I’ve said it before (OK, I’ve said it a lot), but one of my favorite things to do on this trip is to rent a motorbike and get lost in a new location. I’ve seen some of my best sights that way, and my expectations of what I’m going to see are always proven wrong.
In Ubud, Bali I went to a shop to rent a motorbike and was presented with two options, one regular bike and one “fancy” one. I automatically went for the cheaper one, but as the merchant was getting my paperwork ready, and after staring ever more longingly at the nicer one, I decided screw it, let’s get classy. The bike was too charming to resist so I stopped trying, paid the extra 10,000 rupiah (about $1), and took it out for an adventure.
I visited Nusa Lembongan, a small island off the coast of Bali, for 5 days when I was in Indonesia.
I had heard it was nice but didn’t really know much about it. I was looking for better coastline than I’d found in Bali which, for all its fame, has surprisingly disappointing beaches. What I found was a laid-back, low key, surfing spot whose local culture and religion was prioritized over tourism. An island with the worst roads of any place I’ve been so far, yet nary a motorbike helmet in sight, some of the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere, and gorgeous hidden viewpoints that I would feel like I was the first person to discover.
I visited Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia mainly to watch a sunrise from the top of a volcano, but I stayed because of the beautiful people and delicious culture.
My Couchsurfing host Elisa took me to this late night (“second supper”) fried rice joint. “You’re probably the only white person who’s ever come here,” she said, “that’s probably why they gave us such big portions.”
I didn’t really want to go. A carnival celebrating a traditional cloth didn’t sound that exciting and after a week in Yogyakarta I was itching to move on to my next Indonesian destination. Growing up in cultural California I had been to my fair share of heritage celebrations and I’ve found that they tended to be similar affairs - school and community groups dancing and displaying costumes. Nice enough, but not something I’d classify as a can’t-miss.
Especially because this carnival was a few hours out of town and it was one of the few times when I had an opportunity to climb Mt. Merapi, I wasn’t really sold on it. Luckily I had a very charming Couchsurfing host who peer pressured me into going with her and some friends.
What a good effing call.
from my 60-year old Aussie Couchsurfing host in Bali:
The time she smoked powerful locally-grown pot with some local guys in a remote Indian settlement, proceeded to pass out on a rock ledge in a Hindu temple cave, then woke up in the morning covered in flowers, money and sweets after being mistaken for a visiting Goddess by the local women.
I loved staying with this woman. She was a rockstar with a million stories and incredible energy.
There are a lot of things that made my time in Bali unique, but one aspect in particular struck me about my experience there.
Borobudur is Indonesia’s most-visited attraction. It’s a 9th-century Buddhist temple (rare in this Muslim country) that was buried by a volcano hundreds of years ago and has since been painstakingly restored. I went at sunrise to avoid most of the school groups that would start arriving later. The structure and surrounding landscapes were just beautiful…
Dan, my climbing buddy for the crazy volcano sunrise hike, wrote an article about the experience for the Jakarta Expat newspaper. He used a bunch of my pictures and it has a lot of practical info if volcano hiking is something you’re interested in. Check it out! (if you know me in real life, you’ll appreciate the title)
One morning in Sanur, Bali I met a fellow traveler who had just come from Yogyakarta in central Java. She spoke very highly of the experience and its culture, but in particular the sunrise hike of a nearby volcano. 6 hours later, I had bought a plane ticket. I would be there in 60 hours.