If, like me, you’re in your element when surrounded by fresh air and Mother Nature, but find yourself living in the crazy, concrete jungle that is Jakarta, you’ll most likely need to get away once in a while to keep your sanity. Here are my top weekend trips to places other than Bali, curated over my five-year stay in the Big Durian.
Best for unwinding – This trip is sure to unknot those tension lumps in your shoulders.
Pulau Macan (Tiger Island) is a 1 hour 40 minute speedboat ride from Ancol Harbour in North Jakarta and couldn’t be any more hassle-free. The boat leaves at 8.30am on Saturdays and you’ll be lounging about on hammocks and snorkelling with local ocean life just after 10am!
As soon as you step off the boat onto the jetty, you’ll feel the stresses of daily life disappear. Sleep in romantic driftwood cabins over the water sans walls or air conditioning, enjoying views of crystal-clear waters and breathtaking sunsets. You’ll find it hard to believe you’re only a few miles away from Jakarta!
The owners of the island have done it well – it’s eco rustic chic at its best. Rainwater is recycled, huts and furniture are made of driftwood, vegetables are grown on the island, and the only pieces of electrical equipment in your digs are a small fan and a small lamp. It’s back to basics here – but not shabby.
Get better acquainted with a good book, enjoy frolicking in the clear waters, have fun canoeing or playing beach volleyball with the kids, or grab a drink and hang out at the rustic bar while playing Jenga or cards with friends. This island will remind you of what life’s all about.
Prices include accommodation, transfers, food and non-alcoholic beverages for one night and two full days. The boat takes you back to reality on Sunday afternoon.
Bring your: swimsuit, a good book
Accessible by: speedboat from Ancol Harbour (1 hour 40 minutes)
Belitung Island is just under an hour’s flight away, yet feels like a world away. This island is sparsely populated and has excellent roads – also great if you’re a cyclist. There are only a few hotels on the island and I usually opt for the convenient Aston Belitung Hotel. From here, you can do day trips to Tanjung Tinggi beach – famous for its giant-sized boulders and white sand beaches – and go island-hopping to smaller islands nearby.
There is a turtle sanctuary on Kepayang Island and a 100-year-old lighthouse on Lengkuas Island, which is also home to a gorgeous little beach with shade from trees. Rent your own private fishing boat to get you to the other islands and pay Rp.400,000 for the day. Not recommended to go during high swells, especially with kids, so take heed of your concierge’s advice.
Restaurants on Belitung Island are few and far between, but a must visit is Timpo Duluk, a quaint eatery in town with antique decorations adorning the walls – including an old bicycle! Food is so cheap you’ll hardly believe the bill, but it’s delicious – not to mention spicy!
Bring your: swimsuit, camera, sun block
Accessible by: Plane – Sriwijaya Air or Citilink (50 minute flight)
Most people have visited Borobudur Temple – it’s on the top of the first-to-visit attractions for any expat or visitor in Indonesia. What people generally overlook, however, are the enchanting Menoreh hills that surround this ancient temple, where one particular hotel is nestled…
The Amanjiwo resort overlooking the Borobudur Temple should be on every couple’s bucket list if looking to take the relationship to the next level, or to remind your loved one of how much they mean to you. There are no signs and they do not advertise, for this place speaks for itself.
The moment you arrive, management meet you personally and cater to your every whim. The hotel grounds are made of large slabs of stone and each villa provides extreme privacy, with private plunge pools or bale- bale to relax in. The swimming pool area is magnificent, worthy of royalty and the on-site bakery makes some of the crispiest croissants I’ve ever tasted!
Book a romantic dinner in your villa’s garden and let your lover’s sweet words whisper to you over the sounds of a sitar playing in the background – just don’t be shocked when you realize there is actually a musician sitting there playing it for you. After dinner, in your villa you’ll find a trail of petals leading to your outdoor sunken bathtub, filled with rose petals for you both to bathe in, and who knows what else. Ask the staff to arrange a picnic for you overlooking where the Elo (female) River meets the Progo (male) and be breath-taken by the view and the lengths the staff here go to please.
Bring your: Lover and KITAS (for special rates)
Accessible by: Plane to Jogjakarta – Garuda, Citilink, Air Asia, Lion Air (45 minutes), then an hour’s drive with Amanjiwo transportation.
Hiking may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but Mount Kinabalu on Malaysia’s Borneo is a peak that even weary hikers should conquer. A two and a half hour flight away, the entrance to this UNESCO World Heritage national park is the city of Kota Kinabalu. The hike is one day up and one day down, making a 4,090 metre climb seem like a dream.
What’s great about this hike is there is no rubbish – at all! Unlike many hikes in Indonesia, where rubbish is strewn all over the hiking paths, the guides take littering seriously on Mount Kinabalu. Their motto is ‘leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs’. The national park has everything covered: at every rest station there is a toilet and spring water to fill your drinking bottles up and there’s no need to camp, as there’s a lodge.
Starting your hike at 9am, you’ll reach the Laban Rata lodge by sunset and can enjoy dorm-style, bunk-bed accommodation and showers. The next morning, leave at 2.30am and hike three hours to the summit. You’ll need a decent level of physical fitness to make the peak, as there are sections where you will need to pull yourself up with ropes. After enjoying a breathtaking sunrise over the mountain peak – which will remind you of why you do it to yourself – hike two hours back to the lodge for breakfast, before another four-hour hike back down to the national park’s entrance. For serious thrill-seekers, the descent from the summit can also be done via ferrata, cliff-side rope climbing attached to steel cables.
What are you waiting for?
Bring your: waterproof trousers and waterproof poncho, hiking boots, thermals, fleece, fruit bars and energy gels, gloves with grip, camera
Accessible by: direct flights to Kota Kinabalu with Air Asia (2.5 hours), followed by a 2 hour drive to Kinabalu National Park. You will need a long weekend for this trip.