Exploring the Cities of Indonesia
My first job had me spend most of my time at an office building in South Jakarta. On most weekends, I went to Bandung to visit my family. After a while, I realized I had no idea about other parts of the country. The last time I went to a city in a different province was Malang on my junior year of college and in another major island was Padang during elementary school. Indonesia’s economy has been rapidly growing since mid-2000s, but it felt frustrating to only witness it in two cities. My frustrations were answered when I was offered a job as a marketing analyst at a new fast-growing company that required travelling. Taking it was one of the best decisions I’ve made because I really got to explore so many other cities across the country.
From this experience, I realized that Indonesia really has huge potential for development. Each city has its uniqueness. So in this blog, I would like to write about what I love about every major city I’ve visited or even lived in these past 2 years starting from cities in Java, then Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and ending with the paradises of Bali and Nusa Tenggara.
|Jakarta's financial district: SCBD|
This is not just the capital city of Indonesia; it is the place people from all over the country come to pursue their financial dreams. All foreign companies have their Indonesian HQ here which makes it a soon to be global city. Jakarta has almost everything for shoppers and foodies. There are so many uniquely designed shopping malls that serve as a landmark for each district. You can also find several neighborhoods like Senopati and Kemang that are filled with chic coffee shops and international restaurants. There are also nice tourism spots like the well-preserved Old Town which kind of brings you to Amsterdam, Indonesia’s miniature park that gives a preview of the whole country and the Thousand Islands for a quick beach getaway.
Of course, Jakarta has downsides despite being the most developed city. People keep moving in the metropolitan every year that even the suburbans in Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi are overly crowded. Traffic jams and pollution have become part of the metropolitan’s identity. However, the urban infrastructure is under massive development and public transportation is continuously improving. The City River and parks are getting cleaner. If you come to Jakarta every 5 years, it will always feel like a totally new city. This is what I love about Jakarta, it keeps getting better. Hopefully it will become the global city it aspires to be.
|Cikapundung Riverwalk, used to be just a dirty river|
Whoever lived in this city; whether it was growing up, going to college or a work placement; it will be their home. There is something about Bandung that really brings everyone comfort. For me; it’s the combination of cool weather, laid-back people, pedestrian friendly roads with tall shady trees, and creativity. If you walk around the city, you really see that people are enjoying themselves, whether their taking selfies in front of urban artwork, playing with their children in the park or enjoying local delicacies from the food stalls. Maybe I’m just saying this because I grew up here, but fact is Bandung high school students rarely go to college outside the city after graduation. It’s just too comfortable to leave (well it is home to the best universities but still).
My favorite thing to do in Bandung is simply just walking around the city. I love the feeling of passing by a new hip café, a recently rejuvenated park, or a new city feature like a self-service bike rental. If you want to go somewhere touristy, you can enjoy the mountainsides of Lembang and Cihideung. It is where you can enjoy themed restaurants, stunning views and lush forests. If you want the non-mainstream, you can go to Cimenyan which offers a similar nature experience. You can also just go to the upper side of Dago which is much closer and easy to access for such forest and city views.
The mayor, Ridwan Kamil, is one of my inspirations. He is a friend of my Dad so I’ve known him before his term. It was at my dad’s office dinner party where I first encountered his brilliance. He made a presentation on his current activities, which was the initiation of Bandung Creative City Forum. Previously he was working in the US and living a great life. However, he couldn’t enjoy it because of the thought of the people in Bandung were facing opposite situations. So he came back to help build the city. Currently he is planning to build cable cars, LRTs and an economic zone for promising IT startups. Hopefully these projects will run as intended and bring prosperity for the people.
This is one of the cities I’ve visited for business trips. It wasn’t really accessible until the recently built Cipali toll road which also helped its economy. The journey to Cirebon is really enjoyable; you will pass beautiful green mountains and rice fields under the bright blue sky. Once you get there, you’ll be greeted by an artistic arch and water tower. I also went there by train, which is actually faster yet more expensive. The train station still has the classic colonial architecture and interiors.
The best part of Cirebon for me is the food! The staple dishes are Empal Gentong (a sort of beef curry stew), Empal Asem (beef stew with more acidity) and Tahu Gejrot (fried tofu in mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, shallots and chilis). The new road has made Cirebon a weekend getaway alternative for Jakartans; and strengthens its role as a transit hub for distribution to Central Java. There are several modern hotels and malls have been built after the project. I stayed at Aston Cirebon, which was among the best I’ve stayed in. It had a family recreation center with a mini golf course, pool tables and soccer fields.
Cirebon does have lots of development potential for the future. There is plenty of land ready to be utilized. Surrounding nearby towns like Kuningan and Indramayu can also contribute its tourism as it provides the same rice-paddy dining views as in Ubud, Bali. Many new local businesses have recently emerged. I truly am excited to see how this city will be in the near future.
|Grand Mosque of Tasikmalaya|
Simply known as Tasik, is the main city of the Priangan Timur regency of West Java. About 2.5 hours from Bandung, the city offers a nice tranquil environment. The retro commercial district is maintained as the main business hub. Pedicabs or becaks are still a reliable mode of transport. The city park has just been revitalized and it the colorful lightings brighten ups the city at night. Tasik is also connected with vacation towns like Garut and Ciamis which gives it potential as a tourism hub. It is also really easy to feel true nature, just take 15 minute motorcycle ride and you’ll witness magnificent forests, streams and rice fields.
The food in Tasik is also amazing. My favorites are Mie Bakso, which uses thick noodles and Soto Ayam, uses coconut milk and ayam kampong. Many people consider the city as a rural area but for me this is more of a well-preserved classic urban settlement. It is also the center for wood craftsmanship, a creative industry that is deemed to have much potential. The government is planning to build a new toll road from Bandung, so hopefully it will soon be able to develop further in the near future.
|Pancasila Square at Simpang Lima|
There are so many things that make you find comfort in this city. You can go to the hillside to dine in cozy restaurants with beautiful views of the city. The streets there are filled with tall green shady trees. Many of the places have artistic interiors and antique furniture. There are many local dishes to try; one of my favorites is mangut kepala ikan manyung which is a smoky fish head curry.
For food lovers, there is the famous simpang lima (an intersection in the city center) where you can find the best street food. Semarang is famous for its delicious egg rolls or lumpia filled with bamboo shoots and shrimp served with a sweet sticky sauce, sweet and spicy tripe fried rice, and tahu gimbal which is a fried tofu, prawn fritters and rice cakes served with peanut sauce. You need to be careful because there are so many similar stalls so it’s tricky to know which is best. My local coworkers helped me with this. There is also a snack and souvenir shops where you can buy smoked milkfish and soft baked chocolate chip cookies from Dyriana. The first time visiting here, I bought so much food for my family and co-workers. In the middle of the intersection is a nice field and jogging track where you can rent glow-in-the-dark bikes at night.
Semarang has done a great job in preserving its heritage. There is a nice old colonial district with the famous red dome church and Dutch buildings turned into restaurants. The most popular landmark is Lawang Sewu with a fusion of European and Javanese architecture which used to the headquarters for the Dutch railway company. Now it is a site for “paranormal tourism” where people test their guts at night.
Besides the colonial architecture, Semarang also maintains its Chinese influence. Islam was actually brought to the region by Chinese Muslim admiral Zheng He. He established the Sam Poo Kong temple in the early 15th century. A giant statue of the admiral was also installed to honor him. Visiting this temple really makes you feel like you’re in China.
The great mosque of Central Java is also worth visiting. Its architecture has Javanese influence with its wood lath ceiling and pyramid shaped roofing. There are also large umbrellas like Masjid Nabiawi in Madinah.
|Chinese New Year at the Grand Market|
My first impression of Solo was it's a city of culture and artistry. The moment that caught me was when I passed Sri Wedari Park. It’s located on a street filled with Javanese influence architecture and a tram railway. The signature landmark is the large traditional masks on the corner that marks the theatre in the center. It is known for the regular performance of wayang orang, Javanese plays that are usually based on Ramayana or Mahabarata stories. I eventually attended a show on a following business trip. The tickets are super cheap, only IDR 10,000. When the lights came on, I was astounded by the magnificence of the stage. The stage was glowing in gold to represent royalty. The backgrounds were realistic paintings of the forests and palaces. The dialog was fully in nobleman level Javanese but I kept feeling in awe of the beauty of every scene until the end of the show.
Solo is one of the cities that give me the same comfort as Bandung. The people are friendly and passionate for creativity. There are several cafes with traditional, modern or fusion designs known for wedangan. It is where you can choose a variety of snacks to be fried, grilled or steam and local beverages like wedang jahe (ginger water mixed with brown sugar). If you’re an adventurous foodie, you should try stuff like chicken intestine skewers and cattle skin.
The best time to visit Solo is during Chinese New Year. The main street is decorated with large luminous lanterns of each Shio animal. The traditional market, known as Pasar Gede (Big Market) which is backdated since colonial times, is illuminated with red Chinese lanterns and a giant one in the center. People from all over the country come at night for instagrammable selfies.
President Jokowi rose to fame when he was still the mayor of this city. My first business trip here really helped me see why. Since his term, Solo has grown into a large metropolitan with the development of a new economic area called Solo Baru or New Solo. It has a large modern shopping mall and several lines of retail space. There is even a double decker bus service. The infrastructure development improves the connectivity of surrounding cities such as Boyolali, Sragen and Wonogiri. Solo is also a truly green city. There are so many open green areas and countless trees along sidewalks. There are many parks, the best is Bale Kambang. It is a huge and complete with an amphitheater, fountains and a pedal boat area. You can also find turkey flocks and deer herds running freely. Leaving your hotel at 5.30 am for a morning walk is totally worth it.
|Fountains in downtown Purwokerto|
One of my former co-workers is from this city and I used to make fun of her for it for some reason. I really never had an idea of it before I went there, always thought it was rural. She kept saying it’s one of the nicest cities in the country. She has proven me wrong when I had my first business trip there. It took about 4.5 hours by train from Jakarta. One cool thing I found out is you can order Pizza Hut from your seat. The stewardess took my order and had my pizza ready from the stop at Cirebon.
Having spent most of my childhood at Madison, Wisconsin; I do have a thing for small cities with complete urban facilities. Purwokerto is one of them. After my business meeting, I went to the downtown area. There is a large green field where families and young people come to do all sorts of activities , where it is playing catch with their kids, have group discussions or simply hanging out over nearby street food. In front of the field is a popular photo spot: a 3D writing of Purwokerto highlighted by spotlights that change color with vertical fountains along the pavement. Across this is the largest mall which is much like the ones in Jakarta, complete with a cinema and all. There is also a quite fancy restaurant nearby called “All Rich” serving authentic Japanese ramen. Just by circulating this area, it’s easy to tell that everyone is happy.
On my way back to my hotel, I past two other hotels that showed elegance I didn’t expect to see, Aston and Java Heritage. Both were about 7 stories with splendid architecture. The next morning before work, I visited the nearby park. It used to be an old unused bus terminal but you would never expect it. This is an example of the city government’s creativity.
After visiting the city multiple times and hearing comments from people who studied here, Jogja has the same effect of Bandung: it easily becomes your second home. The city is like Indonesia’s Kyoto, it’s so rich in culture and home to world heritage sites. It is the country’s second most popular tourist destination after Bali. One thing that I love about this city is how convenient it is. Tourist sites like Borobudur and Prambanan temple is accessible by public transportation. There is not much traffic on weekdays. The city is medium sized and well planned so it’s easy to meet up with friends at popular hangout spots.
One of my favorite things to do in Jogja is simply walk around Malioboro Street. I know it is a quite mainstream area but it is the heart of the city. You can enjoy tasty street food and find great deals for souvenirs here. It is a fun spot for people watching, where you can see young locals expressing their creativity and foreign tourists curious of everything. You can also walk to the historic palace or Keraton, see the European architecture of the banks and post office, and the children science center. There are also themed restaurants nearby, a popular one is House of Raminten where you can drink hot ginger milk in a mug shaped like the source (if you know what I mean).
Jogja is also known as an academic city. At first I thought because it’s home to one of the best universities. I got a better perspective when I went for a walk in the area where there is a Gramedia (bookstore franchise). Not far from the bookstore, I saw a nice two story building with many young people working on their laptops in the outdoor areas. Turns out it’s the local library, something Indonesian cities are lacking. I decided to come in to finish my work. The first floor is full of high school students preparing for university with their personal tutors. There is also a complete collection of notable Indonesian literature. The second floor is for children and there is a special spot for read-a-longs. It’s really nice to see youth passion for learning.
There are several hidden wonders around Jogja that recently rose to popularity thanks to social media. Besides the famous temples and artsy streets, you can find breathtaking nature in the outskirts. I spent a weekend with my college friends to explore this side. We went to Pindul Cave, where you can float in the waters and admire the stalactites. We continued to Baron Beach, which is much cleaner than when I last visited on my middle school field trip. It’s a blue water beach with a lagoon in front and surrounded by towering green cliffs. The next day we went to see Kalibiru Lake. Here, you can experience a breathtaking view from a simple tree house the hillside. Just sitting there alone for 5 minutes and absorbing all the beauty was a precious moment.
|Gramedia Bookstore near Tunjungan|
Now this is a city I considered to settle down in. As the country’s second largest city, Surabaya is a mixture of Jakarta’s metropolitan and comfort of other Javanese cities. You can find tall skyscrapers in the business district around the Tunjungan area and enjoy the parks and cafes in Darmo Street. In my opinion, it’s probably the most ideal city in Indonesia: it has the modernity and vast work opportunities like Jakarta yet it’s not as congested and there is a strong sense of culture.
My first visit to Surabaya was on a business trip just two weeks after my first day of my job. It was during Bu Risma’s regime, a role model for all city leaders. She is responsible for the city’s transformation into a green and more livable city. She had the courage to fight the city mob by closing down the notorious brothel localization. Many parks were established and well-maintained under her term. I’ve also passed one with the famous alligator and shark statue in front of a submarine turn into the museum and café. Speaking of that statue, Surabaya has the coolest name. It comes from the words suro (shark) and baya (alligator) as it is based on a legend of these two animals. So, English word for the city is literally SharkGator. Sounds like a mystical badass creature with the head of a shark and the body of a gator or vice versa.
The economy of Surabaya certainly is highly promising. Like Jakarta, Surabaya is well connected to its satellite cities Sidoarjo amd Gresik. The first provides nice housing settlements while the latter is a special zone for manufacturing. For upper class housing in Surabaya, I’ve been to a premium housing complex own by the developer Ciputra. The prestigious houses, private schools, and the presence of the US Consulate makes you feel you’re in a small utopic town that makes you forget the fact that you’re in a developing country. The malls in Surabaya are exactly like Jakarta and some are even better. Entrepreneurship is also growing, and it is the government’s top priority to build more startups. On the way to the airport, you’ll pass a bright neon lit carnival land that seems great for families. So yes, I really could settle in this city if necessary.
|National Post Office naer Merdeka Square|
Despite all the jokes about the hot weather and rude people that I’ve heard, this city really exceeded my expectations. The airport, Kualanamu, was the best at that time (before Terminal 3 Ultimate of Soekarno-Hatta International, Jakarta). The building is super modern and complete with popular global brands. The best part of it is the super clean and comfortable airport train that will send you to the city center in only 40 minutes. I always enjoy the beautiful views of large green fields and classic architecture from the window.
The city center is the best place to be. Not far from the train station is Merdeka Walk, a large public promenade that has nice hangout spots and favorite fast food chains like McDonalds and Starbucks. A large field surrounded by a nice jogging track and even fitness equipment is placed in the middle. There are plenty of trees to compensate the cities heat. Nearby this promenade is a giant shopping mall called Centrepoint. This is a good place for more high-end shopping and dining or just to get some AC when needed.
A beautiful aspect of Medan is the preservation of colonial architecture. I saw so many magnificent buildings designed by the Dutch in the 19th century that are still being used today. Just around Merdeka Walk are the city hall, post office building, Bank of Indonesia provincial office, and the regional office of London Sumatra Plantations. It must feel cool to work in such classy buildings, but make sure there will be no late night hours. My favorite landmarks are Grand Mosque and Maimun Palace that were built in the modern colonial era or early 20th century. It has a mixture of Middle Eastern and European design.
Medan is a multicultural city. Aside from the natives or Batak people, there are people of Malay, Indian and Chinese descent. Unlike other parts of Indonesia, the latter have much stronger traditions and even use their own dialect called hokkien. There are nice old Chinatowns with temples from the 19th century. I also enjoyed the Indian area which kind of felt like Singapore for a second because of similar designs of malls and apartments. In my opinion, I don’t think Medanians are rude at all. I think they are really genuine open people that speak what’s on their minds. Once you blend in, you really understand that they truly are among the friendliest people of Indonesia.
|Buddhist shrine in Siantar|
I got a chance to explore other cities besides Greater Medan when my previous employer decided to expand its North Sumatera market. The first stop was Pematang Siantar, or just Siantar for short. It’s a 3-hour drive from Kualanamu, passing beautiful rubber and tea plantations on the way there. I also stopped by Tebing Tinggi, a small-town overlooking Mount Sinabung with a well-kept market from the colonial era.
My first impression of Siantar is it has rich culture. The government buildings are designed with Batak architecture with the pointed pyramidal-prism shaped roof (really don’t know a better way to describe it) and murals painted in maroon, white and black. The traditional transportation is becak which is a small carriage attached to a motorcycle, similar to the ones you find in Medan. The difference is they use Harleys in Siantar. There is even a big statue of this kind of becak in front of city hall. Another cool place to visit is the Buddhist shrine which has a magnificent statue showcasing awesome sculpture work. There are also human size statues of each Shio.
Siantar is only a less than an hour drive to the breathtaking Lake Toba. And the end of my trip, I was so fortunate to stay at Samosir, the island in the middle of the lake. Staying at a lakeside boutique hotel, I woke up at 5am to one of the most stunning views in my lifetime. I just sat in the balcony, admiring the still blue lake surrounded by green hills and Batak architecture of the hotels and cottages. After sunrise, guys on jet-skis and banana boats come to offer rides for hotel guests. I also got to see other parts of the lake from the town Parapat where there is an amphitheater that hosts concerts with a stage floating on the lake. This was initiated by President Jokowi’s team as it is named a strategic tourism area. Lake Toba is a must-see place that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
|Pekanbaru Skyline (source: Google)|
The modern buildings, premium restaurants lined-up on Soekarno-Hatta Street and developed neighborhoods shows this is the capital city of one of the most prosperous provinces in Indonesia (Riau). Pekanbaru has some of the best modern architecture that I never expected to see outside Jakarta and Surabaya. There is the provincial library that is a six-story building shaped as an opened book which glows in blue and gold at night. There is also Bank of Riau-Kepri’s tower and the new governor’s office which is designed to seem like the ceiling is floating over the building. The grand mosque of Pekanbaru really looks like the Taj Mahal so people will think you’re in India if you post in on Instagram.
Pekanbaru is one of the cities where I never experienced a traffic jam. Most of the roads are wide and clear. The province has really benefited well from palm plantation and the oil and gas industry. You can see several Chevron ads and sponsorships everywhere. This can be the reason why the urban infrastructure is sufficient. Hopefully there will be more creative entrepreneurs to maintain it as it is risky to rely on natural resources.
I think with the right development, Pekanbaru can be the ideal city to live in. It is already prosperous with plenty of empty land to develop. There are several nice restaurants for casual hangouts or dining. Local food is absolutely amazing! It is near Padang and Malaysia so there is authentic delicious cuisine. The city is spread evenly; buildings have the right amount of space gaps and not crammed in one area. With the right direction and diverse job creation, I believe people will really be motivated to move here.
|The city's landmark (Source: Google)|
When I see this city, I reminisce of Singapore. Not because it is an island which is only an hour ferry ride away, but I feel like I’m in a much more developed country. Everything seems so neat and well-managed. The roads and pavements are clean with countless tall trees on the side. I never have seen a pile of litter here. The shophouses in commercial areas are designed more elegantly compared to the busy districts in other parts of Indonesia. The malls and shopping centers blend in with the area instead of stand-out from its surroundings. It makes sense that this is a popular weekend getaway and real estate investment destination for Singaporeans.
I have memorable dining experiences in the city. The cuisine here is mainly focused on fish and seafood dishes with Chinese influence. For breakfast, I had a tasty noodle dish with a sweet sticky sauce that is called mie lengket which sells out in 2 hours. At night, local neighborhoods are transformed in to culinary centers. Folded tables and plastic chairs are set up. Glowing lanterns and colorful lanterns are lit up. Food stalls serving delicious local dishes such as the famous fish soup and steam sea snails are served. I also had dinner on the piers at Harbor Bay. Here, I enjoyed fresh crab while looking at Singapore from a distance. The most unique seafood I had was at Golden Prawn 993 which has tanks of the most bizarre looking sea creatures. I tried a shellfish that looks like a lobster but just the tail and a giant crawfish. There is also a sea turtle but it’s just for display (and I would never have the heart to eat a turtle). The best drink to wash down all this food is ice black coffee or what they call es kopi-o.
I think Batam is one of the nicest cities to live in Indonesia. There are beautiful landmarks such as the pyramid shaped grand mosque overlooking the Hollywood style “Welcome to Batam” sign. There is also a large shrine with a giant happy Buddha statue in front. Shopping here is cheap especially for imported goods since it’s in the no-tax zone. I spent about two hours accompanying my colleague search for cheap perfume. A shopping mall I like is Nagoya Hills because it has some unique and rustic design to it. Real estate development in Batam is really growing and there are projects with such beautiful houses with private pools. Hopefully I could afford a vacation home there one day.
|City view from Ibis Hotel Padang|
I have a strong personal connection with this city because it is where my parents grew up. This city makes feel at home, even more than Jakarta where I’ve been living for over 5 years. Maybe it’s because I have many relatives here. But I think it’s because I was raised with the same local culture as my Mom and Dad. It felt so easy to connect with local people here. This is why your parents’ hometown is also your own.
Probably I’m just saying this because of my heritage, but Padang is one of the most beautiful cities that have lots of room for development. First of all, it’s a beach town! There is the beautiful Aia Manih beach, where the journey gives breathtaking hilltop views. You can ride ATVs or walk across the ocean to a small island for a fresh coconut water. Secondly, it is rich in culture as seen from the use of Minangkabau (local ethnic group, usually just Minang) architecture in its buildings. And most importantly, it has the best food in the world! There really is so much to see and do here. The main problem here is the people have the tradition of seeking fortune in other provinces which is called merantau. Because of this, they forgot to build their own city. Fortunately, social media has helped promote its tourism that motivated several successful native businessmen aiming to build and invest in it.
Padang Beach has potential to be like Bali’s Kuta Beach. It’s wavy and right by the city. There are many snacks and coconut vendors, you can also rent bikes. Large 3D writings are used for Instagram photo-shoots. Local coffee shops are within walking distance. Only one major hotel is located on the beach side, Quest Hotel. With the right policies, I can see people building much more nice hotels and restaurants like Pullman Hotel and Hard Rock Café Bali.
Minangkabau means victorious buffalo taken from the tale about the villagers win over tyrants through a buffalo fight. This is the philosophy behind its signature architecture: the roofs are shape like buffalo horns. For me, it is one of the most magnificent architecture styles in the world. It symbolizes strength and toughness. Almost all governmental buildings and local restaurants use this style. My favorites are the Bank of Indonesia provincial office, Adityawarman Museum (culture and history), Landmark of Imam Bonjol Park and the Grand Mosque which takes a modern twist to it.
Besides Minang architecture, there is an old town area which preserves colonial architecture. It is located near a small harbor that rents boats and even planes to Mentawai, a world renown surfing destination. There are lots of Dutch buildings and some are converted to restaurants. The landmark of this area is the Siti Nurbaya Bridge which is a symbol from a classic literature piece with a title of the same name. It’s a nice place for a night out to enjoy grilled corn from food stalls next to European style street lights. Right next to the old town is a Chinatown where you can see temples and traditional shops. Touring this area makes me feel like going to three different parts of the world at once.
You can find Padang food anywhere in the country but the best and most authentic is here and surrounding cities in West Sumatra. Restaurant owners in outside the province, particularly in West and Central Java, tend to modify the flavors for the local palate making it either too salty or weirdly sweet. Here, you will definitely have the real deal! The curries have just the right balance of spices and creaminess of the coconut milk. The satay is really tender with such thick and tasty sauce. It’s also easy to find a favorite dish of mine that is quite rare in Java: cow intestine curry stuffed with scrambled egg (I call it Padang Sausage). I always forget about my diet whenever I come here.
|Jam Gadang (Grand Clock)|
When I came to Bukittinggi for the first time after 18 years, I simply felt happy. Everything about this city is just heartwarming. It’s the kind of feeling you get when you’re walking in a place that you’ve forgotten to have fallen in love with. My journey there was also memorable. I took a shuttle bus and sat behind a kid and his mother. The kid was really cheerful and we spent most of the trip playing thumb war. The view from the window was spectacular as I saw waterfalls, clean rivers and parts of my mom’s birthplace: Padang Panjang.
The happiest moment came when I reached the city center. It was much different than the last time I’ve been there, much cleaner and more organized. The air is so fresh and water is cool since the city is located in the hilltops (Bukittinggi literally means High Hill). The iconic clock tower called Jam Gadang (means Big Clock) is the city’s landmark. The countless trees and well-maintained parks create such a tranquil environment. The shops are lined up neatly selling electronics, clothing and other appliances. There are cafes with views overlooking the city. There is also a Pizza Hut and KFC designed to blend in with the landscape. But it would be a pity to eat there as a tourist. The best food is in the market where you can have dishes that may be even better than Padang. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to find the right spot so I ended up eating at the original Simpang Raya (a national restaurant franchise) and sat by the window with a view of Jam Gadang.
Bukittinggi has tons of potential for tourism. It is a historic city being the birthplace of one of Indonesia’s founding fathers, Mohammed Hatta, who was also the genius behind the nation’s post-colonial development. I passed by a museum, statues and his old house maintained by the government to honor him. You can visit these places by horse carriage which is a main mode of transport there. I even took one to get to my business meeting. Besides educational tourism, there are plenty of natural gems not that known even by most Indonesians. My favorite place is Lake Maninjau. I went there with my aunt, she drove us up a hill and we saw a giant blue lake from the top. I’ve seen so many beautiful lakes before but this is one of the best! There are several stops that are designed to chill, take pictures and enjoy the view. Just standing on the hilltop and embracing the beauty was a special moment. I got an inspiration to build a lake resort designed like a large log cabin with an infinity pool and hot tub. Hopefully I can actually make it come true someday.
Batanghari River (Source: Google)
I really didn’t know what to expect from this city. It’s not really mentioned that often in the news or even at school. All I knew was that two of my college friends are from there and gas reserves is one of the economic drivers. It was a nice feeling to see that there is much more to a city than expected.
There is an area that I really like in Jambi but I forgot its name. It has numerous roundabouts and filled with trees. Along the roads are 99 signs of names of Allah to show the government’s aim to become a religious city. That street is crowded at night as several food stalls open for locals to enjoy get-togethers over hot coffee or even grilled fish.
I believe the landmark of this city is the Gentala Arasy pedestrian bridge to walk across the large city river. It looks like a miniature silver version of the golden gate bridge. I also noticed that there is an outbound center for families to enjoy white water rafting and other kinds of recreation. Things like this make me realize a city can be more interesting than you think.
|On top of Fort Marlborough|
Having rich history and beautiful beaches, I would say Bengkulu is one of Indonesia’s most underrated tourist destinations! Remnants from the 17th century British colonists can be seen around the city center, such as Thomas Parr Monument and Fort Marlborough. The latter is my favorite place in the city. A magnificent fort on a hilltop, overlooking the Indian Ocean complemented with old canons. Locals flock the hill before dusk to enjoy the sunset while enjoying snacks from street vendors.
Nearby Fort Marlborough is the Chinatown, a well-conserved heritage site filled with centuries old shophouses. It becomes a pedestrian street at night where you can find middle-age men playing card games on fold-up tables by the sidewalk. A short walk away is Lapangan Merdeka, an open green space that is occasional used for night markets. It is also the location of Bengkulu Tower where you can get 360 views of the city.
Bengkulu is also where President Soekarno went to exile. The house he shared with his wife, Fatmawati, is now a museum. The curator did an excellent job in preserving every room and even the furniture, so you feel like reliving the life of the founding father. I left the house feeling inspired from learning about Soekarno’s perseverance during is tough times.
A main feature of Bengkulu is Pantai Panjang or Long Beach. Tall pine trees (yes, pine trees!) grow along the sandy beach. Its length makes it a perfect place for a morning jog. I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets there, the sky turned to shades of orange and indigo over the lush trees and vast ocean. Countless ideas for seaside restaurants, cottage hotels and creative space came to my mind while being here. There is so much development potential for this city, especially along the beach. With proper management, I am sure Bengkulu will be a popular international tourist destination.
The best time to enjoy this city is from dusk to night. The city center lights up with an array of colors. Neon lights are rolled around trees, spotlights are placed under the fountains and government buildings glow. The best of all is seeing the city’s iconic Ampera Bridge: a red gate bridge resembling Golden Gate that glows red, blue and gold at night. The bridge is built to cross Musi River which is the longest in Sumatra. There is a promenade where kids play and adults hang out in the evening. I enjoyed the view from a nice boardwalk restaurant called Kampung Kapitan. It has something of a Florida style design with patios facing the bridge. There is also live music. The band asked me to sing but luckily I didn’t to save the eardrums of other diners.
Another part I enjoyed from Palembang is the Jakabaring Stadium area. I didn’t actually attend events but just intrigued by its international standard design that shows worthy to host the 2018 Asian Games. There is also a man-made lake nearby that has paddleboats for rent. I took a break with my colleagues at a coconut stand there. It was relaxing indeed and the lake really seems natural.
Palembang is the second largest economy of Sumatra after Medan so there are many modern shopping malls and districts. There are also local businesses like Brasserie Bakery and Pagi Sore that is rapidly expanding. Apartment buildings are in the works. The future of this city does seem promising.
Palembang is a great place for a culinary adventure. The most popular food is the nationally popular pempek which is a fried fish cake with sweet-spicy vinaigrette. Even though it can be found in Jakarta, its city of origin has the perfect ratio of the fish and dough as well as the balance of sweet, spicy and acidity of the sauce. I actually bought a whole frozen box to bring back home. There are other tasty local dishes people don’t know much about such as pindang patin (a spicy catfish stew), mie celor (noodles in coconut milk with a hardboiled egg and prawns) and model (a similar dish to pempek but with curry sauce). Being the capital of South Sumatra, I would say this is the island’s second best province for food after West Sumatra!
|View from Novotel|
One of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at in Indonesia is Novotel Lampung. Located in the hillside of the city, it has an infinity pool that has a majestic view of the ocean and green cliffs. This shows the beautiful landscape of Bandar Lampung. While driving around the city, I enjoyed the green colors of the hills and blue of the sea. There is also a convenience store with a rooftop area where you can also appreciate such sceneries while sipping a can of ice coffee on a bean bag.
Bandar Lampung is the capital city of Lampung, the most southern province of Sumatra making it the entry gate for distribution from Java. It is only a 30-minute flight from Jakarta so most of my travels felt kind of short. I think the fact it is in a transit province and a transmigration destination made it a late bloomer in terms of development. The commercial areas seem quite outdated but there is a new mall called Boemi Kedaton which has a modern semi-outdoor concept. The mall is owned by a company called Chandra which dominates the retail industry and blocking newcomers from entering. Although it sounds like an obstacle, the mall shows that the company is aiming to build its business to keep up with time.
I noticed there is a signature aspect of the city’s architecture. Most buildings have a drawing of a crown on above the entrance. I learn that it is called a siger, a traditional tiara and part of a legend saying it contains magic that brings prosperity. There is even a giant monument of a siger. Lampung is also home to an elephant conservatory, so there the roundabouts are decorated with statues of the largest land animal.
|On top of the lighthouse at Lengkuas Island|
This is the only Sumatran city I’ve visited just for vacation. It’s quite affordable for a weekend getaway from Jakarta. I spent less than IDR 2,000,000 for 3 days including flight and accommodation. Tourism popularity rose in late 2000s after the book Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Warriors) was published with a movie adaptation not long after it. It’s based on the author’s life, Andrea Hirata, on the resilience of children to receive education while living in underdeveloped conditions despite being in a beautiful island rich in tin mining. Perhaps I should write a book someday that can promote Indonesia’s tourism (of course this is not the main intention and neither for Hirata).
What mark the beauty of Belitung are the beaches with giant granite stones. I joined an open trip with my friends where we were guided by locals and met interesting new people from the tour. The guides took us to separate islands surrounded by those giant stones. It’s such a view to see while swimming in warm turquoise ocean water. The islands we went to were Batu Berlayar (that has giant stones shaped as a sail) and Lengkuas which has a lighthouse built by the Dutch where we experience spectacular views. At night, we hung out at a café by the beach which had a bean bag sitting area in front. Someone was having their sweet 17 party there and hired a DJ. We saw teenage girls wearing hijabs that were hardcore dancing to Martin Garrix, which looked kind of a funny.
On the previous day, the guides took us to the school and museum of Laskar Pelangi where we could feel the struggles children faced for education. The school was a simple wood panel building with only 5 classrooms that lacked lighting located far from residential areas. I really gained respect for the children’s passion to learn. This trip showed me the irony of a province rich in natural resources and beautiful tourism areas cannot benefit its people economically. It felt sad and unfair that the people were exploited and had no idea of their potential. It could have been a place like Bali if promoted earlier. Luckily, the tourism industry continues to grow, and the local people are guided by experts to develop it further.
This city does have an interesting name; it literally means Behind the Board. I thought the natives put up a big billboard in their city to attract Harvest Gods or something and then it was discovered by not-so-creative sailors that had no other name for their discover. Turns out it’s based on a legend about a king protecting his daughter from enemies by tying her up behind a board and throwing her into the seas to be found by fishermen.
Balikpapan, like Pekanbaru, is a city with high levels of prosperity driven by the oil and gas industry. When I was in the taxi ride to my hotel, the driver pointed out the oil street. It is a clean street with shady green trees on the left side and huge oil tanks on the right. The sight of it was actually really beautiful. Balikpapan is such a clean coastal city that has won environmental awards. It is also very modern and experienced a rapid development. Along the Balikpapan Bay are towering office buildings, apartments, hotels and shopping centers. Nearby is a large park from after work runs and football games. There is also a large dome arena which hosts exhibitions and events. It does seem like a happy urban area.
I stayed at the Aston Condotel where I got a free upgrade to the residential suite for some lucky reason. My friends told me they always do that for promotion after I uploaded a photo on social media. It was fun staying in a two bedroom and two bathrooms plus kitchen condo by myself. The hotel is right by the beach with a nice infinity pool and a special wedding area. The beach was quite clean with dark blue water and white sand. I took a morning walk along the coast and saw scenic views of the skyline. There will be much more future development there as I saw plans for a superblock at Balikpapan Plaza which is next to Aston.
The creative industry is also growing here. The government is well aware that it’s having oil and gas as the main economic driver is not sustainable, so they are pushing the youth to develop entrepreneurship. There are many local clothing brands and outlets. The most interesting one I saw was a T-Shirt vending machine in the airport. It was so cool that I actually bought one! I just put in the money and chose the design and size. There is also a sample of the fabric. But yeah, there was still a salesclerk in front to guide me with the machine (not that I needed it). There are also many themed restaurants; I saw one that is shaped as a castle on the way to the airport. It was a pity I didn’t have enough time to visit one, hopefully I can come here again soon.
|Samarinda Islamic Center|
There were no airports in the capital of East Kalimantan, so I took a shuttle bus called Kangaroo Premier from Balikpapan to continue my business trip. I was surprised to find out that it was even better than the expensive shuttle I take from Jakarta-Bandung. The pool is modern with complimentary durian bread (free samples to be exact). There is a shuttle is a Toyota Hiace with a large LCD TV and is scheduled for every 15 minutes. This is probably the best intercity transport in Indonesia! I got to watch Minions (which was released about 6 months earlier) and the latest episode of Gotham. There are also plugs for charging your phone. The view from the windows is also nice; since the toll road just commenced construction, I passed a lush pine forest. It was a really excited journey that only took 3,5 hours.
The entrance of Samarinda is marked by the crossing of a steel gate bridge over Mahakam River that has countless coal ships passing through it. The riverside area really made a nice impression on me. There is a new mall with a Starbucks, government buildings with traditional dayak (the native tribe) architecture, playgrounds along the river. The most outstanding building was the Islamic Center which is has a huge gold and green dome mosque and towers. I did my Friday prayers there and the interiors are as remarkable. I learned that it is among the biggest in SEA and hosts international scaled events.
Samarinda does have potential to be as nice as Balikpapan. There are restaurants and offices that are located in the hills near the riverside. And these are beautiful green hills. There are also places for nightlife that can be development further (and in a more positive way, if you know what I mean). The people already have an above average prosperity from the coal and oil industry. It might be a good idea to start a chic café in one of those hilltops.
This is another city that I only visited for vacation. I don’t really know if I can call a city to be honest, because there is only one main road. There is one mall, a Swiss Belhotel (probably the only good one) and a KFC under the 90s management. However, this city is one of the starting points to go to Derawan Islands. I also joined an Open Trip here with my best friend from college and his office buddies. The first itinerary was a city tour of Tarakan where we got to see interesting places like a huge traditional dayak house and a proboscis monkey forest. The latter was the best of the day because there we saw so many monkeys that really look like small people with tails.
Derawan is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. My favorite part was Kakaban Lake. We sailed to an island that was covered with all sorts of trees. Then we climbed a high set of stairs and once we reached the top, my jaw dropped at the sight of the lake. Imagine going up to something you never expected and then see a large blue lake surrounded by a lush forest and a dock that makes you want to immediately jump to the water. What makes this lake even more special is it filled with small stingless golden jellyfish. We spent hours snorkeling and being careful not to kill any of them.
My second favorite place in Derawan is a huge wall reef which until now is my best snorkeling experience. It started with a normal reef and then I realized it is like an underwater cliff with a deep gorge beneath. I also got to see sea turtles which are the symbol of the islands. Before snorkeling, we got lucky to visit the lagoon which you have to go through an underground tunnel that is usually inaccessible due to the tide. It was a beautiful experience to enjoy the swallow turquoise waters surrounded by large cliffs and green plants growing on it.
Places like Derawan weren’t that popular until it was exposed by social media. I think cities like Tarakan need to understand the potential of tourism and how much the economy can benefit from it.
|Promenade at Losari Beach|
In my opinion, this is Indonesia’s most prospective city. There is such rapid development that I see new buildings in construction everywhere I go. The main factors for this are Makassar is the gate to East Indonesia and it doesn’t rely on natural resources. I passed by the harbor and saw towers of colorful containers under the sunny blue sky which was definitely a beautiful sight. The myriad of sailboats called phinisi that are used by local fishermen adds to this beauty. Since business is growing, there are so many international hotel chains and even high-rise apartments are in development. Ciputra, the developer mentioned earlier, plans to build a reclamation land shaped as a garuda (the mythical eagle in Indonesia’s coat of arms). It looks really cool, but I’m not sure about the social and environmental impact.
My favorite place in Makassar is definitely Losari Beach which is near the harbor. It is a city beach that is not for swimming but designed beautifully. There is a large clean concrete promenade that is decorated with trees, artistic statues, stone carvings and 3D writings. It’s a great place to gaze at the beautiful dark blue ocean after a long day of sales visits, which is what I did. Several hotels and restaurants are placed along the beach. There is also a beautiful blue dome mosque that seems floating on the ocean and a perfect place to seek tranquility.
I have seen some of Indonesia’s best modern architecture in Makassar. There is a building in the public university (UNM) that is shaped like a giant sail. The regional headquarters of CT Corp; a conglomerate of media, retail and finance; consist of three towers shaped like waves. There is also the Kalla Tower, owned by our vice president that is a native, which is resembles a Toraja house. Another interesting place is Karebosi Park, which is a public field that has an underground mall making it fully covered with grass. These buildings really do represent the city’s character.
I would say Makassar has the best food after Padang! There is a variety of beef, fish and seafood dishes and desserts as well at great prices! The best are: barbecued beef ribs with peanut sauce called konro baka; a stew called palu basa which you can choose a variety of beef, innards and eggs; a nutty beef stew called coto which I always have 3 portions; a weird hard scale fish called kudu-kudu with meat perfect for fish and chips; and for dessert a banana wrapped in a green pandan pancake smothered in vanilla cream. Good and authentic food is very expensive outside the region so coming here was like foodie heaven!
This is the furthest I’ve ever been for business and the most memorable as well. The capital of North Sulawesi is such a beautiful place, a coastal city with a well-developed modern shopping district by the sea and green hills leading to its beautiful neighboring towns. It also has one of the coolest buildings in Indonesia, the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) headquarters. The west wing has cylinder-shape and the right is a sphere, both with white wall clads and windows. Proximity to the Philippines and the rich corals of the nearby Bunaken does make the city a good location for CTI.
A memorable moment of this city is walking along the seafront at night. Its decorated with city lights the Manado Town Square, hotels, and popular fast-food chains. Young locals of both genders were practicing skateboard tricks in a nice open space. The famous Soekarno Bridge could be seen glowing in golden colors. I was fortunate to have stayed in this area and wake up to a beautiful ocean view.
Not far from Manado is the floral hillside town of Tomohon. It is where you can find the serene Lake Linow. The misty atmosphere covering the lake’s teal-colored water and surrounding woods gives a mystic vibe to the area. I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee on the boardwalk of an elegant cabin-like café.
The food of Manado is absolutely delicious! My favorite meal was at a local chain restaurant called the Tuna House. They serve all parts of the tuna, the region's prize product, cooked in several ways. I loved the deep-fried tuna tendons the most, it has a fresh fatty flavor and texture of calamari. The resto’s cozy wood interiors made lunch even more enjoyable. I also like the local dish called woku, a spicy yellow tuna curry.
A funny moment was finding lunch on a unique food street. Every restaurant there seem to specialize in one menu: grilled dogs. I passed about five or six places until I found a Muslim food joint that had my second favorite dish: Manado’s spicy chicken stir-fried in basil!
Bali and Nusa Tenggara
|Taman Ujung, Karang Asem|
Yes, Bali is not a city but an island that makes up an entire province. But I cannot just write about Denpasar because all the other regencies complement each other. Several people I have met around the world only know Indonesia for Bali and I don’t blame theme. It truly is a magical island that makes you grateful of life and forget all of its pressures. I am fortunate to have lived here for a three-month work assignment after visiting it countless times. This enabled me to explore the uniqueness of each regency and experience the culture.
Let’s start with Denpasar, the capital and only city. Aside from Sanur beach, it is not a typical place to find foreign tourists. But it actually does have more to offer than people expect. There is a lovely neighborhood of Renon, where I once lived. Known as a posh area, you can find many international chain restaurants along the road. The main feature is the vast Renon Square known for the magnificent Bajra Sandi Monument. It’s a great public space for a jog, game of basketball or football, yoga, playing fetch with your dog and just chilling. There is the old town of Gajah Mada where you can see the early modern architecture of Bali. For lunch, head to Warung Ongan Sari where you can enjoy grilled fish over a splendid river view.
Badung is my favorite of all regencies, home to world-famous beaches! Kuta is always a must for first timers, no matter what people say. There is just so much going on beyond of its famous Balinese entrance, especially shopping and partying. Along the coast is Seminyak, for late-night eats and drinks, and Canggu to enjoy an incredible sunset. For me, the best beaches are in southern coast. Top picks are Nyang-Nyang, Tegal Wangi and Green Bowl. Until now, I miss spending weekends driving up to the limestone cliffs, getting jaw-dropping views of secluded white-sand beaches meeting turquoise waters, and the excitement of walking down for a swim.
Gianyar is the regency to experience culture. The traditional architecture, tranquil temples and green landscape of Ubud neighborhood makes me understand its international attraction. I also like the town center that is decorated with magnificent statues of mythological creatures. Tabanan Regency has similar green features of Gianyar and home to the breathtaking cliffside temples over the ocean: Tanah Lot.
The most underrated regency for me is Karang Asem. It is home to the beautiful Taman Ujung, formerly the royal gardens of the ancient kingdom. There is Tirta Gangga temple, which has a natural swimming pool and a pond with stones to make you walk on water. Beach goers will love Virgin Beach that resembles a secluded version of Phuket. A great view of this beach is seen from the hills of Bukit Asah, which is also a nice camping spot.
Those that prefer mountains can visit Mount Batur in Bangli Regency. Within the mountains is a crater lake with a number of hot springs, the perfect combo for relaxation. Up north is Buleleng, where you can visit Sekumpul Waterfalls. The vibe is so epic that the theme song for Jurassic Park suddenly played in my head while climbing down the steps towards the water.
The people of Bali are one of a kind. They are committed to keep the island safe and welcoming. Crime is low because nobody wants to scare off tourists. Locals even greet domestic travelers in English since it is the default tourism language. Balinese people have strong values and sense of community. Traditional ceremonies are a higher priority than day jobs, because of what it represents. These are principles everyone should learn from.
|Sunset at Bukit Merese|
Like Bali, Lombok is an Island where its cities and regencies complement each other. Its natural beauty is simply breathtaking: a green hilly landscape surrounded by pristine water. My favorite way to enjoy it is swimming by Tanjung Aan beach and then watch the sunset from Bukit Merese. There is also the legendary Mount Rinjani which I am yet to climb someday.
Most locals are strongly religious so you can find beautiful mosque in almost every street corner. Some think their conservative nature is a constraint to gain more international tourists. I say as they should be open-minded, this is an advantage to attract Muslim travelers from around the world. Hopefully having special attention from the national government will build the capacity to maximize their potential.
The best part of Lombok for me is the Gilis, the small islands across the west coast. The must-visit is the free spirited Gili Trawangan where rules do not apply. Everyone is free to express themselves without worrying about conservatism. Some people from various parts of the worlds have stayed to open a beachside restaurant or dive center. Walking and cycling are the only mobility options, there are bike rentals everywhere for convenience. Simply strolling around the island while gazing at the turquoise waters and green nearby islands is the best thing you can do! For something more natural, go to Gili Nanggu and Gili Kedis where the only man-made structures are toilet stalls and gazebos. Go snorkeling and see vast colorful schools of fish racing across the corals.
Lombok has so much potential to reach the same level of Bali. With smart cultural adjustments and infrastructure investment, I’m sure it will have great development.
When I went to Labuan Bajo, I found my image of paradise. The various shades of blue, glorious green mountainous islands, pink sand beaches, and the few harboring yachts will just make you feel nothing but pure joy. Located on the southern tip of Flores Island, it’s the gateway for taking the most epic sail to the Komodo Islands. The locals are the most genuinely nice people with the purest smiles of all Indonesia. This city is the future of Indonesia’s tourism. Sustainability must be kept protecting its immaculate beauty. I could imagine myself spending the rest of my life, working remotely in a house on the hilltop with the best sea view you can imagine.
The sail trip is amazing itself. I spent 3 days and 2 nights with a former officemate on one of those simple motorboats, not fancy but cozy. There were three members of the crew: the navigator, the cook and the guide. All of them are Bugis, the ethnic group of Southern Sulawesi, like most domestic migrants in Flores. The meals were served with fresh seafood and vegetables. The outdoor views are breathtaking: the sun shining over the vast blue sea and wonderful green islands. We spent the peaceful nights harboring island piers and woke up to fantastic sunrises.
The first island to see is Rinca. It has a Komodo Dragon sanctuary, the largest and most elegant lizard on earth. A certified guide greeted us and explained all about the animal. I learned that they hunt annually because their stomachs can maintain food for months. This makes it less likely to attack humans. The guide took us up the hills and my jaw just dropped to the view: the beach, clear blue sea and a number of yachts all surrounded by the island’s green cliffs. He told me there are more fantastic views to come.
Next island was Padar, the main reason I came here because of social media posts. I realized pictures cannot be trusted, because the real thing is much more stunning. The mountainous island is kind of shaped like the body of a Komodo Dragon. You need to take a 20-minute hike up the highest point to see this. I felt quite terrified at the beginning, but the views were amazing! Reaching the top, I just sat down and gazed at the mesmerizing scenery. A family caught up to us, I heard the dad ask his teenage daughter, “So, Indonesia or the US?”
The crew then took us to Komodo Island, where I got to see and learn more about the dragon. Turns out they are really quick and have venomous saliva to slowdown their prey. The island has the famous Pink Beach, which gets its color after the waves hit the sand. We continued on to Gili Lawa and were greeted by the super chilling soundtrack from the boat next to us. The island turned out to be great spot for snorkeling! Although there wasn’t much fish and most corals were dried out, just swimming with the spectacular view of being between islands is magical. The island is made of two green hills, which I climbed twice to enjoy the sunset and sunrise.
The grand finale of the sail trip was at Kanawa. Run by Spanish owners, boats are not allowed to harbor at the pier without paying the price. So, I swam over to the beach to make it free. This is the moment I saw my vision of paradise after years of imagination. The rule created shades of blue water beyond my imagination! Colorful fish and corals danced gracefully as I passed by. I climbed up the shore to find people simply laying at the beach and enjoying life. The massive green hill and clusters of trees gave a special feature. There were small cottages with European design for overnight travelers. Ever since that moment, whenever I feel tense or down, I think of Kanawa.
Labuan Bajo really is the next Bali! There is plenty of available land for construction. Hope whoever is chosen to develop it will keep the nature as it is.
So that was a brief summary of all the major cities I have visited within the past 5 years! I do wish to explore more cities, been wanting to see Banda Aceh, Banjarmasin, Ambon and Jayapura.
Hope this post gave you a better picture of Indonesia! If you're a local, hope I paid a proper tribute to your city!