With its diverse geography and ethnic groups, Indonesia offers a lot to the visitors with its more than 17,500 islands
A wonderful holiday in Indonesia doesn’t necessarily mean Bali Island. The country boasts numerous beautiful volcanoes, islands and cultures.
Take Tangkuban Perahu, for instance. It is a volcano about 30 kilometers from Bandung, Indonesia’s third largest city by population.
The active volcano, situated at an altitude of about 2,200 meters, has erupted more than a dozen times since 1826. The last time was October 2013.
I walked to its edge for a close look at the magnificent crater.
Birds flew by from time to time.
Visitors can buy disposable masks from vendors nearby to beat the pungent odor of sulfur.
The volcano has a legend which is similar to the Greek tragedy Oedipus. It is about a beautiful woman, an immortal dog and her son.
Besides the volcano, situated at an altitude of 2,430 meters is Kawah Putih, a crater lake about 50 kilometers from Bandung.
The color of the water in the lake – which changes from bluish to whitish green or brown – is subject to the concentration of sulfur in the water and the weather.
Vendors in the area hawk volcanic mud, which is believed to help with skin problems such as acne and eczema.
For a long time, local residents believed that the lake was haunted because birds disappeared after flying into the area.
Few used to visit the area until 1837, when a German botanist explored it.
Also in Bandung is the Saung Angklung Udjo – a center dedicated to preserving and maintaining traditional Sundanese arts and culture. It has traditional Wayang Golek (wooden puppet) performances and music performances which showcase a traditional instrument called the angklung.
The instrument has two or four bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. And when you gently shake it, the carved tubes make a resonant pitch.
Nowadays, the angklung is often used in orchestras along with other instruments such as a guitar and percussion.
After the music show, each member of the audience gets an angklung and the music director gives the audience members a music lesson.
As he says, music has no boundaries and brings us all together, no matter what age and nationality you are.
In the end of the lesson, the members of the audience smile happily and dance with Indonesian kids onstage.
From there, it is on to Jakarta, about 120 km from Bandung.
Each weekend, Jakarta’s street artists gather at Kota Tua (old town) and dress as various characters, including cartoon figures. For a small tip, you can get them to pose for a photo with you.
It’s like a carnival for children – they can pose with Doraemon and eat street food too.
Then, I see two artists in costumes who seem to seated in midair without any apparent support, but I fail to figure out how they do it.
It’s also good idea to stroll around the Pantai Indah Kapuk community at night to experience the city’s hustle-and-bustle.
The area has Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants, coffeehouses and pubs.
There, my friends and I encounter a traditional snack shop that sells martabak, or pancakes.
It is said that the snack originated in Sumatra’s Bangka Island, and was first made there by Hakka immigrants from Fujian province.
To make martabak, the cook spreads layers of butter, condensed milk and cheese onto the pancake.
Before we have time to work out how many calories the ingredients contain, the lure of the mouth-watering food overcomes us.
Several senior residents who hail from Fujian province also came by to buy the pancakes.
They are regular customers and invite us to share their fare.
One of the residents says he loves the snack but buys it only once a month to control his intake of sugar.
From Jakarta, it is about an hour and a half to Putri Island, which is not far away from the Pulau Seribu Island.
Both the islands are good for snorkeling, diving and fishing.
In the water, fish swim among the red, blue and yellow reefs – resembling clouds, brambles and human brains.
Animals such as squirrels that eat bananas, big lizards and bats are visible on Putri Island.
Karaoke is a popular form of entertainment on Pulau Seribu Island at night.
A visit to a lounge gives one a feeling of nostalgia because one hears many popular Chinese songs from one or two decades ago.
More Chinese bound for Indonesia
In 2014, about 1.2 million Chinese tourists traveled to Indonesia and the number increased to 1.3 million the following year. The target of Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism is to have 2.1 million Chinese travelers this year.
Taufik Nurhidayat, the ministry’s deputy director dealing with familiarization trips for development of tourism in the Asia Pacific, tells China Daily that the country’s unique selling points include beautiful nature, cultural diversity and warm hospitality.
He says that to promote Indonesia as a destination in China, they participate in tourism activities, hold promotion events in major Chinese cities and organize familiarization trips.
“Most Chinese visitors prefer beach and water activities and shopping. They love to spend their honeymoons on Bali, Lombok and Komodo islands,” he says.
“They also want WiFi connections so that they can share their travel experiences online instantly.”
If you go
It takes about six and a half hours to fly from Beijing to Jakarta. Carry sunblock, sunglasses, mosquito repellent and a swimming suit. Wear snorkeling shoes or flippers to avoid abrasions by underwater reefs.