3 islands in 3 weeks – Indonesia 2014

3 islands in 3 weeks Title Pic

It was that time of year again…time to escape Melbourne winter for a little bit and head to where the sun shines warm and bright, and the blue skies and oceans are endless…where the smells of kretek {clove cigarettes}, incense and satay smoke make your senses come alive…and your ears awaken to the tinkling of the gamelan, a rooster calling out, the call to prayer from the local Mosque/s or maybe even a blast of ‘dangdut‘ playing on your neighbours stereo! Ahhh the sights, sounds and smells of Indonesia! Time to let my second language flow and integrate myself in the cultures that I love! Yes, time for a June Journey to Indonesia 2014…and this was the itinerary for the short escape – Bali, Central Java – Yogyakarta & Gili Air {3 islands in 3 weeks!}

Last year, whilst visiting Yogyakarta, we literally stumbled upon the Jogja Art Fair or ART|JOG|2013…however, due to our love & interest in this event, this year’s journey was based around the dates of the ART|JOG|2014, which had moved to June, I suspect this was due to Ramadhan occurring in July {just a guess!}. ART|JOG|2014 – ‘Legacies of Power‘ – was a must to include on the itinerary! The last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about my own art work thus I anticipated that the wonderful, creative and unique artworks in this exhibition would inspire my own creativity.

The June journey started with a relaxing and quiet night in Kuta – yes, believe it or not!…{including first holiday cocktails on the balcony of our room, room service & ‘Sinetron‘ – Indo Soapies! {If you don’t know, I’m a BIG fan! Ohh how I miss Indonesian TV!}, followed the next day by an early morning walk along the Kuta Esplanade, a big buffet breaky {the first of many!…weird how I don’t eat breakfast at home but when I’m presented by a massive buffet breakfast with endless choices of food, I can quite easily eat a plate full! Hehehe!}, and a big shop-up at Bintang Supermarket & Bali Deli for treats, before embarking on the journey to Banjar – Singaraja for three nights to visit the wonderful, hospitable Pak Keith & Ibu Wendy Fletcher. Always lovely to catch-up with good friends and some much needed R&R. {With 1 hour massages booked for every day!} Time slipped by fast being enjoyed by lazy days by the pool, sunset drinks, delicious meals and good catch-up chatter. And sunrise and sunset never a disappointment!

Bali June 2014 Pic Collage

The highlight of this first venture was a wonderful cultural experience, accompanying Pak Keith to a local performance of the Ramayana by local dance and gamelan group: ‘Sanggar Pentas Marak Lestari‘. I have seen endless Ramayana performances over the years {*some almost ‘yawn’ material!}, however this performance took me by complete surprise, it was a pure treat for the senses, it was highly entertaining and very humorous. The gamelan was extraordinary…and the backdrop of a privately owned local family’s Balinese Hindu temple was really quite magical. I absolutely LOVED it!

Bali 2014 SANGGAR PENTAS MARAK LESTARI

After our Banjar interlude, it was a drive through Bali, from North to South, and on board a flight direct to Yogyakarta; the cultural capital of Central Java, and a city that’s close to my heart since I visited often whilst living long-term in Semarang. I was excited to be going back to Yogya; so much to explore in and around this unique little city. Our visit to Yogya last year was full of fond memorable moments of exploring the city, and we couldn’t wait to get back to do some more exploring!
There is just never enough time to explore all the wonders and delights of Yogya!

We spent five nights in Yogya, and quickly filled up maximum hours in each day with firstly a visit to the *ART|JOG|2014 Arts Festival at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta, a sunrise tour (Feel like deja vu!? Yes, we did a Borobudur Sunrise tour last year too) but this time we went to *Candi Borobudur {I’m a glutton for punishment with 3am wake-up calls! Gila!}, a visit to a Batik studio, getting lost through the alleys and underground tunnels to the *Water Palace, wandering the streets, becak rides, shopping malls and meandering up and down *Jalan Malioboro day and night especially; in search of the delicious culinary surprises and treats of Yogya….in the form of pedagang kaki lima (food carts on the street) and/or lesehan restaurants set up on the side of the street and the local buskers that work their way along the street, filling the streets with music! All these components combined; make Yogya the unique place that it is.

Bali July 2014 Water Palaca + Borobudur Pic Collage

Bali July 2014 Food Pic Collage NEW

After Yogya, my plan was to head to Lombok, I wasn’t totally sure where exactly {Senggigi, Kuta, ‘The Secret Gili’s -still on my list!…?} I just knew I needed some beach/quiet island time! This is always a MUST DO on every itinerary, no matter where I go! After quite some research & running around, I found there were no direct flights from Yogya to Lombok {even with Lombok’s new International Airport!? WTH?!}, thus we endeavoured to head back to Bali and journey to Ahmed. I decided the best plan was find the shortest route to the Gili Islands! So, this included a flight from Yogya to Bali and a car ride for 3-4 hours from the airport to Ahmed. I’d never actually been to Ahmed before so this was a new experience and one that I was pleasantly surprised with! The drive along the east coast was really pretty, with glimpses of ocean on the right hand side and on the left was beautiful mountains towering high in the sky. Spectacular!

Final destination of Ahmed was reached late in the afternoon, the sun was still warm and a walk along the beach proved to be really lovely…it was quiet, clean and picturesque! Wow! Why hadn’t I ventured here before this?! It was definitely a spot to include on the list for future adventures.

Bali July 2014 Ahmed Pic Collage

We only had one night in Ahmed {but boy did we make the most of that ONE night with loads of cocktails and delicious tapas cooked by an Indonesian-Australian guy!}, before early the next morning catching the fast boat ‘Kuda Hitam Express’ {booked directly with the manager via SMS! Ha!} heading to ‘The Famous Gili Islands’. I was keen for some beach time! In the past I have spent extended periods of time on the Gili Islands {Gili T} and had sworn not to return due to massive tourism development…I had also heard from many friends the negative feedback about the islands! My fond memories of the Gili’s, stem mainly from back in 1995, when island life was fairly quiet, the beaches still deserted, you could still find a simple bungalow on the beach and you could still eat local food in the many warung available. I had heard and read that all of this had changed! However, after much consideration i.e. “should we, shouldn’t we?” … I decided to head to Gili Air {the smaller of the islands} and check it out for myself…I was hoping that it may not be too over-developed like its big party sister; Gili Trawangan!

After arriving on Gili Air in the morning on a super hot day with the sun beating down upon us and blue skies all above us in every direction, walking along the sandy pathway with ocean views all along…I saw for myself that Gili Air had not changed too much over the years. Well, of course it had changed considerably, as the last time I was there was many years ago when there was basically nothing on the island! {When I slept wrapped in a sarong, in a bruga/bale on the beach! Ahh the good ole days!}…but what I saw, I liked, it wasn’t over the top and there was still a lot of vacant land…loads of coconut trees, paddocks of cows and goats and chickens roaming around freely. Gili Air was still basically ‘kampung‘….village, and this simpleness made my heart sing!

We decided to spend eight nights on Gili Air, enjoying slow, lazy days on the beach, going for walks through the village and around the island {mostly getting lost every time!} and chill’n by the pool. The quiet, cool evenings were a delight with beautiful sunsets, some of the most delicious culinary experiences had and a dark sky full of clear shining stars! There is nothing quite like that stunning view of the stars, making you feel like you are a million miles away from anywhere! Pure bliss! Time slipped away fast on the island.

Bali July 2014 GILI AIR Pic Collage

Leaving Gili Air took us back to Ahmed, Bali {with a bit of a hellish journey due to our boat breaking down, a long stop at Lombok and a slack boat crew…it’s a long story and it was a long journey!}, then headed to Seminyak for our last four days at the exclusive ‘The Elysian’ {totally stoked that I had decided to pre-book luxury accommodation for our last days of holiday!} with a jam packed itinerary of relaxing in our private villa, mainly by the pool and soaking up the sun {just had to ensure my vitamin D levels were totally up!}, shopping {and sending home a box of over 12kg of books and DVDs!}, sunset cocktails, trying to squeeze in all our favourite foods {my stomach is still recovering!} and more relaxing time! Ha!

* A sneak peek at ‘The Elysian’ – WOW!

THE ELYSIAN - BALI 2014 Pic Collage

It was a great journey…three islands in three weeks and filled with a fusion of culture, art and R&R; all three things most important on my holidays!

My conclusion to this journey is…there is NEVER enough time to do everything I want to do whilst in Indonesia! Meaning…I’m always waiting till the next time I can journey back to the place I will always call my second home; Indonesia! Always ready for the next adventure! Damn I LOVE Indonesia!

Damn I Love Jogjakarta Pic

*A follow-up post will be written for each of the asterisked places…and most likely others that are yet to surface!… Just fighting off frozen fingers {and brain} at the moment! Ahhh the joys of returning from a tropical holiday to winter in Melbourne!

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