Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature

Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 1/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala

Sometimes you don’t choose a destination, the destination chooses you. Where you can let freedom take charge and let every muscle loose and enjoy the air of the new place. This is what Indonesia offers to a wandering mind looking for inner peace.

My picks from this large country were Yogyakarta, Banyuwangi, Bali and Gili Trawangan. And all these four had spectacular things to offer my hungry travel soul. I began my long journey from Mumbai and flew to Jakarta and took a connecting flight to Yogyakarta. One can take Garuda Air or Batik Air as an option for domestic flights within Indonesia.

Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 2/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Borobudur Temple

A short taxi drive took me to my humble homestay in Yogyakarta called the Mango Tree Homestay. The owners were so sweet and helpful, it almost felt like home. A short walk from the homestay is a street called Jl. Prawirotaman which has a beeline of restaurants serving Indonesian food, burgers, bakery and much more. After a hot noodle soup and some rest, I began my next day, to visit the world’s largest Buddhist temple Borobudur. I had hired the same taxi that dropped me to the airport to take me around the city the next day. He helped me buy my tickets to the temple and there I was looking at the magnificent beauty. The pillar standing tall and the calm face of Buddha overlooking the volcanic peaks was simply stunning. Climbing to the highest floor and sitting gazing at the view is pure alchemy.

I spent just one night in Yogyakarta and next day I took a train to Surabaya to embark on one of the highlights of my trip. Climbing the Ijen Crater to see the blue flames. is a great site to book all train tickets in Indonesia. The trains are well connected, clean and the fastest way to move around. After reaching Surabaya I took another train to Banyuwangi where i was to meet Andy who would be my guide for the trek. World Heritage Network was the one who helped me book this trek.

Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 3/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala

After an overnight journey I reached Banyuwangi by 5am and took the car to the Ijen View Hotel about 4 hours away from the station. It is an absolute picturesque drive. I passed through the dense Baluran forest, so serene and green that my eyes were fixed on its breathtaking landscape. It was so surreal. The gorgeous ride took me to the Ijen View Hotel, just the place I needed ton relax after the long journey. After a dip in the pool, good meals and some snooze, my driver Andy came to pick me up for the much awaited trek.

Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 4/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Ijen Crater Trek - Sunrise

I began my adventurous night drive at 11.30pm through the Baluran forest and lots of fog for company. I reached the base at 1am from where I began my trek. It is a 3hr trek with a steep climb and great guides for company to give you that extra push when you feel you can’t do it anymore. But the climb was worth it, to see the blue flames and especially the gorgeous sunrise which is absolutely soul stirring. Just sitting there and gazing at the mountain peaks all i could think was, how beautiful this world is and there is so much to see and be thankful for. I began my trek down and after that I caught a ferry from the Ketapang port to the paradise island of Bali.

From Gilimanuk port to my villa in Ubud was a 4 hour drive, again a beautiful one. Andy my driver kept me entertained with his love for Bollywood songs and sharing the culture of Indonesia with many colourful stories. The journey ended at the Frangipani Sunrise Villa in Ubud, waiting to greet my tired feet. The villa is sheer bliss. It is surrounded by green trees, cobbled paths, a pool overlooking the forest and a room just out of my dreams. I was overwhelmed with the hospitality and the vibe of the villa.

Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 5/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Frangipani Sunrise Villa, Ubud

Ubud, for me was the quiet intervention I was looking for in this vacation. The villa is in the area called JL Raya Sanggingan which is dotted with cafes, art galleries, quirky stores and charming streets. A perfect place to escape the city life. I spent three days exploring the temples, bylines, spas and enjoying the vibe Ubud had to offer. Had an enchanting evening at the Pura Dalem Ubud temple where I attended the magical Kecak Performance where they perform the Ramayana with a group of men creating music only through their vocal chords. A stellar show and a must see!

Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 6/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Kecak Performance at the Pura Dalem Ubud Temple

My favourite restaurants in Ubud were the Elephant Cafe, Room 4 Dessert and Cafe Des Artistes, Each serving meals with lots of love and gorgeous flavours. A visit to the Tanha Lot temple especially during sunset is totally recommended. Situated in the middle of the sea, the waves, the wind and the sunset help calm the mind.

After Ubud I was now at the last destination of my journey… Gili Trawangan. A 2 hour fast boat ride from Ubud takes one to this surreal island. Here I stayed with the Blue Marlin Dive School to experience scuba diving for the first time in my life. From the port the dive school is merely 900mts away and a very charming one with great hosts and amazing vibe. I stayed there for four nights and the island did not disappoint me at all. Stunning views of the green and blue, sea, volcanic mountains dotting the horizon and shiny beaches make Gili a paradise.

Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 7/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Gili Trawangan Island
Photo of Indonesia - The Alchemy of Nature 8/9 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Gili Trawangan Island

A cycle ride around makes it the perfect way to experience the island. Restaurants like Naty’s, Kayu Cafe, Irish Bar, Pituq Cafe and Scallywags serve food for the soul. Gill Teak Cafe right at the beach is a spot where I can see life pass by beautifully. Sunlight kissing the sea and horses take a run at the beach make this place dream like. I wish I could just go back to that moment!

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There is so much more to Indonesia than just Bali. Gems like Banyuwangi, Yogyakarta, Gili make the country even more special. The people and the hospitality is so welcoming here, that it is impossible not to get comfortable. This country has lots to offer if you have the eyes to recognise beauty and the heart to feel the warmth.