoga class on top of a hill, outside, with a gorgeous view of the island. On an early morning, we even experienced some light shakes from the earthquake happening near Komodo island. After another four days here it was time to make our way back to Bali for new year’s eve! After weeks of island hopping, we decided to take a flight back to Bali this time, and get ready to bring in the new year!

Out with the old, in with the new

We arrived in Seminyak and all of a sudden it was very different from what we left behind a few weeks prior. It was incredibly busy, all hotels were booked, parties sold out and people were ready to celebrate! It was absolute chaos. Thankfully we had booked our hotel well in advance and just had to get there in time to get ready and go out. Once we settled and got dressed, we had an amazing dinner and made our way to a rooftop party.

We weren’t sure as to what exactly we wanted to do for our NYE celebration, so many options, so little time. Once at the rooftop party, we had an amazing view of the beach and were amazed at the energy down there. Crowds of people, DJs, fireworks, right on the beach. We decided that’s where we needed to be, so right before midnight, we made our way down, decided to ditch the ‘fancy’ rooftop, and got our feet in the sand and toes in the water!

It was magic, there were DJs lined up next to each other, people everywhere, the parties had no entrance fee, all you needed to do was show up and dance. People were shooting fireworks like crazy and showing tons of love for each other. Once midnight hit, everyone lost it, the energy was amazing, standing there with my absolute favorite person, there was nowhere I had rather been in that moment. My thoughts went to my family and loved ones scattered all over the world, and the only thing that could have possibly made it any better was having them there. We danced for hours, waiting for the crazy traffic to clear up. The next day we had breakfast in bed, and just welcomed the new year in complete gratitude.

Last lap

Our trip was reaching its end and we had one final destination in Bali, before making our way back to Java. After three days in Seminyak, it was time for Uluwatu. This was one of my favorite destinations during our trip. This is where we found one of the most beautiful beaches, visited a tiny coffee and tea plantation which we just happened to come across and ended the trip under a full moon at a ‘cliff bar’ overlooking the ocean. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful trip. But here too, after four days, it was time to get back to Jakarta.

Arriving back in Lippo Karawaci was bittersweet, our trip was coming to an end, but we were looking forward to spending some time with the people who had become a significant part of my partner’s life for the past months. We all got to hang out, I had a great time meeting everyone and even got a small taste of Jakarta. I was brought to the ‘street food’ experience, introduced to all sorts of new foods, and tried a bunch of different fruits at a market. It was a really nice ending to a great trip! And soon, it was time to head back to Amsterdam.

The lessons

I’m going to be very honest here, this was one of the best trips I had ever been on, but also one of the most confronting ones. I (naively) didn’t think that ‘culture shock’ would be an issue. I mean I moved across the ocean to another country and another culture, quite different than my own and thought I had this thing down. What I didn’t stop to realize was that I had only ever stayed in the western part of the world, and though many cultures and countries in this part of the world are different in and of themselves, making my way to Asia, this Eastern part of the world where I had never even come close to, was a whole other ball game. No matter how much research I had done, or how much I tried to be informed and prepared for this trip, there was no escaping the confrontation.

Seeing children barefoot on the streets trying to sell you anything and everything,  seeing people constantly burn their trash like it was nothing, the number of sick stray dogs and cat’s, and realizing that something such as access to clean running water, something we might not even stop to think about, maybe even take for granted, is not even close to a reality for most there. I found myself confronted with myself. How high my standards of living are, how high my expectations are. I was brought back down to earth and reminded of what truly matters. And despite all this, I couldn’t get over the beauty of this place! It was a constant flow between slightly freaking out about trivial things and being amazed at how different and beautiful this part of the world was. And that’s only having seen a tiny fraction of Indonesia, let alone Asia.

Just this confrontation alone was an experience in and of itself. Another experience that would encourage some personal growth. It was this experience that woke me up to what the true essence of travel is. It’s not just about the fun, the pictures, and the stories, it’s about meeting yourself in other cultures, being confronted with yourself, waking up to another part of the world that is far different from your own bubble. It served a purpose greater than ‘cool Instagram pics’, it was another moment of growth. And though it was an eye opener, I loved it and had an absolutely amazing time!

The Tips

During this trip there were definitely some moments that stood out the most! Here are just a few of my ‘must do’s’  if you happen to find yourself visiting any of these islands!

For yogis: During our trip, I was able to sneak in three amazing yoga sessions in three different locations. The first one was in the heart of Seminyak, Yoga 108 Bali, here I had a very intense, very sweaty and very nice early morning vinyasa flow class, taught by the owner himself, it was a small, intimate, comfortable, studio and lots of hands on attention. If we had the time I would have definitely gone in for a second session!

The second yoga class I went to was in Ubud, at Ubud Yoga House, though ‘the yoga barn’ seems to be the most well known and popular of the options, its classes also consist of 60 students, and if you’re like me and love the small intimate setting of a yoga class, with some hands on loving from your teacher then Ubud yoga house is the absolute place to be. It was an amazing setting, right in the middle of rice fields, with lots of trees and fresh air. It was a wonderful, intense and tough vinyasa flow class, and I loved it!

The last and certainly not least of the three was in Kuta, Lombok, Ashtari yoga shala, another intense and tough early morning vinyasa session, on top of a hill in the fresh air overlooking an absolutely stunning view of South Lombok. Without a doubt another stunning experience!

For foodies and loungers: Of course, with all the amazing food and restaurants we experienced, this one deserved a blog post all for itself! check it out here!

Best ‘ZzZ’s’: I’m all about adventure, getting out there,  staying active and getting dirty! However, I am also all about coming back to somewhere clean and comfortable to recover from all the adventure and getting dirty. And so we were very pleased with a few of our hotel choices!

Our absolute favorite was Bali Ginger Suites in Seminyak, the staff here was very helpful and friendly, and the boutique hotel itself was small, intimate and the rooms super comfortable, accompanied with an open air shower! (which seemed to be the norm most places, maybe not so great during the rain season).

Another favorite was on Gili Trawangan, Tamoa hotel, here we were able to score a wonderful, intimate boutique hotel a bit more secluded from all the hustle and bustle. Here too we had an amazing staff and great room! In Uluwatu we enjoyed the laid back feel of Naturela cafe and homestay!

Activities: White water rafting the Ayung river in Ubud, snorkeling and swimming with the turtles on the Gili islands, chasing waterfalls in Lombok (Benang stokal, Benang kelambu, Tiu kelep), surfing (Seminyak, Kuta Lombok, Pantai Pandawa), checking out the monkey forest and visiting Tegalalang rice terrace in Ubud, grabbing some coffee Luwak and herbal tea in Uluwatu, visiting some street food joints in Jakarta and trying tons of different fruits!

If you’re looking for a little extra indulgence, then getting a  great massage is a must, they’re inexpensive and can be found all over the islands. Want a little extra TLC, then AMO spa in Seminyak is definitely the place to be. Planning to spend new year’s eve around the area? Definitely, recommend Seminyak, and feel free to skip out on any ‘fancy club’ stuff (unless that’s exactly what you’re looking for, there’s plenty of that too!), right on the beach is where all the fun is!

3000 words later, and I have not even begun to express how wonderful this experience has been. I have only been able to share but a fraction of the wonderful things we’ve seen and done. But, I do hope that within these thousands of words, you can get the essence of this one of a kind experience, and maybe even take away some inspiration for your next trip!

Have your own ‘Indonesia experience’? I would love to hear about! Just leave a comment!

Love & light,

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