Tag Archives: beach

West Java

Ah yes… Java. Previously I spoke of some of the places I loved from both East and Central Java. Today, it’s the West. West Java was a bit of a revelation to me as I had thought there wasn’t a lot to see before setting off on my travelfish.org adventure. But as it turns out, West Java is absolutely packed with awesome things to see and do. Lots of beaches and lots of volcanoes as well as a few reasonably large cities with Western conveniences.

Pangandaran & Batu Karas

I’d already been to Pangandaran before and knew it was a great little beachside spot to hang out for a while. But on my second visit, I enjoyed it even more. It’s nice combination of enough tourist infrastructure to make things comfortable and not enough foreign tourists to turn it into a mini-Kuta. I also checked out Batu Karas which is just down the road and has a totally different vibe — I liked it! The disappointing thing about both of these beach areas is that they deserve to have masses of foreigners visiting them, but at this point in time they are virtually empty with only a small handful making their way there.

Sunsets like this most nights in Pangandaran
Sunsets like this most nights in Pangandaran

Garut

Garut itself is nothing to write home about. But there are few attractions nearby that are definitely worth a look. I particularly liked Gunung Papandayan, an explosive volcano, Kawah Kamojang, a geothermal area with bubbling pits of mud everywhere and Kampung Naga, a traditional village with no electricity supply (except via car battery – so definitely no playing PartyCasino here!).

Huge volcano near Garut
Huge volcano near Garut

Bandung

I’ve been living in Bandung for the past year and it definitely is worthy of a mention. Mainly for the nearby Tangkuban Parahu and Maribaya forest walk, but also for the great culinary scene. There aren’t many foreigners visiting Bandung and it makes sense when you see how difficult it can be to get to Tangkuban Parahu by public transport without getting ripped off.

Tangkuban Parahu near Bandung
Tangkuban Parahu near Bandung

Ujung Genteng

Ujung Genteng would have to be my favourite West Java destination. It’s small strip of villages which stretches along a remote coast some 100km from the nearest city of any size. The great thing about Ujung Genteng? Total isolation, crystal clear water and a magnificent turtle rehab centre. When I was there, I think I saw one other foreigner, but I’m not 100% sure — they flashed past on a motorbike.

Ujung Genteng is magic
Ujung Genteng is magic

So the same disappointment I have felt in other parts of Java came back again in West Java. Absolutely incredible destinations that have very few foreign visitors. Many of them are not that easy to get to, public transport operators regularly rip foreigners off and accommodation is generally VERY basic. If only some of these people could tune into what foreigners want, maybe more would make their way to this neck of the woods. Until that happens, these places are going to be virtually unspoilt. Go there!

 

Central Java – culture, beaches and natural wonders

I have travelled a lot through Java since I arrived almost a year ago. In that time I’ve travelled the entire length of the island for Travelfish.org covering all of the common sights in Java as well as many that are off the beaten track. To be honest, it’s hard to stay on the beaten track in Java and it’s only because many people freak out when they arrive that they speed through the island towards Bali without so much as stepping on a beach or climbing a volcano (except maybe for Gunung Bromo). Central Java is a magnificent part of Java that surprised as it has a bit of a reputation for being desolate. And when you compare it to East and West Java, that might ring true. But Central Java has Borobudur and that is the biggest tourist attraction in Indonesia outside of Bali. Plus, there are some other places that I reckon are some of the best in the whole of Java.

Semarang – capital of Central Java

Semarang is the capital of Central Java and is where I flew into. It’s simply a big city with a great old section which floods occasionally. It flooded when I was there and the becak driver was driving me home in water that would have otherwise been up to my thighs. Needless to say I got wet — especially when the guy couldn’t peddle any more because we’d gotten stuck in a hole. The old town is basically a bunch of old buildings that are sadly falling into a state of disrepair.

Semarang old city
Semarang old city

Move out of the old town and into Chinatown and you find a part of the city that is surprisingly well-looked after. Chinatown is a great place to go on weekends when food markets are set up there.

Karimunjawa Islands

The Karimunjawa Islands are located about 100km off the north coast of Central Java — a cluster of small islands, some of which are inhabited by fishermen. Tourists go there because the water is crystal clear, there’s plenty of coral for snorkelling and the sand on many of the beaches is simply blindingly white. It’s a basic place where food is simple as is most of the accommodation. You rarely see another white person while you’re there and riding a motorbike around the island truly gets you into virgin territory for foreign visitors. This place is magical and is one of my favourite places in Java.

Karimunjawa has white sand and clear water
Karimunjawa has white sand and clear water
Karimunjawa Central Java
Karimunjawa Central Java

Dieng Plateau

Dieng Plateau is another one of my favourite places, but it couldn’t be more different than Karimunjawa. Dieng is located at 2100m above sea level and is home to the oldest Hindu temples in Java, boiling pits of mud and farms that spill down massive steep mountains. It’s cold, cloudy and absolutely enchanting. Overnight temperatures often dip below freezing in the dry season and day time temperatures can be quite frigid too, especially after having arrived from the stifling lowlands.

Small town on the Dieng Plateau
Small town on the Dieng Plateau

The great thing about sleeping overnight in Dieng is that most of the accommodation is located in people’s houses. This means friendly and warm service and some of the quirks you’d expect in an Indonesian house like no heating when it’s practically snowing outside. Needless to say, you do breathe steam out of your mouth the whole night and if you need to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, you’re in for an icy trip across the tiled floor in bare feet as of course Indonesian bathrooms are constantly wet. The best way to get around this is to dehydrate yourself.

Boiling water near Dieng Central Java
Boiling water near Dieng Central Java
Telaga Warna, the coloured lake in Dieng
Telaga Warna, the coloured lake in Dieng

Random photos

These random photos are of a place that isn’t in any of the guidebooks and won’t be in the travelfish guidebook either mainly because it took all day to get to on the back of a motorbike. Almost did me in. Only stayed for about 15 minutes and got bored, but it does make for some good photos. Everyone loves a mud pit!

Bleduk Kuwu Central Java
Bleduk Kuwu Central Java
Exploding mud of Bleduk Kuwu
Exploding mud of Bleduk Kuwu

Of course there are other places in Central Java that I went to that I could go on and on about, but no one has time for that. And there’s also Yogyakarta and Solo, both of which are already written up for travelfish and I didn’t have to visit. Central Java is truly magical and almost completely untouched by white folk. I went about a week without speaking to another one. YES! What you reckon? Good place or not?

Turtle hatchlings in Ujung Genteng

I went to a place called Ujung Genteng last month. It’s an awesome and remote place on the south coast of West Java where only very tourists make it. Among the great things to do there such as snorkelling, eating fresh fish and laying around is the possibility to see turtle hatchlings running down to the ocean. So I took a video as the sun set of those cute turtles. Check it out.

Pangandaran, West Java

After taking care of a few housekeeping matters in Bandung, I decided to head off on a journey to some Javan destinations. The rough plan was to visit about 5 places in 10 days, but I ended up only visiting Pangandaran on the south coast and Yogyakarta in central Java which is more akin to my normal pace of travel.

Getting from Bandung to Pangandaran is easy. You simply find your way to the bus station in the centre of Bandung called stasiun hall and catch the number 1 city bus to Cicaheum. Buses to Pangandaran depart regularly and tickets for the 7 hour journey can be bought on the spot for about Rp35,000. It’s not a particularly pleasant journey because the condition of the road is poor, but the scenery in parts is stunning.

Beach

Pantai Pangandaran
Pantai Pangandaran

So the main reason you go to Pangandaran is for the beach. It’s a grey-looking thing lined with palm trees and it’s really quite picturesque despite the colour of the sand. Few foreigners make it to Pangandaran and you’ll be sharing the main portion of the beach with domestic tourists. Move west along the beach and it suddenly becomes barren and devoid of any human life whatsoever – perfect for a romantic walk along the beach (blergh).

It’s not very safe to swim at the beach due to the large waves and strong currents, but some people give it a go anyway. In the past 12 months, 11 people have drowned there and near-misses are daily occurrences. The lifeguards have a nice, shiny truck that they drive up and down the beach, but I didn’t see them get out of it let alone jump in the water. Maybe they can’t swim…

Whatever the case, the beach is a fantastic place to relax, people watch and surf (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Accommodation

There’s plenty of accommodation in Pangandaran and a basic room with cold water and a squat toilet will set you back around Rp70,000 per night. You can upgrade to an air conditioned room for about Rp100,000 per night. Most of these places cater to Westerners and are located at the far western end of town. The locals all stay in the centre of town and I reckon there’d be some decent cheap options there as well if the Western options are too expensive or not up to scratch.

Green Canyon

Green Canyon, Pangandaran
Green Canyon, Pangandaran

Around the Pangandaran area there are a few cool things to do. Well maybe one. A visit to Green Canyon is a must when visiting Pangandaran. It’s a small canyon with crystal clear turquoise-coloured water where you can hire a boat to take you up to a small swimming area. On the weekends, it’s extremely busy as I found out, but it is still a beatiful place even with the throngs clambering all over the rocks to watch their friends swim. Go here.

Batu Karas

Young Girls on the Beach
Young Girls on the Beach

Batu Karas is a surfing town that is less-heavily touristed than Pangandaran and it’s still relatively undeveloped. To be honest, it feels like a bit of a dump. But this will change as time passes and people invest money into the roads, warungs and seaside infrastructure. Apparently it’s a great place to surf and private lessons can be had for about Rp100,000 per day. I think I might partake in a bit of this later in the year when I’ve got a bit of spare time. Hopefully I can find some more redeeming qualities.

To keep you going, here are a couple of videos I took of Pangandaran and Green Canyon.

So that’s it. Another great tourist destination in Indonesia. If only infrastructure and marketing gave this place a chance. Want Indonesia?

Australia Roadtrip – Western Australia

This is the fourth in a series of posts about my 2011 roadtrip around Oz. Checkout Tasmania, South Australia and campervan purchase!

Western Australia was almost the place that never was. I think after it is all said and done, my favourite state of the not too recent Oz Roadtrip was Western Australia. Many people rave about Western Australia – particularly the backpackers we met along our journey and I always just put it down to crazy Europeans being in awe of the sun and sand that they never get at home. But I was naive. Western Australia impressed me in a way that was totally unexpected and in a way that could only have been experienced on a roadtrip.

Western Australia is a massive state that defies all comprehension. When entering the state on the Nullarbor Plain, you continue to drive for a full day before you reach a town with more than 50 people. It’s then another day’s driving to reach the western coast. The coastline extends for over 12000km (8000 miles) and most of the interior is completely empty save for a few camels, dingos and emus.

Our first stop was the remote but modern town of Esperance on the south coast, 700km east of the capital of Western Australia, Perth. It is an area with some of the best beaches you will ever see and offers some great camping opportunities in the Cape le Grand National Park.

Stunning Beach in Cape le Grand National Park
Stunning Beach in Cape le Grand National Park

The next area I really loved was Albany. Why? Well… The town itself is beautiful with some gorgeous suburbs. But around the whole area there is beach after beach and vantage point after vantage point that takes your breath away. Really! Plus, you can go on a free tour of a forest at the Valley of the Giants near Denmark which starts at 10am. The best beach I have ever been to is Greens Pool just outside of Denmark. How can a place really look like this?

Greens Pool, Denmark, Western Australia
Greens Pool - My Favourite Beach

Finally, I thought Perth was magic. I’d been to Perth a couple of times before, but not with the same spirit as I did this time. This time it was more about food and Perth duly delivered. What struck me about Perth was how new and shiny everything was. It is clearly evident that the mining boom which has been going on for about 10 years now is paying dividends for Western Australia’s capital. Thousands of people work on remote mine sites around the state and fly to and from work on what they call a “fly in fly out” basis. The mines are desperate for workers and consequently people are lured there with big pay packets. The lifestyle sounds somewhat brutal, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a go one day.

Polenta & Mushrooms at Toast, East Perth
Polenta & Mushrooms at Toast, East Perth
City Beach, Perth
City Beach, Perth

We didn’t get further north than Perth. If you look at a map, you’ll realise that Perth isn’t far north at all! So we had a fab time in Western Australia and didn’t even scratch the surface. Had we headed north to the famed areas of Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef and the Kimberley, we would have had to drive about 5000km further and taken weeks to do it – we just didn’t have the time. But these places have reputations larger than the areas we visited and I am supremely confident that they will stack up.

I’d like to say that I cannot recommend Western Australia highly enough, but that would sound stupid. So I’ll just say that if you plan to go anywhere in Australia, try to take a roadtrip in Western Australia. It is magnificent.

Bali Photo Essay – Beaches

This is the first in a series of shameless posts with a lot of Bali photos. Click here for People and Animals & Food!

I don’t even really know what a photo essay is, but everyone seems to be doing one so I thought I’d finally get around to putting up some Bali photographs from my recent sojourn.

For many, the beaches of Bali are a disappointment. The main reason is that people dream of an idyllic paradise – palm-fringed white-sand beaches with bare chested beauties bringing fresh coconut juice and pina coladas at the snap of your fingers. OK, maybe that last part was just me. But really, it’s nothing like that. Perhaps they were once like this back in the 70s, but those days are gone.

The best beaches nowadays are off the main tourist trail, but are still popular enough to attract people with an entrepreneurial spirit willing to build decent hotels, provide delicious food and generally make you feel like you’re not roughing it. The beaches in the tourist areas are OK, but places like Australia and the US have better ones. Each of the photos below look better when you click on them as they expand to fill more of your screen. Lucky you!

Kuta Beach
Kuta Beach

The first beach most visitors to Bali see is Kuta Beach. It’s an impressive stretch of sand that is now developed to the point where it’s no longer pleasant in the middle of the day when all the other tourists are around. Harrassing beach vendors, sometimes dirty water and loads of people. Still it’s a great place to stroll in the early morning before most people wake up and it has a chilled vibe in the evenings.

Sanur Beach
Sanur Beach

When looking at the 5 or 6km long Sanur Beach, it’s easy to be torn. Sections of it are beautiful with trees shading raked sand and turquoise water lapping at your feet. Other sections are an eyesore with dated hotels shadowing unpleasant swimming areas. Overall, however, it’s a more family friendly area than Kuta and less hectic. It can be a good spot to relax with a beer and a nasi goreng.

Padang Padang Beach
Padang Padang Beach

Get away from the main tourist areas and everything changes. Padang Padang Beach is one of the best in Bali and is not visited anywhere near as frequently as those in Kuta and Sanur. It’s also small giving you the feeling that it’s a secret hideaway that the masses haven’t yet discovered. Much like the other beaches on the Bukit.

Sunset at Yeh Gangga Beach
Sunset at Yeh Gangga Beach

Yeh Gangga is one of my favourite places in all of Bali because it is so secluded. The beach stretches for kilometres in both directions and there is hardly another tourist to be seen – just locals playing football and the odd family paddling. What tops it all off is that you can watch an endless stream of ceremonies which arrive at the beach to complete the scattering of ashes of the recently cremated.

Amed
Amed

Amed beaches are different from those of the south as they are generally tainted black as a result of volcanic activity plus they are  home to coral reefs. Loads of them. And they’re easy to snorkel. The place commonly referred to as Amed is in fact a series of fishing villages which starts in the west at the actual village of Amed and finishes in the east at Aas. Amed is a top spot that is relatively empty outside of the Christmas period and the European summer. Cheap food, cheap accommodation and unlimited snorkeling. Could this be the Balinese Paradise that people are searching for?

So there you have it. Beaches in Bali. You like?