Indonesia

Indonesia

on Tuesday, 04 October 2011. Posted in Indonesia

 

Indonesia,Draped languidly across the equator, the charismatic archipelago of Indonesia is a smattering of diverse island jewels bobbing around in tropical seas. A visit is a great adventure in waiting – it’s truly one of the last intrepid destinations left on the planet. The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored.Visitors will soon be tripping over pristine, white-sand beaches fringed by dramatic volcanic ranges towering over verdant green terraced hillsides and lush rainforest. A kaleidoscope of sealife including huge sunfish, manta rays, porpoises, turtles and blindingly colourful beds of coral await beneath the waves. Bali is the picture-postcard paradise: stunning scenery, gentle sarong-clad people and sunsets of legendary glory. Komodo Island's ‘living dinosaurs’ will astound as do Borobudur's architectural treasures, which include 5km (3 miles) of Buddhist relief carvings. Adventure-seekers head for Kalimantan's remote jungle interior or explore Sumatra, with its teeming wildlife and wealth of tribal groups.

 

 

Jakarta

on Sunday, 21 August 2011. Posted in Indonesia

Jakarta, the sprawling, smoggy capital of Indonesia, will frustrate, entice, aggravate and beguile - few places in this part of Asia are as challenging or rewarding. But Jakarta is the beating heart of Indonesia, the archipelago in a nutshell. For those visitors prepared to peel away the city’s urban layers of irritation, rich rewards lay waiting. 

The historic old town of Batavia (Kota) is like a time warp and brings to life the city’s colonial roots, while a clutch of excellent museums help with interpretation of this rich history. 

Jakarta is the ultimate city of contrasts. An intoxicating Asian destination where on one side of the city old sailing schooners trade spices in a scene that has not changed for centuries. Just streets away gleaming new glass and steel skyscrapers reach for the heavens in a skyline that has been transformed beyond recognition. 

Jakarta is where the greater Indonesian identity has been created, forged by the ceaseless interaction of peoples and cultures from all over the archipelago. Freed from the yolk of colonialism, this bold, brash and bustling city buzzes along and after a few days it is hard not to get caught up in its palpable energy.

Kuta

on Sunday, 11 September 2011. Posted in Indonesia

Kuta The best known tourist resort area on the island of Bali in Indonesia. With a long broad Indian Ocean beach-front, Kuta was originally discovered by tourists as a surfing paradise. It has long been a popular stop on the classic backpacking route in South East Asia. Back in the 1980s they used to talk about the three Ks: Katmandu in Nepal, Khao San Road in Bangkok and Kuta. Today Kuta still attracts some hardcore backpackers as well as families and tourists from all over the world, and is most notably a playground for young visitors from Australia. Due to the ever increasing popularity of Bali, Kuta is continually developing, and is not short of unsightly, poorly planned buildings. It can come across at times to be chaotic, overcrowded and congested. However, amongst all the mayhem this place somehow works, and hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy their time in Kuta every year. Infrastructure has come a long way in Kuta, although it is still insufficient for the amount of visitors who stay in the area. Some side alleys still have significant potholes and road rules still don't mean very much. Most roads are constantly busy with motor scooters, metered taxis and private cars. Instead of using signals, locals and the seasoned travellers honk their motor vehicles to signal overtaking or squeezing into a tight spot near you. Oftentimes cars fold in their side mirrors when negotiating narrow single lanes with parked vehicles. Now you can access free wifi in local convenience stores, restaurants, cafes and hotels. There are half a dozen prepaid mobile phone sim cards available everywhere with competitive top up plans. Touts will persistently try to get to buy something from them, whether you're walking on the streets or seated in a restaurant. The five km long sandy stretch of Kuta is arguably the best beach front in Bali. The beach is safe, partially clean, well-maintained, although the beach vendors remain annoying pushing massages, hair braiding, cigarettes and surf boards. The long wide stretch of sand is often full of sunbathers and although most of the serious surfers have moved on to newer pastures, there are still plenty of surf dudes around at most times of the year, and especially so during peak season. As you move north along the beach to first Legian and then Seminyak and Petitenget it becomes progressively quieter and less frenetic. The area of south Kuta closest to the airport is more correctly known as Tuban, but this name is rarely used. Once the sun goes down, Kuta is the rough and ready party zone of Bali, even after the tragic events of 2002. Even the most hardened of party animal will find something to please them on Jalan Legian at night.

 

Legian

on Sunday, 11 September 2011. Posted in Indonesia

 Legian Stretching north from Kuta, Legian offers the same easy access to shops and bars but a slightly more relaxed and less chaotic feeling. It is a low-key area where you can still get the low prices of Kuta without some of the hassle. The northern area of Legian bordering Seminyak offers a bit of an escape from the crowds and is also a popular surf beach. This is a small area fronting the beach which stretches from Jalan Melasti (where Kuta ends), north to Jalan Arjuna (better known as Jalan Double Six) where Seminyak begins. Most of the popular Legian hotels are on or close to the beach. The whole of Legian is no bigger than a few blocks in a large city, but despite its small size, this area has a very high profile with visitors due to the lovely beach frontage, and proliferation of mid-market hotels. The most popular stretch of Legian Beach is at the bottom of Jalan Padma, and is sometimes called Padma Beach. It is more relaxed than Kuta, has a better and less crowded surf break, and is home to many nice vendors selling beers under umbrellas. There is easy parking here for Rp 1,000 per motorbike. There is a long north-south road between the beachfront hotels and the beach, which is only open for authorised vehicles when there is a ceremony being held. Otherwise it is a well paved footpath, and makes for an excellent walking route, allowing users an easy beach-side stroll along to restaurants, bars and nightclubs on Double Six Beach. The main road is Jalan Legian which can get very jammed indeed. All roads to the beach run westwards, more or less perpendicular to Jalan Legian. 

 

Nusa Dua

on Sunday, 11 September 2011. Posted in Indonesia

Nusa Dua is a peninsula in South Bali, well known as an enclave of high end hotels. The place name Nusa Dua can be used in two ways: either it can refer to the entire eastern side of the Bukit Peninsula at the southern tip of Bali, or it can refer to the purpose-built, safe and rather sterile tourist enclave (Kawasan Pariwisata, quite literally Tourism District) at the southeast side of this peninsula. This article covers everything in the Nusa Dua enclave plus the Tanjung Benoa peninsula and a few points west of the enclave to the village of Sawangan. Everything on the Bukit Penisula to the west of Sawangan is covered by the Uluwatu article. As well as a host of luxury hotels, Nusa Dua is home to the most popular golf course in Bali and the main convention centre on the island. Nusa Dua understandably gets a lot of bad press amongst travelers as it is so artificial and sanitised. That does not change the fact though that the beaches here are glorious - white sand, deep, long and safe for swimming. The public beach at Geger is the best to head to if you are not staying at Nusa Dua. This is also home to one of the best museums in Bali. The fact that it is nearly always empty is testament that most visitors who stay here in the least Balinese part of the island are, not unsurprisingly, rather disinterested in learning much about Bali. The Nusa Dua enclave has three manned gates and everyone entering is subject to a security search. This can have a slightly claustrophobic effect, and only contributes further to the impression that you are in an artificial location. 

 

Ubud

on Sunday, 11 September 2011. Posted in Indonesia

Ubud a centre of Bali. It is famous as an arts and crafts hub, and much of the town and nearby villages seems to consist of artists' workshops and galleries. There are some remarkable architectural and other sights to be found, and a general feeling of well being to be enjoyed, all thanks to the spirit, surroundings, and climate of the place. While Ubud seems to outsiders like one small town, it is in fact fourteen villages, each run by its own banjar (village committee). Ubud has grown rapidly, and some central parts are creaking under the strain of coping with the number of visitors. That said, most development is sympathetic to the zeitgeist, if not designed specifically in the local style. Growth continues apace, but there are still terraced rice fields along the rivers, and away from the town centre, regular, quiet village life carries on relatively undisturbed. In many ways, the history of the Ubud area (not so much the modern day town) is the very history of Bali itself. Ubud has a known history back to the eighth century, when the Javanese Buddhist priest Rsi Marhandya came to Bali from Java, and meditated at the confluence of the two Wos rivers at Campuan, just west of the modern day town centre. A shrine was established and later expanded by Nirartha, the Javanese priest who is regarded as the founder of Bali's religious practices and rituals as we know them today. At this time the area was a centre of natural medicine and healing, and that is how the name Ubud originated: Ubad is ancient Balinese for medicine. Further temples and monasteries were established over the next 400 hundred years or so. The temple complex at Gunung Kawi, and the cave temples at Goa Gajah (just east and northeast of Ubud), are architectural remains from this period. Many of the dances, drama and rituals still practised in Ubud today, originated at this time. King Airlangga ruled all of Java and Bali in this era, and his seat of government was located in what is now the village of Batuan, just southeast of Ubud. 

The Javanese Majapahit kingdom conquered Bali in 1343, and the key final victory was against the Pejeng Dynasty centred at Bedulu, just to the east of Ubud. A great flowering of Balinese culture followed, and the ancestry of Ubud's current day aristocratic families can be traced back to this period. In the sixteenth Century, there was a total transplantation of the Majapahit Kingdom to Bali as the Islamisation of Java forced them eastwards. Power flip-flopped between various dynasties and feudal lords, but the Ubud area remained a very important cog in the various regencies which ruled the island. 

Goa Gajah originates from the 9th centuryIn 1900, Ubud became a Dutch protectorate at its own request, and the colonialists interfered little, allowing the traditional arts and culture of the area to remain relatively unchanged. The modern era of Ubud perhaps began in the 1930s, when foreign artists were encouraged by the royal family to take up presence in the town. From their Ubud base, the likes of Walter Spies and Rudolph Bonnet were instrumental in promoting an understanding of Balinese art and culture worldwide. From the 1960s onwards, travellers started to arrive in earnest, mostly intrepid types as the infrastructure was still very limited indeed. Since then, Ubud has developed rapildy into a high profile, top class international destination, whilst still maintaining its integrity as the centre of Balinese art and culture. Orienting yourself in Ubud is fairly straightforward. The town sprawls for several kilometres in all directions, with all of the small villages within a five km radius of the central market being loosely referred to as "Ubud". If you choose a reasonably central place to stay, it is easy enough to get around on foot. Central Ubud has three main streets:  Raya Ubud,  Monkey Forest and  Hanoman. At the intersection of  Raya and  Monkey Forest are Ubud Market, Ubud Palace, and the main bemo stop — unsurprisingly, there's also a near-permanent traffic jam here. Monkey Forest, which runs south through town to the Monkey Forest, is a built-up area, and home to a wide array of accommodation, art galleries, and cafes, as well a number of local services such as schools, a sports field, pharmacies, and travel agents. Jl Hanoman, which runs parallel to Jl Monkey Forest just to the east, is a bit quieter and makes for more pleasant walking. To the immediate west and northwest are the villages of Campuan (Tjampuhan, Campuhan) and Kedewatan, home to some of the most upmarket hotels in the whole of Asia, with views over valleys sculpted by the Ayung and Wos rivers. Directly to the south, past the Monkey Forest and still within a twenty minute walk of the central market, is Padang Tegal which then runs into the southern villages of Nyuh Kuning and Pengosekan, about three km from central Ubud. Directly to the east is the village of Peliatan, and then Teges and Bedulu, home of the ninth century Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave). Due to its elevation at 600 m above sea level, Ubud enjoys cooler temperatures than the coast, and it is sometimes necessary to bring a pullover for the evening. The midday sun can still be scorching though and the humidity often relentless, a murderous combination for temple tramping which, in hilly Ubud, usually requires climbing up and down staircases. (Head out early to beat the heat and the crowds.) If there is a time to avoid, it would be the depths of the wet season in January and February — when it rains in Ubud, it really rains.

* Note: Room prices change constantly. You should check the latest availability as in many cases the room price can be even lower than the listed price on the LastBeds website.