I used Travelfish last year to help plan our honeymoon to Laos and Vietnam, and while we had a wonderful time, there were few "surprises" as I had researched our destinations so thoroughly, had viewed pictures of every place on flickr, read every review here and on TripAdvisor, etc., and generally primed myself vs. showing up and seeing what happened. Part of this was a function of our short timetable--when you have less than two weeks, it's hard to create the space for improvisation--and part of it is my training as an academic. Now I am planning a research trip to Indonesia in December, and while there are similar time constraints + the fact that I'll be traveling with an advisor, coordinating schedules, and doing some research on site, I would like to approach this trip differently, allowing the unexpected to creep in where it can. Any advice for me? Thank you....
Easy, don't over plan! I've researched my trip to death and everyday I discover something new... What you really need to know is about the entry requirements to the country, banking information and methods of transport from Point A to Point B. Have a rough schedule planned, as there are certainly highlights you want to see, but don't book rooms in advance, just go with the flow... and move when you feel like moving, not because you're pressed for time! Remember, you don't have to see EVERYTHING! - hope this helps.
When I went to India 3 yrs ago, I just saw the south (3 months) Never went near the north, which is what most people do -:)
Thanks, Altmtl. You are right that the most important stuff to prepare for is entry requirements, banking, etc. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this trip, my itinerary is basically set and my accommodation booked. I guess I'm wondering how to loosen things as much as I can. Perhaps I'll mark off half of each day as "free" time for wandering, exploring, etc. I'm hoping to return with my husband and son in the summer, when we'll be able to travel in a less structured way. Thanks again.
Well, there's less scope for planning as we don't cover much of Indonesia! ;-)
I do think some tend to overplan -- as you may have noticed on some of the itinerary questions that pop up in the forum. As you say if you plan too much, some of the surprises are taken out of the trip.
If you've got your accommodation sorted, then that's really as much planning as is required. Indonesia lends itself to random excursions that you could never plan for and end up being especially memorable.
One example; a few months ago I was in Ubud here on Bali doing hotel inspections. I'd finished for the day and had hopped on my motorbike and was riding home when I passed a sign for a hotel in the Sayan area near Ubud. This is an especially scenic, well, breathtaking, area but I hadn't noticed the hotel before, so pulled up and wandered in to take a look.
They were a friendly bunch and while we were walking through the grounds making small talk I mentioned that I was a big fan of A House in Bali (one of the classic, must read books on Bali) and knew that the author had house in the area -- did the staffer know where the house was?
Sure enough he did -- it was nextdoor! (well only the foundations remain) and so we clamoured over a fence and through some piles of rubbish and sure enough there were the floor tiles where Colin McPhail had played the piano and enjoyed the fabulous views -- and they are FABULOUS!
For me it was an especially memorable hour as not only had I really enjoyed the book, but it turned out the guy showing me around had known McPhail as a young child and he talked of the ceremonies, music and so on.
My point is, while I guess you could have planned to do this if it was written about somewhere (there's an idea!), but it was far more wonderful just "falling into it".
So while you have other constraints, keeping some time just to wander around can lead to unexpected bonuses and often it is the small things, the people you meet and the stories they tell that are far more memorable than a volcano summit -- and less work on the thighs too!
#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,737
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Thanks so much for your reply. You're right, I can stop cursing the thin Indonesia coverage (a blessing in disguise). What a wonderful experience you stumbled into in Ubud. It's so magical to step into a place you have met in a book...that's how I felt last December on the Mekong. I will certainly protect part of each day this trip for the unplanned. Thanks again.
I've done trips both ways. When I've had little time, I've booked accommodation in advance and known what I was in for because I just wanted to unwind. When I've had more time, I've just wandered around and never booked accommodation or even read a guide book. I rolled up to Laos without reading a guidebook and just had a travelfish pdf with me. Worked perfectly. I think both ways are good in different circumstances though.
In Indonesia outside of Bali, it's difficult to book accommodation in advance. Even in Bali at cheaper establishments it's a challenge. So my advice for your Indonesia sojourn is to have a rough idea of the places you want to visit and as long as you're not here over Christmas, there should be plenty of accommodation available at short notice.
Transport is simple enough, getting on bromo tours is easy enough... everything is rather simple really. You just need time because getting from one place to another takes forever!
Thanks, Mooball. I'm an experienced traveler in Indonesia, so it's nothing to do with the place itself, it's me! Like many (most?) folks on this board, I'm not able to travel nearly as often--or for as long--as I would like, so the few trips I am able to make take on this added emphasis/urgency, which, for me, seems to translate into overzealous preparation.
I think Glomer hits the nail on the head. People want to stuff as much into the trip as possible. The idea that you are going to fly halfway around the world in order to just be a bum doesn't sit right with many, and the idea of traveling to someplace where there is nothing special to see or do doesn't sit right either. So they start trying to fill up the calendar.