I just returned from an amazing trip to Indonesia and Hong Kong. What a contrast between the two places. We flew into Denpasar, Bali. When traveling to Bali it is well worth the few extra dollars to have a VIP arrival in which they escort you through customs and you avoid the lines.
We stayed in a private villa in Umalas near Semanyak for the first night. We shopped and had lunch in Semanyak the next day, I loved this area. I recommend staying in this area for the beach, nightlife and great stores. Mama San is a great restaurant for lunch or dinner and Biasya is a great store that has hand-made linen and cotton clothes that are really great quality for a very reasonable price.
From there we transferred to the Bulgari Hotel in Uluwatu. This is a 6 star property that is beautiful but very secluded. I recommend this for honeymooners or if you just want to get away and have total relaxation.
From here we hired a driver and a guide for the day to visit Ubud. This is an area in the mountains that is known as the Bali Art Capital. It overlooks the rice fields and the views are spectacular. Ubud is an area that you would want to spend a few days in to really get the flavor of the area. The next day we departed Bali for our big adventure. We left the luxury behind and swapped it for adventure, culture and one of the most amazing experiences of my life!
We flew into Maumere which is located on the Northeast side of the island. From there we traveled all the way to Labuan Bajo, which is all the way to the Northwest side of the island. The many stops along the way made me fall in love with this beautiful and untouched treasure! Our first stop was Kelimutu. We stayed in an Eco Lodge in Moni which was a 2 hour drive from the airport. On my way there the first thing that I noticed is that Flores is a magnificent island that is so mountainous. It reminded me of an untouched paradise. It is very rich with resources. They grow Macadamia Nuts, coffee, cloves, cocoa, vanilla, candlenuts, cashew nuts, and seaweed. There are also many rice fields, flora, fauna, mangroves and rainforests. The beaches are so untouched and crystal clear. We left before sunrise to visit Mt. Kelimutu. This is a volcano that is now extinct (it last erupted in 1886) but it has formed a series of three crater lakes that are colored from a brilliant aquamarine, to ochre red to chocolate brown. It was quite a climb up steep steps to the top, but the reward was such a magnificent view. You could almost feel the ancestral spirits in this most magical place.
On the way to Bajawa we visited the colorful market of Boawae where we purchased passion fruit, tomatoes, bananas and carrots. In Bajawa we visited the coffee plantation and the first traditional village of Bena. This village is famous for its impressive stone formations, ancestral shrines, Ngadanese-style houses and for its traditional way of life. It is like stepping back in time. You see the women doing their traditional weaving; you see the coffee beans drying and the fires going to do the cooking. I was so surprised to find out that the majority of people on the island of Flores are Catholic. Our next adventure was to actually climb the mountain to stay in the traditional village of Belaragi. I really went to my edge climbing this mountain. It was an hour climb and it was very hot and humid, I thought I was not going to make it. As a matter of fact when I saw the last incline and did not realize that this was the last one I hopped on the back of a motorcycle to make it to the top.
We were special guests in this village for the night. They were preparing a feast for us and they were going to have a special ceremony to honor our visit. We were so hot when we finally made it to the top of the mountain that we took showers in their outhouse shower. The shower consisted of a brick well filled with mountain water and a scoop for the water. The toilet was in the ground in the outhouse next to the shower. They used an open fire to cook and kerosene lamps for light. They kept the animals that they ate in the village as well. When we all congregated in the main hut for the ceremony we noticed a live chicken in the corner. We all looked at each other and started to laugh nervously thinking “are they going to kill this chicken?” We all said no, they can’t. Wrong!! As part of the ceremony they killed the chicken and showed us the heart and the intestines to let us know that this is a good sacrifice. It was almost enough to make me a vegetarian, but the meal was wonderful and the people of this village were so welcoming and fun. The next morning the women made us coffee and they made a wonderful breakfast for us before we began our hike down the mountain. When we hit the bottom and saw that undiscovered beach, we changed our plans and all jumped in to the water for a much needed refreshing swim!
Our next stop was the city of Ruteng, where we stayed in the Catholic Monastery overnight. The highlight here was a visit to the bakery. We were greeted by college students that were studying English. They came right up to us to see if we would talk with them. We sat and had coffee with the owner of the shop and all the college kids and talked. It was so much fun! The funniest thing about the baked goods, were that they all looked so good and different from each other, however, they all tasted like sponge cake.
We were then off to Labuan Bajo where we were rewarded with a nice hotel with a great pool for the night. The next morning we were off by boat to Rinca and Komodo Island to see the Komodo dragons. Our home for the next two days was a sailboat that looked like a Pirate Ship named “Plantaran Felicia.” The first meal was lunch and the cooking was fantastic!! After lunch we went to the reef to snorkel. Flores has a magnificent coral reef with some of the most beautiful and exotic fish in the world. It is a diver’s paradise and it did not let us down. After our snorkel adventure we visited the island of Rinca which is famous for the population of the Komodo dragon as well as wild pigs, buffalos and birds. We took a trek with the ranger to see these amazing lizards. We saw them right away; we even saw two of them have a fight. It was like nothing that I have ever seen before. After dinner we went by speed boat to view an island that was totally tree covered. As the sun set a bat flew out, then another, then thousands of bats flew over our boat. We were told that they do this every night and then return before sunrise the next day. It reminded me of the movie “The Birds”.
The next day we were off again to snorkel the reef and to see Red beach. It got the name because of the red coral mixed in with the white sand. After lunch we set off to see the Manta Rays. The water was so rough that I got separated from my group. They saw at least 20 of them but I unfortunately did not. We were off to Komodo to see more Komodo dragons. We were very lucky to see that a group of lizard’s had killed a wild pig and were feasting on this. It is unusual to see this. One of the lizard’s started running toward our group and we all had a scare but they were more interested in the wild pig so back to feasting.
The trip had so many special aspects to it. It was such an amazing experience to visit with the tribe. Seeing the Komodo dragon and the reef was also so incredible. This trip is not for everyone. The accommodations were very basic and it was a lot of climbing. We overlooked this because the experience was so awesome!! We ended our trip in Hong Kong, back to the Luxury of the Grand Hyatt. This was a great way to end the trip. We shopped till we dropped and ate the best Chinese and Thai food ever. This is a trip that I will never forget, and when I think of the people of Flores I will think of a diamond in the rough!!