Near the Thai border, just over 200km from Phuket is Langkawi, with palm fringed powder white sand tropical island and a jungle clad interior. Beyond the tourist hub of Cenang Beach with its main street of restaurants, bars and hotels, you’ll find luxury resorts nestled in more secluded beachfront locations around the island. The island is duty free too!
Made up of mostly lowland rain forests and long winding rivers, traditional Dayak tribes (originally headhunters), small villages to explore, wild orangutans as well as rehabilitation centres, plus the 5 highest mountains including Mount Kinabalu at 4095 metres, this is an adventurers dream.
In the Bay of Bengal, an idyllic white sand and palm tree lined coast awaits with a number of resorts spread along the 30 kilometre coastline interspersed with traditional villages. Peak season runs from November to April and during the rainy season the place quietens down to just a trickle of tourists and most hotels will shut down altogether.
Formerly known as Rangoon, is the largest city in Myanmar (although no longer the capital city) with a population of about 5 million. With a mix of impressive British colonial architecture, modern high-rises and golden pagodas the contrasts are striking. As the city opens up to investors, new restaurants, hotels, bars and shops are popping up making this an exciting new frontier to explore.
This lake is most likely to leave the greatest impression on your trip to Myanmar. Fishermen appear in longboats and with great precision, balance on the bows of their boats with their conical baskets in hand and foot wound around their single oar. It’s something unique that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
Rustic villages made up of wooden stilt houses straddle the waterways, along with over 200 monasteries. The lake is the local’s lifeblood and narrow wooden boats will be seen plying the lake for fish and lake weed.
Water levels are at their highest in October and November.
A 25 minute speedboat from Sanur Beach will take you across the incredibly deep Badung Strait to Jungutbatu Beach, Nusa Lembongan Island. Here the pace of life is slow and relaxed. It’s a small island, about 8sqm in total. Nearby, making a cluster of three islands is the small Nusa Ceningan and the larger Nusa Penida. Traditionally Nusa Lembongan is a seaweed farming island.
With its impressive reef breaks, the island attracted the surfers, then not long afterwards the hotels, resorts and villas arrived. Outside the accommodation and restaurants, the island facilities are basic and fairly rural, it really does feel like a village.
Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Rote, West Timor and Papua are where you’ll find a totally different Indonesian experience. The ethnic people here are Melanesian so even appear different. Outside the towns, many still live in traditional villages, made up of traditional houses. Infrastructure isn’t big here so this is the place to get off the beaten track and head into yesteryear. Typically East Indonesia is a lot poorer than the West.
While not much bigger than our North Island, Java has a staggering population of over 140 million (compared to our 3 ½ million) making it the most populated island in the world. Besides the chaos and urban excitements of the mega cities, there are still sleepy fishing ports, quaint villages surrounded by rice paddies, smouldering volcanoes and fascinating cultures. There’s even a tribe living in the forest that has no contact with the outside world, Javan one horned rhinoceros and possibly even Javan tigers.
One of Indonesia’s bigger island’s – about double the size of NZ with 50 million inhabitants and home to the increasingly rare Sumatran elephants and tigers. Sumatra is mainly an adventure tourism island, with tropical forests to explore, wild orang-utans to discover and some of the best surf breaks off the Mentawai Islands, which are also home to hunter-gatherer tribes. Inland Sumatra you’ll find Lake Toba, a large natural lake occupying the caldera of a supervolcano. Samosir Island within Lake Toba is worth visiting to learn about the Batak culture and see their traditional architecture.
Sulawesi’s capital city, Ujung Pandang, is 1 ½ hours flight north of Bali. The island has an intriguing shape – like a mix of the letters K and F. The cultures have just as much intrigue, especially the highland culture of Tana Toraja. Also enticing are the nearby islands for diving, fantastic coffee and traditional wooden boat building.