Six days, eighteen hotels and four islands – busy by even my standard!
Dragging my 15 year old some for some quality time with his mother – we flew with Singapore Airlines direct to Denpasar. Changing in Singapore is a pleasure – Changi Airport makes it very easy with less than an hour on the ground.
We started in “Ubud” known as the cultural village of the island. I say village because when I first visited it 30 years ago –it was just that – with guest houses, the odd art gallery, a bit of shopping, batik factories and the monkey forest. It is now more of an “area” spreading across many miles but still with an enormous amount of charm. The “guest houses” have become “boutique hotels”, the art galleries are plentiful with a wide and varied content, you could spend 24 hours shopping non- stop but the monkeys are still there.
Getting around Bali is much easier now – instead of single track windy/bumpy roads – there are dual carriage ways at the coast which makes accessibility in a short time possible. We were also able to enjoy some of the activities which are laid on in that region – a bike ride around various villages, elephant riding and white water rafting. All very professionally organised and laid on. We did not have time for a game of golf but that too is possible. The hotels which we use all have huge charm – mostly they are resting on the side of the ravines with stunning views – and none more than 30 rooms. We visited some within walking distance of Ubud and some a little distance away making them more private – however all of then run shuttle buses into town – there are plenty of reasonable restaurants in Ubud where you can dine.
The west of the island is well worth a visit – the beaches are volcanic but the diving is popular – in particular on the wreck.
Lombok & the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands have “appeared” since I first visited Indonesia – of course they were there all the time – a string of small flat islands surrounding most of Lombok. However, tourism has cottoned onto the fact that the diving around these islands is ideal and the three which are most well- known, lie just off the north west coast of Lombok. On the whole – the accommodation is pretty simple but the Sunset Beach is the hotel that World Odyssey would recommend and probably no more than a stay of 3 or 4 nights.
Lombok – contrary to most people’s ideas – is of a similar size to Bali – however – the most part is far less commercialised. Most popular hotels lie on the west coast (the side closest to Bali) and the island can be reached either by Fast Cat from Bali (a couple of hours) – which goes into the north – convenient for hotels such as the Oberoi or the Tugu – both well placed for golfers or you can fly into Mataram airport which is in the south of the island and more convenient for those hotels – on the whole, we found that the further south you went – the busier the island got. There is plenty of the island to explore of course and for the adventurous (not us as we didn’t have time) a climb into the volcanic crater of Mt Rinjani can be arranged.
The two islands of Flores & Komodo lie towards the eastern end of the string of islands known as the Spice Islands – of which Bali is one at the other end. Flores is a large island however charmingly unspoiled and it reminded me more of Bali 30 years ago! Labuan Bajo – its capital city/village – was populated by many travellers – most of whom were there for the excellent diving. Accommodation is not deluxe by any standard but the better hotels are perfectly comfortable and it is an excellent point from which to visit the national park of Komodo and Rinca. We had a long day trip to these islands which are homes to wild boar, deer, birds etc but most famously, the Komodo Dragons! We were able to see several of these and they did not disappoint – although not “fire-breathing”! It was a long day trip by boat from Flores but well worth it. Flores is in the process of building a new “international” airport which will no doubt change the feel of the place however it won’t chase the excellent diving or the dragons away!
With it’s 19,000 islands – Indonesia has so much to offer. I have now visited the country three times over three decades and each time I have explored a different set of islands or aspect of the country. Whether you are interested in culture, tribes, wildlife (orang-utans, proboscis monkeys or komodo dragons), beaches or diving – it can make an excellent holiday for individuals, adults, families, deluxe or more simple.