By Shereen Shabnam
Living in Asia for nearly ten years was an adventure and being mainly in Malaysia meant that we lived and learned a lot about nearby countries such as Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore where similar languages were spoken. Indonesia held a lot of fascination for many as it is situated between the continents of Asia and Australia and between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. As a Fijian, I was fascinated travelling in Indonesia, which has many similar magnificent islands waiting to be explored.
Boasting a dazzling array of diverse landscapes that include rice paddies, white sandy beaches, smoking volcanoes, rainforest, wild life and vegetation, Indonesia is a land of contrasts with equally busy and bustling cities on one end and all-natural wonders and landscapes on the other.
We start our journey with Sumatra and the breathtaking beauty of majestic volcanoes to the lush greenery of the jungles and at sea level, where idyllic deserted beaches are scattered along the island. There are not many places in the world that lures you into a sphere of adventure like the fierce land of Sumatra.
It is an island that is vibrant with life and enthralls visitors with abundant nature. You can encounter volcanoes, lakes, jingles filled with orangutans and elephants. Then there are idyllic deserted beaches in contrast where peace and calm is the order of the day to the sound of waves.
Indonesia is a country with diverse people and in Sumatra you find a mix of devout Muslims in Aceh to the hedonistic Batak Christians around Danau Toba and the matrilineal Minangkabau of Padang, all united by the love of the wild and mesmerizing land of Sumatra.
Then there is Java, which is the heartland of Indonesia and where all types of holistic living seems to be the norm. I recall during my University years when the students from Java had a cure for all ailments and introduced me to the world of Jamu, where natural healing with herbs and concoctions were the order of the day.
From countryside charm to country bustling metropolitan cities, the island of Java is Indonesia’s political and economic epicenter blessed with natural beauty, archeological sites, amazing monuments well preserved cultural traditions in art, music and music that are still followed today.
Then there is Kalimantan, which occupies three-quarters of Borneo and one of my favourite places in the area for holidays. As the third largest Island in the world, Kalimantan has legendary jungles with countless rivers and amazing wildlife.
My most adventurous holiday so far has to be in Borneo where I experienced calm tourist sight seeing, living in a five star palace to mountain climbing to river rafting under a heavy monsoon rain, eating in a traditional village and encountering wild life all in one day.
After the adventures in Boneo, the next destination is Sulawesi, which is a spidery shaped island that boasts a massive coastline dotted with sandy beaches with great diving sites and a wide variety of fish. Visitors will encounter numerous unique cultures and experience an island lifestyle here in its true form.
One of my favourite places for beach holiday is of course is Bali. I travelled to Bali in December and as soon as I entered Nusa Dua, I felt transported to my hometown in the Coral Coast of Fiji Islands. Bali is full of green rice terraces, beautiful beaches, traditional art performances which I encountered even as I entered my hotel, excellent dining and nightlife and of course shopping and spas.
My luggage was lost on the flight and the nearby market was more than adequate in providing me with flowery holiday clothes and everything I needed to get my holiday started on the day of arrival. Bali is home to many religious sites such as the cliffside Uluwatu Temple. The beachside city of Kuta has lively bars, while Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua are popular resort towns.
The island is also known for its yoga and meditation retreats and we also went to a home where we sampled homegrown organic meal and coffee. We went to a massage place just off the streets and entered a room lit by candlelight. After having our feet washed in a basin lined with flowers, we had the best massage in years in this simple place.
Last but certainly not the least, we find that Nussa Tenggara is the choice destination for many who are looking for white sandy beaches, azure bays, hot springs and hidden traditional villages. Main attractions here include the lush greenery, challenging diving spots and volcanic lakes but I feel it is best to have a tour guide here to make the most of all the sites such as temples, convents and chapels.
If you still have time, then venture into Maluku and Papua to explore high-mountain valleys and rivers to experience all the cultural life that the region is known for. Indonesia truly is a one-stop destination that has adventures waiting across the many tourism spots across its vast land.