Indonesia Off The Beaten Path Tips by jungles Top 5 Page for this destination
Indonesia Off The Beaten Path: 134 reviews and 135 photos
Fishing boats in Pero
Pero is a one-street fishing village on the west coast of Sumba. The coastal scenery is beautiful here; our favourite beach was a little secluded cove that can be reached by wading across the river, or kids will offer to paddle you over in a boat. There are also some great kampung (traditional villages) within walking distance along the coast; the towering thatched roofs of the houses are impressive. While the people in Pero itself are friendly, the villagers in the kampung are a bit wary of foreigners; you will be made much more welcome if you bring betelnut with you, or at least some cigarettes.
The only place to stay in Pero is Homestay Story, which charges 100,000 rupiah per person for full room and board. The homecooked food was good, but the water tasted awful so try to bring your own bottled water.
Spider rice fields
The view from above is definitely needed to get the whole effect of the so-called spider-rice fields near Ruteng in Flores. Instead of plotting the rice field in squares or rectangles they divided it like a pie. From the hills above it appears like a spider web pattern. Their origin is interesting. Apparently the Manggarai people, who inhabit this region, traditionally built their villages in a circular layout, and the land of each family would radiate out from behind their hut. The terracing required for rice cultivation would intersect these radial dividing lines. So, with the village at the centre no longer there, the rice fields resemble a spider's web.
I believe there are several of these types of fields in the area. I tried to look up the name of the village, and I found mentions of spider rice fields in Cara, Ndaro, Malawatatar, and Cancar.
Houses in Wae Rebo
From Ruteng we hired a local high school student named Stephan to be our guide to Wae Rebo, an extremely remote Manggarai village. We first rode in the back of a large truck for five and a half hours over a very bumpy unpaved road to a village called Denge. The lighter you are, the more you bounce, and when you're sitting on a wooden plank the bouncing can become quite painful after awhile!
After spending a night in Denge, we hiked for a little over three hours uphill through rainforest to get to Wae Rebo. The village is dominated by five communal houses made of thatch in the shape of a bee-hive; together they house the bulk of the 42 families who call Wae Rebo home. The village sits in a valley that is actually an ancient volcanic crater. Surrounded by cloud forest, most of the time it is shrouded in mist. The people there produce coffee, growing it and then pounding and sifting it by hand, then carry it on their backs for the three-hour hike down to the nearest village market to sell, or trade for other goods.
According to the guestbook, we were the 88th and 89th visitors since the first one in 1994, and the villagers told Nick he was the first Australian to have visited Wae Rebo. This place is truly off the beaten path.
Senaru on Lombok is the base from which you can climb to the crater rim of Gunung Rinjani. Perhaps we did not realise before we started the climb how difficult it would be. We started at 600m above sea level at about 9:30am, and seven hours of constant uphill climbing later, we got to the rim, at 2641m. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but, thankfully, one of the most rewarding as well. When we got to the top, we looked down into the crater to see the beautiful lake with another volcano inside it. So we were actually looking down into a volcano which was about 300m below us. To the left we could see the soaring summit of Gunung Rinjani (3726m), the second-highest mountain in Indonesia. It was phenomonal, but the view in the other direction was almost as good. During our climb we had gone through the clouds, and now we could see nothing but a bed of clouds, with the sun setting in the background behind a pyramid-shaped silhouette - Gunung Agung, the highest mountain on Bali.
You don't really have to have a guide with you, though of course the guides themselves will tell you differently. You may want to at least hire a porter though to carry your stuff for you. The trek up can be done in a day, with a night spent camping at the rim, and then walk back down the next day. We did meet a guy who had started out before dawn and managed to walk up and down in a single day, but I would not attempt this unless you are VERY fit.
Sorry, no pictures on hand at the moment; check back in September :)
Burning sarcophagus, Bali
If you find yourself in Bali in August, ask around to find out in which villages mass cremation ceremonies (Ngaben Massal) will be held while you are there. It is an event that only takes place once a year in August in each of the various regions around Bali, and all the people who died in the previous year are cremated. The process at the ceremony we attended went something like this: All the bones of the deceased were placed in a purpose-built pagoda-like tower (bade), which was then carried by dozens of men to a cemetery. The bones were then transferred to a purpose-built sarcophagus in the shape of a lion lembu) - this took about 2 hours as they sarchophagus was not big enought to accommodate all the bones and offerings, so they had to tear it apart a bit and keep stuffing everything in until it finally fit. Then the lion was set on fire and the bones of 153 people and all the offerings placed for the the gods went up in smoke.
Seeing this local festival was one of the great highlights of the trip, the kind of thing we had hoped to see in Kalimantan but didn't. There were only about 20-25 tourists among several thousand locals, so it felt very "real." If you have several options, the more remote the village the better. When we were in Ubud we saw preparations being made for a cremation ceremony there, but they were actually selling tickets to tourists to attend!
The website below has a very detailed description of a cremation ceremony, along with photos. While the one we saw was much larger than the one described, I believe the practices are the same.
The King of Tanjung Pitang
Tanjung Pitang National Park was a different experience from our other jungle trips, and by far the best one. The only access to the park is by river, so instead of trekking up mountains like before, we were able to hire a small boat and crew and cruise up a narrow river for two days with jungle on both sides of us. There is an Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre in the park, so we were able to see plenty more of those wonderful creatures. In addition to seeing them around the feeding stations - including seeing our first "King", or fully-grown male - we also spotted three, and one baby, from our boat while we were meandering up the river. There were also loads of monkeys in the trees on the river's banks, including the endangered proboscis monkey, found only in Borneo. These monkeys are unlike any other creature I've seen; they get their name from their huge noses. It was funny to us that in four days in the Kerinci National Park in Sumatra we saw not a single monkey and in half the time in Tanjung Pitang we saw literally hundreds. Overall, the river trip through the park was possibly the best experience we've had in Indonesia. There aren't too many better things you can do with an afternoon than to sit on a boat deck, spotting rare and endangered primates while floating up a beautiful river.
For more info on the proboscis monkey and the fight for its conservation, please see the link below. You can also sign a petition to be sent to the Malaysian Minister of Tourism and to the Indonesian Minister of Forestry.
Loksado is the largest town in its area but is in fact a tiny, but picturesque, one-street village with both a mosque and a church. Almost as soon as we got there we were invited to a wedding reception, with lots of well-dressed people eating rice with their hands. Within walking distance of Loksado there are two even smaller towns, both with traditional Dayak longhouses. On the way there we found a beautiful little waterfall that we could swim in, which we had to ourselves until some little kids rocked up. We spent the night sleeping in the smaller but more traditional of the two longhouses, in which 24 people live. Wonderful experience, though the floor wasn't that comfy.
Loksado is a good base for trekking as their are many very traditional villages nearby that can be visited. This area does not see much tourism and so the traditional way of life you will see is authentic and not just put on for tourists.
For more information on longhouses, please see the link below.
Sandung in Kalimantan
Tambung Malahoi is a tiny traditional village - the most beautiful little town I have seen in Indonesia - with a fantastic 50-metre longhouse in which the majority of the villagers live together. The village also has other traditional architectural features such as isandungs which are mausoleums built high on stilts in the form of miniature houses. The people here are very friendly, and life in the village centres aroud the river which runs through it, where the children play and the grownups bathe and wash their clothes.
For more info on sandungs and on our journey to Tambung Malahoi, please see my Kalimantan page.
Floating market in Banjarmasin
The major highlight of Banjarmasin is its floating market. Unlike other 'floating markets' that have turned into souvenir markets for tourists, such as the ones near Bangkok in Thailand or on Inle Lake in Burma, this one is still authentic. To get there, we had to wake up before 6am and go down to the river to hire someone to take us to the market, half-an-hour away by small boat. About 40 canoes make up the market: they're filled with people who paddle there from miles away with
their fruits, spices and anything else they can sell, jostling for position with everyone else. And so for a few hours they just trade away with each other from their boats. It's great that something like that still goes on the way it has for centuries. And it was very photogenic at dawn
This market-seller is proud of his chickens
Many people dismiss the Riau Islands as tourist resorts for golfers and rich Singaporeans, but there are more than 1000 islands that make up the chain, and only four resorts. Bintan Island is much more authentic than nearby Batam Island, and Tanjung Pinang was as Indonesian as any city we've been to in the archipelago. It has a great covered market and a large area near the harbour that is completely built on stilts rising out of the water - very picturesque. We hired a boat to take us across the bay to a little village called Senggarang, also mostly built on stilts, where we saw two interesting Chinese temples. One of them had huge statues of Buddha and the like surrounded by manmade waterfalls, etc. It looked a little bit like a theme park to be honest. The other one was much smaller but had been completely taken over by a huge banyan tree, the whole building being tangled up in its overgrown roots.
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