Indonesia

Sunset over a volcano in Gili Trawangan
Sunset over the volcano, Gili Trawangan
My final blog post from my 10 months of travelling is here!! It's taken me a while, but I finally got round to uploading my highlights from 3 wonderful weeks in Indonesia. I can't quite believe it's all over, and being back in England is certainly a shock to the system. However I am loving catching up with family and friends.

Relaxing on the beach in Seminyak
Indonesia was the last stop on my travels and it did not disappoint: the culture is so interesting and unique; the people so friendly and hospitable; the landscape breath-taking and unpredictable... I spent all my time in awe, with a big smile on my face. The only regret I have is that I didn't spend longer there! 

One of my favourite places I visited was Bali. Although it is a popular holiday destination for a lot of Australians, it manages to keep its paradisal charm. We visited Seminyak - where we took surf lessons, lounged on the beach, and watched awesome sunsets.

I loved the oriental architecture in Ubud

However my favourite place in Bali was without a doubt Ubud. The centre is quite built up with hotels, restaurants and bars, so staying just a little further out from the hustle and bustle means you get to experience its kitschy charm.

The relaxing oasis: Yoga Barn
I spent most of my time at the zen Yoga Barn. At first I was unsure if it was a little pretentious and posey, due to its overpriced yoga shop, expensive yoga sessions, and large class sizes. And although I can't deny that the morning Vinyasa flow class (which packed in a crowded 80 people!) was the largest I've ever been to, the personable, spiritual elements of the class were not lost; in fact it felt as if everyone was connected in their shared practice.

It's worth investing in one of the card packages here; they vary from 3-class cards to 1 month unlimited cards, so there's something for everyone. They also have a heavenly Kafe which offers everything from organic vegetarian dishes and herbal teas, to wheatgrass shots and raw vegan desserts.
Pumpkin and Tempe curry
I had the delicious pumpkin and Tempe curry with organic red rice. The menu was a little expensive for smoothies in particular, which you can get much cheaper elsewhere.

Of course, in a place like Ubud you can expect to find  an abundance of vegetarian and vegan cafes. I found that many of them were reasonably priced, offering meat-free takes on authentic Indonesian dishes. Gado- Gado, Nasi Campur and Vegetable curry were my favourites.

Gado-Gado

Nasi Campur
One thing I noticed about eating out in Indonesia was that every restaurant gave you a slightly different variation of a dish - at least it keeps it exciting!. Gado-Gado sometimes came with the vegetables steamed and rolled on the side, sometimes it was just rice and a peanut sauce! While the selection of fresh vegetables in Nasi Campur was always different.

As soon as you get out of the bustling centre of Ubud, the  scenery dramatically changes. The countless taxis and concrete buildings transform in to amazing rice terraces, open roads and green forestry. 

Rice Terraces of Ubud
A great way to experience this wonderful countryside is to do a cycling tour: there are so many on offer around Ubud. I don't usually like to take tours; exploring different places without a tour-group and getting lost is part of the fun of travelling! However, after many other travellers' recommendations, we chose to do the Bali Eco cycling tour on our final day in Ubud. 

The tour starts with breakfast overlooking the  picturesque Mt Batur

I'm so glad we did! The 25km bike ride is mostly downhill (so not too strenuous), and we were greeted with friendly, smiling children shouting greetings and offering high-fives as we cycled through their villages.

The local guide on our tour was great: he taught us all about Balinese culture, the layout and customs of Balinese homes, traditional birth and death rituals, and the reasons behind the tiny little offerings that pepper every street in Bali. I left the tour feeling like I had gained a much better understanding of Balinese culture.


Me, ready to begin the cycle!
In the middle of our trip to Indonesia, we spent some time on Gili Trawangan: the infamous party island. However, we went during Ramadan which meant that all the bars closed earlier than usual, and so it was much more peaceful and paradisaical than normal.

I spent my mornings practising yoga at the awesome The Yoga Place (which I cannot recommend enough!), and my afternoons snorkelling or reading on the beach. The evenings were filled with watching the sunset on the beach and eating at the delicious restaurants that the island offers. 
Awesome sunset on Gili T
This brings me to my final and most favourite part of travelling through Indonesia. We spent some time in Labuan Bajo, Flores, where we spent two sun-soaked days diving and visiting Komodo dragons.

Now, don't get me wrong, the port of Labuan Bajo itself isn't much to write home about: it's a dusty, bare town with rudimentary accommodation.  However, despite the mosque's early morning call to prayer and the 5am natural alarm clock -courtesy of a reliable rooster- it was without a doubt one of the highlights of my trip

Calm water and clear skies around the Komodo islands

The best activity definitely goes on underwater in this part of Indonesia. We were lucky enough to experience some incredible dive  sites filled with an exciting variety of sea-life. 

We did a total of 10 dives whilst travelling South East Asia, and my favourite two dive sites of the whole trip were both in the Komodo islands. The visibility is awesome: you can see up to around 25m, and the variety of fish is incredible. Whilst the Komodo islands are notorious for their strong currents, we didn't experience any unpleasant underwater pulls on our dives. 
Vibrant coral reefs
Batu Balong has everything: an incredibly colourful sloping coral reef that reaches 30m+ deep, and incredibly varied marine life, such as turtles, white tip reef sharks, lion fish, cuttlefish, pufferfish, clownfish, and so many more! It was like being in a natural aquarium. 

(Unfortunately I don't have any photos from this dive, but here are a few others)


Another of my favourite dive sites was Sebayur, purely because we were lucky enough to see 4 manta rays on our dive. They have huge bodies, yet move so graciously. 

The ones that visited us seemed to be curious about divers, as they enjoyed having a nosey at us whilst swimming over our heads. There really was no experience like it!
Turtles were a common site in the Komodo islands!
One afternoon, after two awesome dives, we tied in a trip to the Komodo island: Rinca. 

Unfortunately it's currently mating season, so most of the Komodo dragons were hidden away. However, we were lucky enough to see a baby dragon scurrying through the reeds up a sun-drenched hill, and a mother dragon, snoozing under the shade of a tree. You've got to do it while you're there, but it was quite expensive and I much preferred the diving part of the day.

Up, close and personal with a komodo dragon!
There are so many other wonderfully authentic and undiscovered islands in Indonesia that I'd love to visit, but sadly I didn't have enough time (or money) this trip . One day though, I'll be back!
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