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Advice on 1-Month Trip East of Bali

Posted by GratefulGypsies on 26/9/2015 at 09:31

Hey Travelfish community,

I'm living in Bali now as part of a language program and I'll have a good 6 weeks off from mid-December to early February. Since I'll be here for 9 months total, I'd like to take a month of that holiday and get out to explore Indonesia east of Bali. I've got a ton of options and ideas running through my head so I was hoping some experts on here could give me some advice. Here's what I've got so far:

Option 1: Fly to Maumere, then travel west across Flores . Most likely cross over to Sumbawa and either fly back from Sumbawa Besar or just keep going, spend a few days in Lombok and come back by boat.

Option 2: Fly to Kupang and spend a few days in West Timor. From there, fly to Alor and stay for about a week. Take local ferries to other islands en route to Larantuka , or just fly back to Kupang to catch another flight to either Larantuka or Maumere. Travel across Flores and fly back from LBJ (definitely won't have time for other islands if taking this route).

Option 3: Do Mt. Rinjani and then spend Christmas in Lombok. Continue by land/sea across Sumbawa onto Flores, and most likely fly back from Maumere.

Things that I'm concerned about:
-The weather: Is it worth it to do this kind of trip in December/January? We really like hiking, kayaking, motorbike trips, etc., so the idea of being stuck inside for most of it makes it seem like a waste.
-Is it a safe bet to assume we can go from Alor to Larantuka via public boats (don't mind stopping in the other islands and would actually enjoy that), or should we plan on having to fly Kupang-Alor-Kupang-Larantuka?
-Where would be a good place to spend New Year's Eve in Flores? I'm not looking for or expecting some huge party, but I love NYE and it would be fun to celebrate somewhere that will have something going on, even if it's just a chill affair with fellow travelers.
-What do you guys recommend for Komodo? There are so many options it's giving me a headache. Would love to stay on Kanawa but after reading reviews of the one hotel there I've already canceled that idea.

Any and all advice, tips, and stories are much appreciated! My program finishes in late May and I have a visa until August, so I could postpone this trip until June, but then my wife will have to make yet another visa run to Singapore beforehand, which adds a couple hundred dollars to the trip. Plus we kind of have our hearts set on Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal next summer.

Basically, we've got about one month to spare and want to get out of Bali to see more of Indonesia. Already been across Java and to the Gilis, so let's rule those two out since we'd like to try something new. I may or may not have my passport in my possession at that time, so visiting East Timor or Papua New Guinea also are not feasible in the case that my school does have my passport then.

Thanks everyone!
-Sasha & Rachel

#1 GratefulGypsies has been a member since 27/4/2014. Posts: 14

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Posted by somtam2000 on 26/9/2015 at 20:04 admin

OK a lot of questions!

I can't help with West Timor Alor etc as haven't been out there yet, but I'm a huge fan of Flores, so your first plan, flying into Maumere and tracking back to Bali appeals a lot.

Weather wise, we spent Xmas and New Years last year in Lombok ( sample itinerary here ) and the weather was great, however Rinjani is closed at that time of year, so you'll need to strike that from your plans.

Obvious New Year candidate for New Years would be Labuan Bajo - there's a big Italian community there so I'd imagine there will be some good food and wine on ;-) We spent New Years in Senaru (at Rinjani Mountain Garden ) and it was memorable (think drinking homemade wine with the owner and his horse) -- but VERY quiet!

For Komodo I'd two a one or two night liveaboard out of Labuan Bajo - can be reasonably affordable - here is a trip a friend did last year. Kanawa's reviews are getting increasingly bad, so yes, skippable -- what a great shame.

Hope that helps!

PS Which language course are you doing?

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Posted by exacto on 26/9/2015 at 20:33

I was going to suggest Malaysia as an alternative, as long as it didn't interfere with your visa situation, but if you don't have your passport in your possession, I guess that would not be an option. I imagine you will at least have a photocopy of the information page and the visa page with you? As I recall, I needed my passport last year when we checked into hotels in Indonesia.

I'd like to hear about the language course too, including how much it costs, what the teaching style is, and how effective you think it is so far. Good on you for getting out and visiting the country. I did an AUA Thai Language course out of Bangkok many years ago now, and part of the course was spending a week in different regions of Thailand to get real speaking and listening practice and also to learn a bit about the regional dialects.

Last thing. Did you consider applying for the Travelfish Indonesia and Malaysia job? Cheers.

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Posted by gecktrek on 26/9/2015 at 21:23

hey, just back from a eastern indonesian journey; kupang, lembata, flores and sumba over 2 months, the weather was perfect and would recommend such a trip. however, the lack of passport would present major hassles, so unless you can resolve this, i wouldn't recommend any of the aforementioned options...

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Posted by GratefulGypsies on 26/9/2015 at 21:24

Hey guys, thanks for your quick replies!

I'm in the Darmasiswa program here at Udayana University's Denpasar campus. The program takes people from all countries that have diplomatic relations with Indonesia and sends them to 54 schools across the country, mostly in Java, Sumatera, and Bali. The tuition is paid for, you get a KITAS (well, supposedly... still on our Social Budaya visas for the moment), and 2 million Rupiah/month as a stipend. It's more than just Bahasa Indonesia, as some schools focus on music, art, and one or two even have Tourism and Culinary programs. As fas as the actual program goes, it's kind of a joke to be honest. We go to school Tues-Fri from 10:30-2 and some of the teachers show up 15-20 minutes late. The book is awful - all in Indonesian with zero explanations and it seems way too formal to be useful in everyday life. I've been to every class for the first three weeks, and I learned more with one week of private lessons in Jogja last year. (Sigh). Alas, I'm in Bali for a year without having to deal with visa headaches, I get a little pocket money, and some of the teachers actually are decent. I plan on finding a private tutor once my wife gets here to give her lessons and then do an hour with me each time just to practice speaking and get more advanced. I write for a language & culture blog so getting semi-fluent at Indonesian will be helpful in the long run, plus I love traveling here and I know how much English thins out when you get off Bali!

somtam - I heard Rinjani was open until January? Is that not correct? I was thinking we'd go there first thing and climb it if we went that way. At the same time, it would be easy for me to get 5-6 days on Lombok next year as we're always having surprise holidays and days off, plus we already have a three day weekend! As such it seems more appealing to do stuff like Flores, Alor, etc. I will check out the links you sent for sure, though!! Definitely want to do Lombok before I leave.

exacto - I've been to Malaysia a few times so I can save a return trip for when I finish the program. I plan to spend the entire duration of it in Indonesia to travel and actually use the language I learn (although I suppose I can basically use it in Malaysia, too). I did apply for the job here. I love Travelfish, the community it supports, traveling, and Indonesian language & culture so I figured I might as well give it a go. Wish me luck!

#5 GratefulGypsies has been a member since 27/4/2014. Posts: 14

Posted by GratefulGypsies on 26/9/2015 at 21:34

Sorry just to clarify about the passport thing. My school might have my passport at that time to process my KITAS. Hopefully we get it beforehand, because otherwise all 50+ of us have to extend our visas at the end of November. However, my head teacher assured me that if we didn't have them back, I could still travel in Indonesia with a copy of my passport, visa, and a letter from the school explaining why they have my passport. Did a quick Google search and found plenty of people who said they've taken domestic flights and traveled in country while their passport was being processed for a new visa with no problems, so I think I'd be OK.

#6 GratefulGypsies has been a member since 27/4/2014. Posts: 14

Posted by exacto on 26/9/2015 at 22:16

Good luck! A year in Bali even on a modest stipend sounds wonderful. I hope your wife arrives safely soon. My experience with long-term language learning is that it starts off slow, but really starts to snowball after a few months. That time travelling will really help too. Cheers.

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Posted by somtam2000 on 27/9/2015 at 00:59 admin

Re Rinjani, the park officials decide on a dat each year to close it - they had just closed it when we arrived (late Dec), but the date varies each year.

KITAS processing taking forever at the moment. Forever. Ours were kept for around six months recently due to this (a friend in Jakarta has been waiting NINE months), but we had no problems travelling around domestically - though we were not heading out east - mostly just bouncing between Jakarta and Bali.


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Posted by amnicoll on 27/9/2015 at 12:25

I did the Flores/Sumbawa, .Lombok and back to Bali trip this July /August and can highly recommend it. Less of a fan of Lombok although Senaru is stunning

Most of Sumbawa is not tourist orientated (a positive in many respects) but it is easy enough to travel around and find hotels but much harder to find a beer in the evening (or the day)

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Posted by mooball on 29/9/2015 at 00:24 TF writer

I've got no comment to make on the trip except to say that you'll want to do a lot more than simply Flores over the course of a month. So yeah, scratch option one.

That time of year is a bit of a pain. Have you considered Sumatra? Weather conditions are different there and a month does go rather quickly.

As for the language course, it sounds similar to one I've done before. I actually really enjoyed my course, but a criticism some other students had was that it was all the formal style of language. But to be fair, it's essential to know how to speak properly before you learn the common language and the social language. We were using "memakai" instead of "pakai/pake"... you almost never hear "memakai". You also have to know all those words with prefixes because the rules which apply when they're passive/active, how to make different kinds of verbs etc... So yeah, it sounds stiff when you use the formal language, but you'll know the language even better than a local. :)

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Posted by GratefulGypsies on 29/9/2015 at 21:03

mooball - Thanks for the response. Yeah it is kind of annoying learning textbook Indonesian when I don't hear that at all on the streets. I feel like what I learn in class and what I actually hear are two totally different languages! Hopefully it gets better with time... The reason for planning the trip this way is that we hope to do Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal next summer. If we go ahead with that, it would make sense to tack on Sumatra before going to Sri Lanka, so I figured it was best to save it. But this begs a question I'd like everyone to comment on...

Is it really worth it to spend the time and $ to travel in Flores in December/January? I realize you can't predict the weather, but looking at the average rainfall charts those are definitely meant to be very wet months. My biggest concern is that we go through with the trip and end up soaking wet and disappointed. Maybe I will consider Sumatra for this trip and bump Flores/Sumbawa and other eastern islands until the summer. With Air Asia it's not like it would be hard or too expensive to piece together an East Indonesia trip followed by Sri Lanka and India, right??

Thanks again everyone you guys are a ton of help!

#11 GratefulGypsies has been a member since 27/4/2014. Posts: 14

Posted by mooball on 29/9/2015 at 23:13 TF writer

The roads in Flores are definitely susceptible to landslides when it rains. The two times I've been across the islands, I've had some landslides of some sort. Last time it caused 2 considerable delays where the road had been completed blocked. If I had no choice of when to visit the island, I'd just go and hope for the best. But given that you have a lot of flexibility, maybe it'd be better to go places where the seasons are favourable.

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