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Places to see monsters

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Aug 14, 2013
Category: Quirky Travel

Written by Adhi Rachdian

16 Juli 2015 at 06:42

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Dragon Watching: Exploring Komodo Island

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Oct 13, 2014
Category: Active

Written by Adhi Rachdian

16 Juli 2015 at 06:40

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My 10 Favorite Places in Bali

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by by Lash WorldTour

Mt Agung from Sanur beach- Bali

My 10 Favorite Places in Bali 

While traveling these many years I’ve discovered that a majority of people seem to have a rather negative view of Bali, Indonesia.

Australians and New Zealanders, in particular, think of Bali as a crazy vacation spot for wild party-ing surfers and bar-hopping youths. Indeed, a huge volume of such young Australians head to Bali each year to surf and drink themselves under the table. After all, Bali is so very close to Oz and comparatively extremely inexpensive.

Many North Americans and Europeans, on the other hand, seem to consider Bali as a grossly over-developed tourist trap full of upscale, all-inclusive resorts where visitors never step outside the resort grounds to experience the local culture. Certainly, those sorts of beach-side paradise resorts and package vacationers do exist on Bali island, particularly in the far south.

Hindu temple ceremony in north Bali

However, those are just two very small slices of Bali Island. Beyond the horribly over-developed, traffic-congested southern shores, Bali is full of stunning terraced rice fields, volcanoes & crater lakes, outdoor adventures, world-class artworks and intriguing Hindu culture.

So whenever I tell people that Bali is one of my favorite places on the planet, they want to know why. After I tell them all about Bali’s amazing culture, arts and pristine nature, they inevitably ask my recommendations on where to go and what to do at Island of Gods.

As a result, I’ve decided to write this post to tell more people unfamiliar with the real Bali where they can go to enjoy the wonderful Bali that I know and to escape the horrid tourist crowds and heathen bars of the vast Kuta-Legian-Seminyak sprawl in the south.

Following are my 10 favorite places in Bali, spots I try to visit every time I return to my favorite island on Earth.

A. Southern Bali

Most of Bali’s huge upscale luxury resorts and grossly over-developed tourist zones are located in southern Bali, not far from the international airport. The vast Kuta-Legian-Seminyak sprawl is particularly awful.

However, the south still has a few great spots that I really love visiting.

one of my 10 favorite places in Bali is Sanur Beach

1. Sanur

Sanur has always been my favorite place in southern Bali and, indeed, one of my ongoing favorite places on the whole island. Just 15 km / 45 minutes from the airport, Sanur is an ideal place to start and end a trip to Bali.

Sanur has always been a somewhat upscale area, as it was initially settled by Balinese high Hindu caste, artists and priests. A 5-km beach is backed by tasteful boutique resorts, all with stunning landscaped gardens, Balinese statues, stone walls and artworks. The entire 5-km beach stretch remains traffic free as no road runs along it. Just the sounds of the sea, wind and birds.

As a result of the original artists, musicians and religious figures, Sanur is full of traditional Balinese culture, including gamelan orchestras, fine dance troupes and loads of Balinese architecture. Sanur night market offers a huge variety of delicious Indonesian cuisines from Bali, Java, Sumatra and other areas.

I always try to stay at least one week in Sanur to enjoy the peaceful beaches, to feast on delicious market meals and to marvel at the gorgeous art, architecture, and gardens.

This post details my favorite guest house in Sanur

2. Uluwatu Cliffs & Temple

The extreme southern tip of Bali ends dramatically with tall vertical cliffs plunging into the wild sea. Arriving by airplane, you can clearly see Uluwatu cliffs soaring into the sky.

On top of those cliffs, perched on the very edge, is Pura Uluwatu – Uluwatu Temple. And hoards of monkeys.

Peering over the cliff edge, with the thundering Pacific Ocean far, far below, is a captivating experience.

Uluwatu makes an easy half day trip from Sanur (or other areas in southern Bali). The temple and cliffs are dramatic enough for me to try visiting every time I’m in Bali.

Ulutwatu Beach - Balii - photo by Adhi Rachdian on Flickr CC

3. Nusa Dua Resorts & beaches

Nusa Dua is also located at the very southern tip of Bali. It was developed specifically as an ultra-high end luxury resort destination, far from the real Bali. It’s a place for vacationers who want simply to luxuriate in a tropical paradise, to de-strss and get away from the world.

Not surprisingly then, Nusa Dua consists of a dozen or so world-class resorts with extensive landscaped gardens, immaculately-clean powdery beaches, gourmet restaurants, serene spas and peaceful sitting spaces.

So when I feel like appreciating such luxurious surroundings and tanning on some of Bali’s very best beaches, I often head down to Nusa Dua for a day trip.

Incidentally, there’s also public access to Nusa Dua’s long, sweeping beaches and some stunning cliffs where sea water crashes & blows high into the air during certain tidal conditions.

B. Central Bali

Central Bali is dominated by several volcanoes, steeply terraced rice fields, lush forests, tiny traditional villages, important Hindu temples and amazing Balinese arts & culture. It’s an extremely diverse and beautiful area.

gamelan troupe at a Bali Cremation in Ubud

4. Ubud

Any guidebook will quickly point out that Ubud is Bali’s cultural heart. Ubud is where most art galleries, museums, dance & gamelan troupes reside. If you want to find out what Balinese arts are all about, this is where you go.

I’m a sucker for traditional art & culture, so during my 1st trip to Bali back in 2000, I made a bee-line for Ubud. I stayed for two weeks, visiting every museum and gallery, studying various painting styles and famous artists’ works, attending gamelan/dance rehearsals and performances and getting caught up in religious ceremonies, cremation rites, festivals and daily Hindu customs. It was fascinating.

Unfortunately, since that time Ubud has become set squarely on the main tourist route. Traffic clogs the main roads, hordes of tourists crowd sidewalks, shops and restaurants in high season months. And touts are on the rampage.

As a result, I avoided Ubud for a full decade. But back in 2010 I re-discovered Ubud’s charms. I found out that down the side streets & alleys, off the main roads, Ubud life still rolls along in its traditional ways, pretty much tourist free. It’s peaceful, quiet and full of friendly, helpful charming locals.

Here are my recommended 10 Free Things to do in Ubud  – My Favorite Guest House in Ubud  – Photos of Balinese Cremation Ceremony

local man raking cloves on the slopes of Mt Batur volcano

5. Drive up over Mt. Batur

Over the years I’ve explored most of Bali by bicycle and motorbike. I probably haven’t driven every single road in Bali, but close to 90% I’d estimate. I’ve detailed my 5 Favorite Drives in Bali here.

Perhaps my very favorite drive is to head north out of Ubud on back roads, up to Mt. Batur crater rim at Kintamani and then down the other side to Bali’s far north coast near Singaraja.

The Ubud side roads climb steadily up the flanks of massive Mt. Batur volcano, passing through gorgeous terraced rice fields and a dozen or so tiny Balinese villages. The crater rim provides stunning views down into Batur Crater. And the road down to the north coast winds its way along razor-edged ridges before plummeting through pretty forests, past clove plantations and through more traditional villages.

The drive takes 2-3 hours by motorbike from Ubud.

Lake Bratan & Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple

6. Bedugul / Lake Bratan

Lake Bratan with Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (Temple) seemingly floating on its surface, is one of Bali’s most famous, most visited and most photographed sites. The 11-tiered, thatched pagoda certainly is quite striking, I must admit.

Nearby Bedugul town, on the southern edge of the crater, is a seedy little place, but with a couple specialties that make it worth visiting. You see, Bedugul sells locally-grown strawberries! And fresh strawberries are something very rare in SE Asia with its tropical climate.

Bedugul also serves up particularly delicious mutton and chicken sates.

As a result, I enjoy making a trip up there to drive through the large crater, visit Lake Bratan & temple and gorge myself on mutton sate and strawberries.

Lake Buyan in central Bali

7. Crater Lakes Tamblingan & Buyan

Lake Bratan with Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple is one of Bali’s most famous sites. The large crater lake sits in the middle of massive Bratan crater, along with a few villages, extensive vegetable farms and even a golf course!

Nearby, on the northern crater edge, lie two much less known but stunning crater lakes: Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan. While visitors view Lake Bratan by strolling along its shores, views of these two lakes are from high up on the crater edge.

A narrow paved road runs along the crater edge, providing several viewpoints over the gorgeous lakes. A few local coffee shops and small restaurants serve drinks and meals on tables set out under big trees right on the edge of the crater drop off.

It’s a great place to visit for a half day trip and a coffee break or picnic.

C. More remote areas

Following are places out around the fringes of Bali that I especially love to visit.

huge Banyan tree near Munduk

8. Munduk

Munduk is a tiny ridge-line village located on a razor-sharp ridge on the northern side of Bratan crater region. During the past decade, a number of small boutique resorts have sprung up in the village, catering to foreign visitors.

For some reason, French tourists are particularly clue-d in to Munduk. In fact, it was my French friend who turned me on to this great spot, after I’d already been visiting Bali for over a decade.

On her recommendation, I checked it out a few years ago and discovered yet another favorite spot in Bali. Views are superb. Walks to surrounding terraced rice fields, forests, villages and one of the island’s most massive Banyan trees provide strenuous exercise and adventure.

I now try to visit Munduk for a few days every time I return to Bali.

Incidentally, Munduk is located just down the mountain a bit from Lakes Tamblingan and Buyan.

Amed coastline

9. Amed

Amed consists of a series of small curving coves separated by rocky headlands along the far northeastern coast of Bali island. Each bay holds a traditional fishing village. Locals live much like they always have, on the steep hillsides and in the small beach-side villages.

Since the mid 1980s some privately owned small boutique resorts have snuck into the bays & coves along Amed’s coast. Even today, with dozens of such resorts well-established, the region retains its traditional ways of life and feels nearly untouched by the discreet tourism that has infiltrated.

scuba diving on beautiful coral reef

Amed is the best places in Bali for scuba diving and snorkeling, with year-round warm, calm seas and stunning reefs just off shore. It’s one of the best places in Bali to learn about/observe traditional ways of life, including Salt Making and Mackerel Fishing.

It’s also a fantastic place to unwind, escape from the world and simply chill out. Indeed, many expats living in Southern Bale head to Amed to do just that, whenever the have a chance.

Amed remains one of my favorite places in Bali. I taught scuba diving there three seasons and still love returning to visit the lovely boutique resorts and many friends I’ve made over the years.

I’ve written over a dozen posts about Amed, scuba diving in the region, and Amed’s traditional lifestyles here.

Javanese fishing boats near Negara

10. Negara

Negara is a small city located in far southwest Bali. Because it’s situated so close to neighboring Java island, many Javanese have relocated to the region. As a result, Negara is an interesting blend of Balinese Hindu and Javanese Muslim cultures.

The town itself isn’t particularly gorgeous, but it holds a few unique quirks, such as the Javanese horse & cart taxis and some delicious traditional Indonesian cakes.

It’s the countryside immediately surrounding town that holds the real attractions. Some of Bali’s most beautiful flat rice fields stretch to the sea, starting just south of town. Local villages fluctuate between Muslim inhabitants with their mosques and Hindu villages with their distinctive Balinese temples.

Wild beaches with amazing views of nearby Java flank the coast. Colorful Javanese fishing boats anchor in a winding river.

Inland from Negara are several important Hindu temples, traditional mountain villages and, amazingly, Bali’s only Christian villages, complete with Churches!

This all makes Negara a very intriguing and very off-the-beaten-track place.

Written by Adhi Rachdian

16 Juli 2015 at 06:38

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New Groups of Komodo Dragons Discovered in Flores

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written by Linda McCormick
Published on 12/03/2014

Until recently, it was believed endangered Komodo dragons were only found in a few areas of Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

Yet, a few weeks ago a team of conservationists confirmed the presence of two new communities living in the Mbeliling forest area, in the far west of Flores.

komodo dragon indonesia

The find was disclosed by Irfan Saputra, the communcations and awareness officer in Mbeliling, who told the Jakarta Postthe discovery was significant as it proved the presence of Komodo dragons in areas other than on the Komodo and Rinca islands, where the animals are commonly found.

rinca island komodo dragon

There have been occasional sightings of Komodo dragons on the northern coast of Flores, but no concrete evidence supported the reports. These new groups of Komodos were filmed roaming around research camera traps.

In all, 12 Komodos have been discovered; five in Golo Mori coastal forest and another seven in Tanjung Kerta Mese.

Richard Hume, country manager for the Indonesian Tourist Board, commented,

“The discovery of a new community of Komodo dragons is a truly remarkable find.” He said, “Not only does it provide renewed hope for the ongoing survival of this fascinating species, it also reinforces Indonesia’s position as one of the greatest wildlife destinations on Earth.”

Named after the island on which it was first discovered, the Komodo dragon is classed as the world’s largest lizard and can grow up to ten feet long. It is thought the animals have roamed the wilds of Indonesia for millions of years, and were only discovered by humans about 100 years ago.

It is hoped the emergence these new groups of Komodos will help promote conservation efforts on Flores.

Komodo dragon taking a dip, Komodo National Park.  Image: Adhi Rachdian

Komodo National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, and is the only place in the world where visitors have the opportunity of seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitiat.

Written by Adhi Rachdian

16 Juli 2015 at 06:35

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Archaeological Study of Ancient Nautical Disasters


There are without a doubt thousands of shipwrecks underwater and on dry land; most of them are discovered by accident, although some have been deliberately sought. Here are some of the ancient shipwrecks that have been subjected to careful archaeological study.

Rocky Shore on Belitung Island - Adhi Rachdian

Rocky Shore on Belitung Island. Adhi Rachdian

1.  Belitung Shipwreck

The Belitung Shipwreck is a 9th century shipwreck discovered in 1998 by a sea-cucumber diver. The wreck originated in Arabia or India, and lies in the South China Sea north of Belitung Island, Tanjung Pandan, Indonesia, approximately 17 meters below the current water line. More »

Written by Adhi Rachdian

16 Juli 2015 at 06:31

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Arab Saudi Benahi Transportasi Madinah

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Selasa, 7 April 2015 | 11:21 WIB


Dana sebesar 100 juta dolar AS digelontorkan pemerintah Arab Saudi untuk membayar konsultan asal AS memperbaiki sistem transportasi di kota Madinah. Perbaikan sarana ini untuk mendukung target mendatangkan 8,6 juta peziarah umroh dan 3,6 juta jamaah haji pada 2040.

Suasana jalanan di sudut kota Madinah, Arab Saudi. (Foto: Adhi Rachdian / Foter / CC BY) , Jakarta – Kota-kota modern umumnya memiliki sarana transportasi yang baik.  Pemerintah mereka serius menata kota agar warganya merasa nyaman. Sistem transportasi yang canggih juga menjadi simbol peradaban masa kini.

Salah satu negara yang getol membangung sarana transportasi modern adalah Arab Saudi. Mereka  merombak transportasi di kota Madinah untuk meningkatkan jumlah peziarah. Tidak tanggung-tanggung, dana yang disediakan sebesar  100 juta dolar AS hanya untuk program konsultasi paling ambisius di Timur Tengah itu.

Badan Pembangungan Al Madinah Al Munawwarah (MMDA) menunjuk konsultan Louis Berger untuk menggarap proyek tersebut. Louis Berger merupakan perusahaan arsitek dan teknik sipil terkemuka di Amerika Serikat. Perusahaan ini mendapat banyak proyek pembangunan kembali Irak dan Afganistan setelah perang.

Kedua pihak menandatangani perjanjian untukpembangunan infrastruktur hingga 2040. Ketua MMDA Faisal bin Salman mengatakan, seperti diberitakan Arabian Business pada 4 April 2015, Presiden Louis Berger, James Stamatis mengaku, transportasi di Madinah akan menjadi salah satu yang paling canggih di dunia.

“Kami sangat bangga bekerja sama dengan MMDA dalam menerapkan Program Transportasi Publik Madinah (MPTP) pembangunan kota suci Madinah,” kata Stamatis.

Pengunjung melonjak 

Dalam kontrak lima tahun itu, Louis Berger bakal memberi dukungan perencanaan pembangunan dalam lima tahun ke depan. Rencana itu mencakup pembangunan jaringan metro dan bus. Selain itu, pemerintah Arab Saudi bakal memperbaiki jalan-jalan utama.

Tidak hanya itu, pemerintah juga bakal membangun fasilitas terkait seperti stasiun, parker dan sistem transportasi pintar (ITS).

Madinah tengah berbenah untuk menambah pengunjung dengan memperluas masjid dan bandara. Madinah ditargetkan mampu menampung 8,6 juta peziarah umrah dan 3,6 juta peziarah haji pada 2040. Saat ini, penduduk Madinah mencapai 1,1 juta orang.

Jumlah itu 4 kali lipat lebih banyak ketimbang peziarah di Arab Saudi pada 1435 jiiriah atau periode November 2013 hingga Oktober 2014.

Badan Pusat Statistik dan Informasi Arab Saudi mencatat, jumlah peziarah pada periode itu mencapai 2.085.238 orang. Itu terdiri dari 1.389.053 peziarah internasional dan 696.185 peziarah dalam negeri.

Untuk itu, Louis Berger bakal terlibat langsung dalam tim MPTP dan MMDA. Direktur Eksekutif Louis Berger untuk Timur Tengah dan Afrika Utara, Thomas Topolski mengatakan, seperti dikutip Arabnews pada 05 April 2015, Louis Berger bakal terlibat secara menyeluruh dalam perencanaan dan pengawasan.

Konsultan-konsultan lain bahkan mesti bekerja di bawah pengawasan Louis Berger. Ia bakal memberikan pelatihan pada pejabat senior MMMDA untuk mengembangkan kemampuan mereka. Pelatihan juga bakal diberikan pada manajer senior konsultan-konsultan mega proyek itu.

Setelahnya, Louis Berger bakal memberikan peran-peran mereka pada tenaga profesional Arab Saudi di tengah proyek.

“Begitu proyek selesai, MPTP akan menghasilkan fasilitas transportasi kelas dunia. Madinah bakal dapat memastikan keamanan bagi pengunjung, pezirah dan warganya.  Dalam prosesnya, profesional Saudi juga akan mendapat pengetahuan dan pelatihan,” kata Thomas Topolski.

Madinah merupakan kota paling banyak dikunjungi peziarah setelah Mekah. Di Madinah, terdapat masjid Nabawi yang ramai dikunjungi.

Masjid itu merupakan tempat suci kedua bagi umat Islam setelah Kabah. Banyak muslim dunia mengunjungi masjid itu karena terdapat makam  nabi Muhammad  Rasulullah SAW, Abu Bakar, dan Umar bin Khattab.*

Editor: Drajat Kurniawan (Arabnews, Arabian Business)

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Written by Adhi Rachdian

16 Juli 2015 at 06:27

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10 Destinations For Animal Lovers

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February 6, 2015  |  10:07am


5. Pigeons at Piazza San Marco
Venice, Italy

Pigeons_Venice_David Blackwell.jpg
Photo by David Blackwell / Flickr

Yes, lots of cities around the world are plagued with pigeons, but if you’ve been to Venice you can attest to the quantity and enthusiasm of this city’s winged population. Just like the tourists, Venice’s pigeon population congregates on Piazza San Marco. In some ways, the loitering birds are as much a part of the landscape of this famous square as St. Mark’s Basilica or the clock tower. Feeding the pigeons was once as much of a “must do” in Venice as a gondola ride, but the activity was banned in 2008. You’ll still find hoards of them lingering in the square. But be warned, stand still long enough and the Piazza’s pigeons will likely make you their new perch.

6. Snow Monkeys at Joshinetsu Kogen National Park
Jigokudani, Japan

Photo by Yosemite / Wiki Commons

The cold-loving snow monkeys of Japan’s Nagano Prefecture live a life of quasi-luxury in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, where a large local colony of Japanese macaques ascend on the park’s hot springs before retreating to the forest in the evening. Park visitors can observe the monkeys as they bathe and bask in the steam of the hot springs.

7. Komodo Dragons in Komodo National Park
East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia

Komodo_Dragon_Adhi Rachdian.jpg
Photo by Adhi Rachdian / Flickr

Dragons really do exist, and you only have to travel to Indonesia for proof. Several islands in the archipelago are home to some 5,700 of the monitors, and they don’t exist anywhere else in the world. While they’re technically not dragons, these giant lizards earned the title as a result of their aggressive nature, venomous bite and sheer size. At a maximum length of 10 feet and weighing up to 300 pounds, these dragons are the largest in the world. You can witness these behemoths yourself at the Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of theNew7Wonders of Nature. The park spans 30 islands, including Komodo, Rinca and Padar. A variety of boat tours departing from nearby Flores and Lombok transport tourists to the park.

8. Narwhals
Arctic Circle

Photo by Glenn Williams – National Institute of Standards and Technology/ Wiki Commons

You can spot these tusked whales, dubbed the unicorn of the sea, within the Arctic Circle in the waters off Canada, Greenland and Russia. There are less than 80,000 of them estimated in the world, as they’ve fallen prey to poachers for their meat and ivory tusk. One of the easiest ways to spot a narwhal is on an Arctic Circle cruise like one run by National Geographic Expeditions. Trips to this region also offer the rare experience of seeing the midnight sun and the Aurora Borealis.

9. Giant Tortoises
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Photo by lightmatter / Wiki Commons

The archipelago off the coast of Ecuador was originally made famous by Charles Darwin, but today it’s the resident giant tortoises that many associate with the Galapagos Islands. These tortoises are unique for a number of reasons including their life span (up to 100 years on average) and their size (they’re the largest living tortoises on Earth). If you plan on making the long but rewarding journey to the Galapagos, be sure to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. Tours are available and led by researchers from the center. Before leaving the island, head to the highlands to see the tortoises in the wild. The Tortoise Breeding Center in Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island is another great location for learning about and witnessing the tortoises.

10. Giant Panda Bears

Photo by George Lu / Flickr

As the national animal of China, the panda bear is practically the spokesman for the country. Sadly, the panda is also classified as an endangered species. Seeing pandas while visiting China is possible throughout the country and at a variety of zoos. If you want to witness them in a more natural habitat, head to Bifengxia Panda Baseoutside the city of Ya’an. More than 80 pandas are protected at this park. Volunteer programs are available and give you up close encounters with the pandas, which include helping staff with feedings and cleaning. The Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base in Chengdu, home to around 60 pandas, offers another opportunity to see them. Since the base runs a breeding program, you may get to see baby pandas as well. For a small fee, you can even hold one. Along with breeding, the base trains the bears for a life in the wild with the intention of releasing them once they’re prepared.

Lauren Kilberg is a freelance writer and blogger residing in Chicago. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India, conquering volcanoes in the Philippines and being humbled in Haiti. She spent two years living and working in South Korea before repatriating to the United States. Follow her blogDouble Takes.

Written by Adhi Rachdian

16 Juli 2015 at 06:24

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