I have a ten-year plan to visit all the countries of the world. To sum it up, 2013-2018 is dedicated to Africa; 2020-2022 is for the West/Central Asia. And 2023-2025 is for East Asia. That's where Indonesia comes in. But I'm already obsessing about it.
What most people know about Indonesia
Like most humans, I know little about Indonesia. Here's what pops in my mind when someone mentions Indonesia:
- A Serbian once wailed about the diabolical injustices that the Dutch leveled on the locals during their colonization of Indonesia. So I suppose they were no better than British, Portuguese, and French colonialists.
- Barack Obama lived there for a few years when he was a boy. He mentioned that he got used to hearing the call to prayer. This is why he doesn't suffer from Islamophobia has much as other Americans.
- Indonesia has thousands of islands (fact check: around 13,000).
- It's a "weird" Muslim country. First, it's far away from the bulk of the Islamic region (whose epicenter is Mecca, Saudi Arabia). Perhaps because of that isolation, it's developed a different and more lenient way of practicing Islam. Still, it has its share of jihadists, who periodically conduct violent operations, especially in Bali.
- Bali, Bali, Bali. That's all I ever hear about. It seems that all the tourists focus on that one little island. After getting tired of hearing only about Bali, I became curious about why that island, and only that island among thousands, gets all the attention. It seems one big reason is it's one of the few islands that the Islam was unable to dominate. It remained Hindu, which is extremely rare in Indonesia (it's just the red areas in the map below - Bali is the tiny red island).
What are some off-the-beaten track places to go to in Indonesia?
Perhaps you also knew the facts I listed above. You may know a few more. However, before going to Indonesia, it's worth knowing a few places to visit that are not Bali. Here's are a few places I had never heard of and seem promising. I hope to see them one day. If you have, then tell me your experience in the comments.
1. Gili Islands: These 3 islands paradises are ideal for anyone who wants to get away from it all - and be on a secluded beach. Judging from the aerial shots, it looks amazing.
2. Krakatoa: For a long time, I've heard of the epic 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. I love hiking mountains and soaking in history. Why not do both by trekking around Krakatoa?
3. Toba, Sumatra: I know I'm a bit obsessed about volcanoes, but the Toba eruption of 75,000 years ago nearly made humans extinct! So you have to check out the site of this deadly eruption, the largest in humanity's history.
Given the size of Indonesia, there are dozens of other places I could list, but this will get your juices flowing, so that you can think beyond Bali!
When booking hotel in Indonesia, you can consider the usual suspects, but you should also give Traveloka a try. The landing page is in Indonesian, but you can change the language to English by using the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the website. The advantage of Traveloka is that it started in the Indonesian and Malaysian markets, so it's well connected there. It can turn up hotels that you may not find when you use the standard travel booking engines.