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    WHY YOU SHOULDN’T HESITATE TO VISIT BANDA ACEH

    An honest account of our experience touring the conservatively Islamic and previously tsunami-battered city

    PRIMATES, PACHYDERMS & PALM OIL – A WEEK IN SUMATRA

    The highlights and lowlights of our trip to northern Sumatra

    DRAGONS, MANTAS & FLYING FOXES

    A two-day boat trip around the fabulous Komodo National Park, Flores

    ALL ABOARD THE LAST CEMENT TRUCK TO WAE REBO

    Our epic and surprising journey to Wae Rebo in Flores, one of Indonesia’s most remote traditional villages

    A JEWEL IN FLORES’ CROWN

    If you’re travelling in Flores then don’t miss this hidden gem – Villa Manulalu at Bajawa

    THE INCREDIBLE CRATER LAKES OF KELIMUTU

    Get up early to witness the tri-coloured lakes of Indonesia’s stunning Flores

    CONQUERING THE SPECTACULAR MOUNT INERIE

    We marched right up to the top of the hill and we surfed back down again – if you want to climb a volcano in Flores then look no further

    14 THINGS WE LEARNED ABOUT BALI

    Our musings from 18 days on Bali – the Island of the Gods

    TAXI FOR BALI

    Volcanos, paddy fields and beaches – after a thirteen year wait we finally made it to Bali

    ANOTHER TAXI FOR BALI

    Continuing our tour of Bali by taxi

     

    WHERE WE’VE STAYED

     

    UBUD, BALI

    Nirwa Homestay
     Nirwa Homestay

    Nirwa Homestay

    Nights
    3

    Cost
    300,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, fan, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 4 Facilities 3 Food 4 Value for money 5

    What we thought
    Located away from the traffic noise of Ubud high street, this was one of the hidden gems we discovered on our Big Trip. Our room was a large, comfortable and traditional Balinese cottage (albeit with furniture that was old rather than “antique”) with fields of rice paddies surrounding the homestay. Co-hosts Made and his wife really went out of their way to look after us – and the banana pancakes for breakfast were fantastic! Highly recommended and, at £15 per night, a steal.

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    SIDEMEN, BALI

    Teras Bali Sidemen Bungalows
    Teras Bali Sidemen Bungalows

    Teras Bali Sidemen Bungalows

    Nights 
    3

    Cost
    500,000 IR per night 

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, fan, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness  3 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 5 Facilities 4 Food 2 Value for money 4

    What we thought
    We managed to secure the best room in this lovely guest house for a heavily discounted £25 per night through Booking.com. Gorgeous room overlooking a lovely infinity pool, with views of the jungle in front of us and Gunung Agung (Bali’s highest volcano) to the left. The only thing that let it down was the bland and soulless food served in the restaurant, which was a shame as the restaurant’s setting was stunning, too. If they got that bit right this would be a stunner. Expect to pay double the price in peak season, though.

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    AMED, BALI

    Sama Sama Cafe & Homestay

    Sama Sama Cafe & Homestay

    Nights
    3

    Cost
    328,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 2 Facilities 2 Food 3 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    Located across the road from the cafe and beach, the rooms were newish, although the air-con was freezing! Our sleeping was interrupted by a chorus of cockerels from what seemed like just after midnight, and the sound of a circular saw was never too far away. Fine for a cheap few days or so.

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    MUNDUK, BALI

    Villa Dua Bintang
    Villa Dua Bintang

    Villa Dua Bintang

    Nights
    2

    Cost
    661,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, wifi

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 3 Facilities 2 Food 2 Value for money 2

    What we thought
    Situated in a spectacular hillside location, in a huge family room with floor to ceiling windows, this was our splurge in Bali. Yet, overall it disappointed because of the bland food in the restaurant (it was a half an hour walk in total darkness at night to the nearest warung so we were tied to it), the extremely poor wifi (which we needed) and the building works on site all day.

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    MOUNT BATUKARU

    Bali Mountain Retreat
    Bali Mountain Retreat

    Bali Mountain Treat

    Nights
    2

    Cost
    370,000 IR per night

    What that included
    B&B, wifi

    Rating **1/2
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 3 Location 2 Comfort 3 Facilities 2 Food 1 Value for money 2

    What we thought
    We stayed in a quite amazing converted Balinese “bale gade” for one night – after which we had to move out as woodworm were eating their way through the roof! The retreat is in a very isolated location within the mountains, which means that if the weather is poor (which it was) there isn’t an awful lot to do. Unfortunately, Nicky also suffered food poisoning from what were likely to be some dodgy bean sprouts in a salad from the restaurant. Unless you want lots of isolation and time to meditate then we’d say it’s not worth the long journey.

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    AMED

    Galang Kangin Bungalows
     Galang Kangin Bungalows

    Galang Kangin Bungalows

    Nights
    1

    Cost
    450,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wi-fi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 3 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    Great location right on Jemeluk beach with superb snorkelling straight off the beach. Unpretentious but spotlessly clean room. We only stayed for one night ahead of our boat transfer to Gili Air but we would have been happy to spent more time there.

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    GILI AIR

    Damai Homestay
     Damai Homestay

    Damai Homestay

    Nights
    4

    Cost
    300,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wifi

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 2 Location 3 Comfort 3 Facilities 2 Food 3 Value for money 4

    What we thought
    A French-run homestay, it’s comfortable enough for the price and we were well looked after by the amiable Jacques. Wifi was poor, however, and the open air bathroom could have done with a fair amount of cleaning.

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    GILI MENO

    Kontiki Cottage Guest House
     Kontiki Cottage Guest House

    Kontiki Cottage Guest House

    Nights
    5

    Cost
    400,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wi-fi

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 4 Facilities 2 Food 1 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    Nice large room, comfortable bed and located just a stone’s throw from the best slice of beach and snorkelling on Gili Meno. Unfortunately, let down by haphazard service and, frankly, appalling food. At least the wifi was reasonably good.

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    SANUR, BALI

    Puri Kelapa Garden Cottages
     Puri Kelapa Garden Cottages

    Puri Kelapa Garden Cottages

    Nights
    4

    Cost
    630,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & Breakfast, air-con, wifi

    Rating ***1/2
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 4 Facilities 5 Food 3 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    Nice, if slightly dated, individual cottage within lovely grounds and next to a good sized swimming pool. Although it’s not situated on the beach, it’s only a short walk away and some of the best warungs in Sanur are close by. And the wifi was excellent, which was a bonus as we used much of our time there planning our forthcoming trip to Australia.

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    DENPASAR, BALI

    Praja Hotel
    Praja Hotel, Denpasar, Bali

    Praja Hotel

    Nights
    7

    Cost
    375,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, air-con, wi-fi

    Rating ***1/2
    Friendliness 4 Cleanliness 5 Location 3 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 2 Value for money 4

    What we thought
    Stayed twice here – for our first four days it was an ideal base for us to catch up on our “admin” (blog posts, trip planning, booking flights, editing photos etc). Fast wifi, comfortable and clean rooms, and located in a non-touristy, upmarket area of Bali with great local restaurants to hand – and it was cheap. Our second visit, however, was a travesty in comparison – the hotel was full with a tour party of young children who basically ran amok for the two days we were there. None of the management seemed interested in taking the tour organisers to task over it either.  A shame really because it would definitely put us off going back.

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    MONI, FLORES

    Daniel Lodge
    Daniel Lodge, Moni, Flores

    Daniel Lodge

    Nights
    1

    Cost
    355,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast

    Rating *1/2
    Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 2 Location 2 Comfort 1 Facilities 1 Food 3 Value for money 1

    What we thought Very poor value for money – dirty room and bathroom, lots of noise from the nearby road and a faulty water pump next door to our room which whirred into action every 60 seconds or so for the full 24 hours we were there. Suffice to say we had a sleepless night. To make matters worse we spoke to the owner about it early evening and he promised to switch it off when we went to bed – which of course he didn’t. We left after one night even though we’d prepaid for two via booking.com – it was that bad!

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    ENDE, FLORES

    Mentari Hotel
    Mentari Hotel

    Mentari Hotel

    Nights
    1

    Cost
    250,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, a/c, wifi

    Rating **1/2
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 3 Location 2 Comfort 2 Facilities 2 Food 2 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    Cheap and reasonably cheerful, we only booked in to break our journey from Moni to Bajawa. Basic accommodation in a quiet area of Bajawa. We wouldn’t rush back.

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    BAJAWA, FLORES

    Villa Manulalu
    Villa Manulalu, Bajawa, Flores

    Villa Manulalu

    Nights   
    4

    Cost
    350,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast

    Rating ****1/2
    Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 4 Location 5 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 4 Value for money 5

    What we thought
    Just fantastic. Incredible mountain views, great food, superb staff, ultra-comfy and huge bed – and all for under £17 per night. With the imposing volcano Gunung Inerie to the right and views across mountains towards the sea in front, it’s a place to just unwind and breathe in the clean mountain air. Or you can explore the surrounding area by visiting traditional villages and natural hot springs or even climbing Gunung Inerie itself – all of which can be arranged through the guest house. Don’t miss it if you’re in Flores.

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    RUTENG, FLORES

    Susteran St Maria Berdukcita
    Susteran St Maria Berdukcita

    Susteran St Maria Berdukcita

    Nights   
    1

    Cost
    350,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 5 Location 3 Comfort 3 Facilities 2 Food 2 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    This is a convent which doubles as a guest house. Our room was big, clean and comfortable – but as it was situated in a buildings complex at the rear we overlooked a number of houses (not much more than shacks to be honest) which featured a number of howling and barking dogs who kept at it for the duration of our stay. However, there were plenty more rooms in the main building where none of the noise could be heard, so had our room been there we would doubt have enjoyed our stay more.

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    WAE REBO, FLORES

    Martin Homestay (Dintor Village)
    Martin Homestay, nr Denge, Flores

    Martin Homestay

    Nights   
    2

    Cost
    400,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, dinner

    Rating **
    Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 2 Location 3 Comfort 2 Facilities 1 Food 3 Value for money 2

    What we thought Very basic and small timber huts overlooking rice paddy fields. Incredible noise from hundreds of frogs during the night makes sleeping without earplugs impossible. Almost entirely used as a base for trekking up to Wae Rebo, although other accommodation in Denge itself would be better placed as a base. Overpriced for what was on offer.

    LABUAN BAJO, FLORES

    L Bajo Hotel

    Nights
    2

    Cost
    333,000 IR per night

    What that included Room only, a/c, wifi

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 3 Location 3 Comfort 2 Facilities 1 Food 3 Value for money 2

    What we thought
    Business-style hotel which was actually better than the low expectations we had for it. Set back away from LB’s main strip it was reasonably quiet and comfortable – although the wifi that we really needed was very slow. Would recommend though as good value accommodation in overpriced Labuan Bajo.

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    LABUAN BAJO, FLORES

    Villa Seirama Alam
    Villa Seirama Alam, Labuan Bajo, Flores

    Villa Seirama Alam

    Nights   
    1

    Cost
    600,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast

    Rating ***
    Friendliness 2 Cleanliness 3 Location 3 Comfort 3 Facilities 4 Food 3 Value for money 2

    What we thought
    We only arrived late evening and stayed just the one night so didn’t get the opportunity to appreciate the hillside setting and facilities of this place. Had a less than friendly conversation with the owner via telephone who wasn’t happy that we’d turned up later than expected, which wasn’t a great start. Very friendly staff at breakfast, though. Small villa room with great views of the harbour and islands, and adjoining kitchen/breakfast area.

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    BUKIT LAWANG, SUMATRA

    Eco Travel Cottages
    Eco Travel Cottages

    Eco Travel Cottages

    Nights
    1

    Cost
    400,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, fan, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 5 Location 4 Comfort 4 Facilities 4 Food 2 Value for money 4

    What we thought
    Superb hardwood interior decor with great views out over the river. Big, comfortable bed with an additional bed on the mezzanine floor. Only let down by the poor breakfast – with our table’s setting down by the river it deserved better! Highly recommended though if you’re staying in Bukit Lawang.

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    BUKIT LAWANG, SUMATRA

    Jungle Inn
    Jungle Inn

    Jungle Inn

    Nights
    1

    Cost
    400,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Room only, fan, wifi

    Rating ***1/2
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 3 Location 5 Comfort 3 Facilities 3 Food 3 Value for money 3

    What we thought
    We only stayed here as Eco Travel Cottages were fully booked after our one night stay there. Not quite as comfortable but with a larger room and a nice “jungle shower” feature. The view of the river was even better too. And, although the wifi was pretty patchy we managed to piggy-back on the wifi from the bar next door. Still, good value (as everything seems to be in Bukit Lawang) and probably the best located of all BL accommodation if you’re not going to be out trekking, rafting etc.

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    LAKE TOBA, SUMATRA

    Tabo Cottages
    Toba Cottages

    Toba Cottages

    Nights
    4

    Cost
    600,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, fan, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 4 Location 4 Comfort 5 Facilities 5 Food 4 Value for money 4

    What we thought
    We upgraded to the honeymoon suite as we received a generous 30% discount on the room. And it was a gorgeous, traditional Batak-style room, with a mezzanine floor and huge balcony. The bed was huge and one of the comfiest we’ve slept in, too. If the service had been just a little more upbeat it would have been perfect. Highly recommended.

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    BANDA ACEH, SUMATRA

    Medan Hotel

    Nights
    1

    Cost
    330,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Bed & breakfast, a/c, wifi

    Rating **
    Friendliness 3 Cleanliness 1 Location 3 Comfort 2 Facilities 2 Food n/a Value for money 2

    What we thought
    We weren’t expecting much when we booked this place – and we were right not to do so. It was merely a room for us to get some sleep ahead of our tour of Banda Aceh the following day. We didn’t even bother to hang around for breakfast the following morning. To be fair there’s not much choice in town either. OK for one night.

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    PULAU WEH, SUMATRA

    Freddie’s Santai Sumurtiga
    Freddie's Santai Sumurtiga

    Freddie’s Santai Sumurtiga

    Nights
    11

    Cost
    285,000 IR per night

    What that included
    Room only, fan, wifi

    Rating ****
    Friendliness 5 Cleanliness 3 Location 4 Comfort 3 Facilities 4 Food 5 Value for money 5

    What we thought
    This place has the owner’s personality stamped all over it. South African, Freddie, is probably the most hospitable host you’re ever likely to meet – and the producer of some of the best food we’ve had on our travels. For 65,000 IR (£3) he serves up a 4-course buffet dinner with a range of local and international dishes – including some from his homeland. We stayed in two bungalows, one of which had fantastic views right over the beach – from where there’s some good snorkelling to be had. The rooms themselves are fairly basic, although they do include a fridge, drinking water barrel, tea and coffee. The only downside was the morning call to prayer at 5am  – which wouldn’t have been so bad had the loudspeaker not been right outside our bungalow. And one morning this went on for 45 minutes!

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    IMAGES OF INDONESIA

    UBUD

    Despite all the tourist trappings and chaotic traffic surrounding Ubud it doesn’t take much effort to leave it behind and discover on foot the landscapes for which the Island of the Gods is justly famous.
    Read more at Taxi for Bali

    BLUE STONE BEACH

    With clean, black sand pitted with aquamarine pebbles, Blue Stone Beach is begging to be discovered by mass tourism. But for now, you can have it almost to yourself.
    Read more at A jewel in Flores’ crown.

    MOUNT INERIE

    The perfect volcanic cone of Mount Inerie, near Bajawa, is a five-hour climb that’s rewarded with 360-degree views across a landscape of jungle, mountain and coast. Best tackled with a pre-dawn start to avoid the heat of the day. The descent includes an energy sapping foot-surf through a steep incline of shingle. Crazy! Read more at Conquering the spectacular Mount Inerie.

    BENA

    Dotted around the Flores countryside are traditional villages, where the way of life has remained unchanged for generations. The Ngada village of Bena is one of the best examples.
    Read more at A jewel in Flores’ crown.

    WAE REBO

    The uber-remote Manggarai village of Wae Rebo can be reached on a four-hour trek through jungle and mountain paths. But actually getting to the starting point of the trek proved to be our biggest problem…
    Read more at All aboard the last cement truck to Wae Rebo.

    SNAKE FRUIT

    One of the joys of Indonesia is the sumptuous variety of exotic fruit available. Such as these snake fruits we found in a Sumatra market stall.

    BASKET OF OFFERINGS

    It pays to watch your step on the streets of Bali, in case you might accidentally step on one of these delicate religious offerings, typically containing spices, flowers and burning incense.
    Read more at 14 things we learned about Bali.

    KELIMUTU

    They’re the number one tourist attraction on the island of Flores but you have to get up extremely early to see them at their best before the mist rolls in from the mountain jungle. The three lakes are famed for their ability to change colour, caused by minerals within them reacting with volcanic gas.
    Read more at The incredible crater lakes of Kelimutu.

    MORE ON INDONESIA

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