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Travel Foolishness

Jakarta, Indonesia

We're back to being a little miserable and ready to leave. Strange bumps on our feet and crotches. The feeling that, in the tropics, disease and insects have the upper hand. Or at least there is more equal opportunity here than in the higher latitudes.

We didn't know quite what to do with ourselves today. Just walked around. The usual avoiding huge holes in the sidewalks and ojeks coming from all directions. I think there is no such thing as a beautiful city in Asia. Even picturesque Kyoto is not quite beautiful. It is too busy and big and practical; that is, it's a real city with real people leading lives that are only tangentially related to beauty.

But perhaps we should feel lucky we made it to Jakarta at all. Our plane stopped in Suribaya, and we got off thinking we were already in Jakarta, left the airport and tried to catch the bus to Gambir station. Were told the bus didn't go to Gambir but would take us to the train station where we could catch a train to Gambir. Now that seemed strange to us. The man then said, Or you could take a plane. We gave him a funny look. Obviously he had misunderstood us. We just got off the plane, we explained. It was no use. We couldn't make head or tail of what he was saying. Tried tourist information where we were told the same thing, but in better English. The train...all right... We wondered aloud why we read on the internet there was a direct bus to Gambir from the airport, no mention of a train. The official looked confused. Yes, that's strange, he mused. Gambir is maybe an 18 hour bus ride from here. 18 hours! But...where are we? Suribaya! Mad running. Sweat. Panic. Blooming despair. But we were not too late. There was our flight and the crush of passengers boarding. We had time to laugh at our idiocy, to curse the unintelligible English of the Sriwijaya flight attendants. And so we got to Jakarta after all. Lucky.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Indonesia

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OMG! That's crazy! Note to self: pay attention to signs/announcements! LOL

We are planning our next around the world trip and plan to spend at least 3-4 weeks exploring Indonesia again (just did Bali and Nusa Lembongan). . any tips would be much appreciated!! :)

by Tony.Ruby

Haha, yes, we still laugh about that mishap.

We only went to the islands of Sulawesi and Papua (but only a very small part of Papua). It was mostly for diving (Lembeh and Bunaken in Sulawesi, Raja Ampat in Papua), but we also visited Tana Toraja in Sulawesi, where they have the elaborate funeral ceremonies. It's definitely worth the visit. We met some other travelers who visited the Togian Islands in Sulawesi, but they're a bit hard to get to. We had wanted to go there, but we just didn't have enough time! It's just a huge country, and many parts of Sulawesi aren't well-serviced by ground transportation (I can't speak for the other islands). Also, don't miss a trip to see the tarsiers in Tangkoko National Park, but make sure you wash your clothes carefully in hot water afterward to minimize the chigger bites!

Papua is pretty remote and amazing, if you have a chance to go there. Incredible diving and land creatures (birds of paradise, etc.), too. Gah, I want to go back!

by chschen

40% Deet is where it's at! On your clothes and your skin for those pesky chiggers ) Can't wait for your trip!! How did you get to Sulawesi and Papua? Can you fly there? We haven't started our Indonesian research yet. . .

by Tony.Ruby

Yeah, for sure we used a bunch of DEET on our trip. I don't know why we didn't spray it on then... Maybe we did, but just in the wrong places. I think we didn't know about the chiggers at Tangkoko until afterward, but I'm now suspicious of this reasoning because I did think to tuck my pant legs into my socks. Oh well. Lesson learned.

I'm not sure what your route for your RTW trip looks like, but what we did was fly in from Kuala Lumpur directly to Makassar in Sulawesi. We spent the night in Makassar and flew out the next day to Sorong, which is the closest airport to Raja Ampat. From Sorong, you have to take a ferry to Waigeo and from there you usually take another boat (private) to the resort where you'll be diving. At the time there weren't any direct flights from Jakarta to Sorong, but there might be now.

by chschen

Thanks so much for all the tips! Our trip is 6.5 mos total but for the Asia portion we fly from Nepal/Tibet/India into KL-- we have 4-5 weeks or so to explore Indonesia/Malaysia (i.e. Southern SE Asia) and then another (4 weeks or so) to explore Northern SE Asia). We will fly to Southern Vietnam from somewhere in Eastern Indonesia?? perhaps Makassar and then overland into Laos and Northern Thailand and then fly to Myanmar for the last leg before heading off the New Zealand. We are never too big on the logistics. . . . and figure it out as we go as long as we have a general sense of where we are going and what we want to do when we get there. We usually don't make reservations beforehand either unless it's absolutely necessary :)

I know you guys spent quite a bit of time in Malaysia-- we'd like to see KL for like a day. More interested in Borneo/Sumatra, hiking and jungles-- anything that was a *do not miss on your trip in the area?

by Tony.Ruby

Ah, fun itinerary! Makes me wish I were going on another trip!

We aren't too big on logistics either and do a lot of planning-as-we-go, learning pretty early on that reservations (usually) aren't necessary, and anyway we'd rather get the lay of the land before choosing where to stay. Luckily, in most places outside the U.S. you can book fairly last-minute flights cheaply--that was something we had to get used to.

Yeah, we weren't so big on the large cities, mostly just doing some sight-seeing before or after a flight. We've heard great things about Borneo but didn't end up having time to go there (we're pretty slow travelers), spending all our time on peninsular Malaysia. We heard the diving in Sipidan is really wonderful, though, but you need to get permits ahead of time so it does require a bit of planning. It ended up being a good thing we didn't go because at the time there was some instability between Malaysia and the Philippines around some islands near there, and resorts were canceling reservations.

There was nothing spectacular on peninsular Malaysia that we saw, but we had a good time just eating Malaysian food and doing some of the cheapest dives of our trip (in the Perhentians and Tioman Island). The dives aren't incredible (better than what we saw in Thailand but not as good as the Philippines or Indonesia), but they're pretty solid--much better than what we had expected reading reviews and such--and a great way to build up more diving experience for relatively cheap. Peninsula Malaysia also has Taman Negara, reputed to be the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. We didn't see that much while we were there, though--maybe because we were scared off after a day by the rather quick little leeches that chase you and can wriggle through your socks. I know, we're wusses. I think if you do a multi-day tour it might be more worth it. The leeches will inevitably get you, but I hear you get used to them and just burn them off with matches or salt.

by chschen

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