#Indonesia – 8 reasons to visit Lombok and the Gili Islands

If you’re looking for a laid-back escape with an adventure or two, it
would be hard to beat Lombok and the Gili Islands. You can choose to
relax on endless white sand beaches, dive remote coral reefs or hike to
see panoramic views.
 
Devastated by the series of earthquakes in 2018, these destinations
are bouncing back and hungry for tourists. So pack your bags this coming
dry season and go explore paradise.
 
1. Hike Mount Rinjani National Park
 
Lombok’s Mount Rinjani National Park is unbeatable for spectacular
views and challenging trails. While most of the hiking trails on Mt.
Rinjani were damaged in the 2018 earthquakes, one trail has reopened.
 
Located in Aik Berik village, the trail is lesser known among the
mountain’s more popular trails, but offers a similar experience for
adventurous travelers in search of epic views.
2. Hop around Gili Islands
 
For a relaxing break from daily life, consider going island-hopping
around the stunning Gili Islands. These islands are known for scuba diving cruises and offers a chance to truly get away from it all.
 
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the white sand beaches and
turquoise ocean vistas, you’ll find vibrant coral reefs teeming with
life under the waters.
 
The Shark Point dive site offers a chance to dive with sharks and
manta rays, while Deep Turbo offers overhangs and underwater caves for
experienced divers to explore. You might even see a whale shark or two.
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3. Experience Bangkang bat cave
 
A trip to Goa Bangkang will take your breath away with stalactites
and bursts of sunlight through the cave’s ceiling. Tucked underground on
Lombok, it is a cave like no other.
 
Descending the stairs into Bangkang, your senses will be struck by
the sound and smell of thousands of bats. If you stay in the area until
sunset, you can watch the bats exit the cave, covering the sky as they
begin their nightly hunt for food.
 
4. Swim with sea turtles
 
If you’re a fan of sea turtles (who isn’t?), be sure to check out the sea turtle conservation initiatives at the Gili Islands.
 
Green sea turtles, which are classified as endangered, are
well cared for at Gili Meno, thanks to Bolong, the local man who set up
the Gili Meno Turtle Sanctuary. The sanctuary saves turtle eggs from
predators to help release the precious hatchlings into the sea.
The sanctuary is fascinating, and your visit will support turtle
conservation, as it depends entirely on donations from visitors.
 
You can swim with sea turtles at various spots around the Gili
Islands. Gili Air is especially known for green sea turtles at Han Rock.
 
5. Slow down, enjoy the silence
 
No motorized vehicles are allowed on Gili Trawangan, meaning you can
escape the noise of the neighboring destinations and rejuvenate in peace
and quiet.
 
The best way to explore the charms of Gili Trawangan is by foot or on
a bicycle. Stop off at beach bars, do some yoga, or just walk the
endless sands to reconnect with yourself, one day at a time.
 
6. Enjoy epic views from Gili Trawangan
 
There’s only one lookout point on the Gili Islands, at the top of
Gili Trawangan. Head off on a hike at sunrise, and you’ll start your day
off right.
 
At the peak is a shrine and Muslim burial site, plus the remains of a
World War II Japanese bunker to investigate, though the view is the
real highlight.
 
Resting at the top, you can look across the ocean to Mt. Rinjani and
capture panoramic views of the other Gili Islands, plus Lombok and Bali.
 
7. Learn to dive at Sekotong
 
If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but were too nervous to
take the plunge, Sekotong in Lombok is a great place to start. The
beautiful reefs there offer easy, sheltered dives, perfect for
beginners.
 
It will be well worth the effort, as you’re likely to spot sea turtles. You can even try spotting the tiny pygmy seahorses.
 
8. Watch the sunset at Semeti Beach
 
Another Lombok highlight are the rock formations on Semeti Beach,
which are not to be missed. These striking pyramid-shaped rocks jut
impressively out of the ocean, providing the perfect backdrop to a
sunset.
 
Semeti Beach is an ideal place to end a day of island-hopping, to see
the best view of the sun setting that you’re ever likely to see.
 
The author is a diver and writer for LiveAboard.com
Source – TheJakartaPost
 

 

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#Bangkok leads ranking of top travel destinations during Lunar New Year

Bangkok has emerged the most popular destination for travelers in
Asia-Pacific during the Lunar New Year period, the world’s largest
annual human migration, which is currently underway. 
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The Thai capital reclaimed the top spot this year as the most popular
travel destination in online booking platform Agoda’s list of top
spring festival destinations 2019, knocking last year’s winner Tokyo to
second spot, followed by Taipei. 
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The results are based on hotel booking data on Lunar New Year dates for 2019. 
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This year, it’s estimated that Chinese travelers will undertake
nearly three billion trips by car, train and plane in the 40-day period
between January 21 and March 1, an increase of 0.6 percent from 2018. 
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On February 5, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mongolia,
Indonesia and Malaysia will celebrate the lunar new year and usher in
the year of the pig, the 12th and last position on the Chinese zodiac. 
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In general, Pigs are born in the years 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and 2019. 
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https://www.hotelscombined.com/?a_aid=145054
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 Here are the top 10 most popular travel destinations according to Agoda:  

1. Bangkok, Thailand

2. Tokyo, Japan

3. Taipei, Taiwan

4. Hong Kong

5. Kaohsiung, Taiwan

6. Osaka, Japan

7. Taichung, Taiwan

8; Sapporo, Japan

9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

10. Singapore

Source – TheJakartaPost
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#Myanmar (Burma) Yangon-sur-plage

Yangon beach

A hidden beach 100km from Yangon offers muddy wades and fresh fish.

You are in a deserted Yangon and haven’t planned anything for the break, but adventure is still out there.

Most of Myanmar’s beaches are several hours away by car, but one hidden gem awaits just about 100 kilometres from Yangon. Ale Ywar beach, also known as Sal Eain Tan Let Khok Kone, is the ideal spot to go on a mini-break and enjoy some crustaceans – it has one of the best and freshest seafood I have ever had.   

Ale Ywar is in the Mottama Gulf, in Yangon Region. It is a few kilometers away from Let Khok Kone beach. That name probably won’t ring any bells, but Let Khok Kone was a resort opened by the military government in the 90’s. And like many projects from that particular era, it failed. Today, bushes have reclaimed the installations created to welcome families. The resort is surrounded by mud from the delta. Everything is closed there. 

Meanwhile, Ale Ywar is booming. My husband visited it two years ago, he and his friends were the only ones there. Today, the beach is buzzing with shops and restaurants. Parking is full of cars, and the sea is full of swimmers. 

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The boom started in 2016, during the Buddhist water festival, a synonym of national holidays. This was short-lived though. With the rain, shops closed. This year though, the flow of tourists seems to keep the local economy afloat.

Yangon fish

The beach itself is a natural treasure. It is almost untouched and has not been developed yet. It is entirely owned by the villagers, and restaurant owners rent the spaces and have cleared up the lands.  

It isn’t a white sandy beach though. The sand is almost brown and turns into mud as you get closer to the water. 

We were there during low tide and the earthy beach stretched off into the distance. 

You’d think it’s dirty, but it wasn’t. The mud was soft and most pleasurable to walk on – my 3-year old daughter enjoyed it too. She went a-splashing in it and ended up covered head to toe in mud – a proper mud bath spa for free. 

Eatery 

Choosing a restaurant is not the most difficult thing. There are only about five – and they all looked the same to us. We opted for “Yangon”. The menu only included seafood and do not expect an amazing chardonnay to go with it. The list of beverages is limited to beer and soft drinks. 

Yangon crap

Surprisingly, the seafood is not cheap. The law of the market usually commands that if you consume locally, the bill goes down, but here the owner explained that getting the fishermen to sell their catch is rather difficult. They have contracts with shops and supermarkets in Yangon who by everything in advance.

The seafood is worth the price you’re paying for it though.

We ordered a sour and spicy crab curry (K8000 for four pieces), a sautéed fish called Nga Tha Laut Owe Mhauk (K15,000), fried prawns (K15,000 for 10 pieces) and a small dried fish salad for K 2000 a bowl. A plate of steamed rice cost about K500, and wasn’t impressive. One beer cost K 3000 for a bottle, which is a tad pricier than in town. And a single coconut was K1000.

The shop does not have a proper menu – the staff simply hangs a list on the wall with the catch of the day written on it. Tourists beware: the price isn’t written on it.

The setting is so informal that you can go to the kitchen to check how fresh the fish is and pick your own.

We saw a group of guest sitting next to our table checking the fish and told them what to cook for them. They all looked happy when a waitress brought them fish curry. Nothing is prepared in advance; the chef cooks everything on the spot.

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If it was not for the trace of MSG (a flavour enhancer commonly added to Asian food), the curry would have been perfect. 

Unlike Ngapali or Ngwe Saung beaches — the two most popular beaches for Yangonites — there is no official committee controlling the hygiene of restaurants on Ale Ywar. The shop owners buy purified water from the village nearby. At K200 a bucket, it most probably uses it sparingly. 

There are showers at the back of the restaurants and you can buy a bucket of yellowish water for K500. No soap or towel is provided. I suggest taking a barrel of water in your car ahead of departure, or not wash at all. 

If you are too picky, don’t waste your time in Ale Ywar. If you like an adventure but do not have the time to go too far, you’ll find gold in the mud there. 

How to get there?

Take the ferry from Pansodan jetty to Dala and rent a motor bike or car to the beach. If you wish to go with your own car here are two possible itineraries: 

Route one (way there)

Hlaing Tharyar road junction – Dala – 13.7km (8.6 miles)

Dala – War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – 32.8km (20.4 miles) 

War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – Letkokkon – 22.5km (14 miles) 

Letkokkon – Ale Ywar – 6km (3.7 miles) (10mins)

Total: 75km (46.7 miles)

Route two (way back)

Ale Ywar – Letkokkon – 6km (3.7 miles)

Letkokkon – War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – 22.5km (14 miles)

War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – Kawhmu – 14km (8.5 miles)

Kawhmu to Hlaing Tharyar road – 23.5km (14.5 miles)

Total: 66km (40.7 miles)

Source – MMTimes

#Indonesia sixth in top-20 ranking of ‘most beautiful countries’

British guidebook publisher Rough Guides has included Indonesia in its list of the world’s most beautiful countries – and quite high up, too.
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The ranking was updated on Jan. 4 based on Rough Guides’ readers voting on social media channels.
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This was not lost on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who hailed the achievement with a video shared on his Instagram account.
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“Renowned UK publisher Rough Guides recently conducted a global
survey on the world’s most beautiful countries. The result [shows] that
Indonesia was ranked sixth in the world, but [was named] the most
beautiful country in Asia,”
Jokowi wrote in the same post.
 .
The video shows some of the most popular tourist attractions, from
temples to surfing spots in Bali, beautiful beaches in Lombok, West Nusa
Tenggara, and orangutans in Kalimantan.
 .
“Rough Guides’ polling strengthens Indonesia’s position as a world-class tourist destination,”  said Jokowi.
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https://www.hotelscombined.com/?a_aid=145054
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 Source – TheJakartaPost
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Here’s the full of the world’s 20 most beautiful countries, according to Rough Guides readers.

  1. Scotland
  2. Canada
  3. New Zealand
  4. Italy
  5. South Africa
  6. Indonesia
  7. England
  8. Iceland
  9. United States 
  10. Wales
  11. Slovenia
  12. Mexico
  13. India
  14. Finland
  15. Switzerland
  16. Peru
  17. Norway
  18. Ireland
  19. Croatia
  20. Vietnam

 

Yogyakarta sets cap on number of tourists allowed in Pindul Cave

The Gunungkidul Tourism Agency has set a limit to the number of daily visitors allowed in Goa Pindul (Pindul Cave), a natural cave and tourist attraction located in Gunungkidul regency, Yogyakarta, as the government aims to preserve the site’s ecosystem. 
 
“The maximum number of visitors to Pindul Cave is limited to 2,600 people per day,” Hary Sukmono, the agency’s secretary, said on Monday as quoted by kompas.com.
 
The limit was set based on Environmental Management Efforts and Environmental Monitoring Efforts (UKL-UPL), a guidance document that also includes information on village-owned enterprises, such as tour operators.
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Hary urged tour operators to refer to the document, adding that he
hoped the new system would help to preserve Pindul Cave’s ecosystem. 
“The limitation of visitors is an effort to preserve the environment of Pindul Cave,” Hary said. 
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Separately, Saryanto, the director of the Bejiharjo village-owned
enterprise, which oversees the cave region, said the organization would
obey the rules. He further said that, in any case, the number of
visitors to Pindul Cave was far below the limit. 
 
According to data obtained by the agency, 145,081 people visited the cave in 2017.
 
Saryanto said village-owned enterprises would continue to coordinate
with tour operators, adding that should the number of visitors
exceed the cap limit, the visitors would be directed to other
attractions. 
“We will accommodate everyone for the good of all,” he said.
 
Source – TheJakartaPost

 

Cheapest hotels can be found in Southeast Asia

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Would you like to save up money for fun activities during your journey? Consider Southeast Asian cities as your holiday destination. In the big cities of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam namely European travelers paid the least for an overnight stay.

For example, the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh (€ 41) at number one, followed by the Thai mountain village Chiang Mai (€ 43) and the popular Thai beach town of Pattaya (€ 45). In the top 10 are the first seven places occupied by the usually bustling Southeast Asian hotel city’s.

A third of the Amsterdam hotel prices

In Amsterdam paid European travelers in the first half of 2015. € 151 for a hotel stay. This is more than three times as much as in Phnom Penh.

Top 10 cities where European travelers in the first half of 2015 paid on average the least * for a hotel stay.

1/ Phnom Penh, Cambodia € 41
2/ Chiang Mai, Thailand € 43
3/ Pattaya, Thailand € 45
4/ Siem Reap, Cambodia € 47
5/ Hanoi, Vietnam € 47 / € 40
6/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam € 57
7/ Bangkok, Thailand € 63
8/ Goa, India € 65
9/ Krabi, Thailand € 67
10/ Kiev, Oekraïne € 70

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#Thailand plans afoot to woo Hollywood

Hollywood 12-8

The Thai Cabinet has approved in principle the Tourism and Sports Ministry idea of attracting the producers of Hollywood movies to use Thailand as the setting for their next blockbusters.

“We are talking about famous blockbuster movies with high budgets such as ‘Star Wars’, for which, at one point, Thailand was considered as a location, but [the producers] opted to use the United Kingdom instead because it offered incentives and Thailand did not,” Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“If we had incentives with some boundaries, such as using places that have tourist attractions as part of the movie sets, than we could promote our country’s image. Many countries in the region are also considering the same measures right now,” she said.

She claimed that when a “James Bond” or “Mission: Impossible” movie was set in a particular country, tourist activities there increased by around 20-30 per cent in the year the movie came out.

She said the Cabinet had approved the idea in principle. Her ministry will discuss the matter with the Budget Bureau and other agencies before recommending to the Cabinet within a couple of months what kind of incentives should be offered, along with what regulations for the measures would be employed.

Insufficiently comprehensive

Meanwhile, the Cabinet approved an amendment to the 2008 Tourism and Tourist Guide Business Act as proposed by the ministry, as the law was seen to be outdated and insufficiently comprehensive.

The amendments reduce the term of tour-guide licences from five years to two. The size of tour groups will be limited and the number of tour guides per group specified. Foreign-language requirements for tour guides have also been added.

Still under consideration is some sort of regulation to ensure adequate accident insurance from tourists.

Meanwhile, Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), expressed concerns over the destruction of the natural environment if the government were unable to control filmmakers’ activities.

He said the country’s image and tourist attractions might be promoted in the movies, but the environment and attractions could also be damaged, as has happened in the past.

“I don’t mind if the government wants to attract more filmmaking by subsidising it, but the bigger concern is how to protect our environment from filming,” he said.

The TCT urged the government to learn from the failures of the past. For instance, Maya Bay in Krabi, which was used as the location of “The Beach”, has still not recovered from the damage caused by the filmmakers.

The council also suggested that the Film Board, the official body that regulates and monitors filmmaking, be more concerned about long-term environmental impacts than about making money.

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Thailand is Asia’s ‘most-searched’ Travel Destination

JB Island

Thailand was the only Asian country to make it into the top 10 most searched destinations on travel search engine Skyscanner in the first half of this year.

According to Skyscanner, the variety of destinations and activities suitable for various lifestyles and needs has enabled Thailand to remain a year-round hot destination for travellers.

“Our wealth of data indicates Thailand is an evergreen destination, attracting visitors both locally and internationally with our natural and cultural beauty,” said Grace Areerat, marketing manager at Skyscanner Thailand.

Thailand’s position as the only Asian country on the top 10 list is a reflection of efforts to promote it as a destination for locals and foreigners alike to travel to and within the country all year round.

The 10 most searched destinations from January-June by Skyscanner are in order: Spain, the US, Britain, Italy, Russia, Greece, Turkey, France, Germany and Thailand.

Additionally, Skyscanner’s search data showed the top three trending destinations in Thailand were Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui.

With a 45% year-on-year increase in searches, Bangkok’s highlights are world-class shopping complexes, renowned hospitality, an outstanding variety of cuisines and quality dining experiences, nightlife, events and entertainment.

Phuket, with a year-on-year search increase of 44%, is home to many high-end seaside resorts, spas and restaurants, great outdoor adventure activities and deep-sea diving as well as outstanding nightlife.

Witnessing a 39% year-on-year increase in searches, Koh Samui is packed with backpacker shanties on quiet stretches of sand and secluded Buddhist temples.

Source: BangkokPost

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