Many things went wrong on the last part of my trip, in Indonesia. Many things also went right and now when I think of Indonesia I see it as a very appropriate ending for my trip, and it somehow tied the journey together.
I flew to Java where I was planned to meet my good friend from Finland who had been there volunteering. Before the weekend I spent a few days in Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java. It didn’t start that great: my hostel was in a small alley and my taxi driver didn’t really know where so he just dropped me ”somewhere close”. It was raining really bad and I had no idea where I was. By asking lots of people on every street corner I finally made it with the help of some lovely people who decided to walk me there, barefoot in the rain. Personally, I didn’t really like Yogya at all, maybe this would have been different with someone else but alone it was a somewhat tricky place to be in. Also, since it was the low season there were no travellers at all really (I saw maybe 20) so it felt a little lonely. I did do a bike tour to the countryside which I really enjoyed, and we got to see different ways of making a living in the small villages and for examply some wedding preparations. It’s hard to comprehend how many people actually live in Java, the biggest island in Indonesia. Most people only know Bali when they think of Indonesia, and they truly are like different countries.
I took a train to Surabaya, another huge Indonesian city, after booking the ticket from a ticket machine that was completely in Indonesian (so I really only hoped that it would make it there). I arrived late in the evening and thought that I had figured my way to the hotel with numerous screenshots from Google Maps but no, my (lack of) sense of direction failed me once again. Again, helped by some young people I spotted standing in front of a grocery store, one of them offered to drive me there with his motorbike. So there I was, without really any better idea, me and my 10 kilo backpack on another late night adventure and I really owe my sleeping that night to those people.
I met with my friend and her Indonesian friends and we were planning to go to Mount Bromo, the most famous volcano on Java. I’ll just say one thing: don’t go to Bromo on the monsoon season. Just so you don’t risk it. I’ll let these pictures tell the main story.
But it had it’s moments. Jamming EIGHT (8) people into a FOUR (4) person jeep (yes it was just as bad as it sounds) in the middle of the night and driving up to the mountain where it was absolutely freeeezing. Waiting and waiting for a sunrise that well, never came. It also included a flood that almost got our jeep stuck to the mud, spooning on a cold bench with my friend, surrounded by Chinese tourists and being the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. Wouldn’t change it but certainly would go there next time only if the weather forecast is absolutely perfect and it’s not the monsoon season. I was just happy to see my friend for the first time in months and also got to see a little bit of how life is for young Indonesians.
But my little Bromo adventure had its consequences. I had had great plans for Bali, I’d stay in different towns, get some beach holiday as well, do hikes and go diving. Well, after arriving in Ubud the next day I realised I was already pretty sick and had a rising fever, which ended up keeping me in bed for three days while I tried to get out even a little bit to explore Ubud. Ubud divides people, some people love it and some think it’s too crowded and busy. I really liked it and it really was what I needed at that time. I had been in Java for a while so I was happy to see some tourists and especially when I got sick to get some medicine that I knew. Ubud is packed with all things that have to do with yoga, wellness and vegetarian food. Some ridicilously good cafes/restaurants like Kafe, Watercress, The Alchemy and Three Monkeys but also some cheaper Indonesian food sold in local street restaurants, warungs. Like my personal favorite dish, Gado Gado which consists of vegetables covered in this heavenly peanut sauce with rice and usually an egg in some form. Ubud is also great to just do some walking on your own and I spent some lovely evenings walking between the rice paddies.
After getting rid of the terrible over 39 degree fever and feeling probably the worst I ever have in my entire life, I thought: I know I won’t be able to much more than to lay down somewhere but why couldn’t I just as well lie on a beach than in this room. So I booked a boat to Gili Air, the medium sized one of the three Gili Islands between Bali and Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the most crowded of them and I hadn’t heard much good of it, and Gili Meno is really really quiet, with lots of honeymoon people on it so I thought Air would be good. And it was more than good. Any of the Gilis don’t have any motorised transport, just bikes and horses, so it was really quiet. The island is so small that you can walk around it in an hour and a half which I often did. That was almost the only thing I did really, other than laid on the beach. Watching the breathtaking sunsets became pretty much my only scheduled activity for every day and oh wow they didn’t disappoint. Gilis are famous for their sunsets and definitely for a reason.
I had been planning to dive but I was still way too sick so I just decided to rent a snorkel from a beach bar and just snorkle on this beach which is famous for its sea turtles. I don’t know if it was the low season or what, but there were only maybe two other people snorkling both times I went. The corals were decent and there were loads of pretty fish so I was pretty happy already and wasn’t expecting to see any turtles. But then, out of nowhere this huge seaturtle appeared below me, munching on some coral. Easily lots over one meter long it was such a surreal sight and it really wasn’t afraid of me at all. It was one of those moments where you naturally just want to shout to someone that hey hey look here you cannot believe this but the best part was that there was no one around. So me and the turtle swam for maybe 45 minutes before it disappeared into the blue. I came back the next day and then saw two and it was almost as great, if you didn’t count the burning jellyfish that had surfaced from the bottom because of the wind. The people I rented the snorkle from said I got very lucky, especially seeing so big ones and twice. The turtles became one of my highlights of the whole trip, it just felt so absurd to actually swim with them, not in an aquarium, but just observing and to notice that they didn’t fear at all.
My time in Gili Air ended up lasting longer than had I planned because I just loved the doing nothing -atmosphere so much, and it truly felt like ”holiday” for the first time. I liked Ubud so much I went back and I wanted to do another hike to Mount Batur, Bali’s volcano, and see the sunrise there. I should just leave volcanos and sunrises really, because my luck wasn’t that much better this time. It was so ironic that when we reached the top (after a truly exhausting two hour hike, the landscape is absolutely insane and at many points there isn’t a track, just steep and sharp stones) I couldn’t help but to start laughing. At least it cleared out a bit, and the monkeys from the crater came up to look for some food from the hikers. Excercise-wise it was really good and a really challenging climb to do, but let’s just say I think I’ll leave volcanos for a while now. Suns just didn’t rise for me in Indonesia.
For the last two nights I went to Uluwatu, or more precisely to Bingin Beach. I had decided I wanted a nice place to stay in for my last nights and I found this truly extraordinary place called the Inn Possible. It’s a hotel built on the bottom of the cliff, over 100 steps down to the beach and only accesible by foo, surrounded by the sea and changing tides (getting up at high tide became a challenge because of the high crashing waves). My taxi pulled over in front of a grocery store and one of the guys from the hotel came up to help with my bag. After some small alleys, backyards and what felt like an endless amount of steps down I came to one of the most insane places I’ve ever seen. The endless sea is absolutely mesmerising and staring at it became my main activity.
People have such mixed opinions about Bali but I think it really depends on where you go, at what time of the year and what you’re expecting. Bali is a big island but you should really do research on where you should go. Most people that I heard complain had mainly been on the very crowded spots like Kuta and Sanur, but with a bit of digging I think you can still see some of the old Bali in Bali, with the small temples everywhere and offerings to the gods on every streetcorner. I was really fascinated by its characteristic religion or a mix of them and how it still is present in people’s lives. Bali is a place where I definitely want to return to because I saw almost nothing, but I’d do it with someone who drives a motorbike because that seemed to be the necessity there since there’s not public transport and the taxis are expensive. But yeah, sure, if you really want to go where there aren’t any tourists then Bali maybe isn’t for you, Java could be a good option. But overall I think Bali’s not that black and white, like you either hate it or love it, as people think. Also, the people not only in Bali but in Java too were some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. Everyone’s so ready to help you whether it’s getting you to see a doctor or directing you to the nicest beach it’s very overwhelming.
My three weeks in Indonesia certainly weren’t a smooth ride but I thought it was very accurate since neither was my trip and I couldn’t be happier about it. Indonesia tested me in a lot of ways, especially by giving me the worst flu of my life that I suffered from even in Finland. It also gave me a nice tan, most beautiful sunsets, some of the best (and cheapest, like 1 € for lunch) food, friendliest people and a really diverse cultural experience, where old had mixed with new, religions mixed with each other, and culture and nature have been touched by tourism, both in good and bad.
Sitting by the ocean on my last night in Bali, I really didn’t know if I wanted to leave or stay and I guess I still don’t. But I did leave, went home, but it wasn’t as I knew it before. The more and more time passes from my 9 weeks in Asia, the more different it looks, the more perspectives I get. These things are what I’m trying to put to paper now because since that day when I hopped on (three) planes back to Finland, nothing’s exactly felt like the same.