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Indonesia

A guide to its main attractions
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Selected by piero scaruffi | Back to the travel page | Suggestions
My pictures of Indonesia
This page provides a list of the main things to see in Indonesia. "++" identifies the top attractions.
  • Java: Jakarta (skyscrapers), ++Borobudur, +Yogyakarta (ancient capital), Prambanan (Hindu temples), Mt Bromo
  • Sumatra: Taman (tigers), Bukittinggi, +Nias (villages), Lake Toba, Medan (mosque), Banda Aceh (mosque), +Palembang (monoliths)
  • Kalimantan: +Banjamarsin (the Venice of Asia), Tanjung Puting (orangutang), Sungai Mahakam (Dayak people), Pegunungan Meratus (jungle treks)
  • Bali: Mt Kawi (shrines), Pura Besakih (Hindu temples)
  • Lombok: Volcano
  • Komodo: Komodo park (dragons)
  • Sulawesi: Tana Toraja (villages), Pulau Bunaken (marine wildlife)
  • Papua: Bay of Jayapura, Abepura, Etrop, Cenderawasin Bay Park (marine wildlife), +Baliem Valley (Stone Age villages), Raja Ampat (1500 islands)

  • Dry season: May - October
    Rain season in Java: November to March, especially January and February
    Papua: best is September to March
    Notes (2023):
  • $1 =15,000 IDR.
  • There are several national airlines. Lion Air has the worst reputation but it was on time when we took it. Citilink, Batik and Garuda are the other ones with better reputation.
  • Borobudur. Taxi from Yogyakarta straight to Borobudur costs $21. Buses depart from the Jombor Bus terminal in Yogyakarta. The bus terminal can be reached either by taxi or by taking the Trans-Jogja buses 2A or 2B from central Yogyakarta. The bus to Borobudur takes 60-90 minutes and costs around 25,000 rupiah. Getting there is actually the easy part. Like in most parts of the world, bullshit has skyrocketed at Borobudur. First of all, avoid Mondays. Second, note that foreigners can use a separate entrance. There are tickets for just walking around the temple and tickets for actually climbing the temple (IDR 375.000 and IDR 455.000, but not on mondays). The catch is that, even if you are willing to buy the expensive ticket, you are forced to follow a guide (although at the top things get so confused that you can easily "escape"). To give you an idea, on my first visit to Borobudur, I spent about 6 hours on the terraces alone. If you buy the ticket to the top, you must use special sandals (included in the price). The guide is a mixed blessing. The guides are there to make sure that you follow them and their knowledge is often limited (just ask any in-depth question and you’ll see that they are not even Buddhists). If you only want the cheap ticket to walk around, you can buy it on the spot when you arrive. If you want the expensive ticket to climb the temple, you should book it online because there are quotas (150 people per hour). There are 8 time slots, starting from 8.30 till 15.30. The climbing tickets come with different names (eg. Kalyamitra and Dharma) and no explanation. Same price. The temple opens at 7:30. There are many Yogyakarta travel agencies that sell tickets and many websites. The more or less official website seems to be https://ticketcandi.borobudurpark.com The ticket for Prambanan is IDR 375.000. The combined ticket Borobudur-Prambanan is IDR 580.000 but it doesn’t show up on the websites. If you want the combined ticket AND the climbing option, it’s an additional 80,000 IDR. But again this option is not available when you buy the ticket online. If you pay at the temple, the ticket window only accepts cash IDR. No dollars/euros, no credit cards. There are many guesthouses walking distance from the entrance (about $30 for a single room with private bathroom). The atmosphere is ruined not only by the commercial activities outside the temple but also (especially) by the Muslim muezzins who shout their love to Allah at ungodly hours.
  • Banjarmasin. The taxi from the airport to town costs 155,000 ($11). Returning is tricky as taxis are hard to find and hotels charge double. A one-hour boat tour costs 250,000 IDR each person. Little is left of the floating market at Lokbaintan. It used to start at 5:30am. Now the tourist boats (350,000 IDR) get there way past sunrise. Either the authorities decided that tourist boats can only get there after the floating market has largely dispersed or the floating market itself doesn't exist anymore. A few boats approach the tourist selling mostly souvenirs. You'll see more tourists than natives on your floating-market tour. Nonetheless the tour is worth it because it's a chance to see the houses along the river that are still built on stilt (those are quickly disappearing too). The Swiss-Belhotel ($50 for a single room with private bathroom) is popular because it offers a free floating-market tour. The other floating market, at Muara Kuin on the Barito River, is de facto extinct. The other attractions in town are: Pulau Kembang (flower island, known to tourists as “Monkey Island”, about 1.5 km from downtown) with famous monkeys; Soejji Nurani temple; the promenade along the Martapura river (start from the grand mosque, i.e. Masjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin of 1981, cross the bridge, turn right down to the monkey statue Patung Bekantan and the observation tower and continue to the Swiss-Belhotel bridge). There are still some old quarters with houses on stilt that are connected by boardwalks, but the homes are mostly abandoned and the boardwalks are collapsing. It's easier to some of these quarters outside the center. If you crave western food, Duti Mall has everything.
    Notes (2011):
    • Indonesian transportation is flexible (from the ojek motorcycle taxi to the bemo minibus), frequent and cheap enough that it is easy to improvise (eg you can take a bemo and get off if it's too slow and jump on a ojek)
    • Indonesia is served by a handful of domestic airlines that have (cheap) flights just about everywhere but beware that flights are always late and often canceled away from Java.
    • $1=8300 rupees
    • Visa at Jakarta airport: $25
    • Bus from airport to Gambir station 20,000 rupees
    • Tuk tuk to Jalan Jaksa in Jakarta 15,000
    • Guesthouse in Jakarta (Memories Hostel) on Jalan Jaksa 80,000 ($9)
    • Average dinner: $3
    • Airport tax is never included in the air ticket. Eg, the tax for the Jakarta domestic airport is 40,000 and for international is 150,000
    • The Jayapura airport is actually in Sentani: two/three hours by bemo, one hour by ojek. A ojek from Jayapura to Sentani costs 150,000 rupias. Halfway is Abepura, that has a Hotel 777 near the university campus. No tourist info, not even a map of the city or the region.
    • Hotels in Jayapura (Papua) from 200,000 and up. Ayu and Senderhana tend to be always full, Kartini is a bit out of town, the Jayapura in front of Permata and Mario Marranu near Kartini are the cheapest (and also the filthiest). Midrange hotels include the Ambel behind Ayu, the Yasmin very visible when you arrive in town, and not far from it Defonsoro (friendliest)
    • To travel anywhere you must get the surat jalan (travel permit to the interior) from the police station near the Hotel Moata (20,000 rupias). When you arrive at your destination, you must present your travel permit to the police station even if nobody tells you to do so.
    • There are daily flights from Jayapura to Wamena for about #170 roundtrip
    • Wamena: Hotel Aggrek 320,000. It's difficult to spend less than 200,000 here. The villages charge 150,000 rupias per night for "home accommodation". Guides ask for 500,000 rupias a day.
    • Guide in Wamena (Papua): martinus.kepno@yahoo.com
    • Don't believe your tourbook: most "unspoiled" beaches in Indonesia are crowded and polluted, and many are plain invisible because of the row of ugly concrete buildings that block the view from the street.
    • "I am vegetarian = saya tida makan daging"