Steppingoff the plane and handing over your passport to a ex-indo millitary commando is always a little daunting, especially after a 18 hour flight when it’s four in the morning. Damn those cheap flights. Then out of the ten thousand taxis available we pick the one with a driver who knows not one word of English. Heart in our hands and after spending £50 on our emergency only mobiles trying to explain to ten of his mates where the hell we were going we finally pull up to the hotel…. Our adventure begins…
JAKARTA:Smog smog and more smog, at first glance this place is the concrete jungle and it doesn’t get much better, with its constant stream of heavy traffic you don’t see people just the fumes coming from the back of the tucks tucks and endless mopeds, cars and lorries clogging up the 6 lane roads. Or is that the hard shoulder… Word of advice one night at the most, shopping is good if you have got the cash, but nothing you couldn’t get at home, may be worth checking the shopping malls stashed full of the Fakey Jakes, Roy Ban and Gurci they seem to do well here. Splash out on a nice hotel with a roof top bar, on the night the view is amazing.
YOGYJAKARTA: Or yogy as the locals call it has its charm, it’s hot as hell and being the cultural capital of Java has a more commercial feel . Check out the bird market (it’s not to be missed) and the Borobudur temple at sunrise is stunning. Some good restaurants offering endless amounts of tempura and Nasi goreng but if your after the vino be warned it’s pricey. At £30 for a bottle of Echo Falls you might want to opt for a bingtang. We did. If your on a heavy one head down to Hells Kitchen were you can experience Indo’s take on the Beach Boy’s.
BALI: After a short flight to Bali we arrived to find a Starbucks and a KFC? Not the tropical paradise you would imagine although we have to say the green tea frappe was pretty good. Avoiding the party scene we headed to Ubud, famous for hosting Julia Roberts in the film Eat Pray Love. If you’re one for activities this is the place, white water rafting and cycling were our personal favourites.
Endless beauty salons offering cheaper than cheap Balinese massage aren’t too bad either. Monkey forest is another must, if you do take bananas you won’t have them for very long. In the hope of spotting a dolphin or two we ventured to Lovina where if you get up at the crack of dawn and clamber onto a three man fishing boat that looks like it would struggle to keep a float in regents canal never mind when fighting 6 foot waves then you are pretty much guaranteed to see a school or three of these bad boys. But don’t be thinking romance and wonder there’s about 60 other boats out there with you. All the same we loved it!
LOMBOK AND GILLIS: The only western couple on board we took the 5 hour ferry to Lombok in true backpack style. Not the most comfortable, we’d probably recommend the quick boat if you’re not there to rough it and have the dosh. Hitting sengigi there are a good selection of hotels and guest houses to suit every budget, we stayed in the Batu Bolong beach front Cottages which we would highly recommend. Staff were great and the place was spotless but do watch out for the local del boy Tony who will try to sell you anything including the shirt off your own back!
Hire a moped if you dare and explore the island or take a fishing boat to Gilli Trawangan which is known as the party island! It’s also one of the best places to dive in the world so well worth fishing your Padi out for. Snorkelling is also amazing here we saw turtles along with fish of every colour, much better than an evening with David Attenborough! Avoid the beach front restaurants and head to the food market for your evening meal of fresh fish, it’s cheap, cheerful and where the locals eat. Oh and there are plenty of Happy Shakes on offer for those looking to indulge.
We recommend the dream cottages but book early as they are popular. The island is becoming increasingly populated although there is still a strict rule which allows no cars or mopeds but there are new luxury hotels popping up everywhere killing the Robinson Crusoe dream. You might want to head over to Gilli Meno if your looking for the deserted island experience where electricity is a luxury so don’t go expecting a hot shower. We stayed in Paul’s Guest House which was actually a wooden shed opening out on to the beach but for £3 per person it was a bloody bargain!