Country Review & Recommendations: Indonesia (Java, Bali & Gilis)

My Indonesia Review

After a brief stop in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, Louise, Olivia and I flew off to Yogyakarta in Indonesia. We did an extensive amount of research before embarking on this trip (ok, Louise did most of it) and so we knew we wanted to stop in Yogyakarta, a city recognized for its cultural heritage. When we arrived, it was pouring rain. Yes, we chose to travel to Indonesia during the rainy season. Our research had told us that it didn’t rain every day, but based on my week and a half experience in Indonesia, I would highly recommend against visiting during the rainy season. A good 40% of my stay was impacted by the heavy rains, including several beach days, a cancelled ferry transfer to the Gili Islands and a lovely motorbike ride in the downpour.

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3. Gili Trawangan Beach (2016)

Despite the rain, Indonesia was still amazing. Obviously, it would have been even better without it, but I ain’t mother nature. In Yogyakarta, we visited the two main Hindu temple sites, Borobudur and Prambanan. Afterwards, my friends and I split up for a few days. Louise and Olivia really wanted to hike the Ijen volcano, (which you’re meant to do overnight) and then see it lit up (or so I’m told). I was zero interested in hiking and if I had tagged along, I wouldn’t have been able to visit the Gili Islands (because I only had three weeks whereas the girls were on a 2 month adventure). Therefore, when it came down to it, overnight volcano hike vs. the Gili Islands, the choice wasn’t hard to make.

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Me at Borobudur (Yogyakarta, 2016)

So I caught a delayed flight from Yogyakarta and landed in Kuta, Bali, which was overflowing with rain (literally). Because of my delayed flight and the downpour, I missed my ferry to Gili Trawangan / it was cancelled L So I had to find last minute accommodation in Kuta, as I’d only be ferrying over the next day (thankfully I found an extremely helpful taxi driver who let me use his cell phone to call the ferry company). As my taxi was driving me to my hostel, he stopped about 2 mins away, telling me he couldn’t keep going because of the rain that was flooding the streets. And he was right – as I got out and started walking towards my hostel, I had to pick up my suitcase (thankfully its carry-on size) because I was knee deep in water. Sadly, this wasn’t my only write off day because of the rain, there were two more (and they could have been wonderful sunny beach days… *sigh*). At least I got to enjoy a $10 CAD hour long massage 🙂

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4. Candi Prambanan (Yogyakarta, 2016)

I spent the next few days in Gili Trawangan, the larger of the three Gili Islands (there’s also Gili Air and Gili Meno). Here too it rained a lot and I was only able to enjoy the warmth and the beach for half a day. On the upside, I had some really good meals here lol.

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Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud (2016)

After the Gilis, I headed back to mainland Bali, more specifically to the magical Ubud, where I met up with the girls for the last significant leg of my journey. We stayed here for four nights and rented motorbikes (best idea ever) in order to get around everywhere. It was a little challenging at first, but I got the hang of it after a few practice rounds in an empty lot (Louise was a pro from the get go). I found that the motorbikes were the best mode of transportation here and allowed us to really take in the scenery, as well as stop whenever we felt like it (I made the girls stop a lot to take pictures). We didn’t visit any of Bali’s renown temples, as they were a significant distance away from Ubud (especially by motorbike). We didn’t go to the Tegalalang rice terraces either, but that I’m not sure why… (we did see some other rice terraces). We also celebrated Olivia’s birthday while in Ubud, where we enjoyed the best pizza in town.

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Happy birthday Liv 🙂 (Ubud, 2016)

And then, we said goodbye to each other. The girls were continuing on to the Gilis and I returned to Kuta, to catch a flight back to Bangkok (so I could fly home). For more about my time in Bangkok and Koh Phi Phi, click here.

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Tegenungan waterfall (Ubud, 2016)

My Indonesia Recommendations

4. Candi Prambanan (Yogyakarta)

If you’re ever in Yogyakarta, Candi Prambanan is worth the visit. This is probably one of the sites I remember the best in my last few trips, as we had two wonderful girls as guides (many teenagers studying to become tour guides offer free tours of sites at Candi Prambanan and Borobudur). They were very knowledgeable and explained to us the logical sequence from one temple to another, where a story was being told on the walls of each temple. Basically, a long time ago, a prince and a princess fell in love, but the princess was captured by a demon and so the prince went off to rescue her and kill the demon. He managed to kill the demon, but because he found the princess pregnant, he was scared she was carrying a half demon child, so he pretty much abandoned/banished her to live in the woods alone. On the verge of death, she was miraculously rescued by an old man and she went on to raise her son. The prince (the abandoner), lived a miserable life, as he had lost the love of his life. One day though, the princess’ son found the prince and explained to him who he was (and that his mother, the princess, was dead). Heartbroken, the prince gave him and his son his kingdom and went off into the woods to die, to be reunited with his beloved princess.

3. Gili Trawangan Beach

On my last day in Gili Trawangan, the sun finally decided to come out and wow – the beach was stunning. I decided to treat myself to a breakfast sandwich overlooking the beach, before proceeding to a much wanted and needed tanning session (and some refreshing dips into the ocean). Unfortunately, I cannot place this higher up on my list (because it rained so much while I was there), but I feel like the island life on GT must be nice during the dry season. There’s just something different, special and more relaxed about island life and islands in general. I also hear that GT is the place for scuba diving.

 2. Borobudur (Yogyakarta)

If you only have one day in Yogyakarta, Borobudur is the temple complex to see (sorry Candi Prambanan). Both temple complexes are different and unique in style, but Borobudur is the bigger and more impressive one of the two. Take the time to visit the main attraction, but also the other sites within the grounds (there are elephants to be seen!). Watch out at the end though; in order to exit, they oblige you to go through this tourist shop trap maze thing.

 1. Motorbike your way around Ubud

So this was my favorite part of Indonesia; motor biking our way in and around Ubud to see the various sights and landscapes. As mentioned, motor biking allowed us to visit what we wanted to and when, as well as stopping whenever and taking in all of the beautiful scenery. Ubud is one of the most beautiful places I have seen, in terms of (non-beach related) nature. Everything is so green and there is green everywhere. On our first day, we did the Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud, which was amazing and very green (and difficult with the heat and humidity). We also ventured out to the beautiful Tegenungan waterfall, which was very much appreciated and refreshing with the heat. We also visited the Tirta Empul Temple, a Hindu Balinese water temple, where locals bathe (and drink) the water (we were content with just dipping our feet in). We went to the Gunung Kawi Temple, a temple and funerary complex spread across two sides of a river. There, we were also able to see some beautiful rice terraces.

UP NEXT: you guessed it, my foodie highlights for Indonesia!  Want a guide on how to travel SE Asia for 3 weeks, for less than $2000? Click here!

*All photos are my own (or taken by someone with my device)

 

 

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