Cycle Touring in Indonesia
Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands running across the equator for almost 5000km. We visited Bali, a popular holiday destination; Lombok, a less explored island; and Java, a large island, hosting the capital city of Jakarta.
Arriving in Bali is like a sensory overload, with the main religion being Hinduism; the place is full of colour and beauty. There are festivals throughout the year and you'll probably see a funeral procession at some point, as well as the offerings left for the Gods each day. Bali is scattered with temples, both ancient and modern, buy a sarong and visit some of them on the way, as you cycle.
Cycling in Bali is very pleasant in terms of the gradients and countryside - cycling passed lush green paddy fields, shimmering in the sunlight... however the '360 degree traffic' takes a little getting used to. You will share the road with every type of transport you can imagine, scooters, taxis, trucks, cars, horse and carts, bicycle rickshaws, as well as herds of animals, cows, chickens and of course, people. No one has right of way, but the biggest rules the road generally. Away from the main roads, you'll have the roads to yourselves and cycling through small villages being greeted by locals is a wonderful experience.
Lombok is similar to Bali but less developed and Muslim, rather than Hindu. On our first night we were awoken 5am to a loud sound and realised that the guesthouse we'd chosen (quite late the night before in the dark) was right next to the mosque in Sengiggi. Morning prayers people! Our trip to Lombok was like a honeymoon with its beautiful desert island sandy beaches and clear blue waters. We took a 3 day sea-kayak trip to the Gili Islands and I snorkeled for the first time, seeing sea turtles and the most amazing fish. Truly magical.
Indonesia is still a developing country and things like air pollution, good housing, rubbish collection etc are still to be addressed. It's common to see rubbish left in piles and then being burnt (plastic too). Java has more plastic bags lying around than anywhere we have been. Many of the trucks churn out black fumes and I struggled cycling in Java with the heavy traffic at times. However away from the main roads it's not a problem.
The Indonesians are absolutely wonderful and would still be highest on our list for being the most sweet, kind, gentle, welcoming people anywhere. We had so many encounters with local people and they made us feel so welcome in their country. Cycling through places hearing "Hello Mistairrrrrrrr!!!!" twenty times over, every day couldn't help but make us grin from ear to ear - it's like being a celebrity on a bike!
Indonesia is cheap.
Accommodation can be excellent value for money and often includes breakfast, towels and 'a welcome drink'. Budget accommodation usually has a mandi style shower - a big barrel of water and a big scoop, you simply scoop and pour it over yourself. Not quite as easy as a shower, but if you are a hot cyclist, you won't mind at all, water is water right! Camping was often tricky as the land where you might normally camp is covered in water - paddy fields are everywhere. However police stations, mosques and village football fields are all options - just ask and someone will help you, with a big smile!
Finally, food - nasi goreng (fried rice) is the national dish, nasi goreng special comes with a fried egg on top. It is very tasty and cheap, and as a cyclist you can get it anywhere. Along the road side are' Warungs' small cafes and food stalls. Freshly made, sweet ice tea is the drink normally on offer. We had days just looking forward to our long lunches with cold sweet ice tea and platefuls of nasi goreng. You'll also find chicken satay being cooked on small charcoal grills all over the place. You can buy 5 sticks at a time and they are delicious (just try not to think about how long the chicken might have been sat there!). Despite the heat and lack of refrigeration we ate local food all the time and never had any food poisoning incidents. We rarely cooked as keeping food fresh was difficult in the hot, humid conditions.
I don't know if it's because Indonesia was the first Asian country either of us had been to, but we loved our time in Indonesia, it's a special place and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a rich, fascinating cycle tour that isn't so much about covering distance, but exploring and experiencing a country.
Bali: Kuta - Denpasar - Padangbai - Ubud - Kedisan (Mt Batur) - Kintamani - Lovina - Gillimanuk
Lombok Sengiggi to Ferry
Java: Ferry port - Situbondo - Probolingo - Ngawi - Solo - Prambanan - Yogyakarta
- Beauty and colour of Hindu Bali
- Hindu festivals and ceremonies
- Nasi Goreng & chicken satay
- Monkey Forest in Ubud
- Beautiful accommodation ata good price!
- Seeing Sea turtles whilst snorkelling in Lombok
- Being taken in by a small village for the night in Java, one man said watching Chris cook our dinner was 'better than TV'. Brilliant!
- Sea kayaking to Gili Islands, Lombok
- Ubud to Lovina cycle route
- Climbing Mt Batur & Mt Agung (volcanoes) for sunrise
- Indonesian people - possibly the loveliest in the world
- Ancient Prambanan temples
- Ramayana ballet
- Yogyakarta - Batik painting
- Petrol stations everywhere with toilets
- Java has few tourists outside of the main tourist destinations, so great for experiencing the real Java
- 360 degree traffic
- Heavy traffic and dirty fumes on main routes in Java
- People wanting to be your friend or help you, but actually tying to sell you something (tourist areas)
- Continously being asked if you want 'transport, transport' - don't they realise I have legs to walk and a bike to cycle!
- No showers, just mandi bucket washes in cheaper accommodation. Squat toilets.
- Smoking - men chainsmoke in packs everywhere, restaurants, train carriages and ferries, despite the no smoking signs
Liz and Chris cycle touring in Indonesia photos from Feb -April 2010.
Temples, ballet, kayaking, festivals, climb volcanoes, snorkelling, batik...