Travel to Indonesia or Not (2): Outcome, decisions and new questions

What happens when two friends get together for 4 days/5 nights, stay in a small apartment with one bathroom, cram in too many activities and then save NYC for the last day, when they’re exhausted and the weather happens to be cold all of a sudden (after being perfect the day before)?

By the way….Friend A (that would be me) has PMS that’s peaking (of course) and Friend B (that’s “M”) has a hacking cough due to bronchitis.
Krakatoa (Krakatau, Krakatao) / Indonesia, Sunda Straitsphoto © 2008 flydime | more info (via: Wylio)

Before I tell you anymore, let me throw in two more details (and switch to the past tense). I had only gotten about 7 hours of sleep over the course of 3 nights and we took the N train (or was it the Q) when we were in NYC–a train I don’t normally take.

Yeah, we got lost.

The Perfect Storm? Or the Perfect Test?

Sounds like the perfect storm, right? Well, actually, it was the perfect testing ground for a possible trip to Indonesia, which we were considering.

We did have a lot of fun over the course of several days, doing lots of cool stuff in NJ (from diners to wine to a funky bakery to Middle Eastern music, with me and friends playing, to a trippy beach town) and then in NYC. We visited Times Square, had drinks at McSorley’s Pub, had amazing NYC pizza and checked out some cool shops in the East/West Village.

And at the end of the day, we met a really irreverent Amtrak cop, with a thick Brooklyn accent, who swore more than Eddy Murphy in his early movies. He was beyond funny and seemed a caricature of himself.

But, we did get lost and had to change gears a few times and yes, had a couple of ‘communication breakdowns.’ And while they weren’t ‘fun,’ they were enlightening (and now we might see them as entertaining). We learned a lot.

And that’s a good thing because although we’d already pretty much figured out what to do re: the Indonesia trip idea (the day before while relaxing on the beach in Ocean Grove in 75-degree weather), the NYC trip provided us with confirmation of the following:
Best Friendsphoto © 2007 anoldent | more info (via: Wylio)

1. We have different communication styles

Although we have a strong friendship after several years, we realized that we didn’t/don’t know each other as well as we thought we did. We also saw how easy it is to make assumptions and miscommunicate (especially during challenging moments). Of course, it’s better to have had that experience here vs. there.

2. We want/need different things from the trip

After some lengthy discussions, we came to this conclusion. As is usually the case, I’d like to get off the beaten path a bit. And while M also likes the idea of that, the reality of it is simply too much for her first trip abroad. Also, while her health has greatly improved, it’s not a good idea to push that at the moment. Schlepping around with a backpack would not be ideal.

3. She is/can be more independent than she realized

When we visited Barnes & Noble to look at travel guides, M really gravitated toward Rough Guides, Bali/Lombok–she liked the layout, cultural info and map–while I focused on Lonely Planet, Indonesia.

Once she read through it, she fell in love with Bali. More importantly, she realized that she could do what she wants there…on her own. In fact, she can also be very happy in Bali for a month. There’s that much to do. And she saw that she could have some mini adventures right there.

4. Traveling separately and sharing Bali will work best

We realized that we want different things from the trip and that trying to pull it off together the entire time would require too much compromise/negotiating. And so, since she really wants to focus on Bali and I’d like to visit several regions, it’s best to really go separately and then connect in Bali.

So what she’ll do is stay there the entire time (and maybe go to the Gili Islands) and I’ll visit other places and meet her for the final two weeks in Bali. Something like that.

And so, yes–the trip is happening! It’s just going to be a bit different than we thought.

What’s next?

Finding a plane ticket that’s reasonably priced/works for my situation

Ideally, I’d like to fly out of Newark since it’s close to where I live. The problem is the tickets don’t always work out or come out way too expensive. Next choice is JFK, which is a pain in the butt. But it means I’d save money ($200) and since the ticket is already high, I may have to.

Then, there’s the other end: Indonesia. I’m thinking that I’d like to fly into Jakarta. I can then move from there to anywhere rather easily, including some of the more remote areas–if that’s what I end up doing.

I’d like to end the trip in Bali, so it makes sense to fly home from there. After relaxing there as I hope to, I don’t want to fly back into Jakarta. Even if I could simply fly back there, I’d rather not.

Having a rough plan in mind

What I’d like to see

I know I’d like to meet some tribal people off the beaten path. I’d like to see some orangutans, of course. And nature is one of my favorite things, so I must see some moutains, volcanoes, lakes and of course, spend time on the country’s amazing beaches. I’m even considering teaching English somewhere, as a volunteer, for a couple of weeks.

What sort of planning I’ll need to do

I may have some of that planned before I go, but not too much of it. I like to have a rough plan that’s super flexible and that can change entirely if I need it too. The only thing that I’m sure of is that I’d like to end the trip in Bali. Then “M” and I can hang out together–even if we’re not staying at the same place. I think this will allow us to have the best of both worlds. © 2004 | more info (via: Wylio)

What I’d like to try to do on this trip

It would be nice not to move too fast on this trip (something I’ve done before and want to avoid). I’d really like to get to the know the locals in a few regions (something I’m good at). And I’d like to experience enough of the country and not limit myself to just Bali, which I can imagine would be easy to do.

What do you think?


I’m quite sure I/we made the right decision? What do you think? And how about my flight scenarios? Make sense? Any advice re: how to get the best deal?

Possible itineraries

Any ideas for cool things to do in Indonesia? Anything you consider ‘not to be missed”?


Any suggestions do you have re: transport within the country? Are there any routes where local transportation, although cheap, isn’t worth it? I see a lot of inexpensive internal flights that could get me from Point A to Point Z pretty fast if I need that.

Jakarta or not?

I’ve heard mixed reviews of the capital city. Some say it’s just too noisy, hectic, etc. Other say it’s worth a visit. I’m just not sure. I might want to spend a night there so that I can meet some of the twitter folks I know who live there.


How about Bali? I’m very much looking forward to it, but don’t want to stay in a place that’s too touristic. Any tips for finding the right place? How’s Ubud? What else do you recommend?

Meeting the indigenous?

And what about the tribal folks? I’d like to meet them. Do you recommend a tour? Some of the areas are remote and look tricky. Which tribes have you met?

Posting links is welcome!

Feel free to post links to rooms, tourguides, etc. in your comments. Normally, I wouldn’t say that, but I think it makes sense this time around. Of course, if you’re an obvious spammer, that’s a different story. :)


40 Responses to Travel to Indonesia or Not (2): Outcome, decisions and new questions
  1. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures
    March 22, 2011 | 1:53 am

    Southeast Asia has a robust network of budget carriers. You’ll save bundles of money if you fly into a more popular hub, like Bangkok, and make your way to Indonesia from there. Air Asia is fantastic and super cheap (though they’ll nickle and dime you all the way, but we’re used to that in the US by now…).
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Say What Travel Photo- China WhoMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 12:16 pm

      Thanks, Aaron. I’ll keep that in mind as I search. I hear you re: the ‘nickle and dime’ thing….I can imagine! :)

  2. sysilia
    March 22, 2011 | 2:05 am

    I live in Jakarta, Lisa but I don’t suggest you to visit Jakarta except you want to travel around the city to see museums, Buddhist temple, old town etc.

    Tribal folks: suku anak dalam or suku kubu in Jambi, Sumatra.
    Never been there but I heard you can ask a tour agent to arrange for you or you can ask the local people to guide you there. or maybe Baduy tribe in west java (banten)
    you can stay at their house (outer baduy), you only need to bring your own food (usually noodles, rice, salted fish, or fresh vegetables).

    Not so familiar with Bali but yes, you can go to Ubud or if you love snorkeling or diving you can go to nusa penida.

    My favorite so far is Flores island

    For transportation within the country, maybe you should take a plane. From Jakarta to Bali by bus will take time about 24-36 hours :D and by plane about 1,5 hours

    if you go to Jambi (suku anak dalam) you can also climb mt. kerinci (2nd highest mountain in Indonesia) or if you go to 3 gilis, climb mt. Rinjani. To see some orangutans, you have to visit Borneo. You can go to Derawan-Kakaban-Maratua-Sangalaki island while you visit Borneo. You’ll see sea turtles, secluded white sand beach in Derawan, swim with Manta and stingless jellyfish in Kakaban.

    There are lot of places to visit here, so you better focus with 2 or 3 islands here since you only have about a month here.

    Hope I can help you :)
    sysilia recently posted..Animal Rescue on Mt Merapi – JAAN-AFJ-COPMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 12:18 pm

      Sysilia–Thanks so much for all the information. I appreciate it! Glad to learn about some of the tribal folks. V cool. Will read more. And I love all the places you’ve recommended. What you’re saying echoes what I’ve been reading. And I think we’re on the same page re: 3 islands. It sounds like one could very easily take on too much. And good to know re: Jakarta to Bali. On the map, it doesn’t look so far! :)

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 12:18 pm

      Just noticed “stingless’ jellyfish. I think that’s a good thing–LOL! :)

      • sysilia
        March 22, 2011 | 6:59 pm

        re: stingless jellyfish. yeah, poor jellyfish, we keep hit them when we snorkel :p
        oh other places : ambon-banda neira-saparua-kei island or wakatobi in sulawesi or togean island :o so many islands but don’t worry, it’s hard for me also to visit all the places :D
        sysilia recently posted..Animal Rescue on Mt Merapi – JAAN-AFJ-COPMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          March 22, 2011 | 10:08 pm

          Oh, it’s the snorkel smacking that’s making them stingless (or sting less)? LOL Thanks for the additional recommendations!

          • sysilia
            March 23, 2011 | 9:22 am

            Hmm, let me check :P
            There are only 2 habitats of this jellyfish : Kakaban (East Borneo) and Palau (Micronesia).
            You can see some photos here

            You are very welcome, Lisa.
            sysilia recently posted..Animal Rescue on Mt Merapi – JAAN-AFJ-COPMy Profile

          • CB Driver
            March 23, 2011 | 9:29 pm

            Funny….lol! Thank you. Good to know. And thanks for the link to your photos–very cool!

  3. Jeruen
    March 22, 2011 | 7:19 am

    Very cool, I am glad you guys now know what your travel styles are. I like the idea of splitting and meeting up; that’s what I did in Mexico with a close friend of mine. We did that even at the micro-level: we’d go to a neighborhood in Mexico City, for the morning, we’re together, and for the afternoon, we’d split up, meeting again later at a designated time. That way, he gets to go stroll and purposely get lost and make these little discoveries in the neighborhood (which I couldn’t care less), and I get to visit museums and learn about local culture (which he has no interest whatsoever), in addition to doing and seeing things together. As I said in my previous comment, very open lines of communication are essential, otherwise, how would each person know what the other wants to do or see. Good luck on traveling, as I haven’t visited Indonesia yet, I’ll be vicariously enjoying it through your blog!
    Jeruen recently posted..Ascending Stress LevelsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 12:22 pm

      Hi, Jeruen. Thanks so much for following this and for your input. It’s been useful. Sounds like the way you and your friend handled Mexico was just right–ideal, actually. I think that she and I are doing something like that one a larger scale–not seeing each other at all until Bali. And then there, we’ll do what you guys did.

      As for communication….yes, wow. Open lines are the key. It’s amazing to me how easy it is to misunderstand someone–even when you’re both native speakers of English. There are certainly regional differences to keep in mind. In the case of me and my friend, I’m a Northerner and she’s a Southerner…

      Anyway, thanks again!

  4. Dyanne @TravelnLass
    March 22, 2011 | 1:00 pm

    Brilliant notion to do a test run w/ a potential travel mate. Sounds like you both came up with the perfect scenario.

    Can’t help much w/ the air dilemma as presently I’m afraid to even look at fares to Vietnam. But Bali… I was lucky, I managed to get off the beaten path to a small rural village in the north and it was idyllic. But I must say – though I’ll likely get pummeled here for saying it – I spent a bit of time in Ubud and found it to be quite touristy. So I’d recommend finding a more obscure (less EatPrayLove) place to stay.

    btw, I too just returned from a fling in NYC. Yup, truly gotta love that nowhere-else-on-the-Planet thin crust NYC pizza!
    Dyanne @TravelnLass recently posted..I heart NYCMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 3:15 pm

      Thanks, Dyanne! I do believe the scenario we came up with is just right…

      Thanks for the info re: Ubud. I’ve heard a lot of great things about it, but also that it can be touristy. I’ll have to choose carefully if I stay there. I definitely don’t want to be treated like an Eat, Pray, Love type of tourist (whatever that means…lol).

      Yeah and yum re: the pizza….love it SO much.

  5. Yurina Martin
    March 22, 2011 | 1:32 pm

    The most classic route for the first timer in Indonesia is Java-Bali. You can indeed start from Jakarta for 1-2 day and then go further to Bogor, Bandung and take a train from Bandung to Jogjakarta.
    From Jogjakarta, you can take a direct flight to Bali. Here, you can combine your trip to Lombok (if you have time and budget).
    In Lombok, you can go hiking in Mount Rinjani and visit the 3 famous Gili Islands.

    Again, based on your budget and time, you can fly from Bali to North or South Sulawesi. In North Sulawesi, you can visit Manado and Bunaken while in South Sulawesi you can be impressed with Tana Toraja.

    2nd option: Visit Sumatra and Java. You can start from Medan (North Sumatera), Padang (West Sumatra), Jambi and then go further South till you reach Bengkulu and then take a flight to Jakarta.

    The easiest way to hop on and off from one island to another is indeed with airplane. However, you can arrange a tour with a private driver as well.

    Good luck Lisa!

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 3:18 pm

      Hi, Yurina. Thanks for stopping by and joining in…appreciate the suggestions!

      I must admit to being curious re: Sumatra and North Sulawesi. They look fascinating. And the Gili Islands look gorgeous! What’s great is that I’m starting to get some sense (although it is a little overwhelming with so many islands and options) of what there is to check out. I think I’ll try a ferry or bus at some point, but for a very long distance, I’ll probably fly. Often that works out better if the prices are OK.

  6. Laura
    March 22, 2011 | 4:23 pm

    I also recommend you search to fly into an AirAsia hub such as Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur and then fly from there. Of course, it depends on luggage and such as the fees on budget carriers add up quickly! For Bali, I’d recommend Pemuteran if you like to snorkel or dive and Amed for relaxation, both of which I’ve written about if you need ideas. Of course a trip to Ubud should be in order too :)
    Laura recently posted..German Train Travel Rants &amp a Stop in NeubrandenburgMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 10:06 pm

      Hi, Laura. thanks for the advice. I’ll definitely check out your posts. So glad to have met you and other travelers (on Twitter) who have been to Indonesia…will make the info-gathering process better and more fun!

  7. Christian
    March 22, 2011 | 4:46 pm

    Great decision and good luck with finding a cheap flight. I can’t wait to get back to Indonesia having barely touched one tiny corner last year. You will love it and Bahasa is soooo easy to pick up – after a month you’ll be getting along nicely with the locals.

    And the Gilis?? Only done one, and it was OK-ish. Some notes below…

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2011 | 10:07 pm

      Thanks for the input and the info, Christian. I hope I do learn some of the language and glad to hear that it’s easy. Cool! I’ll come by and check out your post/s very soon. I’m eager to see what your experiences were. Thanks!

  8. Rosemarie John
    March 23, 2011 | 12:00 am

    Jakarta is just a city like any other… tall buildings, massive jams, nothing much really. It is what’s outside jakarta about 1.5 hours drive away that is interesting like the Safari Park where Tigers and Lions walk beside your car in their natural habitat… zebras and elephants that come up to get a few carrots of you… and alto Mt. Tangkuban Perahu (

    Now about your plan… travelling separately and meeting in Bali I think sounds ideal. Bali is lovely, and is only touristy is you hang out most of your time in Kuta or Legian.

    I love bali and let me tell you something about Ubud. Yes its beautiful, very hilly, very green, its the heart and soul of the art world… everywhere you turn would be masonry and wood carvings etc. But I do not recommend you stay there the entire trip. Bali DOES NOT = Ubud. Ubud is just one small part of this rich island.

    It will be fund to stay a few days around the island. Near water, even more secluded spots up south of the island. Even the secluded resorts in Jimbaran and Uluwatu is worth a try. Experience Kuta for a day or two should be enough. Walk and climb numerous numbers of stairs around the GWK Cultural Park.. it would make you feel as if you’re back in some ancient Mayan culture at some parts!

    Need any tips… just ask me.. I’ll tell you all that I know… I too haven’t explored the whole island.. you need a lot of time for that and 2 weeks is not enough.
    Rosemarie John recently posted..Capturing the Monkey Chant &amp Fire Dance at UluwatuMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 23, 2011 | 5:20 pm

      Rosemarie–Thanks for the info. It’s beginning to sound like I should just l and in Jakarta and move on (which is what I was thinking). The places you’ve described sound great. Would I need a car, though?

      Good to know that about Ubud. Thanks for telling me! As for Kuta, I’ve heard some negative things about it lately…. Hmmm.

      Anyway, thanks for everything…appreciate it!

  9. Karina
    March 23, 2011 | 1:47 am

    Please read for the Bali travels. I mentioned everthing worthy to see. Jakarta – city not, may be travel to volcano)

    • CB Driver
      March 23, 2011 | 9:28 pm

      Hi, Karina. Thanks so much for your link. Wow….it’s a really comprehensive post. Just took a look and got a lot of ideas. Will definitely refer back to it and then perhaps reach out to you with some more questions. I think that I am going to skip Jakarta.


  10. Tia
    March 23, 2011 | 1:47 pm

    Ooooh exciting! What a great way to figure out your traveling styles. Sounds like a great plan!

    Have you read “Tales of a Female Nomad”? Rita is my hero! Her favorite place is Bali and she has a rec list on her site. It’s a bit dated, but I happened to run across it yesterday and thought your friend might find it interesting.

    • CB Driver
      March 23, 2011 | 9:31 pm

      Hi, Tia. Thank you….I think we were wise to do what we did. And now, we have a great plan in place!

      I have read that book and absolutely loved it. I now must revisit it, though, since it’s been a few years. That list is great and I’ll definitely pass it along. Thanks so much!

  11. Dalene - Hecktic Travels
    March 24, 2011 | 2:19 pm

    Wish I could give you advice on Indonesia (it’s on the TO-DO list!) but I just want to say how awesome it is that you did a dry-run of traveling together, and it’s something I wish I had done at one point with a friend of mine. It never even occurred to me, and even though our trip was short, it was fraught with disagreements over how and what to do. We had totally different travel styles…I’m just happy that we were still able to get out of it as good friends.

    Very, VERY smart! And it sounds like you came up with a great, workable solution. Enjoy!! Excited to hear all about it.
    Dalene – Hecktic Travels recently posted..Behind The Scenes with Matador!My Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 26, 2011 | 11:34 am

      Hi, Dalene. Cool that it’s on your list, as well! Yes, the dry run was really smart. I hear you re: that situation you described. I was in one of those once and the person and I are no longer friends. If only we’d known…. Several other times with others, things went well (fortunately).

      Thanks for sharing and for following along–appreciate it! :)

  12. Charu
    March 28, 2011 | 12:34 am

    I’ve heard nothing but great things about Bali…I personally would want to stay away from cities like Jakarta, but that’s just me. Let me know what you end up doing–sounds like you’re on the right track!
    Charu recently posted..An Alice in Wonderland Moment at the Butterfly Farm in ArubaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 29, 2011 | 11:01 pm

      Hi, Charu. Same here….always hear rave reviews about the place. Seems that one can’t go wrong. And yes–Jakarta sounds a little unappealing based on what I’ve heard.

      I haven’t bought my ticket…need to get that done soon.

      Meanwhile…thanks for stopping by!

  13. Gray
    March 31, 2011 | 1:43 pm

    Obviously, I can’t help you with an Indonesia itinerary, I just wanted to congratulate you on coming up with a plan that works for you and your friend. It does really help to do a “test run” before planning a long journey together.
    Gray recently posted..How Couchsurfing Helped Me Adjust to Life in FranceMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 31, 2011 | 7:46 pm

      Thanks, Gray. I appreciate that! Good thing we did it. As it turns out, she’s decided that her health may not be quite where she thought and so, she may skip Bali. So I think it worked out for the best.

      Now if I could just get over my earthquake/volcano fear and buy my darn ticket! :)

  14. Dina
    April 1, 2011 | 7:42 pm

    Jakarta: I don’t think it’s worth visiting except if you have friends there that can show you around. I will skip it if your time is limited. If you want to see Java, Yogyakarta is a great place to visit. Culture, temples, food, batik, there are a lot of thing to do and see there.

    I will recommend “Ayam Goreng Suharti” for food. It’s a kind of deep fried chicken. Yogyakarta definitely has the restaurant, but many cities in Indonesia will have it too. It’s my husband and my favourite. Order “Sayur asam” soup as well. Heavenly.

    Bali: If you like more quite place, probably islands east of Bali is a better choice. I haven’t been there myself, but so many people recommend that to me. Bali and these islands east of it have a lot of great diving sites, I heard.
    Dina recently posted..Best of France by Travelers Around the WorldMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 1, 2011 | 11:50 pm

      Thanks for the info, Dina. I’m still thinking about the trip and am not 100% sure at this point. I appreciate the info/advice. That food sounds so yummy. Thanks for everything!

  15. Sabina
    April 10, 2011 | 6:49 am

    I think it was really smart of you to take a trial run with your friend. I love that you kept the friendship intact while figuring out that longer-term travel together just wasn’t right for the two of you at this time. Now you’ll hopefully both have dream trips rather than the less-than-ideal trips you might have had together.

    • CB Driver
      April 10, 2011 | 10:55 pm

      Thanks, Sabina. It worked out really well. We definitely learned a lot over the course of several days…and I think that whatever we do separately (or if we meet up somewhere for a shorter period of time) will work out nicely!

  16. Rebecca
    April 17, 2011 | 5:31 am

    Love love love Indonesia! You have to visit the orangutans at Bukit Lawang, Sumatra. It’s a great little place and the orangutans are just a quick trip away. Have fun!
    Rebecca recently posted..Photo of the Week- Sunset kayaking in Port Moresby- Papua New GuineaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 18, 2011 | 9:54 am

      Definitely will do that….next year or whenever I make it over there. Thank you! PS: You went to Papua New Guinea??? I’m jealous. :)

      • Rebecca
        April 19, 2011 | 1:49 am

        I did, last week. The better news? I’m actually moving there in six weeks!

        • CB Driver
          April 20, 2011 | 12:13 pm

          Seriously? That is amazing! What are you doing there? And how long will you be there?

  17. Summer travel 2011 planning
    April 22, 2011 | 1:14 am

    [...] It had been on Top 5 list for a while and a friend of mine was possibly going to join me. After a trial run and settling on separate travel initially plus meeting up in Bali later, she decided (for [...]

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