So, maybe you’ve been to Bali on holiday or gone to Jakarta for work.
But, unless you ditched the crowds and got off the beaten path, did you really explore them?
If the answer is “no” or (gasp!) you haven’t yet visited Indonesia, it’s time to get on that. And, the following 5 awe-inspiring travel destinations should be high on your list.
The easiest, most affordable way to get there? Oh, that’s simple: AirAsia. From 3 to 9 December, 2018, it’s offering an amazing fare sale for its BIG Members – all-in fares from $69. (Note: Travel period extends 3 December, 2018, till 5 May, 2019.)
Sure, Bali has some of the world’s most famous beaches – being featured in more than a few films, from Hollywood blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love to surfer-flick sequel Endless Summer II. But, this nearby island offers way more to do than just wiggling your toes in the sand.
Take Ubud, for example. This inland town is set amongst verdant hills and rice terraces – making it an excellent place to go on a hike. Lace up your shoes, and head to the Campuhan Ridge, site of two ancient river valleys; try the Jalan Subak Sok Wayah walk, surrounded by rice fields; or trek Mount Batur, whose volcano and caldera are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Alternatively, you can work up a sweat while getting totally soaked with a fun, white-water rafting adventure along the Ayung River. Another idea: Bypass Ubud for mountain resort area Bedugul, where you can snap your own Instagram-worthy photo of the stunning Pura Ulun Danu Beratan temple (shown).
Can’t tear yourself away from the coast? Canggu Beach is one of Bali’s most scenic (and – word on the street – less crowded than neighbouring Seminak these days). At family-friendly Canggu Club, turn the kids lose at its waterpark, trampoline park and more, or chillax over a meal and drinks at La Laguna’s “gypsy inspired” beach club.
And, if you’re going to be at the beach in Bali, you might as well hop on a surfboard. Never done it? No worries! Enroll for a beginner’s lesson at one of Canggu’s multiple surf schools.
Flight duration from SG to Bali: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Yogyakarta – a.k.a., Jogja – is the cultural heart of Java. Its many galleries and art spaces as well as an annual Art Jog art fair make it a must-see for art lovers.
However, one of Jogja’s most visually arresting attractions is an hour’s drive outside the city: the Borobudur Buddhist sanctuary (shown), a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A marvel of the ancient world, it is the world’s largest Buddhist monument, wrapping itself on a 118-square-metre area up and around a hill. (Fun fact: Borobudur was buried under layers of volcanic ash until Sir Stamford Raffles, then governor of Java – before he “founded” Singapore – gave the order for it to be cleared in 1815.) This mystical site is best experienced at sunrise or sunset.
More of a free bird than a culture vulture? There’s plenty of outdoorsy escapades on offer just outside Jogja. Do a daytrip to the Pengger pine forest, and snap selfies on the iconic Giant Hands overlooking vast countryside and cities below, or book an adrenaline-pumping Merapi Lava tour in an old-school Jeep. Hold on tight!
Another one-of-a-kind experience: Take a 3-hour road trip to Timang Beach, where you can ride the sketchy-looking-but-apparently-safe Gondola (shown) over the Indian Ocean to Pulau Timang, a rocky point about 100 metres away. Built in the 1990s, it’s used by fisherman to catch lobsters around the small island.
Flight duration from SG to Yogyakarta: 2 hours, 20 minutes
As Southeast Asia’s most populous city, you can be sure there’s lots going on in Jakarta. The problem is, how do you get out of traffic and get into the swing of things? One suggestion: Go up, up, up – to its sky-high entertainment sites.
Henshin at The Westin Jakarta is the city’s highest resto-bar. Dine on its award-winning Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine at 67,270 metres above sea level. The views of Jakarta’s skyline are unparalleled. In the posh Menteng district, sip bespoke cocktails while enjoying 360-degree vistas at The Hermitage’s La Vue Rooftop Bar.
The next morning, treat yourself to a cup (or two) of one of Indonesia’s biggest exports: coffee. Tip: Giyanti Coffee Roastery (not shown) claims to make the best apple pie in town!
Looking for a break from the hustle and bustle? Don’t leave Jakarta without spending a day on the stunning Kepulauan Seribu, or Thousand Islands, a chain of islands a one- to three-hour boat ride away from Jakarta (the time difference accounts for whether you charter a private boat or take the ferry). What to do there: diving, canoeing, water skiing, bicycling and more – the gear is available for rent, depending on which island you dock.
Over land, you can drive two hours from Jakarta to the town of Sukabumi. There, work up an appetite white-water rafting or tubing down the river Citatih, then dig into some of the freshest, homegrown produce around at Portibi Farm.
Flight duration from SG to Jakarta: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Calling all coffee junkies: It’s worth the effort to hunt down Margo Redjo, a legendary coffee roaster that bears no signage, tucked away in Semarang’s Chinatown. If you find the right unassuming Dutch colonial country house, buy yourself some of the best beans in the world, and – if you’re lucky – enjoy a coffee tasting. Tip: While you’re in Chinatown, try the famed Lumpia Semarang spring rolls.
Elsewhere in the city, sample Indonesia’s iconic street food, and check out its many trendy cafes including Spiegel Bar and Bistro or Teko Deko Koffiehuis. The capital of Central Java Province, Semarang has plenty of historical monuments commemorating its vibrant past to discover, too.
Infinity pools are cool (#amiright). Well, the infinity pool at Umbul Sidomukti Resort in Semarang takes it to the next level: Filled with spring water, it’s said to have therapeutic properties. Also from the resort, which sits atop Mount Ungaran, you can zip line above the Bandungan valley from the resort. Weeee!
Want to get out of town? Trek the Dieng Plateau, which has natural hot springs, a majestically multi-hued lake (shown) and an array of 9th-century Hindu temples; or take a boat ride along Lake Rawa Pening, which means “clear swap” and has been around since 18,000 and 13,500 B.C. Rent a car or hire a driver to take you there.
Another suggestion: Splurge on a stay at luxury resort MesaStila, a former coffee plantation that is centrally located between Semarang, Yogyakarta and Solo airports.
Flight duration from SG to Semarang: 2 hours
Dubbed the “Paris of Java” by the Dutch, this capital of West Java Province has been designated a UNESCO Creative City of Design. Today, it boasts both colonial charm and a thriving cultural scene. Bonus: It’s also factory outlet shopping central for label lovers!
By day, explore the recently revitalised Bandung Chinatown, which is near the city’s oldest and largest Chinese temple, the Satya Budhi Temple, built in 1896. By night, rooftop bars and restaurants such as The Valley Resort Hotel or Maja House offer dinner and drinks plus a killer view and great atmosphere.
Sightseeing spots are aplenty, too, including the dormant volcano Tangkuban Perahu and Kawah Putih, or White Crater, a mysterious-looking lake at 2,430 metres above sea level (shown).
If you’re bringing the fam with, you’ll want to plan some wholesome fun. How’s about exploring the hidden canyon of the Cikahuripan River, flanked by dramatic fossilised cliffs.
Or, just turn nature into your playground, and glamp it up at rustic destinations like Dusun Bambu Family Leisure Park (shown), The Lodge Maribaya or Grafika Wisata Cikole, which has a bird park on site, BTW.
Flight duration from SG to Bandung: 1 hour, 55 minutes
By Sara Lyle Bow / Some text adapted from The Straits Times and Cosmopolitan Singapore (no longer in publication), 3 December 2018
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