Over the course of the 5 weeks I lived in Singapore, I spent collective almost 2 weeks of that time in Indonesia via weekend trips and work in Jakarta. One of the cool things about living in Singapore is that you can say things like “I’m going to Bali for the weekend”. I did spend a weekend in Bali, as well as weekends in Mt. Bromo, Yogyakarta, and Lombok. What an adventure!
Indonesia is perhaps my favorite place outside of Singapore that I’ve had the pleasure to spend time in while abroad (at least so far). It’s incredibly varied, with each location looking and feeling different from the next. Each different destination offered something unique and incredible, and I’m excited to share all of the wonderful and fun things I did there.
First stop, Bali for the weekend:
My first weekend in Singapore I took off on Friday evening to head to Bali. I’d been there before, about 3 years prior, but only spent time in Ubud and Gili T. This time I wanted to see Nusa Lembongan (a small island in between Bali and the Gilis that was recommended to me by my friend Anna) and Seminyak.
I arrived into Denpasar too late to catch the last ferry to Nusa Lembongan on Friday evening, so I spent the night in Sanur, near the ferry terminal, and caught a morning ferry over on Saturday AM. My goal on this tiny little island was pretty singular: I wanted to scuba dive Manta point to see Mantas. To date, I’d logged 66 dives, but had never seen a Manta Ray, so I was going to fix that! By the time I arrived on Saturday, it was too late to dive, so I rented a scooter and explored the island. It was so cute! The best part was definitely the little beach bungalow I’d rented on AirBnb. Seriously, it couldn’t get much more picturesque with the white porch, thatched roof, outdoor shower, and beach views. Watching the sunset while drinking a Bintang and sitting on the bungalow bean bags on the beach was just too perfect a way to end this first day in paradise.
Super cute beach cottage in Nusa Lembongan
The next morning bright and early I headed to the dive shop in search of Mantas. We did 2 dives, and I did finally get to see Mantas (hooray!), but the water was so rough (huge swells) that it pretty quickly led to nausea and a desire to get out of the manta zone and back to smoother waters. The second dive did just that, and was much calmer and beautiful and unique – we surfaced mid-dive in the middle of a cave filled with bats!).
Sunday eve I took the ferry back to Bali and spent the night in Seminyak before catching an early flight back to Singapore at 7am on Monday morning. Seminyak is super cute, and not as overrun/dirty as Kuta. I didn’t have too much time, but did have a lovely dinner at a really cool restaurant that my AirBnb host recommended, and again, stayed at a super cute little villa right in the center of the action in downtown Seminyak. If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend Villa 888.
The following weekend I again flew to Indonesia with a full weekend of activities planned. First up, Mt. Bromo, an active Volcano that provides epic sunrise views and a full day of hiking adventures. We started hiking around 3am to reach the best (highest) viewpoints before sunrise, and then waited in the cold (Mt. Bromo is above 2700m so it gets quite cold in the early morning) for the sky to light up pink and provide us with beautiful mountain views, and oh it did:
Watching the sunrise over Mt. Bromo
After sunrise, we trekked down Probolinggo (the mountain you view sunrise from), across the valley floor, and up Mt. Bromo to take a look in the crater. This part was actually a bit disappointing as the inside of Bromo is completely filled with trash. Then it was a fast paced walk back to the homestay to get a ride back to the airport to head on to Yogyakarta for the rest of the weekend.
Descending from the Bromo Crater. So much trash 🙁
The first day in Yogya was spent viewing the sites in town (of which there weren’t actually many and they were kind of disappointing). The best of these was the water palace:
There are two main sites around Yogya that are not to be missed: Borobudur and Prambanan, and so these were tackled in a day trip on my last day in Yogya before heading to the airport to fly to Jakarta. I opted for the early morning Borobudur trip to see the sunrise over those beautiful Budda statues. Unfortunately, the sun didn’t rise in any spectacular fashion as it was too foggy to see. But, the silver lining was that being there that early at least beat a large portion of the crowds, so I was able to get some excellent pictures:
Sunrise Buddha at Borobudur
Taking in the beauty of Borobudur
Next up was Jakarta for Mon-Thurs for work. Jakarta is a very big city, with crazy amounts of traffic (I was warned, but still shocked at how bad it was), and I must admit I didn’t love it. The seminars I hosted went well, and it was great to work from there for a few days, but I was happy to get out of there after 4 days of that congestion.
Commute to work on a Grab Moto
After the week of work in Jakarta, I spent the following weekend on Lombok Island to hike Mt. Rinjani. Never heard to it? It’s the second highest peak in Indonesia, and a crazy hard 3 day/2 night trek to Summit. I’d heard of it from several other travelers I’d met along the way, so it was high on my list for things to do while over here. A few people warned me that it was hard, but I guess even those warnings didn’t properly prepare me. At this point, I’d been traveling for about 6 weeks, and hadn’t had a regular workout routine due to the constant travel and lack of constant access to a gym (or decent enough temperatures to run). In total, I’d probably only worked out ~8 times in those 6 weeks, a big decrease from my 6-7x/week routine at home. Add that to the incredibly hot temperatures, high humidity, and a back that was too heavy, and I really struggled getting up this mountain. After the first several hours of trekking on Day 1, a very nice Belgian guy in my trekking group named Kevin offered to carry my pack since I was having a hard time. Hallelujah! I wouldn’t have made it to the crater rim that day without his help. Even with it, I felt awful with a bad stomach ache and constant desire to throw up while hiking (even though I was taking altitude sickness pills!).
The second morning started at about 2am to trek up to the summit of Mt. Rinjani in the dark to view the sunrise from the top. This trek was hard physically, but even more so mentally. That morning was also right in the middle of the ‘Rinjani 100’, a 36k, 60k, and 100k race from Subaru and Sentaru (SP???), so while I was struggling to walk up this mountain over the course of 3 days, these ultra-marathoners were doing it all (and much more!) in 15-20 hours. Talk about a reality check… So anyways, the hike up to the summit sucked. The last 1/3 of it was this awful sand/rock mix that really was 2 steps forward, 1 step back. It felt like we’d never reach the top. But eventually, somehow, we did, and after freezing (it was soooo cold up there!) witnessed a beautiful sunrise and crater lake view. Looking back, I can say it was worth the effort, though in the moment I don’t think I was so convinced.
Mt. Rinjani Summit Crater
Mt. Rinjani Summit
Mt. Rinjani Summit Sunrise
Midway through Day 2, after summiting and walking down to the crater lake for lunch and a hot spring bath, Kevin said he was too tired to carry my bag any longer. Oh boy… I wasn’t going to do well if I had to carry it. Thankfully though, we had several porters carrying the camping and food equipment, and they were happy to carry my bag for the remainder of the trek for a small fee of 150k rupiah, the equivalent of about $11 USD. What a deal!
After the hot springs and lunch down on the lake shore, it was another 2.5 hours of uphill trekking to get to the crater rim on the other side where we would camp for night 2. By the time we reached the campsite I was completely wrecked – it had been a long, grueling day that started with a 1:45am wakeup call. By 5:30pm we were eating dinner, and by 6:30pm we were all tucking into our sleeping bags for the night.
We woke up around 6am, meaning we slept for around 11 hours! Feeling somewhat refreshed, we ate breakfast and set off on the 5 hour trek downhill. Down, down, down, (pause), down bedubee down, down, down… <— that was a song I sang as a child at summer camp bonfires. I wasn’t singing it on the trek though, I was just wondering when this downhill torture would be done. It seemed to never end, but finally we got to the end where we were met by a couple of vans and began the 2.5 hour drive to various destinations, mine being the airport to fly back to Singapore that evening via Jakarta.
What Rinjani worth it? Well, the views were beautiful. But the mental torture though was really tough. I questioned my judgement constantly and it took all my (mental) strength to convince myself to keep going. Physically, it was also incredibly difficult. I came down with a bad cold/cough/head pressure case starting on Day 3 that lasted over a week. On top of that, I could barely walk for the first 2-3 days after, but those symptoms also lasted the better part of a week. Looking back, I’m glad I did it, but I’m not sure I’d do it again (ok actually, I definitely would not do it again). My advice? Pack a much smaller backpack, and make sure it has hip and shoulder clips to take the pressure off.
After spending a collective ~2 weeks in Indonesia this time around, it’s still one of my favorite places I’ve been to. It has such a wide variety of things to do, beautiful beaches to lounge on, crazy roads to drive a scooter down, and adventures to be had. There is so much more on my Indo bucket list, I’ll just have to come back a few more times to check some of those places off. I love you Indonesia!
Beach Bintangs = Indonesia happiness 🙂