Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Summer Holidays-Part 2: Beautiful Indonesia

On the 2nd of August myself, Matthew and Molly flew to Jakarta to spend 4 weeks in the Indonesian archepelago. Despite a long and expensive flight we all had the most amazing time ever. Indonesia, although often maligned- terrorism, tsunami, earthquake, volcano, etc, is an absolutly amazing country and I cant wait to go again next year, pending adequate finances of course.
We flew to Jakarta and spent a few days there with my dad and sisters. Jakarta was crazy. It has a population of 20 million I think, most of whom are living in extreme poverty. The city is completely chaotic. There are no traffic lights, everyone drives motorbikes and to cross the road takes about half an hour, a fast run and a lot of luck. The city is really polluted and there is a constant haze in the sky. The sewers are open and baring in mind the city sits on the equator, you can imagine how smelly it gets. But despite all that, the place is great. it really is buzzing, and its so different to London or anywhere in the West. It really is a case of getting out of your comfort zone, way out.
From Jakarta we flew to Yogyakarta, which is in central Java and is Javas cultural capital. Yogyakarta is also where the earthquake was in May which killed hundreds. Yogyakarta was great and not half as hectic as Jakarta, although still quite hectic. The people are really sound and friendly, and like most of Indonesia, really cheap. We were staying in a lovely Losman (Indonesian style accomadation with loads of bungalos usually facing a central garden or pool) with a swimming pool and in the centre of Yogyakarta and it was only about £4.50 a night for the room. While in Yogyakarta we visited Borobudur which is the worlds largest Buddhist monument and it was absolutly amazing. Its like a huge pyramid with walkways covered in friezes all the way up, and over 350 Buddhas sitting , aswell as a huge stupa at the top. It was fantastic there and we all touched the Buddhas foot so I should have lots of good luck as a result.
We spent about 5 days in Yogyakarta and then flew to Bali. The internal flights in Indonesia are so cheap. For me, Matt and Molly to fly from Yogyakarta to Bali, which takes about an hour, it cost £40 altogether. thats for all 3 of us, tax etc included. You cant get much better than that really. When we arrived in Bali we went straight to Kuta which is the nearest town to the airport and also the main tourist destination in Bali. After being in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, Kuta was a real shock. It was absolutly massive and full of McDonalds, Starbucks, etc and millions of surfshops and hotels. To be completely honest it was horrible. It has been completely geared towards Western tourists and their needs, and what a bunch of cultural philistines we are, it would appear. There is nothing really Indonesian about it. The sad thing is that because Kuta has been badly bombed twice by suicide bombers, tourists, especially the Australians who were the mainstay of the tourist industry in Bali, are staying away from Bali. So Kuta which has developed purely as a tourist playground is now practically deserted, so the people who live and work there and who have business there are all completely skint. As a result when you walk through the town or sit on the beach you get quite aggressively pestered and harrassed to buy things or have a massage, which can really be quite annoying. So all in all, Kuta was a nightmare, so after one day we decided to leave and took a 3 hour bus journey, followed by a 5 hour boat journey to go to Lombok, which is the next island east of Bali.
Lombok was amazing, a real tropical paradise. We went to Sengigi which is the main tourist area but there were very few tourists there. We literally had the beach to ourselves. We stayed in a really nice losman right next to the beach, which cost only £3 a night, breakfast included. It also had a free pool table and a little bar. The people in Lombok are relly poor. They literally live on $20 a month. The people really are the nicest people in the world and we made a lot of real good friends there. The beach was so clean with hardly any waves, and the water is so clean and warm. It was fantastic. The food is also amazing there. Its mostly seafood, but it really is the freshest, tastiest, cheapest seafood you'll ever have. We ate like king and most nights didnt spend more than £5 on food for all 3 of us including drink. We spent just under a week in Lombok and we really fell in love with the place and the people. I have never been so relaxed in my life, it was great.
From Lombok we flew back to Bali. We flew because we couldnt face another 9 hour journey with our 3 year old and yet again the flights were no price (about £30 I think). On our return to Bali we stayed away from Kuta and went first of all to Tanjung Benoa which is a little fishing village. It was really nice there and we stayed for about 5 days. We then headed to Ubud which is in the Balinese mountains and is the cultural capital of Bali. It was really nice there. Art, monkeys and rice paddys everywhere. It was also a little cooler, although still really hot. In Ubud you really get a sense of Balinese society and culture. The Balinese people are really gentle and really spiritual. They are Balinese Hindus, and everywhere you go there are liitle shrines and temples everywhere. Every house has there own little shrine, and every morning everybody places little offering trays outside their house or business with rice and crackers or flowers or even cigarettes in them. It really is amazing. Also there is art everywhere. They do not believe in art as something which should be made for money.They just decorate and paint eveything in veneration of their gods.

So besides Kuta, Bali is a fantastic place and I would recommend it to anyone. We really had a great time there.
After that we flew back to Jakarta where we spent another few days then we flew back, via Abu-Dhabi, to London.
Indonesia is a great place and if your looking to visit somewhere a bit off the beaten track, then go there because you really will be amazed.

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