A month (4th of April – 4th of May) between Sulawesi, Flores, Lombok, Gilis and Bali.
NOTES (Those are some of my personal observations from my personal experience there and how I saw things. I don’t mean to offend anybody or to put a bad light on anything. I would book a plane to go back there anytime)
– We didn’t book anything in advance, except main flight ticket (Venice-Jakarta) and first domestic flight (from Jakarta to Manado).
– We were rather using planes for long distances than public transportation, such as ferries and buses.
– We mostly rented a car with a driver to drive us around in order to see as much as possible in short time (but yes, it is more expensive than public transport).
– We learned to trust people very quickly there.
– Indonesian people are one of the most kind and friendly people I’ve ever met.
– We used guides for quite some of our tours (most of the time we just found a driver and a guide in one person).
– We found that the best way to spend a day, is to rent a private boat with a guide to drive you around the islands for snorkelling and to find the most beautiful beaches.
– We tried to find flights in the early morning to save as much time as possible.
– We were searching for an accommodation when we arrived to a final destination (didn’t book anything in advance). It is the best way to see the place by yourself, and there are many resorts and guesthouses that are not mentioned anywhere in the guides.
– We had big Indonesia Lonely Planet guide with us for major orientation, but at the end we listened to locals and to our guides what is worth seeing and experiencing.
– Indonesian people will always help you around, even if English is not their strongest language.
– When searching for taxi (for example at the airport) always bargain! They will lower the price eventually, you just have to turn your back at them and start walking away.
– Never use the first person that offers you a transportation/tour/expertise. Always take their offered price for some sort of example of what their fair price should be (we learned that something between 40%-50% less of first offered price is still pretty much a fair price).
– If you do backpacking sort of tour through Indonesia, don’t take fancy clothes with you. Plenty cheap shirts would do (besides, on Lombok they have amazing markets with good bargain prices).
– We learned that is better to pay a bit more and sleep right next to the beach. It is nothing more beautiful than to wake up with a beautiful sunrise on your porch.
– A big note! We had a huge problem with credit cards and money. We were expecting to pay for our domestic flights with a credit card but then we were surprised when we were told on every airport that they can be purchased with cash only. But otherwise they have ATM’s pretty much everywhere.
– I would recommend not to go in Indonesia in a high season. We were told that in a high season is everything pretty crowded and the prices everywhere are higher (logical). We went there right after the rainy season and we had nice hot weather all the time. It was raining for some days and was cloudy but it was nothing that could ruin our trip.
– Eat their signature dishes. If you`re going to try to order something unfamiliar for them or start complicating you will just get something completely else on a plate. Order simply and do not complicate. Besides, their signature dishes are the best, way better than international dishes such as pizza or pasta.
– Wake up early to seize every day complitely.
– Always find a taxi driver who speaks English!
– Some things are worth waking up for even its 4 am.
– Bathrooms outside bungalows are the best thing ever.
– Bali is overpriced. Don’t get me wrong it is a beautiful island but beaches are way more beautiful somewhere else. Resorts are something completely else though. But it is a great place for surfing, shopping and having fun.
– Gilis are top. They are perfect for relaxation and just being on a beach.
– Hot water is rare, most of the hotels or guesthouses have only cold water, even salt some of them. It is not a problem, because it is so hot outside and cold shower is awesome.
– Girls… You don’t need as much cosmetics as you think you do (speaking from my own experience ).
– You will forget about the date and time.
– Electricity extension is a great thing to have with.
– Do not feel bad or sorry for getting something what’s on your bucket
– Renting bikes is an awesome and easy, plus cheap thing to do.
– On Bali don’t spend money in Zara and other international stores.
– In restaurants or anywhere you want to eat you`re going to wait. And list.
– Paying with a credit card can be a challenging. In Bali yes, they have Instead of those try small boutiques and local shops. there is a high chance they won’t bring you food to all at the same time. Get used to it. Also do not complicate with salad before main course or fruit before main course… They’re going to bring it to you at the same time or they’re going to bring you fruit as a dessert. But maybe you will be lucky somewhere credit cards as a method of payment but elsewhere can be hard.
The first city where we flown from Jakarta was Manado. We rented a boat to Palau Bunaken. That’s where our adventure began. We were there totally two nights (two whole days since we had a plane in the middle of the night and arrived to Manado before 6am).
Sleeping: We slept in Daniel’s Homestay. A super friendly resort with wooden bungalows on the beach. Would definitely recommend. It is a beautiful place, with great snorkelling opportunity. We had a guide named Odi, funny person . And if you want a fresh coconut they bring it to you right from the tree.
To do: Snorkelling, snorkelling and snorkelling. Seeing turtles in the sea is priceless.
Eating: We had three meals in the resort. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, all of them all you can eat style. There are no restaurants or anything like that there. It is pretty much just those small diving resorts and inhabitants.
Note: You have to learn to survive with all the kinds of animals around you, bugs included.
After Bunaken and a boat ride back to Manado we went to Tangkoko nature reserve. We stayed there for one night. Afternoon at the beach and the next morning in the jungle.
Sleeping: We stayed at Tarsius Homestay. A family owned place. Super friendly and we were told this one is the most clean place to sleep.
To do: Wake up early and go to a jungle with a guide to see lemurs, monkeys, Tucano’s and other animals. It is a hike worth waking up early. And go to the black sand beach. A beautiful beach with endless black sand. One of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen.
Eating: Again, another place where you can eat where you sleep. Three meals of home cooked food.
Note: Mosquitos will eat you alive if you won’t have insect repellent with you. Just enjoy the view and the untouched nature. We were lucky to have Odi with ourselves to show us everything.
In the afternoon (Tangkoko day) we went back to Manado to go to Makassar. Unfortunately, the plane was booked and we had to buy a ticket for the next day. That made the unplanned stop in Manado for a day.
Sleeping: We stayed in a hotel recommended by our taxi driver. Istanaku Guesthouse is a friendly place with amazing young stuff. They even prepared a birthday party for a friend who was celebrating that day. We had a cake and drinks on a terrace overlooking the city. It is a small beautiful and colourful European styled hotel.
To do: We had nothing planned because we didn’t expect it to stay in the city. We just sit into micra (public small buses) and drove around the city. We just said we going to take a taxi to drive us back to hotel if we get lost. We went to their market and spent an afternoon just walking around.
Eating: We ate some street food that day and fruit we bought at the market. Nothing expensive and complicated really.
Note: Do not be picky about hygiene. I’m not saying not to take a shower but just don’t use sanitizer after everything you touch. That way you going to get sick way sooner.
This was a boring day. Airports and buses. Nothing special, nothing really nice.
We have flown from Manado to Makassar and when arrived we just found ourselves a taxi. It was kind of a bad experience because it was already dark outside and after driven away from the airport we figured that our driver didn’t speak English and at the time we weren’t even sure if he knew where we want to go. He drove us around dark streets on bunchy roads. We wanted to go to the bus station to catch night buses to go to Tana Toraja. When getting to the station we found the company that suits our need and went to Tana Toraja with a night bus (8-10 hours of driving).
Eating: Just airport food and street food.
Note: Do not take the first bus company, different companies offer very different prices.
We were in Tana Toraja for two days. We found ourselves a guide slash driver to show us around for whole two days.
Sleeping: We stayed in a nice hotel named Toraja Torsina Hotel. Nice hotel with hot water. Even had a pool. Nice and clean rooms and we were in the centre of everything. We went one day exploring one side and the other the other side of Tana Toraja.
To do: As mentioned we got ourselves a guide. He showed us all around Toraja. We went to a buffalo market, then we went hiking through rice fields, saw their traditional houses and ceremonies, tried the most disgusting fruit (durian), tried buffalo, and saw their everyday life. Seems so much different from ours. People there doesn’t seem preoccupied with work, status, material things. It was a nice change.
Eating: We ate at various different places. There we also had the cheapest meal ever. It was kind of a noodle soup with some kind of a meatballs. Didn’t like it much though. I definitely recommend the Rimiko restaurant for buffalo, delicious. There and many restaurants around Rantepao (the biggest city in Tana Toraja region). But as I said the best way is to eat their traditional dishes.
Note: It is the easiest way and the fastest to just find a guide and a car. We didn’t want to spend too much time waiting for transports and loosing time with walking far distances. It would be perfect to just be on Sulawesi for a month. It is a huge island with a beautiful nature and so many things to see. And the best time to visit Tana Toraja in my opinion is from Friday to Sunday. You have to know that there are no funeral ceremonies during weekends but you can see buffalo market and various markets during the weekend. Be sure to bargain hard! And also you can buy same wooden things and knives as on a Bali but for more than a half price cheaper.
From Tana Toraja we used another night bus to go back to Makassar and from therewith early morning plane to Flores (Labuanbajo).
Sleeping: W e found ourselves a guesthouse right in the city centre so we were near everything.
To do: We were there three days in total. Afternoon of one day we spent for relaxation. Massages and spa. We were told that they have some amazing and cheap spas on Flores. We had to try it and it was amazing! We tried one spa where blind and disabled people massage you and they are doing it with a great feeling. The other spa we tried was Flores spa and we tried their sun burn massage since we were sun burned. Also we rented a boat for one day with a guide. We wanted to see the island Rinca for the last living dragons and some other islands around Komodo national park. We were snorkelling around all day and also went to pink beach. Favourite moment? Jumping off the boat right into the sunset next to the loneliest sandy beach. Priceless moments.
Eating: There are way more restaurants and eating options than on Sulawesi. And it also weren’t just noodles every day for all day . There is an amazing restaurant called Tree Top. Their burgers are delicious. And another one we tried is Mediteranno. An owner is Italian and food was delicious. Explore the neighbourhood. And by the way there is an AMAZING ice cream and pancakes place. The most delicious ice cream! Scooperific Ice cream & Gelato.
Note: You can bargain a bit for the price for the boat for the whole day but they pretty much have the same prices everywhere.
Ende and Moni
We wanted to see the Kelimutu volcano. So because we didn’t have time to do a road trip through Flores we decided to fly from Labuanbajo to Ende. From Ende we went with a private car to Moni where we stayed one night to go to volcano at the early morning and then back to Ende for one night before flying to Lombok.
Sleeping in Moni: There is … how to say this. Not much in Moni. No Wi-Fi in Moni no anything in Moni. Moni is the smallest town with a few guesthouses (where you can bargain for a price hard) and eating spots are just in those guesthouses. It is one road with a few really small markets in a tiny wooden houses and that’s all.
Sleeping in Ende: We were told that this is the best hotel in town. If this one was the best hotel in town I don’t even want to know about the others. Sorry, but I forgot the name though: /
To do: Well Moni is just a town from where you start for Kelimutu. You find a driver with a car who drive you to the some point on volcano and from there you have to walk to the top to see three different lakes. You have to be on the top at the time of sunrise. Unfortunately, we choose the most foggy and rainy day for the trip and saw nothing. So we left Moni empty handed. It would be worth going there in a high season when the weather is perfect and the beautiful sunrise is guaranteed. In Ende there is not much to do also. A town with a few restaurants and bars, some markets and that is all.
Eating: In Moni we have eaten in a guesthouse that had a restaurant with a few dishesand that was it for the day. In Ende we choose first decent restaurant on the way and eate there. The best choice were noodles and vegetables.
Note: Go there if you really want to see volcano and some hot springs. But be sure to check the weather before and listen to the locals when they say, it is a bad day to go up there. They know the best! And there truly is no Wi-Fi in Moni.
From Flores we had a flight to Lombok and from there we went to Gilis. We took a taxi to the port where are the boats that goes to Gilis. We didn’t want to wait for the public boat and because we wanted to go to Gilis as fast as possible we took a private speed boat.
Sleeping: We decided to choose the middle island, Gili Meno. When we got there one of us waited in a bar and two of us went to search for the accommodation. There is no motorized transport on gilis but they have cidomos, horse drawn cart.We were sleeping in Rust Warung Bungalows. Awesome, nice, big, clean bungalows with a huge porch and the most awesome outdoor bathroom. Would definitely recommend. We were there for four nights.
To do: We did another boat trip here. Snorkelling around all three Gilis and visiting each one of the other two for a short period of time. Trawangan is party, Air is »normal« with some shops and bars and restaurants and the Meno is peaceful and relaxed. Definitely go party to Trawangan one night. We just rented a boat to take us there and to wait for us until we wanted to go back to Meno. We were relaxing and lying on the beach most of the time, enjoying the view and good food there. We were lazy for a few days. We also took walks to see more of the island.
Eating: Rust restaurant has the most amazing grilled fishes! You can choose a fish you want and then they prepare it for you. Mahi Mahi is delicious and some other too. I and my friend couldn’t decide what we wanted so we choose five different fishes. Also Yaya waung restaurant is a small restaurant right next to the beach with super friendly stuff and affordable food. If you’re lucky they`re going to sing and play guitar next to your table. We went one day for a breakfast to Karma resort. It is more expensive place to eat but their continental breakfast, fruit plate and pancakes are amazing. They also have tables right on the beach. There are many restaurants/bars worth trying. The staff is super friendly everywhere. Also Mallias restaurant offers various breakfast options and dinner choices.
Note: Take a day to go to Gili Trawangan (if you are staying on one of the other two) and rent a bike to do a whole circle around the island. There are a few swings on the beach.
We decided to go to Kuta Lombok to spend two days on a Lombok. It’s a surf area with a huge beach potential.
Sleeping: Our driver drove us from one guesthouse to another hotel. At the end we decided to stay in Kutamara hotel. We even had a pool. It is a nice clean hotel with spacious rooms.
To do: We rented a bike to drive around Kuta to be faster and to be able to see more of it than by foot. We bargained at markets a bit, to buy some clothes and sarongs for a really cheap price. We wanted to do surfing but then decided to try it on Bali (at the end my friend tried it and I didn’t).
Eating: Cafe 7 is a good spot, we had a burger there, but, the best burgers we had were in Warung Drifters. They truly have the best burgers in Kuta. The one with chicken and avocado is worth finger licking after eating it. The best fruit and milk shakes and also breakfast they had in a small shop slash bar right next to our hotel – The corner cafe which is a boutique cafe. Amazing spot. Shopping and eating breakfast!
Note: Do not expect too much out of Kuta. It is nothing like Kuta in Bali. It is a beautiful beach spot for relaxing and surfing. Surfers from all over the world come here to surf.
And finally after two nights in Lombok we went to Bali. Our final destination. We went to Ubud straight from the Denpasar airport. We spend a night in Ubud and then a night in Kuta on Bali before two of us three went to the last destination where we stayed for a week, Seminyak.
Sleeping: We slept in Sania’s House. A cute family-run place. It looks like a temple.We slept there for one night only.
To do: The first day in Ubud we spent exploring the neighbourhood a bit, walking to the monkey forest to see the temple and to feed monkeys. As soon as they see you have bananas you are done. They’re going to steal them from you one way or another. We wanted to rent scooters but at the end we rather found our self a guide/driver again because we had no idea how to drive there or where to go. We then went to the rice plantage and to coffee plantage where they produce Luwak coffe (the most expensive coffee anywhere in the world) to try the coffee. For the end of the day we went to Elephant safari park to ride elephants and to feed them. Another thing on my bucket list crossed. The second day we went to the market and to see the palace there and after that we wanted to visit a chocolate factory near but unfortunately it was closed. We also visited the most famous temple there called Goa Gajah Temple. Worth visiting.
Eating: In Ubud we mostly eat on the way. Street food. For dinner we went to Ibu Rai restaurant. Delicious noodles.
Note: Would definitely stay longer in Ubud.
For one night we stayed in Kuta. Before one of us went home and I and my friend stay there for another week.
We didn’t do anything special here. When we arrived we choose the first appropriate place, Suji Bungalows. We got a huge bungalow with a terrace and they also have a pool. We were too tired to do anything this evening so we just went to the pool, ate dinner there and went to bad. The next day we did some shopping since it was a rainy day.
Sleeping: We were staying at the U Paasha Seminyak hotel. Hotel on the main Seminyak Street with a bunch of shops and restaurants near and a fifteen minutes long walk to the beach. It is an amazing hotel with a rooftop pool and great service. We wanted to spoil ourselves a bit so we chose a better hotel.
To do: Bali has a countless option of what to do there. We went to the zoo. Definitely worth visiting. Well, I love zoos. We were exploring neighborhood most of the days, went to the beach, to the spa (Bodyworks is just amazing). Our big wish was to go to the Rock Bar in Ayana. We went there in the evening to see the sunset and enjoy for a couple of hours. One of the best evenings.
Eating: We ate in many different restaurants. We had breakfast in our hotel and it was the biggest self-service breakfast I’ve ever seen. They had everything what you could possibly want. I would definitely recommend the Mykonos restaurant which offers a Greek food and lamb is delicious. Rumours restaurant, there I had the most delicious mahi mahi. The Potato Head for a quick bite while enjoying the view and their pool site right next to the beach. They have the most various fruit plate. Also Cafe Bali is a nice place with a delicious sushi. And the most important for me was of course The Gelato Factory. Could eat their ice cream every day!
Note: Bali is beautiful but seven days were too much here. A month in Indonesia is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. Would definitely go back. Would change some things we did (Instead of Kelimutu I’d go to Raja Ampat) but in general I was having the time of my life there. I would say to just grab your backpack and go. Do not book in advance but just let it go (even if not buying flight tickets in advance can be tricky because of the changes in the prices).