What's better than doing the whole tourist thing? Travelling like you know the place. Here's our pick of the top quirky destinations and travel hacks to have you exploring Indonesia like you've been there a thousand times — even if it's your first time. Mawardi Bahar / Shutterstock.com
There are the usual suspects when it comes to exploring Indonesia (bars, beaches and too many bogans), and then there are these quirky spots you really should be adding to your itinerary.
These ‘Holy Hot Springs’ in the north of Bali are a little out of the way, but well worth the visit for a few hours of pure relaxation. With three pools of natural hot spring water, you can relax under the flow of water from a carved stone naga’s mouth, or paddle in the largest pool to cool off.
Don’t let the touristy shops that crowd the way in fool you — Banjar Hot Springs is mainly visited by locals. They even claim the warm, mineral-rich waters can cure any skin condition.
Indonesia is a blessed country with beautiful beaches around every corner, but Blue Point Beach — also known as Suluban — is a little different. To get there you will have to descend a narrow concrete staircase, because this beach is nestled inside a natural cave. Bring a board and join the locals at this surfer’s paradise, or just take a dip in gentler waters next to the wall of the cave. Either way, it’s likely this Pecatu favourite will make for your favourite beach day in Bali.
While Indonesia is full of galleries, none have quite the personality or the pop of this little gem in Ubud — and most of that that can be attributed to the eccentric artist Symon himself. Filled to the brim with colourful Indonesian pop art, the so-called ‘Art Zoo’ is the very definition of quirky.
Hang around and have a chat with Symon, or simply browse the many pieces of art on display. You might even find the perfect piece for your wall at home.
4. Nusa Penida
Vladislav T. Jirousek / Shutterstock.com Although it’s only a few kilometres off the coast of Kuta, Bali’s party central, Nusa Penida gives you the chance to get away from the rush of tourists. Instead of joining the crowds, take a day out to explore Penida's dramatic and beautiful cliffs. One of the most breathtaking spots on the island is the so-called ‘broken beach,’ a place where the sea has carved out a circular lagoon through a single breach in the cliff face. If you’re visiting Nusa Penida, why not dive with the locals — in this case, the huge manta rays that live in the waters around the island.
Although you might find yourself a victim of temple fatigue by this point in your Indonesian holiday, Gunung Kawi mountain temple is still worth a visit. This ancient temple is far lesser known than crowded attractions like Tanah Lot, as well as being one of the most historically rich sites in Bali. Carved out of the rock of the mountain itself are shrines to ancient Balinese kings, where locals still leave offerings to this day. Wander down to this temple from the busy main street of Tampaksiring, passing through lush rice paddies as you enter the sacred valley.
You know where to go, now here's how to not stand out as a wide eyed tourist.
1. Pick The Right Drink
While relaxing at the beachside bar at sunset, you’re best to pass up the wine list and go for a beer or a cocktail instead. Wine is expensive to import and although you'll find most alcohol will be cheaper than it would be here, you’ll probably end up paying more for a bottle of wine than it’s worth.
2. Learn The Language
Bahasa Indonesia is an easy language to learn, with simple grammar rules and straightforward pronunciation, so why not try and throw in a few local phrases here and there? “Apa kabar” is one to remember, basically meaning "how are you?". Generally you would respond with a “baik” or “baik-baik” for a positive response. “Tolong” means please and “terima kasih” means thank you, while the proper toast to say when drinking is “santi!”
3. Become A Millionaire
Indonesia’s currency is the Indonesian Rupiah, and currently 1 Australian dollar will buy you more than 10,000 of them — so don’t freak out when you see prices in rupiah going into the millions!
4. You’ve Got To Haggle!
Bargaining is a way of life in Indonesia, so never pay the first price quoted to you! If you’re unsure, asking if they can do a better price is a good way to open negotiations. Making a first offer of half of what you’d like to eventually spend can be a good rule of thumb when bartering.
5. Treat Yourself
Whether you want the full royal treatment or just a quick massage after a beach day, don’t be afraid to visit one of Indonesia’s many spas for a cheaper and oftentimes more luxurious spa experience than you could ever find in Australia. It’s your holiday – you deserve it!
For more #notatourist travel tips and inspiration, see www.travelwithvisa.com.au