Whenever deadlines loom large and the pressure of work fills my very being, I close my eyes and picture this. An island almost in the middle of nowhere, sparkling white sand, clear azure waters and a reclining chair. I am watching the stars twinkling in the night sky. There’s only music to keep me company. And once the music fades, the sounds of silence are soothing. Just this thought makes the stress literally wash away!
That’s what a whirlwind trip of Indonesia over four days and four destinations can do to you.
Here’s a country where contrasts and diversities are celebrated in many forms; the customs, traditions, people and even the topography of the land ensures you have new and breath-taking views every few kilometres along your journey. And memories that are sure to bring you back again. For the first time is never enough! Yes, Indonesia does that to you, many times over.
An impulsive decision saw me fly to Jakarta, the capital city and then onwards to three other destinations, Lombok, Gili Trawangan and Bali. People from over 63 countries are offered a visa on arrival so that makes immigration formalities a breeze.
The first thing that hits you as soon as you step out of the airport is the humidity. Indonesia, for the most part of the year has tropical weather. I am thankful for the little homework that I did on the internet before my journey, due to which I had packed light clothes.
Let me warn you that if you want to see whatever Jakarta has on offer, then you need to keep plenty of time apart for the purpose. After a refreshing night’s stay, I looked forward to what was supposed to be relaxed morning of sight-seeing.
It began with a trip to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (beautiful Indonesia in a miniature park) where a visitor can see the magnificent archipelago in just a day. It’s an extensive park that effectively represents Indonesia’s 27 provinces, their diversities and famous landmarks.
Our tour bus crawled over two hours to traverse 15km and reach the National Monument. The imposing structure, standing at 137 metres in height and capped with a 50kg flame of gold symbolises the nation's independence.
Lombok is fast emerging as a popular destination for tourists looking for peace and tranquillity. Lush evergreen landscapes dotted with beaches gives the phrase, ‘far away from the madding crowd’ a new meaning! Lombok is the most popular destination in Nusa Tenggara with the famous Gili Islands drawing visitors in hordes.
My short stay in Lombok merited the following visits:
Sukarara: About 15 minutes south of Mataram, Lombok’s capital is a little settlement famous for unique handicrafts, in particular hand-woven textiles. It’s an incredibly beautiful village that portrays the quaint lifestyle of the islanders. Each area of Indonesia has a unique style of batik and, true to plan; this island's main attraction is indeed its textile production.
Ramitan/Sade – A typical Sasak village where the houses and rice storage buildings are still constructed with wood, bamboo and thatch roofs.
Aan Beach: The bay of Tanjung Aan stretches for a kilometre and the giant waves that break on the shore are a treat to the eyes. If you prefer lounging on the beach, be prepared for the horde of vendors who sell anything from sarongs to jewellery. Otherwise, take a walk or ride a two-wheeler and feel the wind blow across your face.
A 20-minute boat ride from the northwest mainland of Lombok is Gili Trawangan, the largest of three islands. It’s a great holiday destination for people of all ages.
The Villa Lombok Hotel faces the powdery white beach and clear blue waters. If you are a water sports aficionado, you can dive and snorkel to your heart’s content. Or you can take a trip of the island on a horse-carriage… you make plenty of photo-stops during the ride. The beach is positioned perfectly for sunset and sunrise which you must not miss.
For those who love to party, it’s a happening place too! And if you don’t want to do anything of the above, no one’s stopping you from just relaxing. Do it!
The last destination on the itinerary was Bali, a short flight away from Lombok. The place definitely needs no introduction. For Bali is not just a place, it’s a mood and an experience that fill the senses.
Our villa had its own private pool, garden, tree-house and opened into the magnificent Kuta Beach. I caught the glorious sunrise on an early morning walk on the beach.
Sadly, it was a small trip and I am definitely coming back for more of Bali – the spas, rice fields, a rich and vibrant culture and the food.
At the end of the trip, I wistfully realised that a whirlwind tour is not how one should soak in what Indonesia has to offer. It was just a beginning – more like a trailer. I will surely be back for more!