Featuring the 4th largest population in the world, Indonesia is a fascinating and diverse tourism destination. Currently, it is ravaged by Covid but let’s look at the past and hopefully a much better future. Jakarta and Bali are the most well-known places and while the first mentioned does not require much time, the latter is one of the famous and rewarding places on earth. There are many faces of Bali: the beach resort towns, hot spots if you well, and the more serene Ubud where you might stay in a boutique hotel in the middle of a rice field and climb Mt. Batur in the early morning hours. Bali is well documented so this newsletter will focus on a couple of other Indonesian locales. Since Indonesia is the largest island nation in the area, population, and number of islands, this newsletter will feature Komodo Island and Yogyakarta, which also fit in with the “largest” theme.
Komodo Island is home to the largest lizard on earth, the Komodo Dragon. The dragons actually live on four islands, but Komodo is the largest and most visited. People do live on Komodo island, but most tourists stay in Labuan Bajo or on a boat. Labuan Bajo is a small fishing town, but hotels are good and so is the food. The highlight is the day trip to Komodo and Rinca islands to see the Komodo dragon. Unless you are on a powerboat, the trip starts with a 3-4 hour boat trip. The first stop is Komodo Island where a ranger will take you on a hot hike which will hopefully include a dragon or two. It is a top experience to see one of these monsters and doesn’t fear, the Rangers are experts and know their business.
After the dragon hunting, the next stop is the pink beach and one of seven pink sand beaches in the world. Snorkeling is great so be prepared for this activity. There is also a stop at Rinca Island but not entirely necessary as it repeats Komodo to some degree. You could also choose to just journey to the less-visited Rinca. Finally, before returning to Labuan Bajo, sunset bat watching is a must. Bats are not popular now but this display of flying fox bats leaving their small island mixed with the sunset is amazing. Diving and hiking are also popular Labuan Bajo activities, but the Komodo dragon is the highlight. Be warned that there are rumors of a $1000 tourist fee, but its implementation has not been confirmed.
If you can only visit one city in Indonesia ending in “akarta”, make it Yogyakarta. It is not the largest city in Indonesia, but it does host the largest Buddhist temple in the world. More on that later. The town itself is fun as it has ample hotels and nights can be occupied with a night market and the amazing bling bling cars.
Malioboro street is the happening spot and if you don’t want to shop then listen to some music and watch people. Yogyakarta is still ruled by a sultan and in between eating some great street and other food, you can see his palace, but the two stars of this trip are Prambanan and Borobudur. The former is a Hindu and the latter a Buddhist temple. There is a tendency to get templeitis when visiting Southeast Asia, but these two are definitely worth the time and trouble. While Angkor Wat holds the top spot, Prambanan is the second largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia and also hosts many cultural events.
Borobudur claims a couple firsts. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and also the number one tourist attraction in Indonesia. The town coupled with the temples and perhaps a fruit vendor selling fresh pineapples along the highway make Yogyakarta a great visit.