" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!
# Visited16 countries
Next TripAnother loop back through Asia: North Korea, China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea
Dream TripVirgin space cruise. More feasible: Antarctica
Travel Quote" Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel. What do you do? "
Home CountryUnited States
Indonesia is a vast and diverse archipelago that continues to impress and surprise longtime expats and even locals. To think that because you've seen Jakarta and done Bali then you "know" Indonesia is to be sorely mistaken. As one expat told me: "Just when you think you're starting to understand Indonesia, that's when you realize you don't understand it at all."
From amazing cultures and regional customs to a seemingly neverending variety of local cuisines, Indonesia is home to more diversity in some of it's larger islands than other nations have in their entirety. Especially when it comes to langauges and dialects, of which the country has over 700 -- and don't think that Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is even remotely similar to Javanese (Bahasa Jawa) or Balinese (Bahasa Bali) because its not. After all the slogan of the country is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, which is Javanese for "Unity In Diversity."
What To Know If Traveling Indonesia
Indonesia is home to some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I have even met. During six months motorcycling around the country and making local friends, even doing a tourism film on Sumatra, I had nothing but good experiences with the best of people. All except for while I was in Bali -- but I'll get to that in a second. For now the most important things to know are:
The Street Food Is Better Than Restaurant Food
Both in terms of taste and authenticity. Oh yeah and of course price. Depending where you are in the country you can get a decent meal for around 11,000IDR ($1USD), a little more if you want to splurge and really fill up. Don't worry about getting sick, just go with the street vendor or warung has the most local customers. After all they must be doing something right!
Expect a lot of variety in dishes and sweetness/spiciness depending upon where in the country you travel. However no matter where you visit there will be lots of fried dishes, such as nasi goreng, mie goreng and ayam goreng (rice, noodles, and chicken respectively -- and of course as you probably guessed goreng is Indonesian for fried). Beyond that the variety begins. For every city you visit make sure to ask the locals what their speciality is.
For Every Good Tourist Site There Is An Even Better "Hidden" One
Indonesia has no shortage of spectular views, virgin beaches, challenging mountains, and off the beaten path exploring. When I first arrived there I thought one or two months would be enough. Six months later and I still didn't want to leave. Yet during my travels I had met so many other backpackers, all of which were visiting Yogyakarta, Mount Bromo, and Bali. "Oh plus Gili T and Komodo if we have time" I heard more often than I can count. Hardly any stopped by Sumatra. And none had even thought about Kalimantan or Sulawesi, let alone Papua.
Trust the locals. Ask them where to visit, what to eat, how to have fun. The friends I've made along my journeys through Indonesia have shown me a world of things not covered in any tourist guide book, from traditional pastimes and 5am fishing trips to lesser-known things like panjat pinang and stick-fighting. And of course more virgin beaches than I can keep track of!
My friend Trinity is author of the famous Indonesian book series The Naked Traveler. Last week her newest book went on sale, Across The Indonesian Archipelago. If you are looking for ideas on where to travel in Indonesia then this is both a great resource and an enjoyable read. (And yes, it is in English.)
Local Transportation Is Easier Than You Might Expect
Especially on the main island of Java, which has a reliable train network and plenty of regular routes. Outside of Java you will have to rely on buses and ferries, the latter of which can have a bit more of an irregular schedule depending on how remote your intended destination may be. However in places like Sulawesi short flights might be a better, albeit more expensive, option.
Renting a motorcycle is also another option. Of course I would only recommend this option for experienced riders, preferably ones already used to driving in the chaotic streets of southeast Asia. For 50,000IDR/day ($5USD) or 650,000-1,000,000IDR/month ($60-90USD) a scooter or motorcycle can be rented, allowing you to go where you want when you want. This has fantastic way to visit small villages and other off the beaten path destinations. It is the only way I ever made it to places like Banyusumurup, the traditional village that makes all of the kris, small Indonesian daggers with mystical powers. Plus despite horror stories of bus thieves and midnight muggings in Sumatra I have yet to encounter any difficulties along the road.
For more read my newest blog post: How To Travel Indonesia By Motorcycle
Don't Rush Off To Bali -- Explore Elsewhere First
If you only have one month or less in the country then I would say skip Bali entirely. It is an over-priced, Westernized version of Indonesia where the bulk of the individuals working in the tourism industry are not even Balinese but rather Sudanese or Javanese and have come solely to take your foreign money. As a caucasin here you essentially have dollar signs tattooed across your pale forehead. Plus as with any place that attracts massive notoriety as a tourist hotspot so too come the touts, beggars, scam artists, foreign food (so you can "feel at home") and of course the inflated prices. At the risk of upsetting some of my Balinese friends I'll say it: if you get pickpocketed or robbed anywhere in the country, it most likely will happen here. It is a predators' paradise because the prey keep flying in 365 days a year.
Don't get me wrong, Bali is not all bad -- just the southern part is. Kuta, Denpasar, Sanur, Uluwatu, etc. In fact Googling "kuta is hell on earth" or some near varient will produce several interesting articles by other bloggers on why Bali is only for couples or families looking for all-inclusive four- and five-star resorts and not for backpackers. The eastern and northern parts, most specifically Padangbai and Ubud, weren't near as bad as southern Bali but neither were they that good.
Talon of 1Dad1Kid.com and I crossed paths in real life one day in Sanur. Turns out he and I had the same feelings about this island. If you are unsure about visiting Bali then his post will help you decide if the island is right for you.
I basically can’t encourage people to come to the island. Indonesia has some truly amazing areas, and I think a person’s time and money are better spent exploring other parts of the country.
Not A Good Destination For Former Cigarette Smokers
Indonesia ranks third in the world for total number of cigarette smokers according to the WHO. Almost all of the men smoke, far too many kids, and yes, even the orangutans. The tobacco industry is big business here and as the Western world keeps placing more restrictions on cigarette advertising and marketing the tobacco giants keep pumping more money into southeast Asia. Despite 'No Smoking' signs in places like malls you can often find someone less than a meter away, using the floor as an ashtray.
To make matters worse cigarettes are around 10-14,000IDR ($1-1.25USD) and sold at every family-owned market, corner store and restaurant. Although I quit smoking after moving out of Tokyo in 2009 I have found myself occasionally smoking a kretek cigarette when drinking. Although this is entirely social, if you tried hard to quit cigarettes and do not want to see and smell the temptation everywhere you go, you might best avoid Indonesia. Even as I type this I am sitting in a smoke-filled office in Jakarta.
All in all Indonesia is one country that does not disappoint. There is a reason why so many travelers over the years have come here and then never left. Between the warm, inviting culture, vastness of the country and extensive list of places worthy of exporing, beautiful scenery and delicious food, Indonesia truly has something for everyone. You just have to know what you are looking for.
Street art (sometimes called graffiti art) is a very unique and interesting form of modern artistic expression. The vivid colors and neverending creativity of their artists have a tendency to impress both locals and tourists alike.
Like most major metropolises Toronto boasts its own collection of graffiti art, including the aptly named "Graffiti Alley," which runs parallel to Queen street on the southern side.
To check out the wall art for yourself, start at Queen and Spadina and head west, walking down every alley you pass. There is also a healthy amount of graffiti artt scattered a few blocks north of there, throughout the Kensington Market.
Click any of the images below to enlarge them
Which one is your favorite?
The title of the most romantic city in the world without a doubt belongs to Paris. The atmosphere oozes love and passion as it is home to many wonderful and picturesque places as well as lots of wonderful bars and restaurants to enjoy with a loved one.
Many people visit Paris on mini breaks with their partner and quite often to pop the question. Where better to propose than in the romance capital of the world. Here are some of the best places to get down on one knee, all within easy reach of top quality Paris hotels.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame is one of the most romantic spots in Paris and the cathedral is simply stunning. The best time to propose here is on a clear night as the building is lit up beautifully and you can see stars in the sky.
For art lovers there is no more perfect proposal spot than the Louvre. Depending on your prospective spouse, choose from either inside one of the galleries, or outside by the glass pyramid made famous in recent years by the film The Da Vinci Code.
There are very few people on Earth who would not recognise the Eiffel Tower and its position overlooking Paris makes it a great place to pop the question. Travel up to the top and ask when in up high for maximum effect.
Arc de Triomphe
Another monument you can go to the top of is the Arc de Triomphe. This is often the first thing you see that let’s you know you have arrived in Paris, and the view from the roof is spectacular.Proposals are something you both will remember for the rest of your lives. Make it spectacular by taking your loved one to Paris to say those four magic words. For added wow factor try visiting one of these places at sunset in the summer. Book a hotel now and start practicing delivering that all-important line.
Arc de Triomphe photo courtesy of thausj on Flickr.
Formerly known as Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe is renowned as one of Africa’s most beautiful countries. Sadly it has been neglected by tourists for many years, since the introduction of President Mugabe’s Land Reform programme in 2000. The country’s tourism industry and economy suffered terribly as a result but lately the country is staging a comeback.
As a tourist destination Zimbabwe boasts many great reasons to pay a visit, whether it’s to experience one of the world’s best climates, the diverse wildlife and scenery or to delve into the country’s ancient history, Zimbabwe has a lot to give. To discover more about what the country has to offer we have created a list of the most interesting and beautiful places in Zimbabwe:
One of Zimbabwe’s most famous features is the thundering Victoria Falls; the largest curtain of falling water on the planet. With so much to do in the surrounding area you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself bored. Bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge or get an even closer look at the raging Zambezi River with a spot of white water rafting; tackling the grade 5 rapids. For easier pursuits there are microlight and helicopter rides high above the spray or, if you are staying nearby during a full moon, watch out for a moonbow: a rainbow at night. You could also hop across to the Zambian side of the Falls and experience the Devil’s Pool. The pool is naturally formed and sits at the very edge of the Falls allowing you to look down into the smoky abyss below.
The Great Zimbabwe ruins
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is marked by history. Zimbabwe is littered with numerous ruins of ancient civilisations, however, those known as The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are the most prominent among them. Built in a unique and distinctive dry stone style these ruins were once the royal palace for the monarchs of the day and would have been home to around 18,000 people. The city flourished for over 300 years thanks to trade with those sailing down the Mozambique coast. The high stone walls are perhaps the ruins’ most distinctive feature, stretching over 5 metres high. The ruins can be found in Masvingo with a nearby museum displaying recovered artefacts.
Mana Pools National Park
Experience wildlife like never before and find yourself up close to elephants, hippos and crocodiles as well as a range of other animals. The word ‘Mana’ means four in Shona and is used in the Park’s title to allude to the four main pools found along this stretch of the Zambezi River: Main, Chine, Long and Chisambuk. They are remnants of channels that stopped flowing long ago. You can explore these water ways on the Mana Canoe Trail. Glide downriver and drink in a mixture of floodplains, grassland and the mountains of the Rift Valley as well as Africa’s largest population of hippo.
The Matobo Hills
The Matobo Hills are a great place for those wishing to combine a love of nature and history. The fascinating granite rock formations found here have been formed over millions of years and range from balancing rock formations to spires to domes. Also found in the area is the highest concentration of rock art found in Southern Africa and dates back as far as 13,000 years. If you’re interested in uncovering the day to day in the lives of these ancient people, a picture speaks a thousand words and the paintings allow you access to a world now long since passed.
Hwange National Park
To discover the best wildlife viewing Zimbabwe has to offer Hwange National Park delivers the goods. It is the country’s largest national park and possesses 100’s of different mammal species and almost 400 species of bird, including the southern carmine bee-eater in the summer months and the Kori Bustard. The park is also home to an incredibly strong elephant and buffalo population, with huge herds roaming across the Kalahari sandveld that comprises the majority of the park. The diverse abundance of wildlife is reflected in the varied scenery with grasslands, saltpans and mopane woodlands adding to the overall beauty of the park.
Packed to the brim with so much to explore, Zimbabwe lays waiting to be discovered. To learn more about the country and how to make a trip a reality, check out Mahlatini Luxury Travel for details or follow them on Twitter for more Africa travel information.
When it comes to finding a great holiday destination, you've got the world at your feet. There's enough choice to suit virtually every different taste and budget imaginable, from cheap package holidays in Tunisia and romantic weekends in Venice, to ski holidays in the French Alps and walking breaks across the Spanish Pyrenees.
One destination that serves up a fascinating array of holidays all on one island is Tenerife. With incredible volcanic geology that has left a legacy of dark sandy beaches, craggy mountainous terrain and bizarre volcanic landscapes, there's never a dull moment in this sun-drenched Canary Island.
Thanks to its location just off the west African coast, Tenerife enjoys year-round sunshine that makes this a cracking holiday destination in summer as well as winter, with scorching temperatures throughout July and August and lovely t-shirt weather during our winter months. The Teide National Park is the island's stunning centrepiece, which features alpine-like scenery and is crowned by the soaring, snow-topped summit of Mount Teide - Tenerife's dormant volcano and Spain's tallest peak. You can whizz to the top by cable car to enjoy incredible views across the island and over the Atlantic Ocean.
Elsewhere, the northern shores makes a refreshing change from the beach-centric resorts of the south. The north coast is sprinkled with towns and villages offering a more traditional way of life, while Puerto de la Cruz is a bustling resort with plenty going on both night and day. And don't miss the chance to spend a day shopping and sightseeing in Santa Cruz, the island's cosmopolitan capital city.
If you've got Tenerife holidays 2013 on the agenda, you'll find a cracking array of holidays available with plenty of late deals and special offers. So get searching and book your trip to tantalising Tenerife this summer for a holiday to remember...