Category Archives: Indonesian Explorer

Essential Indonesia Maps

Bali residents and visitors alike are fortunate to have available locally an excellent and ever-growing selection of atlases, folded maps and wall maps of Bali and Indonesia. Produced by various publishers, most are high quality, feature color printing, and indicate major tourist sights and services and topographic features in realistic relief. Although there are a number of first-class publishers of maps – Nelles, Globetrotter, ITMB, Geocenter, Insight – Singapore-based Periplus Travel Maps offers the largest selection, are the easiest to find in Bali, and use a fully digitized map database synchronized with the latest satellite imagery which allows their maps ... [ Read More ]

Weh Island: Indonesia’s Outer Limits

When the islanders saw the water suck way out to sea on Boxing Day of 2004, most of the 25,000 inhabitants of Pulau Weh ran for the hills. When the big wave hit moments later, only 12 people died. This is an astounding number considering that over 100,000 lost their lives in Banda Aceh just 1.5 hours and 18 nautical miles away by ferry. Today, this delightful island off the westernmost tip of the world’s largest island nation has steadily rebuilt itself since the December 2004 catastrophe. The government has repaired roads, re-installed phone lines, the island’s infrastructure now sufficient ... [ Read More ]

Tangkoko Nature Reserve

The world’s most peculiarly shaped island, Sulawesi resembles anything from an open-jawed crocodile to a spastic letter “K.” Four long, narrow peninsulas separated by three great gulfs are joined in the island’s mountainous heart. Ranging from 1,800 to 3,000 meters in height, volcanoes stretch from north to south and offer unspoiled, pollution-free, breath-catching tropical scenery. Surrounded by deep seas, monsoons heave big surf onto beaches along thousands of kilometers of beautiful and treacherous coasts. Sulawesi’s spectacular coastline, plains, mountains, inland lakes, and high, remote and uninhabited rainforests make the destination very popular with travelers. Transportation has improved greatly over the ... [ Read More ]

Makassar: Crossroads of Eastern Indonesia

Those travelers who want to experience a more adventurous side of the archipelago than just Java and Bali should consider Makassar, one of Indonesia’s most colorful, fascinating and totally unpretentious cities. For openers, Makassar has been the largest and busiest mercantile and communications center in all of eastern Indonesia for over 500 years. Formerly known as Ujung Pandang, this bustling commercial, shipping, and government center constitutes a major air-sea crossroads. The cultural hub for Sulawesi’s largest ethnic group, the Bugis, Makassar has a population of over 1.5 million, the sixth-largest metropolitan center in the country. It’s also the provincial capital ... [ Read More ]

Sailing Adventures to the Eastern Islands

If the world’s oil wells were to dry up tomorrow, goods and people would still continue to move around the watery nation of Indonesia, a country which sits astride two oceans and boasts the largest – and last – fleet of wooden oceangoing sailing vessels in the world, an estimated 30,000 strong. Within the archipelago’s land and sea area of 5 million square kilometers, you can still experience leisurely travel in the 19th century stateroom style of Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham. There are a number of excellent sailing tours available that are especially suited for those seeking a high ... [ Read More ]

Tenggarong: Doorstep to the Mahakam

Capital of the Kutai Regency, 45 km and three hours upstream from Samarinda, or just one hour by road. Passing sawmills and stilted villages along the way, the Mahakam River is broad and sluggish at this point. The people of this small, neat and thriving river town are quite tourist-friendly. Tenggarong is far cheaper and more relaxed than Samarinda and there’s little officialdom to contend with. For information and advice on traveling the Mahakam, the tourist office is in the rear of the pasar. The provincial tourist office is at Jl. Kusuma Bangsa Balaikota, Samarinda, tel. 75123 /741669. Every year ... [ Read More ]

Ambon: The Original Spice Island

The first discovered and most famous of all the Indonesian islands, today the islands of Maluku are amongst Indonesia’s most unexplored and least developed. These were the original “Spice Islands” of Dutch colonial history that spurred Columbus to cross the Atlantic and discover America. Fought over by Spanish, Portuguese, British and Dutch merchant fleets for their precious nutmeg and cloves, the fabulous wealth of these islands changed the world’s balance of power in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ambon is the jewel of Maluku. Predominantly Christian, the island is a “mini-Maluku,” offering stunning tropical landscapes, historic buildings, churches and ruins, ... [ Read More ]

Riau: Cradle of Malay Civilization

Under-appreciated Riau makes for a superb side trip on your way back from a visa run to Singapore. If you have an extra day at your disposal, you can even visit Bintan in the morning and return by evening. Check out Singapore- Tg. Pinang schedules: http://www.penguin.com.sg/ferryschedule.htm. The Riau Islands lie in a vast expanse of sea bordered on the north by Singapore, on the west by mainland Sumatra, and on the east by the island of Borneo. Riau actually is made up of two parts, mainland Riau (Riau Daratan) on the east coast of Sumatra and the small scattered archipelago ... [ Read More ]

Batu: Java’s Little Switzerland

For a period of 200 years, starting in the first quarter of the 18th century, Java was the key island of the Netherlands East Indies empire. Under Dutch rule Java became known as the garden of the tropics, one of the most efficiently governed tropical islands in the world. It was a wonder of colonial management, a land of punctual railroads, well-run schools, vast agricultural estates, swank mountain resorts. At that time you could telephone any point on the island from your hotel, and travel on some of the best-paved roads in all of Asia. Among the most popular of ... [ Read More ]

Lake Toba: The Lake Geneva of Southeast Asia

Covering an area of over 1700 square kilometers, Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and one of the deepest (450 meters) in the world. The mythical homeland of the Batak people, this magnificent body of water was formed as a result of a mammoth volcanic explosion, believed to be the greatest in the earth’s history. So mighty was this eruption, it is thought that a veil of incandescent ash wrapped around the earth, plunging it into the darkness of the last ice age about 75,000 years ago. Today surrounded on all sides by pine-covered beaches, steep mountain ... [ Read More ]