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Category Archives: Indonesia
So here it comes, the first of many travel budget posts, in which I disclose exactly how much money we have spent in each country we travel through.
I've been umm-ing and aah-ing over whether or not to write these kinds of posts. Talking about money is a very private subject and I worry about being judged about our style of travel by others - while we consider ourselves budget travellers, we certainly do not rough it. Some will read this and scoff that we could have done it a lot cheaper (yes, its true!), whereas others will wonder how it is possible to spend so little on a month long trip for two people!
However, I have decided to go ahead divulge exactly what we are spending on the road, as Alan and I found these kinds of posts by a number of different bloggers insanely helpful while planning how much money we needed to make this trip possible. If this can inspire just one reader to realise that living your travel dream is financially possible - and not as scary as it looks - then this will all be worth it!
Indonesia: Our Itinerary
- 3 nights Kuta, Bali
- 5 nights Ubud, Bali
- 3 nights Gili Air
- 1 night Sanur, Bali
- 3 nights Nusa Lembongan
- 2 nights Lovina, Bali
- 1 night overnight bus to Probolinggo (Mount Bromo), Java
- 5 nights Yogyakarta, Java
- 3 nights Pangandaran, Java
- 2 nights Jarkata, Java
As New Zealand citizens, we received a 30 day visa on arrival into Indonesia (we flew into Denpasar, Bali). We stayed in Indonesia for 28 nights, and visited a grand total of four islands. Indonesia consists of more than 17,000 islands, so we barely scratched the surface!
Indonesia: Travel Budget Breakdown
Please note these costs are in New Zealand dollars (NZD), unless otherwise stated.
Total we spent over 29 days for two people: $2,307.45 ($1,153.73 per person)
Daily average per person: $39.80 (our daily budget is $50 each)
We came in 20% under our maximum budget - hooray! How about a category breakdown? Note these costs are for two people and I have rounded to the nearest dollar.
- Accommodation: $710
- Food and drink: $700
- Transport: $520
- Entertainment/attractions: $201
- Visas: USD$70 ($35 each for visa on arrival)
- Shopping: $50 (this includes items like shampoo and soap, but is very high for Indonesia because we purchased our Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Lonely Planet on the way to Bali!)
- Massages: $47
- Laundry: $10
On average we spent about $25 per night on accommodation ($12.50 each), however some places came in well under $20 a night and others we splurged on $30 or more a night - its all about balance, right?
We use Agoda for the majority of our bookings as they have great value 'insider' deals, and most importantly it means we can pay in New Zealand dollars via credit card, which saves us in both currency conversion fees and ATM withdrawal fees!
We always try and book accommodation that includes breakfast, to help offset the cost of food. All but two of our accommodations in Indonesia included breakfast.
We stayed in private double rooms, mostly at guesthouse style accommodations. Private bathrooms (as in, adjoined to your room and not shared) are common in Indonesia, and all of our rooms had them.
On average we spent about $25 a day on food and drink, for both of us. Mostly, this included lunch and dinner, as breakfast was usually included with the accommodation. Some of our cheapest meals were $2 for both of us (crazy cheap!), whereas our more expensive ones were western food and hovered between $15 and $20 for two (mainly Yogyakarta and Ubud). An average meal of a plate of noodles or rice-based dish with a smoothie at a sit down restaurant, cost about $8 for both of us.
This category also includes beer, which we would have most days (often one with dinner, sometimes a couple more), plus our unhealthy obsession with pringles and cornetto ice creams which is a bad habit that we are working on! Beers typically cost about 20,000 - 30,000 rupiah each ($2-3). We also had quite an unnecessary splurge on Starbucks at Jakarta airport on our final morning, ridding our wallets of our remaining rupiah.
We hired a scooter in Ubud, Nusa Lembongan and Lovina, costing us between $5-8 a day. We love the independence of having a scooter!
We used tourist buses to get from place to place in Bali, and a mixture of local and minibuses throughout Java. We wanted to catch trains but unfortunately our route didn't really make much sense to take the railway, we would have had to combine with bus travel making it more expensive and more complicated. Long, sticky bus journeys were the best way round for us.
We were really pleased with ourselves for coming in well under budget in Indonesia - so much so that we splurged much of what we had saved on visiting Universal Studios in Singapore! Because, um, YOLO. But thats a story for another time.
Tell me what you think - is it interesting to read about our travel budget? Are you surprised with how little (or how much) Indonesia cost us?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, Bali, budget, inspiration, Java, life, Money, travel, Ubud
As Southeast Asia’s largest city, Jakarta is a destination often avoided by travellers, given its relatively poor reputation of being dirty, polluted and bursting with traffic. It doesn’t have the lustful beaches or the majestic landscapes welcoming travellers in. For many, Jakarta is simply an arrival point into Indonesia before quickly heading east towards the drawcards of Yogyakarta, Bali, and Lombok.
Based on what we had heard, we didn’t have great expectations for Jakarta, but still wanted to give ourselves at least a little time there to have a look around and get a feel for the city. We had allocated our final two nights in Indonesia, essentially one full day, to see what Jakarta was all about.
We arrived late one afternoon into one of Jakarta’s many bus stations after a tiresome, yet relatively comfortable (i.e. functioning air-conditioning and no chickens pooping at your feet), 10-hour bus ride from Pangandaran. After another hour spent battling the bustling traffic in a taxi, we finally checked in to our hotel which was perfectly comfortable, despite our shoebox of a room being so small that we had to give way to each other if we wished to access the door or the bathroom.
It must be said that particularly for travellers on both budget and time constraints, Jakarta is not an easy city to get around. It lacks trains or a metro, and many taxi drivers lack working meters (or the desire to use it!), meaning you're more likely to get ripped off. The cheapest way of getting around this sprawling city is by bus, however there was plenty to see in walking distance of our hotel to keep us occupied for the day without having to face being lost in the expanse of this city nearly 10 million people deep.
Unfortunately, like many of Southeast Asia’s cities, Jakarta is also relatively difficult for walking around. Lack of a) footpaths, b) pedestrian crossings, and c) road rules in general, makes for a dangerous stroll up the side of the road - especially at night!
We were staying in the northern part of the city, near the area known as Old Jakarta. We spent the morning wandering in the direction of a nearby local market which we strolled around until the heat got the better of us and we needed some air conditioning and a cold drink.
We headed in the direction of Fatahilla Square, which houses the popular Cafe Batavia. Despite costing more than we would ever consider spending on a meal, we treated ourselves to a mocktail for morning tea. Sadly, we couldn't justify the price of the real thing on our budget! Cafe Batavia was a beautiful setting - rather fancy compared to most of the restaurants we frequent!
We wandered around the square for a while and took in the peace and calmness. It was like a little oasis amidst the chaos of Jakarta! You could definitely see the colonial Dutch influence in this part of the city, which dates back to the 16th century when Fatahilla Square was the heart of the city.
In the afternoon we braved the walk down to some of the nearby malls for a look around - Kota is a popular shopping area in Jakarta. Crowded malls line the streets, each four or five or more stories tall and filled to the brim with so many things I wanted to buy...but that I really didn't need. We re-emerged a few hours later, thankfully with a full wallet and empty hands.
Jakarta was also our first, and only (so far), experience with kedongdong juice. After eating deliciously greasy fast food for dinner the night before, we needed some greens in our lives. We found a great local restaurant for dinner and enjoyed a nourishing meal of satay, stir-fried greens and rice. Alan and I are both open to trying new things, so we ordered a couple of fresh juices recommended by the waiter. We were served some kind of dark green concoction that tasted unmistakably like freshly-mown grass (a little bit icky), and the lime-green kedongdong juice, which was relatively pleasant, tasting a little like green apple but much more sour and floury. However, we got a surprise when we were halfway through and noticed what looked like a rotten lump of something in our drink. We both thought there had been some kind of problem with the ice and that we were going to end up horribly ill, but thankfully the waiter was able to explain that it was a preserved sour plum that helps give the kedongdong juice its unique taste. Interesting...!
We had such a short time in Jakarta, that I'm not sure I can comment either way on whether its poor reputation is justified. There is no doubt that the part of the city we saw is dirty (we saw plenty of rats while walking out to dinner in the evening), there are constant streams of traffic, it is hard to get around as a tourist and it is certainly polluted. On the surface, Jakarta is not a beautiful city. But, I think Fatahilla Square is a gem, and perhaps Jakarta is a bit of a rough diamond. That said, I'm not sure Jakarta will be drawing us back any time soon.
Have you visited Jakarta? What were your impressions?
Pangandaran was originally on our Java itinerary as a mere night’s stopover on the way to Batu Karas, but after staying a night and realising that Pangandaran had everything we were looking for, we decided to extend our stay and enjoy the three nights we had up our sleeve in one spot.
“Everything’ I was looking for was simply a beach with surfing lessons, suitable for beginners, and thats more or less what I got.
I’d been hanging out to learn how to surf since the beginning of the year, when we started planning for our trip to Costa Rica in May. Unfortunately, while we were there my back was injured in a particular tandem waterslide incident and I was unable to fulfil my dreams of becoming a pro surfer. When my back improved and we made our plans to visit Bali my surfing dreams re-emerged, only to be quashed again after arriving in Kuta and watching approximately a million people leaning how to surf right in front of me, constantly falling off their boards.
There was no way I was making a fool of myself learning to surf in front of this many people. Nuh-uh. A quick consult in my trusty Lonely Planet pointed me to Java’s southern beaches for more secluded surf and also significantly cheaper lessons, and thus Pangandaran became part of our route.
Pangandaran is an interesting place. Its a town on a small peninsular, with ocean on either side and a national park at one end.
On one side the ocean laps a nice beach. I say ‘nice’ because thats what it is. Look, its really nothing special compared to Bali’s spectacular beaches. But its nice enough and certainly adequate for what a beach should provide.
On the other side the ocean meets a rocky wall, infested with rats, fish guts and rubbish. This is the working side of the beach, where the fishermen come into harbour and fish are laid out to be sold or to dry. It certainly smells like it, thats for sure!
There were some activities on this side of the peninsular, like banana boating, but, uh, that didn’t appeal to us too much given the fishy odour and amount of rotting litter everywhere. There were seafood restaurants on this side of town, but unfortunately these too didn’t appeal.
I don’t paint the most beautiful picture of Pangandaran, but its actually a very pleasant destination for a relaxing few days. Pangandaran is quite a touristy beach but interestingly much more so with local tourists rather than foreigners. It is a popular place for apartment-dwellers from Jakarta or other nearby big cities for a weekend getaway.
Pangandaran was relatively quiet when we were there, yet at night the small town seemed to come alive. There were tandem bikes (I’m not sure our relationship could handle a tandem bike situation?) - not just doubles, but triples, quadruples and I’m sure I saw even longer ones coasting by. Surely not particularly safe to ride in the dark at night with no helmets and no lights but hey, it’s Indonesia, so we saw a lot of that. Even more spectacular were the quadracycles decorated entirely with neon lights - it was a common sight to see a big group of happy Indonesian tourists cycling around on their blindingly bright, family-sized bike, around singing songs at the top of their lungs.
But thats right, we were there for the surf, weren’t we! It cost a mere pittance compared to Kuta, we basically had the waves to ourselves, and our own personal instructor each. Shame my instructor couldn’t speak any English or I perhaps would have known what I was doing wrong and would have been able to stand up after what felt like a million failed attempts! Meanwhile, Alan was coasting into shore time and time again while I continuously stumbled and plunged into the sea. After a short break that included a few tears, a bottle of water and some encouragement, I bravely made my way back into the surf and managed to not only stand up but ride a few waves right into shore! Ending on a high, I momentously decided to give up on my dream of becoming a pro surfer then and there.
But I can always be cheered up by kittens! This kitten at our guesthouse became particularly fond of us and often wandered into our room unannounced or pounced and clawed for pats while we were trying to eat our breakfast.
We considered visiting the small national park and one lazy afternoon we did wander down to the entrance, but were put off entering by the terrifying monkeys outside, and knew that there would only be more monkeys inside! We didn't deem them unsafe until some local boys were walking past and a monkey jumped down and bounded towards them, the boys screamed and tore off in the opposite direction, and the scavenging monkey stole the kids' drinks. If even the locals were scared of them, surely I was allowed to be! We went and ate ice cream instead.
While I did truly enjoy our time in Pangandaran, it is one of those places that I’m not sure I’ll ever visit again. It was quite a detour off the path of our travels so meant at least 10 extra hours on a bus than if we hadn’t gone there (it took us about 8 hours squished on a minibus from Yogyakarta to Pangandaran with chickens pooping at our feet, then another 10 hours bus ride from Pangandaran to Jakarta). I tried to convince Alan I was considering we have a destination wedding there - I could totally see all of our family riding around singing at the top of their voices on neon-lit bikes! He knows me too well to fall for that one.
Pangandaran was nice - if you’re in the area and craving beach time it will serve you well! But if you're looking for an immaculate beach and that clear, 'I'm in a tropical paradise' kind of water, it might not be Pangandaran you’re after.
Have you visited Pangandaran? Ever ridden a tandem bike?
After our very long journey, we had finally arrived in Yogyakarta.
I loved this little city in Central Java, Indonesia, to bits. I’m not sure if my love stemmed from finally being able to sleep after our mega-journey, the fact that I finally remembered what being clean felt like, or because Yogaykarta, more commonly known as Jogja to the locals, truly is a lovely city.
Perhaps the first thing I loved about Yogyakarta was where we stayed. We had been discussing our Indonesia itinerary with a fellow traveller during our time in Bali. “In Yogyakarta, you must stay at Hotel Rengganis!” she informed us, “It is a little more expensive than a hostel but it is so, so nice.” I’d made a note in my now dog-eared Lonely Planet, and hadn’t given it much thought until we were in Probolinggo and suddenly needed to book a room in Yogyakarta that night. With a stroke of luck, we managed to book the last room available.
And I’m so glad we did!
Staying at Hotel Rengganis was a dream after such an exhausting journey. While it was the most expensive accommodation we had stayed in so far, the value was incredible. I couldn’t believe were were paying just NZD$31 a night for this! Right from the beginning the staff were always smiling, helpful, and appeared to be genuinely happy to be there.
We woke up each morning to an all-you-can-eat breakfast spread of eggs, peanut butter & nutella jaffles and tropical fruits, along with ever-changing Indonesian options and endless cups of tea & coffee.
We ended each day with a splash in the pool, cooling us down after a hard days work walking around sightseeing in the 30+ degree heat.
I’ll get to the touristy things we did, but first lets talk food - because we had some serious highlights in Yogyakarta! We were quick to find a couple of favourites in our short time there.
Just Juice Juice Bar, Cafe & Fruit Corner
Address: Jl. Katamso 214
We had four days in Yogyakarta, so if I do the math I guess we frequented Just Juice about four times! It became our routine to take a mid-morning walk to this fantastic Juice Bar, about 10 minutes from our hotel. It was a little oasis on the side of a busy street - clean, bright and cool (in both senses of the word!). You can’t beat one of their ice-cold mango smoothies for just 7,500 rupiah (NZ 75 cents), which we may have overdosed on. And I may have had a 1,000 rupiah ($1) banana split for morning tea one day, that may have included three scoops of ice cream. You can’t beat that for value! But seriously, its more than a month on now and Just Juice remains both the cheapest and the most delicious mango smoothies we have had yet (and based on the number we’ve had, we are no amateurs to the mango smoothie game).
Address: Jl. Tirtodipuran 24A
Given our first night was a write-off after arriving at 1am in the morning, we had four nights left to eat our way around Yogyakarta. After being in Indonesia for three weeks I was ready for a night off from Indonesian cuisine, but was also sick of being served average ‘western’ food. We stumbled across Mediterranea (a mere two minutes walk from our hotel), a restaurant run by a French chef, specialising in French and Italian food. I was craving a bowl of hot pasta - so we thought we would give it a shot. OH MY GOSH. My bowl of pasta carbonara (with beef bacon, not pork, as Indonesia is a very muslim country) was the BEST carbonara I’ve ever had - it was even served with a side of freshly made pesto which was so tasty I could have drunk it though a straw. I just about licked the bowl clean...but mum taught me better than that. Alan had a deliciously authentic pepperoni pizza, which was declared the best he’d had in Indonesia. We shared a chocolate fondant and a cheesecake for dessert. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so much so that we went back on our last night for an exact repeat on the same meal. Its not the cheapest in terms of Indonesian pricing, but compared to what you’d pay back home its a steal! We had all of the above plus a large beer for about NZD$20.
Address: Jl. Prawirotaman 30
An Art Cafe of sorts, ViaVia is a busy and popular tourist hub, perhaps from its mention in the Lonely Planet and its other 16 locations worldwide. We didn’t do any of their tours or activities, but we were lucky enough to snag a table for dinner in their restaurant one night which was a rather tasty affair. My mango lassi and spaghetti bolognese (yes, I was on a pasta kick in Yogyakarta - don’t judge!) were delectable and Alan’s special of the day - an Indonesian chicken and rice dish had him licking his lips.
You may have worked out by now that I ate pasta three of the four nights in Yogyakarta, and you might be wondering what Indonesian delicacy I indulged in on the remaining night? Is it awkward if I'm honest and say it was margherita pizza and creme brûlée? Yogyakarta is such an artsy city with a multicultural feel that I would surely be doing an injustice not to explore cuisines of the world (or, um, cuisines of the Mediterranean)…?
Right, so now that I’ve admitted I was a pasta-eating machine in Yogyakarta, I’ll at least give evidence that we did some sightseeing rather than sitting poolside all day showing forkfuls of spaghetti into my gob.
We visited Kraton, the Sultan’s Palace, which was quite lovely and worth a wander, however Alan and I both agreed it probably wasn’t a highlight of ours. Strangely, Alan wasn’t allowed in without covering his shoulders, yet I was (we were both wearing singlets?). I had a pretty purple scarf in the backpack should the shoulder-covering issue arise, so Alan slung it over his shoulders but the guards were having none of that - he wasn’t allowed in unless he rented a sexy white shirt from them. Naturally, as western tourists aka Walking ATMs, the sexy white shirt it was.
The nearby Taman Sari, or Water Castle, was a garden property of the Sultan's. We got a little lost trying to find it and ended up with a local tour guide showing us the way. He showed us around some rather interesting tunnels near Taman Sari, which we had no idea what they were for because the english-speaking guide couldn't actually speak a word of english. It was so bizarre, he walked along speaking gibberish to us and we were both so awkwardly confused we didn’t know whether to smile or nod or laugh or try and explain that the language he thought was english actually wasn’t?
When we led us around a few corners to Taman Sari, we paid him $1 in thanks (which perhaps he should put towards some english lessons) and wandered in for a self-guided tour around the pools. It was a beautiful setting.
The bathing pools of Taman Sari have an interesting background, in which the Sultan would stand in his tower, observe all the ladies bathing in the pools below and essentially 'make his pick'. Perhaps one could take a view of that being mildy inappropriate, but I guess thats the way things were back then.
A couple of times we wandered down to the centre of Yogyakarta which was about a 30 minute walk from our hotel in the sweltering heat. The main road, Jalan Malioboro, has market stalls either side of the footpath selling everything from fake raybans and jewellery to spices and sweets. It was one of the things I enjoyed doing the most in Yogyakarta (besides eating pasta of course), I love wandering markets and city streets, taking it in through all of my senses.
Of course, no visit to Yogyakarta is complete without a visit to the nearby famous temples - Borobodur and Prambanan. For a number of different reasons, including the steep entry fees (expensive when you are on a tight budget!), distance from Yogyakarta, and the fact that we know we are going to see a hell of a lot of temples on the course of our trip through Asia, we decided to narrow it down to one and just visit Borobodur, which was about 1.5 hours drive away.
Borobodur was beautiful! We went for an evening sunset trip because we were still feeling sorry for ourselves after our Bromo sunrise trip, and while we didn’t quite catch the sunset we did get some stunning light, gorgeous vistas and had a great time wandering around and observing the temple at each symbolic level.
Borobodur is a Buddhist temple dating back to the 9th century, and is said to be the world's largest Buddhist archeological site. Each level depicts stories carved meticulously into stone, it is quite fascinating!
Many stone Buddhas watch you from every angle as you slowly wander to the top - there were originally an incredible 504 Buddha statues but you can see a lot of them have been damaged over time, and sadly some are completely missing.
Finally, we visited the Silver Village, which is a suburb about 20 minutes (about $2) in a bicycle rickshaw from the centre of town. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was really just a series of shops selling copious amounts of silver and silver-plated jewellery. However, one that we walked into did have a very interesting display out the back explaining how the jewellery was made, and you were able to watch the workers making silver wire along with some of their popular designs which was pretty neat. I was too lazy to snap any photos but Alan and I both thought it was worth the trip.
It was suggested that we also visit the Bird Market but I politely declined the offer as from what I had read this was more than just a market selling birds, but also included dogs, cats and all sorts of other animals in tiny cages, and it was something that I didn't want to face (I still think about these dogs every single day). We did see a variety of fluffy birds during our wanders through the city that were bright yellow, pink and blue - obviously dyed - so perhaps that was a small insight for me as to what the Bird Market held. That kind of thing just isn’t for me!
I could have stayed a lot longer in Yogyakarta (and eaten a lot more pasta!), but time was not on our side and we had to make our move to our next stop on the island of Java. As the bus picked us up to transport us to our next destination, I nearly shed a little tear for the fact that I may never eat such delicious pasta carbonara again…
Have you visited Yogyakarta? Did you love it too? And, do you sometimes feel guilty for not always eating the local cuisine when you are travelling?
Despite our fairly eventful journey before and after our visit to Mount Bromo in East Java, Indonesia, I'm so thankful we made the effort to experience the sheer beauty that this part of the world beholds.
The sunrise from our viewpoint on Mount Peninjakan was beautiful. However, sharing it with hundreds of other people pushing and shoving to take their own photos was, uh, a bit annoying. Believe what you read if you come across other blogs suggesting to do a self-guided tour and offering alternative sunrise viewpoints - like Kristin's tips from Be My Travel Muse - take my advice to take their advice!
If you had to pick between a sunrise and a sunset, what would you choose? I enjoyed our sunrise experience but have to admit that my preference is a dazzling sunset with wine in one hand, cheese in the other. Just sayin'.
My favourite part of the morning was climbing Mount Bromo itself and peering down into the steaming crater below - it was incredible! The landscape was like nothing I've ever seen before, it felt like a cross between a desert, some sort of prehistoric setting, and what I imagine standing on the moon might be like.
To get from the sunrise viewpoint to Mount Bromo we piled back into our jeep and waited out the jeep traffic jam to get moving. You don't get anywhere fast in this part of the world!
Being so high above sea level (2,329m at the top of Mount Bromo, to be exact) the morning was chilly, so I wrapped up in my winter woolies - but as soon as the sun came out it warmed up quickly. Problem was, it was so dusty (technically very fine volcanic sand), I didn't want to peel any layers off for the sake of getting even more of my clothes covered in dust. So I sweated it out on the walk to the top in my own personal sauna, my Kathmandu puffer jacket.
I mentioned how dusty it was, right?
While our time visiting Mount Bromo was short, it was still perfectly sweet. I'm so glad we made the effort to get there, see the sunrise, climb the mountain and have a wee peek inside a live volcano. A truly magical and unforgettable part of the world!
Have you been to Mount Bromo? Sunrise or sunset - what's your favourite?
Grab a cup of tea, a chocolate bikkie or two and take a seat, this post is a biggie.
Its all about our very long, seemingly continuous journey from Lovina in Bali to Probolinggo in Java, to Mount Bromo, back to Probolinggo, to Surabaya, to Yogyakarta. Throw in an overnight bus, a scamming tourist office, two stinking hot public busses, an overpriced taxi ride, brushing my teeth into an asian squatter toilet with visible feaces, combined with approximately zero hours of sleep and you have our 31 hour journey that I would prefer to not ever have to complete again.
But there were some good things in there too! We saw a steaming, live volcano, a beautiful sunrise, and hey, at least I had the chance to brush my teeth at all, right?
Curious? Let me start from the beginning.
It really did all begin quite well. As our overnight bus pulled up to our stop in Lovina, Bali, we jumped on eagerly, excited to be venturing across to the main island of Java in Indonesia. We were headed for Probolinggo, which is the jumping off point for the popular Mount Bromo. The bus was perfectly comfortable, the seats reclined and foot rests came right up so those of us who were short enough (sorry, Alan) could essentially lie flat. With the pillow and blanket provided I curled up and wished for a peaceful sleep.
Unfortunately, as I should know by now after taking plenty of overnight busses in Vietnam, this type of travelling is not conducive to sleep. The roads were bumpy and windy, the driver honking his horn constantly - sleep did not happen.
Perhaps I dozed off for 10 minutes or so as the bus boarded the ferry to take us from Bali to Java, however I’m unsure of this as I was more than mildly concerned about the boat situation - and I’ll explain exactly why.
You see, we stayed on the bus, the bus drove onto the ferry, and we remained in our seats on the bus for the entire ferry ride - it was essentially a bus ferry rather than a people ferry. Thoughts rushed through my mind as we bobbed across the water for 30 or 40 minutes or so, I’m not exactly sure how long, as to how we would get out of this situation if the boat were to sink. Our bus was jammed between two other busses, and there was another row of three in front of us. We had no way out!
Thankfully, we made it across. Relief swept over my mind (HA! Little did I know there was much worse to come!). Perhaps now that was over I could sleep?
No such luck. I nearly managed to doze off again before we abruptly stopped at what seemed to be the middle of nowhere and the passengers all rises from their seats to disembark from the bus. I rubbed my eyes and looked around again. Surely we couldn’t be there yet? I looked over at one of the passengers walking down the aisle past us and he looked back at Alan and I with an almost confused look as to why we weren’t getting off too. “Breakfast”, he said.
“Breakfast?” I said to Alan. “Its 1am in the morning and I haven’t even had five minutes sleep yet? It’s not time for breakfast!”
Regardless, we didn’t have much choice over the situation. We hopped off the bus, were issued our meal token and entered the restaurant, which was essentially a restaurant for overnight busses to stop at for “breakfast” at 1am in the morning.
We filled our plates with what was on offer - Nasi Campur style array of rice, cold chicken, some sort of cold vegetable and something else that my sleepy mind couldn’t stomach, washed down by an unsweetened iced tea. In the beauty of hindsight if I knew that was the last meal I was going to be eating for the next 32 hours then I’m sure I would have loaded my plate a little higher.
After a couple more hours of bumpy roads, honking horns and still no sleep, the bus pulled over to the side of the road and announced this was where we were to get off, we had arrived in Probolinggo. Sleepily, we gathered our belongings and got off the bus.
It was 2.30am in the morning (3.30am our time as we gained an hour between Bali and Java) and we had arrived in Probolinggo. The bus driver knew we wanted to go to Mount Bromo, so conveniently (or so we thought at the time) had dropped us off by a tourist office, which was also conveniently (or not?) open at this ungodly hour of the morning.
The man in the tourist office helped us with our bags and guided us into his office. I told him we wanted to go to Bromo, where we had planned to stay a night or two up near the mountain before we headed to our next destination of Yogyakarta in a couple of days time.
We had perked up a little now, the food we had eaten earlier was settling in and some fresh air had helped. Perhaps we were overtired and starting to run a little on adrenaline.
As a bit of background, the key attractions at Mount Bromo is watching the sun rise over the sand plains, and viewing the mountain itself.
Our tourist office man suggested that we were early enough that we could catch the sunrise this morning if we wanted to, as we could be picked up in 15 minutes and would make it to the sunrise on time. We had planned to get to Cemoro Lawang for a night or two and do a self-guided Mount Bromo tour and sunrise from there, as many blogs and recommendations I had read suggested this as a cheaper and far more independent option. Somehow though, in our overtired state, the tour seemed like a good and simple idea. Then we could get it ticked off this morning, we could easily manage another few hours of being awake.
The man went on to suggest that perhaps after doing his tour of the sunrise and seeing Bromo this morning, we come back to Probolinggo and then can get an aircon tourist minibus today at midday to Yogyakarta. It was an eight hour journey, he told us.
We were definitely overtired, because somehow this seemed like a brilliant idea (it wasn’t). We were keen to get to Yogaykarta as we had heard many good things about it. So we foolishly parted with our money for the Bromo tour and Yogyakarta transport which cost us WAY, WAY more than we should have paid but unfortunately the nature of hindsight, lack of internet to do research and lack of mental clarity at 2.30 in the morning. We paid (gulp!) $75 NZD each. This is a lot of money for a backpacker living on less than $50 a day. Up until then I think we had barely had a day where we spent more than $75 between us in a day, let alone each!
Can you tell it brings back all of my frustrations writing this?!
15 minutes later we were in a shuttle, luggage and all, and having picked up another three passengers were on our way to Mount Bromo. We were in the shuttle for about an hour, winding our way up into the hills before we stopped on the side of the road and switched over to a jeep (well technically a Toyota Land Cruiser that looked like a jeep but you get the gist). We grabbed our luggage but were told to leave it there, it would not fit in the jeep and we were told the shuttle would be waiting here for us when we were on our way back down. I made the driver promise that our bags would be safe, we made sure all our valuables, cash and passports were in our backpacks we were bringing with us, and hastily piled into the jeep.
We winded up the hill further and further, stopping only to pick up another couple who somehow managed to squeeze into the jeep which was bursting at the seams. We drove for about an hour, eventually ending up in a traffic jam of hundreds of jeeps.
Tiredness was beginning to hit now, but all the bumping over the potholes and speeding around the corners in the jeep had rattled my brain enough to keep me from dozing off.
Our jeep parked up in the middle of the road and we were directed to the viewpoint for seeing the sunrise. Slowly the viewing platform filled up with people and cameras, and the sun began to peek up from behind the mountains.
I’ve got a separate post coming up specifically on Bromo as I feel it deserves more than a semi-angry, bad travel experience story surrounding it! (Edited to add: I've written this post now! You can check it out here.)
However I will say, the sunrise was beautiful, Mount Bromo was spectacular and despite being enormously tired I am very glad we made the effort to climb to the top - it was the first time I had looked inside a live volcano!
The morning was cold as we were at a higher altitude, however it warmed up as the sun rose. It was very, very dusty around Mount Bromo, and rather breezy, which certainly didn’t help with the whole every-inch-of-me-is-covered-in-dust situation.
By 8am I was at boiling point in my puffer jacket and trousers but didn’t want to take them off as it was covered in dust, and taking them off would only mean my next layer underneath would then become covered in dust!
I was a sweaty, dusty mess and was dying for a shower. Oh but wait, hadn’t we agreed to catch an eight-hour tourist minibus to Yogyakarta and wouldn’t have a shower until we got there? Dammit, thats right.
After all of the passengers made it back to the jeep, we took off back towards Probollingo. We then swtiched into another shuttle, which happened to be NOT the shuttle that we had got into earlier, the one that had our luggage in it. Uh-oh. The strange thing was that I was unusually too tired to worry too much.
One of the girls wanted to use the loo, so we made a pitstop at a house on the side of the road in the village. I don’t know if its meant to be or what, but I’m sure glad she had to go. Because next minute a car turns up next to us with our bags, asking if they are our bags. Um, yes, they're ours! How on earth? That mystery remains unsolved but I felt an immense sense of relief once they were safely back with us.
We arrived back in Probolinggo around 10.00 am. And this is when we made our next naive mistake.
Everyone else in our shuttle was getting out at the tourist office we had parked in front of, which was not the office we had left from at 3am that morning. We waited to be taken by our driver to the office we had been picked up from, where we had booked our onwards tickets to Yogyakarta (which we were now regretting!).
He insisted that we get out here, this is the same office, he told us. We knew it wasn’t, we told him it wasn’t. We showed him our receipt for our tickets to Yogyakarta that had the name and address of the tour office we had booked from. “Ah, yes but all the same”, he told us. “Here is okay!”
Too tired to argue, and not having had a bad experience in Indonesia yet (so thinking that we wouldn’t!), Alan and I gave each other a look of uncertain agreement, grabbed our luggage and hopped out of the car. The man at this tourist office said yes, no worries, the minibus is coming at 11am, you can wait here.
We took advantage of the tourist office’s deathly slow internet to book some accommodation in Yogyakarta as we would be arriving at 7pm that night (or so we thought) it would be much better to book it in advance.
I used his DISGUSTING bathroom to splash my face, scrub my feet (dust got through my shoes and sweaty socks to literally cover my feet in mud!), and brush my teeth, and even though I dry wretched my entire way through it, having to spit into a squatter toilet literally smeared with clumps of brown, I emerged feeling ever so slightly human again. Besides, our minibus was coming soon, it was just a few more hours on a minibus and I would have a hot shower and a bed at my fingertips. HA! Yeah, right.
11am passed, no minibus. 11.30 am passed, no minibus. We were reassured by the man at the tourist office it was coming soon. 12 o clock, he said. We waited to worry, as our other tourist office who we had booked it through had said midday so perhaps it was the same one after all.
Midday came and went. 12.15, still so sign. I was starting to get rather frustrated by now. I asked the man at the tourist office again when the minibus would be here. He had a feeble excuse. “It is late because I want all my bus to be good quality and if it is not good quality it get fixed first and then it is late.” Haha, yeah right. I was definitely concerned now.
12.30pm came and went. 12.45 came and went. I put on my assertive voice and told him we were promised the minibus was coming at 11am, why is it two hours late.
All of a sudden he looked rather panicked. He looked up at the clock and then signalled his friend to bring the car over and ushered us in. I was too tired to worry (Alan later told me he worried that we were going to be kidnapped and have all our stuff stolen, thankfully he didn’t divulge this until afterwards!). They drove us 5 minutes up the street to what was obviously the local bus station.
The man from the tourist office leapt out and ran over to a bus and started talking to the driver. Then he pulled out a cigarette and just stood around. I was fuming. I got out and started walking towards him to ask what was going on when he signalled us to grab our luggage and come over to the bus. He pointed up to the tatty, public bus and said, “This is your bus.” I was floored.
I have no problem catching local busses, however when I have paid through the roof for an aircon tourist minibus the last thing I expect is to be ushered onto a rundown local bus, especially not without a refund.
I raised my voice, trying my hardest to remain assertive rather than come across aggressively. “We paid for an aircon minibus, not a public bus,” I told him. He told us that we had to go on this bus because there were no tourist minibusses today. I tried not to shout. “But we have been waiting at your office for more than two hours for a minibus you told us was coming, and we have paid for that!!” He told us this was our only option if we wanted to go today and we needed to get on right now as it was about to leave. I asked him, knowing full well the answer already, if this bus would be dropping us off at our accommodation as we had paid for, and been promised. No, he said, the bus would end at the bus station in Yogyakarta and we would have to get a taxi.
So on top of the exorbitant amount we had already paid, we were now going to be travelling on a local bus which was less than one tenth of the money we'd forked over, and were going to have to pay a taxi fare on top of that? Not in my books!
I had very little calmness left in my body by now. “If this bus does not drop us off at our accommodation then you will need to give us the money for the taxi in Yogyakarta because we have paid a lot and we are not getting the service we paid for. This is very bad service!” I told him. For a man who earlier had told us how much he cared about his service I thought he ought to know this was very poor service and he had two very unhappy customers.
He looked down for a moment then thrust 50,000 rupiah at me (about $5). It was a small win. I looked at Alan and we gave each other a knowing look and knew there was nothing else we could do.
We climbed on board the bus.
Somehow in my state of frustration, I hadn’t noticed the sign on the bus as to its destination. Once I sat down onto my sticky, plastic covered seat at the back of the hot bus, I looked up at the ticket prices above our window and noticed that it was just a couple of dollars for a ticket to Surabaya.
Hang on a minute, my mind raced. Surabaya? We want to go to Yogayakarta, not Surabaya!
By this time the bus had left the station and was on its way down the main street of Probolinggo. I ran to the front of the bus and questioned the conductor. Is this bus going to Yogyakarta? I asked. He looked confused. “Yogyakarta? No. Surabaya!” He said with a smile on his face (yeah, a giant smile because he was probably being paid some giant tip to take us off the travel office man’s hands). I could tell he didn’t speak a lick of english or perhaps that was because he was choosing not to, I’m unsure. “Surabaya, no!” I said. “Yogyakarta, YES! We go Yogyakarta!” I tried to explain simply as possible, actions included. “No, Yogyakarta, no. Surabaya. We go Surabaya,” he insisted.
I could tell we were just about screwed. I panicked and asked for the bus to be stopped. After I asked about three times and began to raise my voice the bus pulled over, conveniently right outside the tourist office. The tourist office man came over and after lots of Bahasa Indonesia that I didn’t understand, he said we go to Surabaya first, then we change and get on a bus to Yogyakarta from there.
There was nothing we could do but sit back and try to relax and enjoy the two and a half hour journey to Surabaya.
When we arrived in Surabaya we were ushered by the conductor onto an even more cramped, rundown, hot and sticky bus that, thankfully, was definitely headed for Yogyakarta. It was now nearly 4pm in the afternoon, and I pointed to my watch in order to try and get an arrival time estimate from our new conductor. He pointed at the 12 on my watch. A four letter word beginning with F, was the only word that came to mind.
The bus was packed, every seat was full and so was the entire aisle with people standing, for the entire eight hour bus journey. The bus stopped often, perhaps every ten minutes or so to drop off passengers and pick up new ones. At each stop touts would climb on board selling snacks and drinks, which was the first opportunity we had to eat since our 1am “breakfast stop” much earlier in the day. All we could stomach was a few sips of lukewarm Sprite.
Despite Alan having a man’s crotch hovering by his shoulder for eight hours straight, it was an enormous relief when we pulled into the bus station in Yogyakarta at about half past midnight. We piled off the bus, grabbed our luggage and booked it to the closest taxi. I’d called our hotel while on the bus to let them know we would be arriving later than we had stated in our reservation, and while on the phone I’d asked what we should be paying for a taxi to the hotel from the bus station. I’d been told 40,000 rupiah, which I was pleased to hear as it would mean the 50,000 we had been given by the evil tour office man would be able to cover it.
Naturally, our taxi driver outright refused to use his meter or take us for less than 70,000 rupiah (we did manage to get it down from 80,000!). However, like a little sign from the universe, Alan had found a lone 20,000 on the footpath the day before, so combined with the 50,000 we’d been given at least we didn’t have to fork out any of our own money for the taxi.
When we pulled up to our hotel at 1am in the morning and checked in to a lovely room at our lovely hotel, I was beyond relieved. I’ve never been so thankful for a hot shower and air conditioning in my life! We’d finally made it to Yogyakarta, which turned out to be on of my most favourite places we have visited to date (and also quite possibly where the best Pasta Carbonara I’ve ever eaten is served, but we’ll get to that in another blog post!).
We certainly learnt a thing or two the hard way through this experience, but it could have been a lot worse. We made it to our final destination only a few hours later than anticipated, and with a lot less money in our wallets. Next time, we will just take the public bus from the beginning, rather than be ripped off by a scamming tourist office. We will go back to the tourist office we booked at. And never again will we hand over money in a thoroughly sleep-deprived state!
Have you ever been totally ripped off while travelling? Please, share your stories!
As you've probably figured, I'm travelling with my significant other/boyfriend/partner-in-crime, Alan. He feels compelled to share some of his stories and thoughts on the road on my humble blog - I didn't force him, promise! This may become a regular feature, if Alan retains the writing bug. His first post is about Kuta, Bali. You can read my post on our time in Kuta here.
Up until this moment Christie has carefully drafted and completed all of the blogs on the Butterfly Editions. It was her goal to create and establish a blog that people would find insightful and entertaining whilst also providing some detailed information to our extended friends and family as to what we have been up to, and for our own memories.
Whilst I’m generally lying on the bed next to her reading her kindle and providing little to no help, after six weeks of travelling I have decided that it is time to give this blog thing a crack and maybe provide a slightly different point of view to our travelling adventures.
I'm writing this in my budget room on Coral Beach on the Perhentian Islands off the east coast of Malaysia. Pretty sweet huh? Except that it’s uncomfortably hot (30+deg) and due to the looming monsoon season and the lack of tourists the place we are staying in only runs power from 7pm to 7am, so I can’t even turn on the fan!
So what to write about? Christie writes about all the places we’ve been to and what we get up to so I’m not going to repeat that. I can’t specifically recall any funny stories, so I think I’ll write a series of blogs that give some insight to my specific highlights of my month in Indonesia, and hopefully throw in a few good tips!
Kuta - It’s Pretty Cool
I’d never been to Bali before and I guess in my mind I had this image of a tropical paradise, the pristine white sand, crystal clear blue water, palm trees swaying in the cool ocean breeze. Kuta is kind of that but not really. The beaches are ok, I mean they’re nice, there’s a little bit of trash but not too bad, but if you’re travelling on a budget you’ll probably see and experience a side of kuta that you weren’t quite expecting. Yes, there’s the luxury resorts with the fancy swimming pools and nice restaurants right on the oceanfront, but if you’re like me and only want to spend NZD$20 a night on accommodation, you’ll end up a few streets back having fun in the economy section.
Here’s where the fun begins. Now you have to negotiate the narrow one lane streets plagued with the never ending hoard of scooters that beep at you. Its kind if like playing a game of dodgeball except you’re dodging moving scooters. Not to mention that there is no footpath, so once you've managed to safely cross now you have to meander along the side of the road side stepping down a narrow path on the edge of danger not wanting to fall into the abyss that is oncoming traffic.
Once you’ve figured out crossing the street, you have to find your way around. You can stick to the ‘main’ streets which will add an extra 15 minutes and 1 litre of sweat to your journey, or you can cut through the narrow labyrinth of alley ways. Back in New Zealand these would be for pedestrians only as they can just fit two people walking side by side, but in Bali these are still considered roads. Now when a scooter comes your way you literally have to twist sideways and reverse hug the wall, not put your foot in the open drain and look out for squished rats (yes I saw two of them). You don’t want your jandalled foot going anywhere near that stuff.
Yay! Now you’ve made it to Legian St. This is the main drag in Kuta, this is where you can get your fake Oakleys and Ray Ban sunnies, don’t pay anymore than 50,000 rupiah though (NZD$5) even then your probably getting ripped off. Maybe you’ll find a sweet Rolex or some new Nikes, remember to bargain hard and be prepared to walk away if you aren't getting a good deal. Don’t worry about missing out, there will literally be a exact replica of that shop and merchandise probably right next door. Seriously it’s like deja vu all over Indonesia, they all sell the same crap!
Once you’ve wandered past the shops, said 'no thank you ' a dozen times to the pushy salesmen, had a squizz at the bars and restaurants and made a mental note to come back for happy hour, you going to want to find the beach. Just follow some dude with his surfboard perilously attached to his scooter and you’ll find it. You can’t really miss it.
You’ll have to agree that the beach is pretty nice, there’ll be a whole array of different sights wandering up and down the beach so don’t forget to bring your sunnies for a good discreet look. Make sure you head north up the beach (turn right when you’re looking at the water) and head up to Legian and Seminyak. There's some nice restaurants up that way where you can grab a bite, can definitely recommend a mango smoothie if its not Bintang o’clock yet.
Thats pretty much it for Kuta, you’ll probably spend the day people watching at the beach intertwined with a paddle in the surf. If you’re there for a for a party it won’t be hard to find.
Overall I thought Kuta was pretty cool but I guess it depends on what your intentions are.
Tips/Advice for Kuta, Bali
Large Bintang should cost around 30,000 Rupiah (about NZD$3), just ask for two glasses if you want to share. Cheaper than buying two small beers for 20,000 each.
You don’t need a scooter in Kuta unless you plan on traveling a fair distance, plus it’ll take a while to build up enough confidence to tackle driving in the crazy traffic. If you do get one, make sure you get a helmet (we saw one bad crash).
Sunscreen. I know you want to get a tan, but the number of red tomatoes I saw walking around was enough to convince me to lather myself in the stuff. Don’t ruin your trip by getting sunburnt on the first day. Trust me, the tan will come.
And a helpful tip regarding ATMs in Indonesia...
There a two types of ATMs in Indonesia:
- One will give 50,000 Rupiah notes with a max of 1,250,000
- One will give 100,000 Rupiah notes with a max of 2,500,000 (sometimes less)
We wanted to save on withdrawal fees, so we always used atms with the max limit. The Mandiri ones generally had the highest limit.
North Bali is a bit of an underdog in comparison to the popular areas in the South and East of Bali. It is a region sadly forgotten from many itineraries, overshadowed by the celebrity status of destinations like Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud, Uluwatu, the Gili Islands, Nusa Lembongan and so on.
We didn’t spend anywhere near long enough in beautiful North Bali, squeezing in just a mere two nights in a quiet beach town called Lovina - but I’m so glad we did.
While our time in Kuta was fun and Ubud simply magical, Lovina was an escape from the densly-touristed areas of Bali to a place where westerners do not make up the majority of the population, and locals’ day-to-day lives go peacefully undisturbed by tourism.
Lovina is the kind of place where children smile and wave shyly, where foreigners are much less commonplace than they are in the South. We noticed a lot less English spoken around North Bali - its a good place to test out some of those new Balinese and Bahasa Indonesia words you have learnt!
In the name of honesty, it is fair to say that the beaches in Lovina are not quite as beautiful as Kuta or the islands, but their biggest drawcard is that they are gloriously empty. Look in either direction and you are unlikely to see more than a fisherman or two. Lovina’s beaches are perfectly adequate for anything you truly need from a beach: sunbathing, swimming and sunset strolls.
We arrived into Lovina on a minibus from Sanur. The drive took about 5 hours, winding through some stunning landscapes!
For our one full day there we hired a scooter and went exploring with two destinations in mind:
Banjar Hot Springs (Banjar Air Panas)
Banjar Hot Springs was well worth the trip. It cost a mere IDR 5,000 (that's like 50 NZ cents!) for a few hours relaxing in a series of three pools, each with water fountains to stand beneath. The green colour of the pools, while initially a bit strange to get used to, comes from the sulphur occurring naturally in the springs.
Brahmavihara-Arama Buddhist Temple
A beautiful Buddhist temple (in fact I believe the largest in Bali), Brahmavihara-Arama is a beautiful complex to wander and gather your thoughts. Entry is free, take a sarong to make sure your legs are covered. They run regular meditation retreats, which looked really interesting!
I would love to see more of North Bali, in our couple of days there we barely scratched the surface. There is so much to see and do in a region that feels like the tourist wave hasn’t quite caught on yet.
Still make sure you get to all of the popular destinations in the south - after all, they are popular for a reason! However, if you can squeeze a few days in North Bali into your itinerary it is well worth it to see a completely different perspective of this diverse island.
From Lovina, we caught an overnight bus towards Mount Bromo in Java - but thats a rather long story, so I'll save it for next time!
Have you visited North Bali?
POSTED IN: adventure, Backpacking, Bali, beach, Indonesia, life, Lovina, North Bali, travel
After we left the almost-paradise of Gili Air, the very next day we were headed towards another island paradise of Nusa Lembongan. Living the good life, huh?
After a good local feed and a nights rest in Sanur, we boarded a slow boat for a peaceful 1.5 hour journey to Nusa Lembongan.
We arrived about lunchtime and after checking in, wolfed down some noodles at a warung along the main street before settling poolside for the afternoon.
Yup, thats a pretty choice looking pool for a budget guesthouse, right?
We LOVED our choice of accommodation in Nusa Lembongan - I will talk more about it in an upcoming post about all of our favourite accommodation right through Indonesia - but it goes without mention that if you are on a budget on Nusa Lembongan, I highly recommend staying at Nitya Homestay! I would go back in a heartbeat, even if just for the pool and the banana honey jaffles...
Our days in Nusa Lembongan were incredibly
lazy relaxing. We spent a lot of time beside the pool (seriously, how could you not!) - but we did manage to escape the pool’s clutches a couple of times a day, hire a scooter, and get some decent exploring in.
We scooted across this rickety bridge to the neighbouring island, Nusa Ceningan. I wrapped my arms tightly around Alan and left my life in his hands!
Thankfully, we made it across in one piece.
The roads are veeery bumpy (not particularly safe considering the lack of availability of helmets on Nusa Lembongan!), but well worth the risk - check out these views!
We rode nearby the mangroves of Nusa Lembongan which was peaceful and secluded.
There were puppies! Puppy cuddles happened.
We saw plenty of seaweed being collected and left to dry out in the sun. It is a big industry in Nusa Lembongan! We asked a local what it is used for, and he said he exports his to Japan for use in cosmetics. Interesting!
Alan gave me a scooter lesson…I look terrified (okay maybe I was a little). Once I built my confidence up, I proudly drove us both to lunch!
As usual, we consumed an entire mango tree's worth of smoothies…
And ate plenty (side note: have you tried tempeh? It is abundant in Indonesia as a vegetarian protein and it is super tasty!).
Logged some beach time….
Before ending up back poolside - bliss!
With a handful of brilliant sunsets thrown in for good measure.
Oh, Nusa Lembongan was luxurious!
Have you visited Nusa Lembongan?
Aaah, Gili Air. There is a lot to love about this little Indonesian island (and dare I say it, a couple of things not to love - but we’ll get to that).
The Gilis are a bunch of three small islands just off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia - however are also very accessible from a number of locations in Bali, which is the route we took to get there. The three islands are Gili Trawangan (better known as Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air.
We knew we only had about three nights to spend on the Gilis so we decided to stick to just one island. It was a tough call deciding between Gili T (party reputation!) and Gili Air (peaceful reputation). Although we had plenty of great feedback on Gili T from friends who have been there, we naturally felt a pull towards the more chilled out Gili Air.
We made our way there from Ubud. Prices depend where you are coming from however it is very common to get ripped off on the price of this - some people end up paying more than double what you should - and its not exactly cheap to begin with!
We paid 500,000 rupiah each (approx $50 NZ) return. This included pick up from accommodation in Ubud, shuttle bus transfer to Padang Bai (approx 2 hours), fast boat to Gili Air (1.5 hours), fast boat return to Padang Bai (1.5 hours) and return shuttle to Sanur (approx 2 hours).
Tip: There are plenty of boat companies, so shop around. Some companies are known to charge more than double what we paid…be sure you have agreed to a good deal before you hand over the cash!
Regardless, the minute you arrive on a paradise like Gili Air, such worries about money will elude you.
Let’s start with what I loved about this beautiful island.
- It is tiny. You can walk around the entire island in less than 1.5 hours, and thats walking slowly! We did this…once. We were far too busy lounging on the beach, bobbing in the warm sea and sipping mango smoothies in cafe cabanas to care much about exercise.
- The snorkelling is great. I’m going to be honest here, those who know me well are aware that snorkelling is perhaps not my most preferred activity (too many fish all up in my face!). Alan went snorkelling plenty of times in our three days on the island, and even saw a TURTLE!!! That was enough to convince me I needed to get out there with my mask and snorkel on, so I did. I saw plenty of rather pretty fish but alas, no turtles. The Gili Islands are also fantastic for diving if you are that way inclined!
- The cabanas in the cafes. Just about every cafe on Gili Air sits on the beach with cabanas nestled into the sand to comfortably dwell away your days, mango smoothie in hand.
- In the evenings many of the restaurants set out tables, each with a glowing candle, on the beach right down to where the water licks the sand. Its pretty romantic.
- Gili Air is so peaceful! There is one main swimming beach/area (the island is surrounded by coral so this is your best bet for being able to get in and out of the water easily!), and even on a busy day the beach was far from packed.
But in the sake of being honest, there are a couple of downsides we discovered to Gili Air.
- Horse and carts. There are no cars, scooters or motorised vehicles on Gili Air. Other than your own two feet (which is what we used the whole time we were there), the other forms of transport on the island are bicycles or to be taxied around by a horse and cart. Seriously it was 30+ degrees every day we were there, these horses were NOT in good health and were made (read: whipped) to run around all day long in the heat. To make it worse, they are decorated with colourful ribbons and bells, which you could hear jingling in the distance. Each and every time I heard some jingling coming up behind me my heart would break. The horses are used to cart supplies around the island however mostly are for tourist purposes. I couldn't understand why any tourist would get in one of these. Its animal cruelty and inhumane, in my opinion.
- Decent local food is hard to find. Gili Air is a tourist island, so just about all of the cafes cater to tourist taste-buds. Half-decent western food is available just about everywhere, but unfortunately the local food is pretty average too.
As we floated away from Gili Air after three relaxing days we were pretty content. I’m not sure we discovered paradise, but Gili Air is pretty darn close.
Have you discovered an Island paradise? Please do share!