Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Backpacking Itinerary: Planning the Trip to Indonesia

Note: This is the rough draft of the backpacking itinerary for Indonesia. Curious which places I eventually and successfully traveled to? Here is the final draft, written after concluding my amazing trip to Indonesia.

I guess there is no better way to convey my excitement right now than saying it upfront. So I am going backpacking in Indonesia for three weeks and I am terribly and hopelessly excited! Obviously, I will not be able to cover the entirety of this 17,508-island archipelago. That is just too much (and too costly) to cover in three weeks. My initial plan was to backpack through Java, the most developed island, and Bali, the most popular. Finalizing the Indonesia backpacking itinerary, however, I realize there is far too much to see in Java alone. I thought it would be wise to save Bali for another trip (maybe Sumatra for another, and Sulawesi for another). So I decided I'm spending my entire three weeks in Java island, just in Java island. Having traveled so much in the last two years, I now have a better idea as to how I travel, which is to say, I travel slowly, taking in the sights at my own slow pace.

That said, I still included a lot of stops in Java island. I want to see them all! Below is a rough Indonesia backpacking itinerary. Of course, I will not be following it to the T. One thing I have learned in my travels is that not everything goes as planned and sometimes the things you experience off-track can turn out to be exceptionally better than your initial plan. (We got to see the Dalai Lama this way!) So without further ado, a rough Indonesia backpacking itinerary:

Open the rough Indonesia backpacking itinerary map in Google Maps
A rough Indonesia backpacking itinerary


The Jakarta skyline at dusk
By yohanes budiyanto | CC BY

There is no better place to start this Indonesia backpacking adventure than the country's crazy, chaotic capital: the Big Durian—Jakarta. I have heard so many stories about how hard it is to move around this heavily congested city, an urban settlement of more than 10 million people, but I am ready for it. I tend to abhor big Asian cities, having grown up in one, but the promise of a brand new list of foods to try, with their own distinct flavors and textures, is too irresistible. With names as exotic as soto betawi or gado-gado, I'd brave rush hour traffic ten times over.


One of Bandung's still remaining Dutch art-deco gems
By Dimaz Fakhruddin | CC BY

From Jakarta, I take a scenic train ride up the hills into Bandung. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes and situated at 768 meters above sea level, Bandung with its mild climate was dubbed by Dutch colonizers as the Paris of Java. I doubt it is as lovely as the French capital as Bandung has since become the country's second most populous city. However, a few architectural art-deco gems still remain. I intend to do day tips, too, to the smoking caldera of Tangkuban Perahu and to the rolling hills of Puncak Pass. Of course, there is always the food: batagor, laksa bandung, and many more.

Related Post: Backpacking Itinerary - Indonesia in Three Weeks (the Final Draft with Links!)


A traditional Sundanese village. The Sundanese are the original inhabitants of West Java.

I have learned to love laid-back mountain towns in my travels and the Garut area, just a couple of hours south of Bandung, might just be the answer. Honestly, I do not know much about it. In fact, I only learned of its existence a few days ago researching scenic and accessible areas east of Bandung. It should be worth it. I will definitely like to visit Kampung Naga, a small Sundanese village nearby. Though touristy, it should provide a look into the life and culture of the Sundanese, the original inhabitants of West Java.

Dieng Plateau

Sweeping sunrise views of the Dieng Plateau in Central Java
By Jimmy McIntyre | CC BY-SA

I leave the highlands of West Java and make my way through the hinterlands of Central Java. First stop is a volcanic highland known for its Hindu temples and gorgeous beyond gorgeous mountain panoramas—Dieng Plateau. Truth be told, I only decided to include this in the Indonesia backpacking itinerary because I did not want to arrive in my next stop, Yogyakarta, on a weekend. You will see why below. However, seeing images of the sacred Hindu plateau, I definitely want to see it now. Look at it!

Related Post: Backpacking Itinerary - Indonesia in Three Weeks (the Final Draft with Links!)


The Hindu temple complex of Prambanan

Yogyakarta is probably the most well-known tourist destination in Java and it's not hard to see why hordes of tourists descend upon the city, especially during weekends. Located nearby are not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Borobodur and Prambanan. These ancient religious sites, Buddhist and Hindu respectively, were built by the great kingdoms that ruled Java when Islam was yet to dominate Indonesia. The city of Yogyakarta itself has a lot of interesting attractions, being an important heartland of Javanese culture and the arts. I plan to spend at least four days here.

Mount Bromo via Malang

The otherworldly landscape of Mount Bromo
By Tarah | CC BY-ND

Thanks to intrepid Pinoy travel bloggers like Marcos of Ambot-ah.com (I implore you to visit his amazing travel blog), I should like to take a lesser-known route to another highlight of Java island—the lunar landscape and the smoking caldera of Mount Bromo. Instead of taking the usual and very popular route from Probolingo, I am heading to Malang to make my way west towards the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. Not many travelers take this route because of the lack of regular transport and other tourist infrastructure, but I welcome the challenge. With otherworldly views like that, I'm sure the hard way in would be worth it.

Related Post: Backpacking Itinerary - Indonesia in Three Weeks (the Final Draft with Links!)

Baluran National Park

The quiet shores of Bama Beach in Baluran National Park, East Java
By Felix DwiSis | CC BY-SA

Finally, as I approach the western edge of Java, I kick off my hiking shoes and my jackets (which I will have used heavily by then) and head to the coast, to Baluran National Park. This is a scenic national park just north of Banyuwangi where most visitors make the connection to the very famous island that is Bali. This is the same reason that many people just pass through it. It is too close to a more popular destination. Not wont to visit touristy-party beaches, I'm choosing to spend my remaining days in Indonesia exploring the Africa-like savannas and quiet beaches of Baluran National Park.

From Baluran National Park, I head to Banyuwangi, the last westernmost city of Java, to take the ferry and the bus to Bali's transport hub, Denpasar, where I catch my flight back to Manila. No time to see sights in Bali. That's for another trip. Anyway, I would like to think that at that point, I will have done justice to Java island. I leave for Indonesia mid-July. I cannot wait.

At the risk of being swayed to include another destination in my already filled Indonesia backpacking itinerary, where else in Java island should I head to? What else is there to see in Java island?

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