After our horrible winter this year I was desperate to get away for some sunshine so when my sister saw an email from Citrus Holidays offering a 10 day island hopping trip to Indonesia, we jumped at the chance. In retrospect 10 days island hopping when the average flight time to Indonesia is 17 hours, doesn’t sound too relaxing and we maybe should have put more thought to this but we rushed straight in to book it.
We were flying with China Southern Airways and our flight from Heathrow to Guangzhou in China was pleasant enough. However if you are a vegetarian, as I am, don’t expect too much in the way of gourmet food! China, a country where it’s people eat anything with a heartbeat, does not understand the concept of vegetarianism. We arrived in Guangzhou and headed to another gate to catch our connecting flight to Bail. Unfortunately this flight was delayed 10 hours! We got on the plane and then were taken off. We were given just a pack of crackers and a bottle of water to sustain us for the 10 hour wait! After 7 hours we were told to get back on the plane and we sat there for another 3 hours before it finally took off. It really was a journey from hell!
So, arriving in Bali 10 hours later than scheduled and having travelled for 29 hours in total, we were met by the ground agents, a company called Panorama who informed us we had missed our flight to Labuan Bajo which was to have been our first island to see the Komodo Dragons. To rearrange that trip would cost us more money and to be quite honest all we wanted was a shower and a soft bed!
We were taken to the Artotel in Sanur in Bali for an overnight stay. This was a lovely hotel with a rooftop infinity pool (from where we watched the sunset that night), It was located right by the beach so if you had been wandering down Sanur Beach that afternoon you would have seen me and my sister dead to the world, stretched out on sun loungers! We were beyond tired but we didn’t want to miss any more of the brilliant sunshine!
The next day we were collected by a guide and driver and taken to the airport for our flight to Lombok. This was with Garuda Airways and it was a small propeller powered plane. It was only 35 minutes long and I have never seen such a quick refreshment service on a plane before! Drinks and snacks were given out and then collected again in record time! It was a very pleasant trip though.
At Lombok we thought we had been abandoned by Panorama as no guide was visible. It turns out that they can’t enter the airport and we finally found him outside amid the hordes of people touting their taxis.
I have to say Panorama were a great ground agent. Informative, helpful and always on time. They made the trip stress free. In Lombok we were staying at the Kila Senggigi Beach Hotel. This is a lovely hotel in beautiful tropical grounds and right on the beach. The Sunset Bar was a lovely venue to enjoy a cocktail each evening and the sunsets were spectacular.
The next day we had a tour of the West coast of Lombok.(again with our own driver and guide). We passed beautiful views and black volcanic beaches. We drove to Sendang Gile Waterfall. At 31 metres high it was quite impressive. The gushing water is said to come from the Fountain of Youth. We made sure we got near enough to feel the spray but as of today no change in the wrinkles I’m afraid! To get to the waterfall we did a 30 minute trek alongside a river, with monkeys chattering above us. At the waterfalls many locals were “showering” in the water, fully clothed.
We trekked back to the car and had lunch in a restaurant looking out over the lush green rice paddies
After lunch we went to Senaru, a gateway village for anyone climbing Mount Rinjani. There is a small heritage village there where you can see people living as they did years ago. Goats, geese and cows live amongst the thatched houses. Everywhere we went in Indonesia the people were really friendly and this was no exception. On the way back to the Hotel we drove past Pusak Pass where we saw more monkeys (macaques) sitting by the roadside and waiting for any titbits you want to give them!
The next day was a free day but we booked a boat trip to the Gili Islands. For £20 we were picked up, taken to the beach and we joined a dive boat. We snorkelled whilst the others dived and at lunch time we were taken to Gili Air island where we were given lunch and given time to enjoy the beautiful white beach. There was another snorkelling trip in the afternoon before being taken back to our hotel. It was a lovely day and so cheap we had to keep checking that we hadn’t miscalculated the price! (With 18,500 rupiah to £1 it is easy to get confused!)
The next day we were picked up again by our Panorama guide and driver and taken to a local port where we got the “fast boat” back to Bali. It was a little disappointing as the sea was a bit choppy so we had to sit inside, in an air conditioned cabin for the 2 hour journey. (The regular ferry takes 4-5 hours but may have been preferable as we could have sat outside on that).
When we arrived at Padang Bai in Bali there were crowds of people on the jetty touting their hotels or taxis. Our trusty Panorama people were there already and they whisked us off to our next stop, The Alam Puisi Hotel in Ubad.
Ubad is a very spiritual place. There is a temple on every single corner and the Royal Palace is there as well. Our hotel was about a 20 minute ride from the town. The town has markets and restaurants and is a lively resort much favoured by back packers and ageing hippies.
The Alam Puisi is small individual villas with their own swimming pools and a large mosquito draped sun bed! It felt very opulent and throughout the hotel there are poems carved onto the walls and they offer free yoga lessons. They also offer a 7am “trek” which I decided to attend. My sister, sensibly, declined so the next morning at 7am I was waiting in Reception for the rest of the trekkers. It seems no one else was interested! The Receptionist went to get one of the gardeners, who spoke no English, and sent me off with him! It wasn’t quite a trek as he had flip-flops on! We just shuffled to the end of the road and back again trying unsuccessfully to make conversation! It was probably the most embarrassing 30 minutes of my holiday!
The next few days we had a range of tours. We walked amongst the monkeys in the 12 hectare Ubad Monkey Forest, we visited so many temples I lost count and we wandered around a village that was decorated ornately and watched people bringing food offerings to their gods. At a couple of temples we were given sarongs to wear and the flora and fauna was amazing. Huge lotus flowers and bright birds were everywhere. Two of the best temples we saw were Taman Ayun which was very reminisce of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Pura Tanah Lot which stands on the coast and at high tide is surrounded by the sea. It was absolutely stunning.
We had one final day left and it rained! During the night it was like a monsoon but by morning it was just slightly overcast! It was warm enough to swim in our little pool and laze on our huge indulgent sun bed! We were given a free foot massage in the Hotel’s spa and we also had a facial. We were determined to be relaxed by the time we headed off for our night flights home! (Which luckily went ahead with no delays).
So what did we think of Indonesia? Absolutely beautiful but you really do need 2-3 weeks to see it all. We were very disappointed about the delay and that we didn’t get to see the Komodo Dragons but it just means we will have to go back again!
Some parts of Indonesia look like India and are very poor, but the people seem better off somehow. (Not financially maybe but they are a very spiritual race and seem to have more in the way of natural resources). Most of the islands we saw were stunning with beaches and palm trees and lush forests.
It is definitely worth visiting…but I would not recommend spending 10 hours in Guangzhou en route!