My girlfriend and i are planning our 4 month trip in Indonesia from February, and i was wondering if anyone could lend some expertise or past knowledge on our loose plan. Any places to avoid (expensive and crowded are our main issues) and any unmissable's.
We arrive in in Jakarta and are flying into Bali to spend a week or so on the Bukit Pennisula (we both surf), and hire some motorbikes before heading east into Lombok and hugging the south side of the islands through Sumbawa, and into Nusa Tengarra Timur. We're going to check out Flores and some of the smaller islands to the East before getting a boat north into Sulawesi. There's a few places we'd like to see on the North side of Sulawesi but we're not sure how overland travel is in this area. The final destination is Borneo, and the nature reserves around Kalimantan. If time and money allows, we'd like to see Sumatra as well but its unlikely on a 4 month trip. We have a budget of around £2000 each so any advice on cheap stops, and cheap ferry companies would be appreciated.
Also, the idea of doing it on motorbikes is seeming more ridiculous as i write this. Anybody have any idea what bus services are like on the south of Sumbawa and into Nusa Tengarra Timur? The only reason i considered bikes is the freedom and the possible lack of other options in the more remote parts, but i can see it being more of a burden than anything..
Thoughts and advice would be wonderful.
Wow! What an incredible plan...although let me first say this: I would personally never attempt this on a motorcycle, especially not one I've rented there! I know that some people have attempted Nusa Tenggara Barat and Timur on bikes but I always assumed they have shipped on their own gear (and parts) for the ride. NTT is pretty underdeveloped, and I have no idea how you would get around mechanical issues while on the road. What would you do with the bikes after Flores? Ship them to Sulawesi? It sounds pretty challenging but it might just be possible if you've got the patience and determination? Do you speak any Bahasa Indonesia (always helps).
Nowhere in Indonesia really qualifies as "expensive" by western standards. As for "crowded", Java is one of the most densely populated places in the world, but I assume you mean with tourists - if so, then Bali and Lombok (the 3 Gili Islands especially) get their fair share of visitors. Apart from Kuta and Ubud, you're never cheek-by-jowl with tourists in Indonesia, at least in my experience.
You have a really long time in Indonesia, so you should be able to really get off the beaten track, which is fantastic! How have you managed to wangle a 4 month tourist visa, though? On arrival you get 30 days which is extendable once, I think - when applying from overseas through an embassy you get 60 days - have you just got two of those? Do you not need to leave the country in between. The visa rules for Indonesia and the fact that it has so few useful land borders (basically Borneo and East Timor!) is the only thing that's put me off an extended expedition there.
Out of the way places I've visited which I would highly recommend, especially if you're into snorkelling and/or diving, are the Banda Islands (Kepulauan Banda) in Maluku province and the southeast of Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tenggara province). They're tricky to get to but gorgeous and pretty much unspoilt. Other island groups in Indonesia which really take my fancy are the Togian and Banggai Islands. Your port of entry from NTT is likely to be Makasar, assuming you're planning to take a PELNI ferry. Make sure you get info on the timetables as there may be waits of several days (up to weeks) between boats connecting any two points. For long distance boat travel I would recommend only PELNI, and even there "recommend" is a strong word. The ferries are safe, generally, but it's not super comfortable. They might take a motorbike on board but that would require either advance planning or someone to help you with Bahasa Indonesia. Anything is possible in Indonesia but everything requires patience too.
Have you found somewhere to get decent bikes? Some companies might not allow you to remove the bikes from Bali - have you also thought about insurance?
I hope I'm not coming across as negative. I think your plan sounds crazy, but good crazy - if you see what I mean. I think there are a lot of potential obstacles but if you can get your way around them then it's an exciting prospect. There ARE bus services around NTB and NTT but everything is pretty ad hoc - mostly minibuses, although there are some companies that specialise in helping tourists get about. There is also an extensive flight network throught NTB and NTT, operated mostly by Merpati Nusantara, but again booking tickets can be trying.
Let me know how you get along with planning. I can PM you a link to my travelblog which has info on various places in Java and the Banda Islands. Sadly I didn't have the blog going when I went to Sulawesi Tenggara...
Thanks so much for your time and advice will, very helpful and intuitive. In the few hours since writing the post, which included a skype with my girlfriend (in asia at the moment) and a glass of reality, i've decided motorbikes are a bad idea. mainly because neither of us have vast motorbike experience and also as you rightly said, both the rental bikes and the roads of indonesia leave much to be desired. certainly not reliable chariots for a several thousand mile multi island crusade. the mechanical fault issue and the shipping costs surely outweigh the positives. alas i shall discard the idea. i think we needed an external voice to cement our doubt.
however the route remains unchanged, and my draw to Sulawesi, even more magnetised. I've had a look at the Banggai islands and they look incredible. we're looking for unspoilt places, far away from the westernisation that has stricken bali's tranquility and serenity. hence the idea of the farthest eastern islands away from there. tricky to get to is ideal; the only souls there are those who have endured and struggled to get there; the type of travelers we'd like to meet. plus a tricky journey is always an adventure.
as for the visas.. still an obstacle we're struggling to clamber over. our friends are there currently and are in their third month, so i'm hoping for some insight from them. i've heard we can renew them in a relatively back hand manner, with a little help from the Rupee, but we'd like to avoid that. i'm looking into the option of leaving and returning, as the western islands Philippines are on our list, and the cost of a return flight there isn't far from the visa extension cost. i shall let you know when we crack that chestnut, as it certainly isn't impenetrable.
thank you again for your advice Will, and it would great if you could send your blog link across.
Nice plan for your trip..
4 months spending time in indonesia. That will be a long journey. But you gotta need more than £2000. And the cost in east indonesia is more expensive than the west, especially for the transportation. I suggest you to add some budgets.
I heard you like to surf. Try Lagundri and sorake beach in Nias island-North Sumatra. It has nice waves. And bukit lawang, rehabilitation for orangutans. And fine green and virgin forest at lauser national park.
In sulawesi you can also visit tana toraja, bunaken and wakatobi. Borneo-see turttles on derawan beach. And if you still hv extra budget, try to dive at raja ampat in papua nuegini.
Let me know if you need some other help later.
Bali is always wonderful. I especially loved Sumba, Sumatra and Flores. Sumba is very low-key and culturally fascinating. Far fewer people travelling than Sulawesi and not so many people 'guiding' you. I was in Sumba during the Pasola time (battles on horseback) which made it extra special.
Personally I hated the Togian Islands. I hadn't realized there would just be one resort with a strip of beach on each island .... and nowhere to go except out on boat to snorkel. i thought they would be islands you could wander around etc. I wished for once that I had looked at some video clips before I went there. We also had to wait 4 days for a boat to leave the islands. The fish were great though!
I am sure you will have an amazing time wherever you go.