We wanted to try to combat culture shock as much as possible by heading to Bali first on the Asia leg of the trip. It also happened to be a low cost destination from Australia which sealed the deal. Bali ended up being a land of contrasts. Due to its proximity to Australia and budget friendly prices it is to Australians what Magaluf is to Brits or Cabo is to Americans. Kuta and Seminyak are heavily developed with western tourists as a focus and with not a lot going for them in our opinion. Ubud is still very touristy but in a much nicer way. We loved our time in a beautiful homestay out in the rice fields, a real escape from the bustling city.

However, it wasn’t until we headed to Gili Air in Lombok that we got what we were looking for, tranquility and beauty in abundance. We didn’t get to see the rest of Lombok but from what we saw on a long journey along the coast it looked lovely.


Mama and baby orang-utan, Sumatra

Mama and baby orang-utan, Sumatra

Sumatra was a completely last minute decision. We were adamant that we wanted to see orang-utans in the wild in Asia and had originally thought to head to Borneo. We absolutely loved Sumatra, it was our favourite island in Indonesia. Aside from the amazing experience of seeing orang-utans we had a thoroughly relaxing couple of weeks exploring the northern part of the country. It won’t stay like it is forever, go visit!


Lovely Bukit Lawang, Sumatra

Lovely Bukit Lawang, Sumatra

Stats for Indonesia


26 days on the road, our budget was £40 (609,529 IDR) per day.


£36.02  (548,881 IDR)  TOTAL spend per day

£12.39  (188,846 IDR)   per day on accommodation

£10.25  (156,313 IDR)   per day on food

£6.48    (98,769 IDR)     per day on transport

£2.73    (41,730 IDR)     per day on activities


We were under-budget by £103.48 which certainly helped to take the edge off the Australia overspend.


Walking behind our guesthouse in Ubud, Bali

Walking behind our guesthouse in Ubud, Bali

Where we slept


16 nights in guesthouses – These ranged from flashpacker style to cold showers and no flushing toilet. We were really impressed with what you could get for your money, not so much in Bali but Sumatra was a steal.


7 nights in a beach bungalow – Our lovely little bungalow on Gili Air was a haven of tranquility and a bargain because we were there in the off season.


3 nights in hotels – We tend to stay in hotels if we have an early airport transit as they are usually closer than hostels or guesthouses. My new favourite Asian chain is Tune Hotels, they have teeny tiny rooms but are spotlessly clean, have wifi and A/C.


Paul taking a leap into volcanic Lake Toba

Paul taking a leap into volcanic Lake Toba

Top experiences in Indonesia


Seeing wild orang-utans in the jungle


A unforgettable wildlife encounter and one of our favourite locations to date. It’s hard to find that feeling of real escape in such a well trodden area as South-East Asia, when we got to Sumatra we’d found that haven and really didn’t want to leave. Read about our Orang-utan experience here.


Baby Thomas Leaf Monkey, Sumatra

Baby Thomas Leaf Monkey, Sumatra


Chilling out for a week in beautiful Lake Toba


Lake Toba is such a strange one. It used to be a popular holiday spot in the 90s but for a number of reasons tourism dropped off a cliff and it’s now very quiet. It’s made up from an enormous lake and super-volcano, the lake is 100km long and up to 500m deep! I’ve never been but from the photos I’ve seen it really looked a lot like Lake Garda in Italy, except the lake water was like a bath due to the volcanic activity.


A number of guesthouses are perched right on the lake with their own jetty and diving board into the water. It was wonderful being able to jump in for a swim every day. Due to the decline in tourism a visit to Lake Toba will be very cheap, we were there for 6 days and spent $100 on everything including accommodation! To see our photos from Lake Toba please click here.


Gorgeous Lake Toba, Sumatra

Gorgeous Lake Toba, Sumatra


Relaxing in the rice fields of Ubud


After being overwhelmed in Seminyak it was wonderful to escape the chaos and relax amongst the rice fields of Ubud. You will still find a ton of visitors but they are all there to take yoga and meditation classes or visit temples, it’s very different from the boozy holiday makers you find further south. Read about our experience in Ubud here.



Gili Air


Gili Air is for peace and quiet and a spot of diving if you’re so inclined. It may not have the stunning beaches of Thailand or the Philippines but it has a charm of its own with the oldie-worldy feel to the island. Read about our experience on Gili Air here.


One of the beautiful statues in the garden at Ubud, Bali

One of the beautiful statues in the garden at Ubud, Bali


The thing I liked most about Indonesia was the variety across the whole country. Each island is very unique and fiercely proud of that individuality. There is something for everyone and you can have everything from a 5 star beach holiday to trekking and camping in the jungle. It might not be as popular as other destinations in South East Asia but give it a chance, it might surprise you.


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6 Responses

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    This was really helpful because we head to Indonesia at the end of July and have absolutely nothing planned whatsoever for it. We had actually been writing off Sumatra because while in Malaysia we met some people who had spent two years based in Indonesia and whenever they talked about traveling overland in Sumatra it sounded so horrific with ridiculously long bus rides that didn’t sound very safe at all. But it sounds like you had a really relaxing, enjoyable time, so back onto the list of potential places to visit it goes! We saw some orangutan in Borneo, but it doesn’t look like we had nearly as awesome an encounter as you guys did!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Palawan: The Philippines’ Final Frontier?My Profile

    • Maddie

      So glad it was of some use 🙂 To be completely honest, if I had to pick between Sumatra & Bali, Sumatra would win every time. It’s just so unspoilt and Bali is the most developed place we’ve been in Asia. The overland journeys were fairly traumatic but it was absolutely worth it and you really just get used to it after a while. The orang-utan encounter was one of the best things we’ve done in 11 months of travel – the setting is incredible! If you can fit it into your schedule it would be very worth it. You can fly Air Asia to Medan pretty cheaply.

  2. Donny

    Great round-up! We really enjoyed our time on Gili Air as well, tough to leave. Jealous of the orangutans, but we didn’t really need much excuse to have a return visit!

    • Maddie

      Glad you liked it! We’ve said exactly that, it would be very easy to head back to lovely Sumatra 🙂


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