Indonesia is a South East Asian country of huge proportions, sitting on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and has more than 120 active volcanoes. This makes it prone to all kinds of natural disasters. Add to this man-made environmental disasters, white palm-fringed beaches, verdant rainforests, exotic wildlife, countless ethnic groups and you have an exceedingly wide range of sights to explore.
Komodo and Rinca Islands are one of only three islands that are home to the infamous Komodo dragon, an eerie and endangered species. They may not be the winged fiery dragons of mythology but with their size, their fearsome looks and gruesome behaviour they are probably as close to a dragon as it gets in the real world. They can run at 20 km/h but only for short distances. Their deadliest feature is their saliva. They have venom glands secreting a substance that contains anticoagulants. So basically, if a Komodo dragon bites an animal, the wound simply does not heal and they slowly die as a result. So when hunting, thanks to their toxic bite they don't need to get into a fight with their often much larger victims (such as water buffalo) in order to kill them. A swift bite in the leg is all it takes. The dragons can then just sit back and wait. Within a few days their prey will slowly succumb to the festering wound. Then the dragons can come and devour it. What is so unusual about this technique is that the dragon who bites the prey in the first place may not be the same one that later finds the corpse and eats it. Some other dragon may happen upon it first and take advantage of this.
We arrived on Rinca Island around lunchtime, first dragon we found was resting under a tree. He had strong eye contact like "which one of these humans should I eat first". They are not actually very dangerous to encounter in the wild, you will be at all times accompanied by a ranger carrying a forked stick to keep the dragons at bay should they get too curious. One Swiss lady did get too close, the dragon made a swift turn of the head at her, I think she needed a change of underwear after that.
Flores is a beautiful island that is famous for diving and the lair of the Komodo dragons. I flew there from Bali with Lion Air. When flying Lion Air, always expect departure to be delayed by at least 2 hours. The Komodo tours were incredibly overpriced in Bali, so I when landed in Labuan Bajo, I went straight to the harbour and negotiated with one of the local boat guys there. Definitely a lot cheaper.
The Ijen volcano offers one of the most surreal sights in the world: blue flames. You arrive at the base around 1AM, hike up to the top, then a more arduous hike down into the crater until you are faced with the blue flames. Part of the time they were shrouded in dense sulphurous fumes, at other times the wind blew open a view straight onto the blue flickering wonder. To get close enough for a good view it was necessary to put on the gas masks we got from the base station. Without them you can't last more than ten seconds in the biting fumes. The closer you get the more unbelievably otherworldly the flames look.
We also passed by local miners harvesting solidified sulphur deposits and carry heavy loads of 70-90kg of broken sulphur out of the crater. Every day, they climb the steep and precarious track up the crater wall while balancing their heavy loads. The pay for such extreme work is pathetic and the working conditions these guys live with are amongst the most hazardous and unhealthy imaginable.
West Papua is the Indonesian western half of the island of New Guinea. Indonesia had been a Dutch colony for three and a half centuries until gaining independence shortly after the end of World War II. The Dutch held on to the western half of New Guinea until the 1960s, when it was gradually "integrated" with Indonesia, albeit under very dubious circumstances. The Papuan resistance to Indonesian rule is still going on, as is the suppression of it by Indonesian security forces. For that reason parts of the region have remained volatile right to this day.
Being the easternmost province of Indonesia, Jayapura is somewhat far from most of the country's major cities and perhaps contributes to the less modern development of the town. However, with the recent's government intensification on developing the Papua province, this city is now thriving, welcoming both businessmen and tourists.
About one hour away is the the border town of Skouw. It's interesting in that it contains markets of exotic ornaments that are both from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. But unlike other border posts, the border police there is quite enterprising - they sell all kinds "Skouw Border" branded clothing items: baseball caps, t-shirts, etc.
Yogyakarta (pronounced "Jogja" in short), is a bustling town of some half a million people and the most popular tourist destination on Java, largely thanks to its proximity to the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.
Banyuwangi is a small town best known for its ferry connection from Java to Gilimanuk in Bali. I used it as a base to explore the volcanic scenery Kawah Ijen then to catch the train to Yogjakarta. During the train ride, the cushions had been ripped out, but you could purchase these seperately from the train staff.
Bali is Indonesia's top tourist destination with its laid back culture, surf beaches, and lush green interior. There are many sides to Bali: Kuta & Legian to party, Ubud to do yoga, see rice terraces and buy t-shirts, Amed for diving, Gili islands for beaches, Uluwatu for surfing. You will encounter a lot of Aussie holiday makers, with Bali being the el cheapo playground destination for all Australians.
Bali is also scam central, especially the money exchange people, I would not trust them to tell me the time in a room full of clocks.
The capital city of Indonesia and biggest conurbation of the country, at roughly 10 million inhabitants in the city alone and up to 30 million in the metropolitan area with its several satellite cities. Its smoggy, hectic, traffic-clogged sprawl is not easy to like, so most tourists usually give it a miss.