Sunday, 13 January 2019

Our Top Trips in 2018 - Darren in Bali & Java

As 2019 gets underway we've been having a look back at our favourite trips of 2018 - we love to travel at Escape Worldwide, and one of Darren's favourite trips last year (there were many to choose from!) was to Indonesia, taking in the islands of Bali and Java. Here's a quick look at his highlights . . . .

​I've been to Bali a number of times over the years, but this time I also visited a totally new place for me, the neighbouring island of Java. On Bali I based myself in the lively resort of Seminyak - probably my favourite part of the island - but explored all the main resorts. When I say 'explored' I actually mean 'bar-crawled' - there's no better way to get to know a place!

Seminyak has a real buzz to it, with loads of restaurants and bars, but it's not as lively as Kuta. For me the reason I love Seminyak is for sunsets - grab a beanbag on the beach and a cold Bintang beer, and watch the sun set in spectacular style. The next evening I headed down to Jimbaran, towards the south of the island, which has a very different feel - it's much more relaxed than Seminyak, with a glorious stretch of beach and loads of local seafood restaurants  dotted along the shore. For a few Pounds I had an incredible meal, with my feet in the sand sitting under the stars.
My final stop was in Sanur, on the east coast - so no spectacular sunsets - but for me this resort is ideal if you like a buzz, but not too late night partying. There's a string of places to eat and drink along the beach footpath, with low prices and plenty of choice. I had a fabulous meal at Cafe Bamboo, set right on the beach. All of Bali's beach resorts are very different so it's important to get the right one for you - if you're not sure which, just ask me!

For me Bali really becomes special as you head away from the coastal resorts and start to explore the interior a little - this is where  you really start to see the uniqueness of the island's culture, and the beauty of its scenery. I drove through the countryside passing through small villages, many of which were gearing up for a festival that evening - there's always something to celebrate on Bali! On the way up to Bali there's a string of small villages, each of which specialises in a particular craft - woodwork in Mas, wind chimes in Sukawati and silver jewellery in Celuk. I'm not allowed to buy any crafts on my trips any more (I got banned after an incident with a giraffe carving in Kenya) but it's a great place to window shop!

Ubud itself is a small town in the hills, but the Ubud 'area' takes in gorgeous scenery of rice terraces and river gorges of the surrounding countryside. The town is packed with restaurants, shops and galleries, but for me it was the tranquility of the countryside that really stood out. I visited the friendly Wapa Di Ume Resort, set just outside the town itself and surrounded by beautiful scenery - as soon as you arrive you feel relaxed (the food here is amazing!) There are plenty of hotels in this area, and a few days away from the coast will really show you a different side to the island.

For me the highlight of this trip was Java, an incredibly diverse island of stunning scenery, energetic cities and an incredible history. I travelled overland from Bali to Yogyakarta in Central Java, travelling via Mount Bromo on the way.

Mount Bromo is an active volcano and probably the most spectacular place I've ever been - although to do it justice you have to see the mountain as the sun rises, so it involves a 3 am start (after an 11 hour drive to get there!) Mount Bromo smoulders away and is one of three volcanoes standing in the vast crater that's 10 km across. After sunrise I climbed up to the rim of the volcano itself (seemed like a good idea at the time!), at which point you can really feel the ferocity of it.

From Mount Bromo it was another epic journey through Java to the city of Yogyakarta, the heart of the island and a city rich in culture & history. Yogya is fascinating, but for me the highlights were just outside the city - two phenomenal temple complexes that really took my breath away! Borobudur is the world's largest Buddhist monument and it straddles a whole hillside, with its 500 or more Buddha statues gazing serenely over the surrounding countryside. Nearby is Prambaban, one of the largest Hindu temples in South East Asia, with the 1200 year old structures telling stories of their era.

I've been to Bali a number of times before but it's such a vibrant island and there's always somewhere new to discover. Java came as a bit of a surprise, and I'd say that it was my highlight of the year. Including Yogyakarta in an itinerary is surprisingly straightforward and I'd highly recommend it to anyone!

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