Indonesia is a gorgeous country with great culture diversity and stunning unspoiled tropical sceneries. The Indonesian people are outgoing, generous and hospitable. The inexpensive local food and hotels can be easily found around every street corner.
However, cycling experience in Indonesia can vary greatly, depending on the choices of routes. Among thousands of islands in Indonesia, we cycled in five of them – Batam, Java, Bali, Lombok and Gili Meno. We made some bad route choices that nearly broke us after 6 months cycling through Southeast Asia, but also some good ones that allowed us to appreciate the beauty of this tropical paradise.
Route to avoid: northern coast line in Java, or the entire island of Java if you dislike crowds.
In Java, we started from Jakarta and followed the northern coast line and cut across to the south when we reached Tegal. After we made it to Purwokerto, we couldn’t take it anymore so we took a train to Bangyuwangi just to escape the crowds and hassles. Constant heavy traffic that follows no obvious logic pattern, huge pot holes on pretty much every road, garbage piles everywhere, plus the heat were quite a lot to handle on a daily basis. We imagined that central Java would be better because of the mountains, but we were disappointed to find no escape. It was not much cooler either. We didn’t see any tourists, let along other cyclists in this section.
The train ride offered us a different reality. Looking out from the air conditioned carriage, we could only see luscious green rice fields zooming by. Nearing Surabaya, we had a glimpse of a quiet road, which could be a sign of better cycling conditions in eastern Java.
Routes we loved: north coast of Bali and Lombok
Bali bears little resemblance to Java. Thanks to the thriving tourism, the nature is better preserved, and accommodation is plentiful at an affordable price. The less travelled northern Bali was just like a tropical garden, except there are a lot of people living in it. The locals are very jaded for foreign travellers, especially in touristy towns such as Kuta, Ubud and Lovina.
Lombok is even less crowded than Bali. The coast line on the northwest side (north of Senggigi) was the highlight for our trip in Indonesia.
An air-conditioned room costs 200,000 IDR to 300,000 IDR, while a fan room normally costs significantly less (anywhere from 100,000 IDR to 170,000 IDR). Finding a hotel is not a problem at all. We didn’t camp at all in Indonesia, mainly because there was barely any place suitable for camping.
Warungs are the best bet for good cheap meals. They are small restaurants that serve ready-cooked dishes over a plate of rice. For 10,000 IDR you can get 4 to 5 side dishes on top of a plate of rice to complete a satisfying meal. There are also ready to go food packages called bungkus on road side stalls for 2,000 IDR to 5,000 IDR each, but with less the quality and quantity . Still, they are much better than cup noodles as a quick meal on a long ferry ride.
Not as humid as Malaysia but just as hot, if not hotter. However the temperature difference between night and day is noticeable. The weather pattern is very distinct and predictable, when we were in Java the afternoon rain storm came like clockwork. So with a little bit of planning we managed to stay dry.
- April 1st: Kota Tinngi to Johor Bahru - 41 km; Ferry to Batam Centre, Indonesia; Batam to Sekupang Ferry Terminal - 21.3 km