Dear readers,

You all probably already realized that this travel blog hasn't been updated for a really long time now. Nothing serious, just being busy and lazy actually. However, expect a reborn sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I just started a new personal blog and promised to update it frequently here.

See ya all!
-- Fakhrur

03 September 2009

Indonesia: Tanjung Karang White-Sandy Beach in Central Sulawesi

Not everyone awares that Indonesia archipelago has more to offer than Bali and Lombok. There's a huge island that lies between Borneo and Maluku, and it's called Sulawesi (old European name: Celebes). Sulawesi is known for the rich wildlife, pristine nature, great coffee, world-class dive sites, religious conflicts and many many more. No I won't talk about Sulawesi much, but you can read your way about Sulawesi in wiki for quick reference or the lonelyplanet thread.

Now we zoom into the mostly-unknown Tanjung Karang beach. Thanks to MisterSteve in this thorntree forum thread, we got ourselves intrigued by the place. To quote his post:

"Fly from Makasar to Palu and visit beautiful Tanjung Karang Beach (located 45 minutes from Palu and 1 1/2 miles from the town of Donggala on the central west coast of Sulawesi). Spend 3 full days there for snorkling and/or diving, and enjoying a real authentic Sulawesi village with very friendly local people. Very nice white sand beach. This is the "real" Indonesia --- NOT like Kadidiri or Taipi Islands in the Togians where all you see are guesthouse accommodations designed for Divers. The town of Donggala has a nice traditional market too."
His description sound promising and we gave it a try, since we already dumped our previous plan that obviously impossible to make within 2 weeks--we wanted to explore the remote Togian Islands.

local childrens on the beach

So there we were, arriving in Palu airport quite late in an evening, thanks to frequent-delay flights that Batavia Air offers--hey, we were still lucky the plane didn't crashed, right? Also, the airport in Palu was small and the most primitive I have been in Indonesia. But we were not to be worried, because our pick-up was patiently waiting for us outside.

click for larger map

full moon on tanjung karang beach

We had pre-arranged the van with the place we're staying, Prince John Dive Resort, 37 km Northwest from Palu. The ride took us almost one hour from the airport and we arrived there at 11pm. The staff was waiting there and lead us to the cottage. We quickly unpacked and took a little walk on the beach. Full moon light our way, it's incredible feeling to see your shadow in the middle of the night, under sky full of stars, and the waves were the only sound you hear. Pro Tips: Do get used to with the sound of the waves! Though the cottages were high above the cliff, you can hear the obvious sound from your room while you're trying to sleep. I had no problem, I love the sound.

Next morning, I woke up and went to the cottage's terrace, and boom, you can see the coral reefs in the beach below, just a few meters away!

caution: coral reefs ahead

While waiting for breakfast time, we lay lazily and make plan to go snorkeling.

(above) and (below) the beach in front of Prince John Dive resort

Prince John Dive Resort
It's probably the most established resort in the area, and from their brochure, their dive center the only dive center in the radius 500km. A friendly German couple, Alex and Gaby run the place. Gaby claimed that she speaks better bahasa Indonesia than English. And as you can guess, the guests were mostly Germans.

I took the cheapest bungalow, cost IDR 440,000 a night, though written €40 in their page. The price includes 3 meals and a tea-break snack. Still thirsty? You can of course order drinks from their small bar. And the airport transport was IDR 200,000 per car one-way. Internet access also available for a price.

However, Prince John Dive Resort was not a star resort. The bathroom was pretty basic and the electricity in the room only run after sunset. Aside of those, the bungalows have nice touch, the foods were delicious, and the staffs were helpful and friendly. Junaidi in the reception was helping us to arranged the trip to Toraja. He was nice to chat with, fluent in English and even refused the tip.

There are other cheaper places around, start from IDR 150,000 a night. But then again, you get what you paid.

Snorkeling in Tanjung Karang
We didn't dive, we're only snorkeling at that time and love it a lot. The corals in front of Prince John were great to begin with. We tested our underwater pocket camera and had a great time.

(above) and (below) corals, literally a few steps away from the beach

grumpy clown fish

Tired after intense snorkeling around? Take a little break, which is no other than sunbathing on Tanjung Karang white sand beach.

Before sunset, we went snorkeling to the Northern tip. It's about 10 minutes easy walk-on-the-beach North from Prince John.

the Northern tip of the small peninsula of Palu gulf, this was the good spot for snorkeling (and diving)

clown fish family picture

BIZZARE! I bet you never see so many lion fishes in a same place, do you?

and in no time the sun set.. we would come back tomorrow

That night, the resort had two unexpected guests. These cuscus like toasts and playing with other guests.

The next morning, we came back to where we left off the other day. This time was a good 200 meter walk from the shore. Luckily it was low tide.

corals, fishes, corals, fishes!

I can't get enough of clown fishes!

Ahhh.. Just like in aquarium.. Oh wait,

starfishes everywhere!

I like this underwater landscape

puffer fish! what a funny guy

anyone wants lobster for dinner?

In the end
We stayed only 3 days in Tanjung Karang, then continued our trip to Tana Toraja. One friend asked me about this place, whether it suits for honeymoon ot not. Well, I must say honestly, it's not. The beach was really nice, but it's "objek wisata" and easily accesible by many people from Palu and around. This mean that the beach can be horribly crowded at weekend (that's why we didn't choose weekend) and of course like many "objek wisata" in Indonesia, it gets dirty. This is indeed very sad.

It's not a secret that many Indonesians don't really care about the environment. They're building bungalows and houses so close that it's literally on the beach. I wonder why this thing failed to be regulated. Maybe "the corrupt government" is typical answer we're looking here. When you're here, you can see in Alex and Gaby helpless eyes, that once pristine dreamland that they built years ago, is falling apart. Not the resort, no the resort is doing fine, but the environment around Tanjung Karang beach.

The other thing that made this place not suitable for romance is because there's no other nice place around. I mean not exactly like touristic site, but there's nothing interesting you can do outside the beach area. So beside the resort, the beach and airport 37 km away, there's a little chance you find something romantic for you two do. Sure there's villages around and you can get close into local life like MisterSteve above mentioned, but personally i would hardly find it interesting.

So unless you want to make an effort to go to Palu and to Tanjung Karang beach or happen to pass this place, you may skip this beach. I bet there are better beaches in Sulawesi, less crowded, more beautiful and more natural. But anyway, while you are in Tanjung Karang, you should indulge yourself with its sun, white sand, colorful fishes, and beautiful corals. Maybe, try diving!

Happy travel!

the deadly and beautiful lion fish

22 July 2009

Vote The New 7 Wonders of Nature World Final

The 28 finalists were chosen, out from previous 77. The final New 7 Wonder will be announced next year after the votes were collected. So you have your time now and cast your vote on your favorites!

But alas! Among 28 places, I have never been to one. So I'm just blind voting for the coolest and the ones I'd really want to be there. The first should be Komodo Island, to support the only Indonesian finalist. Hell, who am I kidding... It's the island of the freaking Komodo dragons! The closest cousins to awesome dinosaurs!!! THE dinosaurs, hello!!! Thanks to the dragons, this particularly one island -between thousands of Indonesian beautiful islands, is definitely worthed to be in the top 7 Wonders of Nature World. Right on! Here for you dinosaurs!!

awwww look at him.... just tell me one reason why not to vote for these guys

Read a bit about Komodo Island on the official 7 Wonders Site. Or simply wiki it.

Did I mentioned that the island is also beautiful?

My other votes go to the following:
- Maldives, for the breath-taking beaches and underwater world. Representing the islands that are really threaten by global warming and climate changes.
- Amazons, this is obvious. No other place has the diversity, the size and the beauty of it.
- The Great Barrier Reef, for the grandest underwater world.
- The Angel Falls, for its majestic.
- Matterhorn/Cervino, from the Alps world. (I wonder why Himalayan Mt. Everest didn't managed to finals, anyone?)
- The Dead Sea, another obvious choice.

Vote can be made here. Happy voting!

01 July 2009

Summer 2009 Updates

Gili Meno, Lombok

Here we are in the summer, which hasn't been so sunny afterall. Yet, your ticket is booked, and you're waiting last minutes to pack your clothes. Haven't got any ticket yet? Tight on budget? Worry not, there are still things to grab. Like the Air Asia's latest promotion, which is pretty mind-blowing.

Yup, you read it alright! They erased fuel surcharge before (read here) and now there is also no admin fee, so you only pay the fare and airport tax. And since sometime the fare is 0 (zero), the total price would be absolutely a bargain!

Another freebies to win from Lonelyplanet. Email them here with the answers. The first question is very easy for me :)

This is our last poll result. I asked about your favorite mode of transportation to explore the world.

Twenty one people took the poll. Thanks! The most preferable is airplane (28%), the runner ups go to both car (19%) and motorbike (19%). Train (9%) and bicycle (9%) both go third. There people opt to trek (4%), hitchhike (4%) and make it on hot-air baloon (4%). Yet bus, chopper and animals are the least preferred.

To wrap up this update, I link you to this funny and creative in-flight security video from New Zealand Airlines. It's a part of their new marketing campaign "nothing to hide". See the commercial here. They said it's featured by their real flight captains and stewards, all of them wear nothing but shoes and go all out with their painted naked bodies. Well, I'm pretty sure that from now on, the passengers wouldn't simply ignore the 'safety' of the flight anymore. Happy travel!

22 June 2009

Italy: Beautiful and Picturesque Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre literally means five lands, which represents five Italian coastal villages on dramatic steep cliff setting, facing Mediterranian Sea. It's located just outside of Toscana (Tuscany), on the coast of Liguria.

Cinque Terre

We came there last month (May 2009), when the sun was shining a bit too much on the spring days. I have nothing to complain about that. The only problem that it was 1st May holiday which also marked the beginning of tourist season. Yes, it was packed with visitors, especially on the afternoon when half of the Italy had woke up and came to Cinque Terre. The towns were so crowded and you couldn't hardly get somewhere to sit during lunch time. Fortunately, the trail wasn't as crowded as I expected. I don't recommend to go here on Summer, for sure.

View Larger Map

Hotel Europa, Levanto
We stayed in Hotel Europa in Levanto, a town just North from Cinque Terre. Levanto is one of favorable place to stay as it's not as expensive as in the five villages and plenty of carparks are available. Please note that to get to villages by car are not only hard, but also almost impossible to find a parking place. Also, consider to book your hotel ahead! We're lucky to get rooms for us in Hotel Europa one week prior our stay, the other hotels and B&Bs were either full or had unreasonable price tag.

La Spezia --a bigger town on the South from the five villages, is another option as it's also connected comfortly with train.

Our stay in Hotel Europa was pretty straightforward. We arrived very late --almost at midnight, parked the car, slept, woke up in the morning, went to find a carpark on the other side of the town, had breakfast and then checked out. To save cost, we booked 1 big room for 4 people, instead they gave us 2 double rooms for the same price. Awesome! The staff were friendly eventough not so fluent in English. The hotel was small, a bit rustic, but neat and clean. I must warn that the street outside was loud, even pass midnight. We didn't care because we're so tired and slept easily.

(this is a big image, click to enlarge)

Train to Vernazza
Though Vernazza is not the first village between the five, we decided to skip Monterosso because we didn't have a lot of time. So we were only walking the trail through the towns Vernazza - Corgnilia - Manarola - Riomaggiore.

We took a (supposed to be 9 o'clock) train from Levanto to Vernazza, but the train was late more than half an hour. The good thing was it was only 10 minutes ride until Vernayzza and the ticket was cheap --€1.40 one way. There was an option to purchase a Cinque Terre Train Card for €8.50, which included unlimited train for a day and compulsary Cinque Terre Card (€5).

Vernazza viewed from above

Walking from Vernazza to Corniglia
Vernazza is located on the sea level, while Corniglia is located about 100 meter above from the sea, so you can guess that there's quite a lot of climbing. To add insult to the injury, between them there are higher cliffs, which means there are more climbing to do.

The best thing from gaining height was the view. One could see how beautiful the area from above. Approximately 90 minutes of walking were needed to complete this part of the trail.

Oh my.. look at the view... wait.. let me catch my breath first.

and there we go, Corniglia, high above the sea.. also, time for 2nd breakfast

Walking from Corniglia to Manarola
From 100 meter above the sea, you need to go down again. No problem! Well, say it to the hordes of people from the opposite side! There are these stairs with a total of 370+ steps for them to climb. A plank of compliment is available for them who survived and wanted to take a picture of their victory against the evil stairs.

After passing the ugly train station and some abandoned cottages, you can carry on the trail for about 45 minutes until you reach Manarola or go downstair to the rocky beach to have a nice sunbathing.

good luck, you only have 370 steps to climb!

the way to Manarola

Manarola.. colorful facades, and lots of tourists

Walking from Manarola to Riomaggiore

This part is the easiest walk, which is only 20 minutes long. Known as the Via del'Amore or the "Path of Love", this path is flat and favored by the couples in love for the view and romantic symbol. One part was fully written and carved with couples' names and love padlocks. There was even a man proposing a young lady when we went passing by. Yeah, how romantic! I think it was a common event there.

Via del'Amore.. easy and romatic.. what can you ask for more?

don't forget to leave your symbol of love

Boat back to Vernazza
This was my most favorite part on the journey. We took a boat trip from Riomaggiore to Vernazza --the beginning of our trail. One way boat ticket to Vernazza was only €6.50. And like many other scheduled things in Italy, you can never know when is the boat coming. The boat was so frequent but the tourists were just overwhelming. Fortunately, we didn't wait for so long.

The main reason we took the boat was to enjoy the five villages in a different prespective, but soon we realized that this way was the most pleasant and have the best view of Cinque Terre. I greatly recommend the boat ride.

and that's Corniglia, the only village who doesn't have access to the sea

28 May 2009

That Video on Indonesia Tourism

Simply beautiful. But hardly shows even half of Indonesia has to offer. If you can afford the time, there are literally thousands of remote and pristine natures all over Indonesia for you to find and admire.

17 May 2009

Slovenia: More Soča Valley

I'm posting more pictures from Soča Valley as I promised.

fishing season
location: where river Soča meet smaller river Tolminka

Gorizia Italy and Nova (New) Gorica Slovenia -->they just don't want to let it go :p
location: from Saint Sabotin hill

river Soča from above
location: from Saint Sabotin hill

the spring of river Tolminka
location: near town of Tolmin

near the spring of river Tolminka
location: near town of Tolmin

the spring of river Tolminka
location: near town of Tolmin

canoes on Soča
location: near town of Kobarid

river Soča
location: between town of Kobarid and Tolmin

a small town of Most na Soči (bridge at Soča)
location: viewing point above Most na Soči

smaller village surrounding Most na Soči (bridge at Soča)
location: viewing point above Most na Soči

panorama of Most na Soči (left) and Tolmin (right)
location: viewing point above Most na Soči
click picture to enlarge

For more information about the beautiful region of Soča Valley Slovenia, visit my previous post.