YO! 3 Weeks 7 Islands 3 Trucks 2 Local Buses 2 Local Tuk-tuks 10 Pick-up Cars 20 Private Cars 3 Taxis 3 Ferries 2 Airplanes 4 Motorbikes 6 Host Families 3 Local Homestays Less than 300 U$D 4,807 KM DONE!
From 21 December 2019 to 14 January 2020
How to start this journey? I am telling you. This is gonna be a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong story. You better be ready.
I’ve been traveling for almost all my life. When I was only 13 years old, my parents sent me away to attend a pretty boring boarding school. That was the moment I hated my parents so much. You can imagine I always pretended to be super sick so then I could go home. That was my first shot to live far away from home. I was such a pussy. Well, you need to be a pussy first in order to learn how to be a dick. I mean, whatever. Since that, I kept moving my ass around wondering different places, different countries, chasing different challenges as well as finding the real purpose of traveling. Once my father said, “if you loved your hometown, leave it“. Well, 12 years later, I know how it feels like to miss my hometown.
This story I dedicate to celebrate myself for being a such badass in taking every single opportunity without knowing what to expect as I let the universe decides every single step I take.
DILI (22th-27th of December 2019)
We started our journey to Timor Leste from Bali by taking a flight to Kupang on 21 December 2019. Why not fly straight away to Dili from Bali? Because the ticket is super expensive which was almost 400 U$D one way | No FK WAY! Cuz we are super poor, so, we decided to fly to Kupang instead which was only 100 U$D one way (well, it’s still expensive but at least it’s a lot better than 400 U$D one way). Once we arrived in Kupang, we had a local friend picked us up from the airport and brought us to have special local food which is Babi Sei (Pork). You should give a try as the ribs are so delicious. The price was super logical as well like around 40-55K for a big portion you can share. After lunch, we headed to Dili straight away. As we left in the afternoon, our local friend said that we could take a bus from Kupang to Dili, but we wanted to experience hitchhiking so we gave a shot to hitchhike.
Hitchhiking Hacks #1 Always find the exit of the city before you start hitchhiking. Yes, our friend brought us to the exit gate on the way to Timor Leste. Not that long waiting, a pick-up car stopped for us and agreed to bring us till Batu Putih (where the driver needed to turn to the other intersection).
Hitchhiking Hacks #2 When you ask for a ride, make sure to ask the driver’s destination. If you went to the same destination/direction, just kick in. If not, you know it, don’t forget to say thank you and let the car leave.
Hitchhiking Hacks #3 Please be mindful to differentiate between private cars, local bus and a travel agency car (they basically look the same). So how to see the difference? Pay attention to the plate color. If it’s yellow, that’s the local bus. Some of the travel agency cars also have a black plate so kinda hard to tell. To differentiate, just stop the car and ask the drivers as usual whether or not the drivers willing to bring you for free. You might explain “FOR FREE” as people are very often asking about the concept of hitchhiking cuz it’s not so common in Indonesia. Plus there will be plenty of motorbike taxis that will stop around you. Just be patient and try to explain plus don’t be mad when they keep asking you as they will keep following you. Just take a deep breath, relax and do meditation on the road (JOKING).
Hitchhiking Hacks #4 Don’t forget to hydrate yourself since you gotta need to walk meters to kilometers so yeah keep drinking even though you are not thirsty.
Right, get back to our hitchhiking story. So the driver dropped us in Batu Putih. From Batu Putih, we had a truck stopped for us and the driver could only bring us to one area before Soe (Pasar Buah Soe). It was dark already cuz we moved from Kupang quite late so kinda hard to stop any car on the street.
Hitchhiking Hacks #5 Manage to get a car with long-distance before dark or you can stop moving when the dark hits you like to stay somewhere and wait until the morning hits you. During the night will be hard for you to stop the car cuz most people are scared to pick somebody in the dark especially stranger. They might think you will do a bad thing to them. Plus, during the night might be dangerous for you as well especially when you travel alone (girl). So for your own safety, you know what to decide.
Alright, from Soe we couldn’t catch any car so we decided to take a local bus to Kefamanu which was only 25K per person. The bus was super packed. Can you imagine all the seats were full but the driver kept pushing people to fit in? The worst thing was, the driver drove like a crazy drunk and played the super loud music in order to distract people (IDK whether this is categorized as a smart move or what).
We didn’t get a seat for 30 minutes so we had to stand and just managed to grab anything close to us since the driver seemed to get mad in driving especially the road was super dark and the corners were pretty sharp heading to up the hill so you can imagine how dizzy it was to stand as well as handling loud music in the middle of the crowds. We could have died if the driver missed something while he drove. Luckily after having a super rough journey with the crazy driver, we managed to arrive in Kefamanu around 11 pm. Luckily we have a friend who lives around so we crashed at his couch and continued our journey in the morning.
——-Next day, 22 December 2019. We left Kefa around 11 am after our friends brought us to the city exit on the way to Timor Leste. A private car stop for us and only managed to drop us in Halilulik.
So from Halilulik, another private car brought us to Atambua at Monumen Adipura.
From here, we needed to walk like a few meters to get out of the city center and luckily was kinda easy to jump to another private car which brought us to the entrance of AA Bere Tallo Airport and again, around the airport, there were so many motorcycle taxi approached us offered to bring us the border. Again, we needed to explain again and over again. From this point, we saw so many cars with white plates. What does it mean? Good question!
Hitchhiking Hacks #6 Try to approach the white plate cars because these cars are from Timor Leste which means, will bring you straight to Timor Leste. Yes, you guess it right, we stopped a car from Timor Leste. The driver agreed to bring us to cross the border. Yay! We finally made it to the Border.
For your information, the immigration opens at 8 am and closed at 4 pm. In the duty-free, cash only. So you know what to prepare if you wanted to buy things. For the visa thingy, please check the information based on your nationality. Most of the European countries are free to enter but still just make sure your status before coming to Timor Leste. You can also do Visa on Arrival in the border for 30 USD as far as I know (please correct me if I am wrong, cheers). On the border wasn’t so hard, the staff was kinda helpful and communicative so everything went easy for us.
After the border, we needed to walk around 1-kilometer cuz we missed the car that brought us to the border before. If you are quite lazy and/or tired hitchhiking after the border, there are actually some buses that will cross the border heading to Dili for sure but I have no idea how much the cost. Get back to our story then. After walking for a few minutes, we got a pickup car who agreed to bring us to Dili but then the rain hit us so we stopped for having a light snack (rice cake and fried fish, so delicious). We managed to get another private car which could bring us to Dili straight away without getting wet. What a lucky day.
Note: The road from the border to Bobonaro (19 kilometers away) was kinda challenging because it was mostly under construction and full of constant corners. But overall, the journey was really amazing cuz the houses were super authentic as you can see the big difference between Indonesia’s side and Timor Leste’s side.
A Glance about Timor Leste (source: CIA Factbook)
Geographically, Timor Leste is located in Southeastern Asia, Northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the Eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. The official name is the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor and the islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco.
The capital city is Dili. The total population is about 1,383,723 (July 2020 est.). The Ethnic groups are Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) (includes Tetun, Mambai, Tokodede, Galoli, Kemak, Baikeno), Melanesian-Papuan (includes Bunak, Fataluku, Bakasai), small Chinese minority. Languages are Tetun Prasa 30.6%, Mambai 16.6%, Makasai 10.5%, Tetun Terik 6.1%, Baikenu 5.9%, Kemak 5.8%, Bunak 5.5%, Tokodede 4%, Fataluku 3.5%, Waima’a 1.8%, Galoli 1.4%, Naueti 1.4%, Idate 1.2%, Midiki 1.2%, other 4.5%.
note: data represent population by mother tongue; Tetun and Portuguese are official languages; Indonesian and English are working languages; there are about 32 indigenous languages. The legal system is a civil law system based on the Portuguese mode (penal and civil law codes to replace the Indonesian codes were passed by Parliament and promulgated in 2009 and 2011, respectively). The independence day is 20 May 2002 (from Indonesia). 28 November 1975 was the date independence was proclaimed from Portugal; 20 May 2002 was the date of international recognition of Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia.
The history of this 20 years old young country is when The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonized it in mid-century. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty in which Portugal ceded the western portion of the island. Imperial Japan occupied Portuguese Timor from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II. East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 (Quba, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Portuguese Colony recognized the declaration of independence while other countries didn’t recognize).
But nine days later, Timor Leste was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor). An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people died. In an August 1999 UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia.
However, in the next three weeks, anti-independence Timorese militias – organized and supported by the Indonesian military – commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forced 300,000 people into western Timor as refugees. Most of the country’s infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly all of the country’s electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999, Australian-led peacekeeping troops deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. On 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state.
In 2006, internal tensions threatened the new nation’s security when a military strike led to violence and a breakdown of law and order. At Dili’s request, an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) deployed to Timor-Leste, and the UN Security Council established the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which included an authorized police presence of over 1,600 personnel. The ISF and UNMIT restored stability, allowing for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 in a largely peaceful atmosphere. In February 2008, a rebel group staged an unsuccessful attack against the president and prime minister.
The ringleader was killed in the attack, and most of the rebels surrendered in April 2008. Since the attack, the government has enjoyed one of its longest periods of post-independence stability, including successful 2012 elections for both the parliament and president and a successful transition of power in February 2015. In late 2012, the UN Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste and both the ISF and UNMIT departed the country. Early parliamentary elections in the spring of 2017 finally produced a majority government after months of impasse. Currently, the government is a coalition of three parties and the president is a member of the opposition party. In 2018 and 2019, this configuration stymied nominations for key ministerial positions and slowed progress on certain policy issues.
Important Information while in Dili, Timor Leste
- Microlet is the mini local bus a.k.a tuk-tuk as one of the options of local transportation around Dili. The price is 25 centavos one way. Once you decide to take the microlite, to stop it saying that you arrive at your destination is bang your coin to the metal loudly. Pretty cool huh?
- If you wanna take taxi, you will pay 2-3 dollars one way (try to bargain).
- Coffee in Dili is literally amazing. There are some cafes around the town to enjoy the coffee. It’s only 25 centavos for a cup of double espresso. Can you imagine? How cheap it is?
- No WiFi in the cafe, talk to each other! Damn true!
- The one and the only biggest shopping mall in the entire country is located in Dili which is called Timor Plaza.
- The second-hand shop is everywhere!!! CHEAP!
- Better to change money before coming to Timor Leste. Why? It could be hard to change the money during a holiday like Xmas for example cuz the only convenient place to change any currency is in the Western Union. But then close to the Xmas holiday, the queue is super looooong. So yeah, you shall learn from my experience. It was kinda hard to find a place to change the money. We should have changed it in Atambua, Indonesia.
- Euro is not popular in Dili. But Pound sterling yes. You know, for the first time in my life knowing that the euro rate is lower than U$D. Only in Timor Leste. How come? I have no idea. Only God knows.
- If you wanna do your single entry visa to Indonesia for 60 days, for sure you need to do it in the Indonesian Embassy in Dili. But then, please be prepared with the documents, I’ll tell you below. It might be hard to deal with but still good luck!
- Be mindful of some local areas that can’t accept men and women to stay together in one room without a marriage certificate because of culture (especially when you are using Couchsurfing). Their reason is many girls pregnant without marriage. So yeah, the chief of the area is super strict sometimes.
- Food prices vary (1-5 $) for a big portion of rice. Just be mindful cuz one portion of rice can fit for 2 people. Indonesian foods are cheap here like lalapan, soto ayam and nasi campur.
- The weather during December was okay even though sometimes was raining but not so frustrating. Sometimes heavy but brief rain almost every afternoon. So Dili’s beaches can get polluted but ones outside Dili should be fine, plus travel in the mountains can be difficult cuz of the landslide.
- EAT FISH! THE FISH IS SO DELICIOUS!
What to Do in Dili?
Xmas Celebration (A Super Intense Mass in Motael Church)
The bigger problem during the Xmas holiday is will be a lot of things shutting down because everyone’s with their family. You would want to double-check that any accommodation that you’re looking at the outside of Dili will be open. Dili can actually be quite nice during that period as there are fewer people but they still have public events relating to Xmas and NYE. I think the diving companies also travel agents so you could contact them about transport and accommodation options during the period. As Christmas is a big deal in Catholic Timor (Timor-Leste has a Roman Catholic majority), The people of Timor-Leste generally celebrate Christmas with great enthusiasm. Church, family, food, singing, and dancing are the ingredients of Christmas Day here, with thousands of people traveling from Dili to their home districts on rickety buses and motorbikes.
Attending “Christ’s Mass” is the highlight of Christmas for many in Timor-Leste especially me. Services may be held both late on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day in some churches. The elaborate, The display of wonderful building are often equipped with colorful lights.
We were so lucky to join the Incredible Xmas experience with our local friend and her entire family. Foods are delicious at home. It’s like a tradition to welcome people having dinner together as we had salad, fish, pork, potatoes plus alcohol.
Birthday Celebration with Locals
We were super happy to have a chance of attending the birthday celebration of one of the sisters next door. Because of still at Xmas vibe, the celebration went super warm. It reminds me of my childhood day was gathered with friends sharing foods and laughter. In Dili, we experienced a very traditional gathering with neighbors and friends to share cakes, foods, and drinks while talking and making jokes.
Visit Cristo Rei
The Jesus Statue located atop a globe of Dili. The statue was officially unveiled by Soeharto n 1996 as a gift from the Indonesian government to the people of Timor Leste as a present of 20th Anniversary Timor Leste’s integration with Indonesia (27th province of Indonesia) as well as to apologize for Indonesia’s occupation of the country. The statue was designed by Mochamad Syailillah and the project was led by the director of Garuda Indonesia that cost more than 350k USD. The statue is one of the main attractions for tourists in Timor Leste.
We met some local friends who brought us to see the Jesus Statue closely.
The view from the top is super amazing. The statue is 27 meters high but this statue can be reached by climbing the stairs around 597 steps which is super good for exercising.
Well after the hard climb, comes the best view
Plus once you arrive at the top of the hill you can try to do some crazy poses to impress people. Well, just be mindful.
Visit The Tais Market
If you are a big fan of something more cultural and/or unique, this is the best place to find any kind of authentic souvenir and tais (woven cloth) for sure. It’s located in the city center (Colmera). Tais market vendors sell high-quality hand-made tais and other woven items, wooden carvings, silver jewelry, rosary beads, and other souvenir items. Open daily. But the most famous one in this market is Tais. Tais is a form of traditional weaving created by women of Timor Leste which is an essential part of Timorese culture.
Tais is normally used for the ceremonial purposes or to welcome guests or family on a special occasion. Tais are made through a range of processes including starting with spinning cotton balls into thread, then using plants to make natural dyes to color the thread, soaking the thread in the dyes that have already been produced natural, local materials. Following that the thread is oiled to fix the dyes and finally the Tais is woven from the looms which can be quite large depending on the size and complexity of the design. Traditional Tais are made in all of the districts of Timor-Leste. In each district, there is local knowledge that is unique through processes of weaving and coloring the thread. There are many differences in the methods and recipes (plants) used for preparing the dyes for the thread.
In communities that weave Tais, the majority use processes that were passed down from their ancestors that they still use today albeit sometimes combining artificial dyes and synthetic thread from the modern time. The biggest differences between districts can be seen in the motifs, patterns and color combinations. Shopping in Tais market is so interesting as you can bargain for the price. So just make sure you know the price rate of different stuff before coming to this market. Normally for the tais is around 5-10 dollars which depends on the length or quality and the bracelet is around 1 dollar. This market is incredibly colorful and so original where the fabric making is located and all souvenirs you need to get, It’s all here.
Visit the Public Museum in Dili
During the Portuguese era, the museum had a function as a court. Once Indonesia came in 1975, it became an office of culture and education stage 1 in Timor Timor province. In 1999 where the referendum was conducted, Indonesia couldn’t accept the result of Timor Leste citizens (more than 50%) who wanted to leave Indonesia. So then, they attacked the churches, killed the Timorese and burned the museum.
In 2002, after the independence restoration, The museum was chosen to store the documents and a place to organize the temporary exhibition (under construction). In 2005, after the construction finished, the museum became the permanent exhibition space. Since they didn’t have proper documents at that time, they opened for volunteers who could collect the related document of Timor Leste’s history.
The contributor names have been written in the museum incorporate with one foundation from Portugal. The museum is not only a building as it sends the message to maintain the spirit of fighting against the military. The museum has several specific rooms such as an introduction room, external room, and multimedia room.
Windows Shopping at Timor Plaza Dili (The Biggest Shopping Mall in The Entire Nation)
I know most people are traveling not to chase the shopping mall. But for me personally, it’s always interesting to see the different styles of shopping mall and sometimes you can find the solution of looking for something in the shopping mall like I and my travel mate have experienced. We were struggling to find a money changer at a better rate. Well in this shopping mall, there wasn’t an official money changer available but somehow, Lion managed to negotiate with a Chinese guy to exchanged his Euro with the dollar in the fair rate. You see, we got the solution even though it’s unusual. Timor Plaza is more than an only retail center.
It is a lifestyle center for Timorese where everything for the home and family is available in an attractive, inviting and convenient shopping environment, with easy access and parking. The Timor Plaza Centre Court has also become a renowned arena for social, cultural and commercial activity. It is now the intention of Dili Development Lda. to create five more buildings to accommodate a balanced range of retail, accommodation, office and tourism facilities, constituting a vibrant commercial community that will drive private sector development in the capital for years to come. Well, they have a cinema as well. You should check it out. Why not trying to experience watching Hollywood movies in Dili.
After all, the new experience in Dili was really amazing as we stayed with a super amazing local family who treated us well. We truly had such a blast experience from the locals. Obrigada Abe and family!!!! Love you guys to the moon!
Hope to see you again any soon!
Kupang (27th-31th December)
After Dili, we moved back to Kupang by hitchhiking. What a long journey. We left Dili on 27 December 2019. We took a microlite from Timor Plaza Dili to the city exit (the last terminal before leaving the city).
From the terminal, we started to hitchhike back to the border. At first, we stopped a private car to stop in Liquica.
From Liquica, we got the private car that dropped us in Bobonaro.
We stopped at the head village’s house who welcomed us to stay a night before getting the next car to reach the border.
We were super lucky to be hosted by the head of the villagers nearby Bobonaro since we couldn’t manage to cross the border. We had a little bit of rest hanging out with local kids.
The next morning. 28 December 2019, we hitchhiked to the border from Bobonaro. We managed to get a private car to reach the border.
Crossing the border was pretty slow cuz so many people were crossing the border so the queueing was a bit longer. But the good thing is we managed to get some good gins at the duty-free! Well, it felt so good to be back to Indonesia!
After the border, we walked a little bit and managed to get a truck and another private car dropped us in Atambua.
From Atambua, we managed to get a private car all the way to Kupang.
It took us almost 12 hours to be on the road. What an incredibly tiring journey. In Kupang, we stayed with a local family which was really amazing to feel the different vibe of the capital city of East Nusa Tenggara.
A Glance about Kupang
Kupang is the capital city of East Nusa Tenggara as it’s the biggest city and port on the island of Timor. Kupang is part of Indonesia-Timor Leste-Australia Growth Triangle Free Trade Zone. Well, since the Portuguese and Dutch colonial era, Kupang was an important port and trading point already. Kupang is a multi-ethnic city of the tribe of Timor, Rote, Sabu, Flores, and small ethnic Chinese and immigrants from Ambon and several other tribes. That’s why the people here are super friendly as the communities are mix religions and ethnicities.
The manufacturing sector in the Kupang area is mainly based on the cement industry. Besides, Kupang is also exporting salt and fish plus to prioritize tourism infrastructure development since 2019 in order to boost the economic sector in tourism. It’s not a new thing to hear that Kupang definitely has stunning scenery, gorgeous beaches, and coral reefs as well as amazing cultural communities.
The interesting fact about Kupang culture is the tradition of greeting (nose to nose greeting) or as they call it “cium sabu”. This tradition of Sabu tribe is very unique as when you meet anyone, anywhere, and anytime, you greet the person by touching your nose and the person’s nose. The philosophy behind that is all about the value of brotherhood and the sense of strong connection of family. Besides, this tradition is also a symbol of peace. Once you have a conflict with anyone, you solve the problem by ending the conflict with nose to nose kissing to bring people back together. The deepest meaning is when you do that, it means you admit your fault and being open to say sorry and forgive each other.
This tradition is, actually kinda similar to the Maori tribe in New Zealand and people in Oman. But in Oman, the way people do it based on sex which means you cannot do it, girl, to boy or the opposite. It has to be the same sex. But in Sabu tribe, this nose to nose kissing is applicable to anyone without considering sex, status, strata, age and so on. The further philosophy is about respect and honesty when your nose meets, that’s the moment you can see eye to eye. Until now, this tradition still exists which Sabu people keep doing as well as other tribes in East Nusa Tenggara such as Rote, Sumba, Timor and so on. This tradition means a lot in terms of the strength of brotherhood among tribes in the community. With nose people breath, with the nose, East Nusa Tenggara people express the brotherhood.
What to see in Kupang?
As we didn’t really have that much time left in Kupang, we only manage to see the Crystal Cave which offered as a crystal clear water inside of the cave. This cave is located only 6 kilometers away from the Tenau harbor which is only 15 minutes by motorbike. If you are the biggest fan of nature, this cave is a perfect place for you where you can swim in the freshwater and enjoy the silence of the cave in the dark (just if only you were lucky enough to go there alone with no people inside which is kinda impossible but then good luck to try haha). But then, it’s better to visit this cave after 11 am and before 2 pm. Why? You need to wait until the sun is high, so it can shine inside and make the water look all crystal-like. Outside that timing, it’s just a dark pool of water, couldn’t see anything.
#Note for solo female travelers: Try to find someone to go with you. I went with my travel mate, thus I noted that I wouldn’t feel entirely safe if I was alone. A whole group of local men gathered in the entrance of the cave and watched me in my bikini the whole time. Some even took photos.
The other place we explored was the city center close to the harbor to see some Graffiti Arts on the wall. It was really amazing spot where you can walk around passing some local shops, seeing people busy walking finding their basic needs for the family and enjoying the afternoon vibe close to the coast-line while exploring the beauty of the old fashioned walls which covered by the beauty and creative graffiti art in the town.
Since we stayed with a local family, so our host brought us around exploring the city and they showed us the governor’s office of East Nusa Tenggara in the city center. Well, normally nothing special you can see in the office but the architecture of the governor building of East Nusa Tenggara in Kupang is unique. Why so? First, it’s the new icon of East Nusa Tenggara with the shape of a traditional instrument of East Nusa Tenggara which is a giant “sasando”. Second, It’s the central administration of East Nusa Tenggara. Third, at the beginning of the construction, the traditional ceremony was held by sacrificing the head of a buffalo to be adjusted in one of the pillars.
Overall, our experience at Kupang was really amazing. Thanks, Bobi and Dwi! You guys are amazing! Can’t wait to see you again!
Alor Island (1st January-3rd January 2020)
A glance about Alor:
Being called as a hidden paradise of Eastern Indonesia yet the least visited area in Indonesia, Alor is located in East Nusa Tenggara of Indonesia. In fact, Alor is a name pinned to the regency, the archipelago, as well as the main island of the archipelago. The Alor Archipelago comprises 20 islands and 17 sub-districts. Despite its short name, the Alor islands hide a long list of splendors, from fascinating underwater wonders up to the unique culture of the highland people. It’s about 55 km Northwest of Dili, the capital of Timor Leste.
Alor has the area around 2800 km square, making it the largest area in the Alor archipelago. The population is around 168,000 people of which 75% protestant and the rest of 25% are either Muslim or Roman Catholic. Alor traditional culture has been influenced over the ages by the Indian, Chinese and Javanese traders as well as by the Islamic and Christian religions. This can be seen in the silk thread woven into the original weavings and the mix of Mosques and Christian churches dotted throughout the Island.
The traditional dances, Ikat weavings motifs and the varied architectural style greatly from area to area. Kalabahi is the capital city of Alor which is super close to the main harbor that connects the boats crossing the eastern islands of Indonesia. Alor island is generally regarded as one of the best diving destinations in the world today. It has more than 50 splendid dive sites and great beaches. Nevertheless, Alor still is a relatively unknown destination since travelers have only just started to discover it, roughly since 1991. Due to this fact, there is an increasing trend in tourism to the Alor archipelago nowadays.
People in Alor mainly live on agriculture and/or fishing. The farmers cultivate vanilla, tamarind, almonds, and other nuts. The latest geological explorations have discovered valuable resources such as Ipsum, kaolin, petroleum, natural gas, tin, gold, and diamonds. Also, income from tourism has started to increase since Alor is becoming more and more known as a global traveling destination.
More than 15 different indigenous languages are spoken in Alor, the majority of them classified as Papuan or non-Austronesian which included Abui, Adang, Hamap, Kabola, Kafoa, Woisika, Kelo, and Kui. In addition, Alorese (Bahasa Alor) is a Malayo-Polynesian language that is spoken along the coast of the western and southern Bird’s Head of Alor Island and in places on surrounding islands.
Many of the Papuan languages of Alor are endangered and are no longer being actively acquired by children. Some languages have fewer than 1000 speakers remaining. Significant linguistic documentation efforts have been undertaken recently by Leiden University in The Netherlands. The language of daily communication is Alor Malay, a unique Malay variety with some similarities to Kupang Malay. Indonesian is taught in schools and used widely in media.
It was such perfect timing to open 2020 by traveling to Alor. Yes, in the middle of the sea we fell asleep only woke up 3 hours after the New Year celebration. Too tired to do the fireworks party. Well, 16 hours on the boat was such a blast (sarcastic, not sarcastic).
Here is the story, folks. From Kupang, we decided to skip Rote Island cuz locals told us the weather wasn’t friendly enough plus Rote is kinda mainstream so why not trying something wild and more challenging for sure. Hell yeah! We headed to Alor (Kalabahi) from Kupang Tenau Harbor. We paid 130k/person for 16 hours on the boat. Departure at 4 pm (dude, they told us will head around 2 pm but yeah, you knew the reality) We arrived at 7 am, the next day.
Travel Hacks #1 Better to prepare to buy drinks and snacks beforehand as in the boat, the water for 1.5 liters is 15k (normal price is 7k, you see they charge you a double price).
Travel Hacks #2 It’s recommended to buy cup noodles so you can buy the hot water on board (5k for 2 noodles, it’s not dat bad) then you can reuse the cup if you have a travel mate. You know, buying noodles on the boat will cost you 15-20k (it depends on the guy’s mood, especially if you are foreigner, they might charge you more. I know this sounds nonsense, but hey! Welcome to Indonesia).
The boat is quite okay based on the price. The plugs are available every corner and also they provide the bunk beds to lay down (but then, it’s pretty random as who comes first get the spot). The toilet is not the best one since it’s sharing. It’s not the best toilet but it’s okay for economy class. December is still quite okay for the waves (we were kinda lucky *somehow*). But then, by the end of January to the beginning of February, the waves are getting stronger. So you know the best time to be on the sea.
In Alor, it was kinda hard to find a motorbike. Why? Cuz they do not have any motorbike rent. Literally zero. The only renting place is only for a car. Well, people are relaying a lot on motorbike taxis. So how about negotiating with a local motorbike driver on the street? Well, good luck. Last time we tried, the price is 100k/ day, quite expensive. You can move around with a local motorbike taxi, but it’s quite expensive to go everywhere.
How about hitchhiking in Alor? I am telling you it’s not recommended. Why? First, not that many cars available for a long distance. Even though you are a solo traveler, hitchhiking is almost impossible. Why? Because the motorbike for the long-distance is super rare. Even hitchhiking from the city center to the airport takes time as well. Why? Locals are still confused about what hitchhiking is all about plus mostly the motorbike taxi driver will stop for you continuously when they see you hang around the streets carrying a backpack.
Well, you just need to be extra patient to always refuse them and explain that you don’t need them. So, for hitchhiking, the possibility is only from the city to the airport and go back. Other than that route, oh man, you need to find a motorbike for rent to move around easily.
The next question is, how to rent a motorbike in Alor? Honestly, this is a super hard question to answer but I’ll try my best to answer. So our story was pretty unique and high risk. But then, as Lion always says “Lion will always find the way”. So he was super right about it. No joke at all. Once we arrived in the port, we tried to ask around how to find the motorbike rent, none of the locals knew about it. They always mentioned “motorbike taxi” to go everywhere.
Once the guy approached us and wanted to rent his bike for 150k/day (what? Are you joking me? 3 times than Bali? I know I can’t compare but seriously? I understand, Alor is an island and not touristy but come on man, if it’s 100k/24 hours probably I can still tolerate but then we knew that this guy just wanted to scam us).
So yeah Travel Hacks #3 Please be mindful. Even though I am a local, I also got a scam. So yeah, as a traveler, you need to be smart even though just a little bit smarter than them (if you know what I mean). So finally we didn’t take his deal. So, we decided to walk to the city center which was quite close while trying to keep asking around for the motorbike rent. And again, zero! Tried to Google it, only 3 car rental places available. None of them offered a motorbike to rent. Why? Idk. I have no idea. I was thinking to open a motorbike rent business here but forget about it. I was on my holiday mate.
Dude, it was kinda tough as we could tell. We decided to hitchhike to visit the Takpala (Traditional Houses) by hitchhiking, after waiting for almost 20 mins, one car finally stopped for us and brought us before the airport. We waited again for the next car. Almost an hour (no car passed and it was kinda annoying). We planned to go to the airport just in case there are some locals wanted to offer us a motorbike for 2 days.
But then, we preferred to go back to the city center to find the motorbike rent. So we hitchhiked back to the city after almost 3 hours waiting and finally, one car stopped for us. Luckily, Lion asked the driver where to find the motorbike rent. Guess what? This guy had a person to contact for renting a motorbike. What a beautiful day! And it’s only 70k/day. Man! This deal was way too cool. It felt like all the massive weight from our head just lifted.
We got the motorbike folks! This guy is dope. His name is Haris, a local guy who saved our asses. For business inquiry, you can contact us to know his phone number cuz it’s kinda privacy to share his number here. Hopefully, in the future, once I and Lion come back to Alor, Haris has already had tons of motorbike rent.
What to See in Alor?
Takpala Traditional Village Alor
Located on the top of the mountain in the North Central Alor sub-district which is only 14 km from Kalabahi, the capital city of Alor district and it only takes 30 minutes by motorbike. The word Takpala derived into “Tak” which means “barrier” and “pala” means “wood”. So Takpala means “a wooden barrier”. This village resides the Abui Tribe (people who live in the mountain) is the biggest tribe in Alor. This Village consist of 14 traditional Abui homes owned by the families, called “kolwat”, has no walls. The other two are called “kanuarwat” which only privileged people can enter. But then, out of 14 families, only 6 families left. Their primary foods are cassava and corn. Religion is Catholic. A grandma that we met has been staying for almost 70 years together with Martinus has a role as a guardian (family’s land protector).
While in Takpala, we dressed like the tribe. For women, you can wear Keng (sarong), Pakai/Fulak (small basket for sirih pinang), Awering (like crown from Koli leaf), Fok (belt), and Lasing (the brass ankle rings), bracelet, Muti (necklace). And for man, you can wear Nowang (blanket), Kiti-kiti (crown), Sora (weapon) and Koling (weapon), Pet kafuk (archer’s bow), Baisa (belt), Kamol (small basket for sirih pinang). Before leaving, don’t forget to buy souvenirs from the collection of traditional objects and handicrafts Takpala population. They also sell handicrafts such as woven cloth, necklaces, and bracelets. I paid 50k for the costume. I bought a bracelet for 20k each and a necklace for 50k each.
After the village, we rode a motorbike to explore all Alor edge by edge started from Kalabahi to the end of Alor which is Kolana. It took us like 4 hours on the road (115 km). The view was super amazing. From the coastline to the mountain feet then burning trees view (2 possibilities: naturally burned cuz of the heat or somebody burned it on purpose to hunt the deers, who knows).
We arrived at the end of the mission by stopping at the border between Timor Leste-Indonesia in “Maritaing“. Had a good view of the beach close to the harbor while watching the monument of General Soedirman in the border of Timor Leste-Indonesia under cloudy sunset 🙂
Noted that, no guesthouse around this area, even to find the restaurant is impossible. So we decided to stop at a random house and ask for the place to rent for a night. The head of the family asked us to move to the next village, Kolana and tried to find the King of the village (what a joke lol). Since it was kinda complicated, the head of the family decided to welcome us to stay in his spare room for free. As a return, we will put his house for the promotion of guest house in Alor for our YouTube Channel and for sure, I will write about his house on my Website 🙂 (I am currently doing it) and again because of Lion, we got a place to stay. Yay! Once we put our belongings, we hung around the village (finding the King. Like finding Nemo). Since we traveled for almost 6 hours in total, we were starving as hell and tried to find any food around such as a local restaurant. Nobody was selling so we went to the random coastline tried to find a fisherman that possibly could sell us a fish while enjoying the amazing view.
Guess, we ended up finding the Nemo (massive sea fish) instead. We got it from the local fisherman only for 70k. Man! It was a massive sea fish which almost 60-70 cm. We brought it home and cooked with the family so we had a family dinner together. What a perfect dinner to end the day.
The interesting thing about our host family is, they let us eat first (as a guest), then followed by the host family couple, Petrus as a head family (the host) together with his wife. Then finally kids could eat. It’s super cool. Normally, if the family could not get the fish, they only eat moringa leaves cuz sometimes low tide made it so hard to get the fish from the sea. Overall, it was such a blast. Even it needed 2 days to finish the giant fish. The water in this area is a bit salty cuz the influence of the coast water. But overall, it’s safe to drink. This area has a local market every Thursday right next to the harbor.
Oh yeah, the harbor is still used to bring people from Alor to Timor Leste but for the immigration check, we need to do in Kalabahi. To go to this place from Kalabahi can be accessed by a local bus only for 30-50k. The next day, we moved back to Kalabahi city center as it was kinda sad to leave the local family cuz they welcomed us well. But then, our trip must go on.
Once we arrived in the city center close to the harbor, we decided to stay in the homestay close to the harbor only 5 mins away by motorbike. The name of the homestay is Moria, close to “homestay cantik”. For the reservation, you can come to the place straight away. The price of one room (can fit 2-3 people) is only 200k (included an AC and a massive breakfast). The room is super comfy, quiet, and smell good as well as super clean :). Well for the final day in Alor, we spoiled ourselves to have a fine dinner while having such a beautiful sunset.
Lembata, Lewoleba, (3 January – 6 January)
From Alor, we decided to skip Baranusa and moved to Lembata straight away cuz we had not that much time left as from Alor to Baranusa, the boat is only twice a week (Wednesday and Friday). The problem is to leave Baranusa to go to Lembata, we needed to wait for another one week (if we are lucky).
Well, we would love to get lost in the wild but I needed to get back to work soon 🙁 anyway, just for your information, for the boat, we departed from Alor to Lembata by paying only 81k/person. Departing time is at 8 am in the morning and we arrived at midnight around 12 am (16 hours on the boat). Dude what a tiring journey as well. The waves were super crazy. The waves season starts from January to February so it might be rough to cross the sea during that time. The best one to cross the sea is from August to October.
Here are some pictures on the sea:
Sunset was quite amazing even though a bit cloudy
I was a bit bored as you can see HAHAHA
While we are in Lembata, we stayed with a local family. It was such a great experience for sure. If you preferred to stay in the homestay/hotel, the price rate is around 100k-200k/room. You can just find it in the city center which is quite easy to find. For the motorbike rent, you can rent from the hotel you stay in. The price might vary which is around 70k-100k/day that depends on how you negotiate. If you are not lucky enough to find the motorbike for rent, usually you can negotiate with the motorbike taxi driver. The price is quite expensive per day as he sacrifices his income for a day to rent you a motorbike. So at least you need to pay like 200k/day cuz normally the driver can get money 200k/day.
A Glance about Lembata
Lembata is a regency in East Nusa Tenggara. The administrative capital is Lewoleba which located in the Western part of the island where the harbor located that connects the coastal town with the surrounding islands. Lembata is an island which well-known as “Pulau Lomblen” which is the largest island of the Solor Archipelago.
The island measures are about 80 kilometers from the Southwest to the Northeast and about 30 kilometers in width. Lembata has several volcanoes which are Ililabalekan, Iliwerung, and Lewotolo. Lembata is well-known with its Whale Hunting tradition in Lamalera Village which is located on the Southern tip of Lembata Island.
Lamalera and Lamakera are the last two remaining Indonesian whaling communities. Here, the sperm of whales have been hunted for centuries by only with the handmade equipment. The spears, the ropes, and the boats are locally made in the village. The most interesting part is the boats of the whale hunters are not having the engine. Given the facts that the Lamelaras only use primitive equipment when hunting whales and the purpose of the hunting is based on cultural reason from generation to generation so the United Nations do not object to this activity. Sadly we couldn’t catch this festival cuz we arrived early. The timing for this whale hunting festival is from May to October.
What to See in Lembata?
Bukit Cinta (The Hill of Love). This new tourist attraction is located on top of the hill and it’s actually where the icon of Lewoleba located as well. From the top of the hill you can see the wonderful scenery blue sea with the white sands. The fresh breeze will give you the best company while you are enjoying the moment of silence standing in front of the big word of “LOVE”.
Bukit Doa (The Hill of Pray). Beside the hill of love, another place to chill is The Hill of Pray where you can pray under the Mary Mother of Jesus which has a height about 7 meters. Many people come here to pray or just to enjoy the incredible scenery from the top of the hill. This hill is the symbol of tolerance among religions.
Football Competition in Lewoleba. While we are in Loweleba, we had a chance to see the football competition which was Islam religion-based. It was actually the competition to strengthen the brotherhood relationship from one mosque to another mosque.
Eat Jagung Titi. To complete all the experience, eat jagung titi originally made it Lembata. This is a typical traditional snack of East Nusa Tenggara region included Lembata which made of corn. Normally local people eat it with coffee while talking with your family members, friends or even welcoming the guests.
6 January – 10 January 2020 Flores Time (Larantuka; Maumere; Ende (Kelimutu), Bajawa, Waerebo Ruteng, Labuan Bajo)
After spending three days in Lembata included struggling with the heavy rain during our stay, we finally had a chance to continue our trip to Larantuka, the island of Flores.
We actually had a plan to stop in Adonara first, but since we were in rush, the boat didn’t stop in Waiwerang Port, Adonara. But then, it was only 2 hours from Lembata to Adonara. So next time I come back, I know how it goes. From Adonara to Larantuka, it only took us 1.5 hours by a small boat which was kinda slow and steady.
Since we didn’t stop at all, 6th of January 2020 we left Lambata heading to Larantuka with a slow traditional wooden boat for only 50k/person which took us 4.5 hours being on the sea.
Once we arrived in Larantuka harbor we walked a little bit to leave the harbor and started hitchhiking to Maumere. Luckily, on the first shot, we got a pick-up car to bring us all the way to Maumere.
Note: Once you enter Maumere, the ATM is getting diverse. Not only BRI/BNI only like mostly in East Nusa Tenggara. In Maumere, they have Mandiri already here. The road is a lot better as well.
A Glance about Maumere
Maumere is the largest city in Flores, Indonesia. The majority of people here are Catholic. Maumere is well-known for the place for one of the finest spots to dive because of surrounded by the reefs. However, since 2007 it has reported that 70% of the coral reefs had been significantly destroyed by the practice of the bomb fishing, the use of the toxic chemicals on fishing as we as because of the earthquake. But since that, the government keeps relying on promoting tourism as its annual agenda to boost the economic sector by hosting many cultural events.
While in Maumere, we had a chance to stay in the oldest, the biggest and the most famous hotel in town which is Hotel Beng Goan 2. Sadly, we only stayed for 2 days from 6 to 7 January 2020. This hotel offers the first capsule hotel in Flores with only 100k/night for one person (one bed, got AC, locker and included breakfast as well which is pretty cheap huh?). The concept of the capsule is super unique as it’s dedicated to the workers from outside Maumere who stay around the city and also for the low budget travelers who transit in Maumere before moving to Labuan Bajo or Larantuka.
The room is quite worth the price. It has a space for working space as well. One room only for 6 capsules while in the other places are mostly they put 20-25 capsules in one room. This capsule hotel is well-known in the town cuz is exactly in the city center and the hotel itself has been operating for approximately 50 years of a family business. Since they will provide you a locker to keep your belongings so the safety is still becoming a priority in this capsule hotel. So the travelers no need to worry about their belongings as they will have a locker to put their stuff in a safe place. Besides, this hotel also provides the normal room which is only 250k/night (king-size bed, AC, towel, and toiletries plus included breakfast for sure).
A day before we left Maumere, we visited a local traditional market which is Pasar Alok Maumere where you can buy everything you need (veggies, fruits) even second-hand clothes (don’t forget to bargain). We’ve also been to Wuring Fishermen Village which was full of dry fish everywhere.
Note: The beach around the city when we were there wasn’t so pretty cuz of the rainy season as you can see the trash everywhere and the water is super dirty. But then, locals recommended us to go to Koka Beach which is like an hour from the city center. Another spot you can visit is Watublapi Village, Bidit Hot Water, Mount Egon and Pangabatang and Kojadoi Island. Around the city can see Mangrove Maumere Ndete Area, Tanjung Kajuwulu Maumere, Murusobe Waterfall and Sikka Old Church. Sadly, we had no time to go there. But at least next time we come back, we knew where to go next already.
8 January 2020, we left Maumere heading to Moni for sure by hitchhiking (private car stopped for us). We stopped at the main entrance to go up to Kelimutu Lake. We got lucky to find a local who borrowed us motorbike from the head of the village.
A Glance about Kelimutu
Kelimutu is a volcano close to the small town of Moni in central Flores Island of Indonesia. The volcano is around 50 kilometers to the East of Ende, the capital of Ende regency of Indonesia. The mountain has three volcanic crater lakes that differ in color. The colors periodically change due to adjustments in the oxidation-reduction status of the fluid of each lake, and also considering the abundance of different major elements, such as iron and manganese.
So the colors in the lakes change independently from each other, as each has its own unique connectivity to the underlying volcano’s activity. The development of Kelimutu National Park around Kelimutu area somehow has led the forest rangers to have better relations with the nearby village and the communities around.
To reach this place by airplane, you can fly to the airport in Ende as there is a regular flight from Bali to Ende. From Ende, you can hitchhike or take a motorbike to the main entrance which is 8 kilometers from the main road. The price to go in is 5k for locals and 150k for a foreigner (can you believe it’s the only 5K for the locals? HAHA SO HAPPY!)
From the main entrance to the point of trekking is around 3 kilometers which you can reach by riding a motorbike. Then you will see the parking lot to park your motorbike. In the parking lot, you can find the information about Kelimutu National Park maps.
From that point, you go up trekking around 1 kilometer which takes you around 25-35 minutes (it depends on your speed). For the first 400 meters, you will pas the first lake and for the rest, 600 meters are all the way to reach the top to see all three lakes.
After spending around an hour in Kelimutu, we moved from Moni to Ende. We managed to stop a private car that brought us to the city center of Ende.
Then, we stopped another private car to bring us to the city exit. From this spot, we managed to get a truck as the driver went to a small town before Bajawa. Once we arrived in this area, it was almost dark and we got lucky that one pick up car stopped for us as they went to Mano area (30 minutes before Ruteng). We arrived in Mano around 11 pm and it took us an hour until we managed to get the last car (pick-up) that brought us to Ruteng. After the long journey for almost 13 hours, we finally arrived in Ruteng at 1 am in the morning. Our super kind driver offered us to stay at his house till we hit the morning to move again to reach Labuan Bajo.
9 January 2020, before we left Ruteng, we walked around the city center as the city center is quite small and to start the hitchhiking, you can simply walk around the city to find the exit gate and start the hitchhiking journey as we did.
On the way to Labuan Bajo, we hitchhiked with 2 cars to reach Lingko Spider Web Rice Field in Ruteng.
While in Lingko Spider Web Rice Field
The design of this rice field is one of the kind as you can read from the name which is a spider web. This design was created by the traditional way communal agricultural rice paddies were divided up among the indigenous Manggarai people. Centuries ago, the cultivated land, known as lingko, was shared by the entire village.
The communal field was circular, with the lodok at the center, where ceremonial rituals were held around the harvest, where a wooden pole and a rock form a ritual center. The pole (male)and rock (female) are seen to symbolize the reunion of the male and female and the heaven and the earth. Each family was allocated a segment of the rice field, radiating from the center outward (each was inaugurated by the sacrifice of a water buffalo).
The form of lodok is related to the shape of the roof of Mabru Niang which is the traditional house of Manggarian. The more resources the family had, the larger their slice of the pie as at that time the rice fields were shaped like a pie chart. Later, the paddies were further subdivided by the descendants of the original owners, leading to the striking, web-like shape of the lingko today. This unique rice field is located in Cara Village (Cancar Village), Ruteng sub-district, Manggarai Regency.
Met some local kids that always called me non-stop “Miss.. Miss.. Miss”. That was the first time Miss was way too popular that Mister jahahhahaha
After enjoying the rice fields while taking some pictures, we continued our hitchhiking to Labuan Bajo. During our journey, we managed to stop 3 cars.
Once we arrived in Labuan Bajo, we tried to find some information on how to go to Komodo Island but sadly, it had been almost a week the authority didn’t any boat to cross the sea cuz the waves were super high plus a few days before we arrived, one boat was sinking. But then we gathered some information for the next time we go back to Labuan Bajo.
For the tour (Komodo; Padar Island; Manta Point; Pink Beach) with a slow boat is 300k (exclude the entrance ticket) while the fast boat is 1.5 million (included the entrance tickets). Noted that It’s not recommended to be in Labuan Bajo in the raining season especially January-February-March cuz the waves and the storm are very dangerous. So better to come around August-September-October. One more thing, the cheap hotel we found is Teuz Hotel which is close to the airport (150k/night). 30 mins of walking to the city center.
Lombok (10 January – 14 January 2020)
A Glance about Lombok
Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia. Lombok is somehow similar in size, density, as well as some cultural heritage with the neighboring island of Bali. The area is about 4,514 square kilometers in total as Mataram became the capital city. Lombok is locally surrounded by a number of smaller islands called Gili. The population is about 3,35 million by 2014 census.
The island’s inhabitants are 85% Sasak, whose origins are thought to have migrated from Java in the first millennium before century. Other residents include an estimated 10-15% Balinese, Tionghoa-Peranakan, Javanese, Sumbawa, and Arab-Indonesians. The Sasak population is culturally and linguistically closely related to the Balinese, but unlike the Hindu Balinese, the majority are Muslim and the landscape is punctuated with mosques and minarets.
Islamic traditions and holidays influence the Island’s daily activities. Not long ago, July 2018, the earthquake (6,4 magnitude) attacked Lombok which killed 20 people and left hundreds of people who were injured. Later in August 2018, another Lombok earthquake happened (7,0 magnitude) which killed 563 people, 7000 were injured and damaged 1800 buildings.
Lombok is well-known to have the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, which is Mount Rinjani (3,726 m) which made Lombok became the 8th highest island in Indonesia. Lombok is often marketed as “an unspoiled Bali,” or “Bali’s sister island.” Tourism is an important source of income for Lombok. The most developed tourism area of the island is on the west coast of the island and is centered on the township of Senggigi.
The immediate surroundings of the township contain the most developed tourism facilities. South Lombok surfing is considered some of the best in the world. Tourist development started in the mid-1980s when Lombok attracted attention as an ‘unspoiled’ alternative to Bali.
Initially, low budget bungalows proliferated at places like the Gili islands and Kuta, Lombok on the South. The years leading up to 2010 has seen a rapid revival and promotion of tourism recovery in the tourism industry. The number of visitors has far surpassed pre-2000 levels. All signs indicate the long-term trend will see a steady increase in the number of visitor arrivals.
Transportation between Bali and Lombok?
Flight from Denpasar, Bali to Praya, Lombok takes approximately 40 minutes. Lombok international airport is located in southwest Lombok, 1.5 hours drive to Senggigi main tourist areas in the west Lombok, 2 hours drive to the jetty of Teluk Nara before you cross to Gili Islands and about 30 minutes drive to Kuta south Lombok.
Public Ferries depart from Padang Bai port (Southeast of Bali) to Lembar port (Southwest of Lombok) every hour, taking a minimum of 4–5 hours make the crossing in either direction. Fast boat services are available from various departure points on Bali and principally serve the Gili Islands, with some significant onward traffic to the Lombok mainland. Arrival points on Lombok are dependent upon the operator, at either Teluk Nare/Teluk Kodek, Bangsal harbor or the township of Senggigi, all on the northwest coast. Operating standards vary widely.
3 paradise islands, Gili Trawangan, the main island, Gili Meno and Gili Air are very popular for scuba diving and snorkeling but also for relaxing, swimming and partying. Backpackers and tourists visit especially Gili Trawangan often. Over here you can feel the lively reggae-ganja-magic-mushroom-vibe. Gili Trawangan or Gili T is where travelers flock to enjoy a laid back atmosphere during daylight and still are up to enjoy moonlit parties all night by the beach.
Gili Meno is famous for its honeymooners’ destination, the island provides accommodation ranging from unique bungalows to luxurious resorts overlooking amazing panorama. Gili Air is a cheerful mix of the two vibes, where you can still enjoy parties in hip hangouts or succumb at a peaceful nook and just enjoy the ocean breeze. Families love to travel to Gili Air to explore the island on the horse-drawn cart or just swimming in the low tides before sundown.
In mainland Lombok, you can get around by renting a motorcycle or car from trusted providers. Public transportations are a natural-air conditioned minibus called Bemo. It will take you to most tourist attractions, but only operates during the daytime. When night fell, there will be Ojek, a motorcycle transport with no meter that allows you to practice your bargain skills before you hop on. And the most unique will be the Cidomo, found in Senggigi beach or the Gilis. It’s a nickname for Cikar-Dokar-Motor, a cart with literally a horsepower enough to carry around 4 people.
While in Lombok
From the airport to the city center you can take a bus which called, Damri. It’s only 30k. They will drop you in Mataram. The bus is cool except for Lion who keeps pulling his tummy hair all the way to the city center which out of the blue. Once we arrived in the city center, we stayed with a local guy. We had lunch. For the food’s price is kinda similar generally with Bali around 25k-50k per meal. Well, it depends on what kind of food you eat.
On the first day we arrived, we went to Pink Beach with the motorbike. It’s around 84 kilometers from Mataram. It took us around 2 hours and a half to reach the beach. The place is okay since we arrived quite late so no one was there. The road to reach the beach from the main road is kinda challenging but still okay with the motorbike. Just be careful while driving cuz it’s super rocky. It’s recommended to leave the beach before dark cuz this beach is literally for sunset. So you know, you don’t need to expect to have a good sunset here cuz the location is in the SouthEast while sunset is in the Westside.
The sands are actually not as pink as in the picture but it’s pink when you see closely. The water is not so good for swimming cuz a bit dirty and a bit smelly. For chilling is kinda good.
Located around 18 kilometers from Mataram (30 minutes driving by motorbike) which quite a famous beach in Lombok. Well, as you can say it’s a typical touristy beach but not so crowded. You can see many fancy resorts/villas/hotels around which is pretty obvious to tell that this area is one of the spots for tourists in Lombok. Senggigi beaches are the most recommended beach to take a look cuz the water is clear and sunbathing on the beach is the best thing to do. The water is kinda fresh in the middle of a sunny and warm day. What a paradise. There are some cafes around the beach as you can choose where to chill either on the beach or having a drink in the cafe.
Segenter Traditional Village
Lombok Island is very well-known with its authentic tribe, Sasak. Located in the North around 72 kilometers from Mataram (approximately 2 hours by motorbike). Segenter is one of the two clusters of Sasak housing in Lombok. The other one is in Sade Traditional Village located in The South. Compared to Sade, Segenter is quite miserable cuz it started to lose its originality. Even though you can still see the traditional authentic house of Sasak Tribe, but mostly the houses already changed to the bricks.
The original one has a long-square shape with a measurement of 6×7 m. The wall is made of the bamboo slices waving. The roof has a pyramid shape made of tall coarse grass which the floors are the ground. In Segenter itself, a generation usually builds the house in one area. Almost every house has a paruga or gazebo which the family uses to chill or to welcome the guests. Sasak’s house is built based on the esthetic aspect and local wisdom.
Strawberry Garden in Sembalun
Located close to the mount of Rinjani around 95 kilometers from Mataram (3 hours driving by motorbike). To make it fresher, we went to this area in the late afternoon to sleepover around the mountain so in the morning we could go to the garden to pick the strawberry. There are so many options for the accommodation which the price is around 150-500k per night. We got 200k/night with the mountain view included breakfast.
We are not so lucky to pick the strawberry in the gardens cuz it wasn’t the season but we could still eat the strawberry locals sold on the roads. The good season to pick the strawberry in the garden by yourself is around May.
Moto GP 2021 Circuit Mandalika
Yoooooooo MotoGP fans around the world! If you are a true fan, you might hear a super mega jumbo amazing news, which is FINALLY AFTER 1997 INDONESIA WILL HOST MOTOGP IN 2021. In Lombok! Are you excited? I don’t care if you are not a fan but at least I gave you the information hahaha. So yeah, during our trip in Lombok, we did survey the location of the soon to be MotoGP 2021. Impressively, the location is close to the coastline which is super cool.
Hopefully, Rossi will be there! Can you guess he will be with us in 2021 or not?
Kuta Beach Mandalika
Ideally, this beach is one of the famous beaches in Lombok and super touristy as hell. Located in the South of Lombok around 75 kilometers from Mataram (an hour and a half by driving a motorbike). Kuta, Lombok area is kinda similar to crowded Kuta in Bali. So many tourists and kinda busy. Well, at least you can watch the sunset here.
Epicentrum Shopping Mall
Nothing special about this to be honest but for me personally, it just super fun and interesting to experience how it feels like to visit the shopping mall in different places. So here we are, I present to you the biggest shopping mall in Lombok where you can do windows shopping and spoil your tummy to have a fine lunch. At least that was I did with Lion on our last day in Lombok. I went shopping to buy fancy sunglasses.
Dot Ink Tattoo Studio
Traveling around Lombok is not complete yet without having a nice tattoo. I am not a big fan of a tattoo but why not get one in Lombok. So, spontaneously I did one in Mataram. I had no recommendation from any friend regarding the best tattoo artist in the town. But hey! We have the internet, no? So I did a research about it. After reading and scrolling around, my choice was to give a shot to Dot Ink Tattoo Studio. The best one in town which got so many reviews. I texted the studio via Instagram a night before. Wow! Fast response. In the morning I came to the studio, showed my design, less than 10 minutes, all design was done. In one hour, I got my new ink.
Fun facts about Lombok
- Did you know Lombok is the home for thousands of mosques in Indonesia? In fact, Lombok is the center of Islamic tourism in Indonesia. The government of Indonesia will develop Lombok to be a more Muslim friendly destination especially to attract more wealthy tourists from Middle East countries. Because of the mosque is in every single corner, don’t be surprised when you hear the call of prayers continuously. But then, Lombok will introduce you to a different vibe of Islamic heritage.
- Did you know Lumbar Harbor is the oldest harbor in Indonesia? How? Located on the Southwest coast (21 kilometers from Mataram), Lembar port became the major port to transfer people from and to Bali. Here’s where all ferries come and go. So this harbor was established already since the Dutch colonization Indonesia for transferring the goods among islands and also to store the boats when the sea wasn’t friendly to seal. Nowadays, this harbor will bring people from Lombok to Bali and from Bali to Lombok every day around 150 people on average.
So, that’s all the entire story of impromptu traveling for 3 weeks from island to island. We were back in Bali on 14 January 2020. From Mataram to Lembar Harbor we hitchhiked by stopping 2 cars; 2 motors; 1 pick up. From Lembar, Lombok to Padangbai, Bali (46k/person by ferry).
BONUS: Personal Expenses Details for 3 Weeks Low Budget Traveling:
- Flight Bali-Kupang: 1.3 million
- Eat [Kupang]: 200K
- Foods and Water during hitchhiking: 50K
- Eat [Dili]: 100K
- Shopping champagne [Dili]: 100K
- Hostel [Dili]: 100K
- Transport [Dili]: 50K
- Transport [Kupang]: 50K
- Food stocks [Alor]: 60K
- Motorbike [Alor]: 75K/day
- Gas [Alor]: 50K
- Homestay [Alor]: 100K
- Fancy dinner [Alor]: 75K
- Massive fish [Alor] (60 cm): 35K
- Food stock [Lembata]: 25K
- Dinner [Maumere]: 30K
- Guesthouse [Labuan Bajo]: 75K
- Flight [Labuan Bajo-Lombok]: 700K-WingsAir
- Bus [Lombok Airport-City Center]: 30K
- Homestay [Lombok]: 100K
- Food [Lombok]: 150K
- Fine lunch [Lombok]: 75K
- Gasoline [Lombok]: 100K (4 days)
- Gasoline for car [Lombok]: 100K
- Ferry [Lembar, Lombok-Padangbai, Bali]: 46K
Host families: 6 families plus 1 hotel (Maumere) plus 1 guest house (Alor) plus 1 homestay (Labuan Bajo) another 1 homestay in Lombok (close to Rinjani)
Special Credits to:
- Anabela and lovely family in Dili, Timor Leste and The Head Villager in Batas
- Bobi, Dwi and lovely family in Kupang
- Haris in Alor
- Petrus in Alor
- Kristopher and Shyerli in Lembata
- Mellisa in Maumere
- Djoka in Maumere
- Ivan in Ruteng
- Vian in Lombok
With all of my heart, I can’t say any word to express my gratitude for this trip. For those who are being part of my crazy and self-growing journey as I call it, thank you so much for coloring my journey. I just wanna let you know that I’m blessed.