Bali – Green Utopia

The ultimate palms and paradise destination? There are many, and Bali is definitely on the shortlist. But there’s more to the Indonesian island besides white-sand beaches and clear blue water. We hop on our bikes to experience the authentic life and ways of Bali. At the top of the Kintamani

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FULL MOON RISING – BUDDHA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

  Every May, a vibrant festival is held at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, located in Central Java. Buddhists from the far reaches of Asia gather to celebrate the holy festival known as Waisak, celebrating Buddha’s birthday.   “I used to be a

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Ternate Tales Of Natural Selection

The Spice Islands are wrapped in an aromatic history of cloves, mace and nutmeg, Kings and Sultans, spice wars, and the rise and fall of invading armies. As I travelled through the Spice Island chain, I saw massive groves of cloves and nutmegs clinging to the perfect cone-shaped volcanic islands

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Kalimantan – Festival of Colour

I arrived late in the evening to catch the Prince and Princess Tourism Competition. Suddenly chairs were parted and bodies shifted to make room for me in the front row. I was ordered to sit here, by one of the Dayak ladies, so I quickly took my place between a

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THE GHOST STALLIONS OF MUNA ISLAND, SULAWESI

  As we headed out of Raha on rutted roads and made our way into the interior of Muna Island, I peered out of the car window, passing villages and hoping for a glimpse of a stallion. Latugo Village on Muna Island is where, word has it, most of the

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Reflecting on Indonesia’s Hidden Heritage 2015

Each month, travelling duo Stephanie Brookes and David Metcalf, explore some of the lesser-known enclaves of Indonesia and bring back tales of hidden heritage and cultural journeys of discovery. Here are a few highlights from 2015. Kejawen A holy energy resides in the Dieng Plateau, Java. A rich history unfolds

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Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven: Nusa Penida Island, Bali I squeezed my way through a tiny gap between two huge boulders and was assured by my guide, “Yes, yes this is the way, just keep squeezing”. This was by far the most unusual way I had ever entered a temple. Within seconds, my

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Tiwah Life and Death in Dayak Country

Tiwah Life and Death in Dayak Country

Tiwah Life and Death in Dayak Country    Recommended by Stephanie Brookes   Written by David Metcalf    Photos by David Metcalf  www.davidmetcalfphotography.com   Napin Dalin, the chief of Tewang Rangas village, looked me straight in the eye and said, “The spirits of the dead are all around us and

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Mass Cremation – The Balinese Way

Mass Cremation – The Balinese Way

Arriving in Medahan Village, just South of Ubud, I was met by my Balinese friend Ketut. Stepping over gaping holes (and trying not to fall in one), I followed her to the temporary wooden shelves that housed the bones of the deceased. The bones had been exhumed from over thirty

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Colombo: Full of History

Colombo: Full of History

COLOMBO HAS PLENTY TO OFFER THE VISITOR, ABOVE ALL, ITS FRIENDLY, WELCOMING PEOPLE WHO WILL CHARM YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. Colombo is the gateway city to Sri Lanka, a small country that boasts pristine beach stays, elegant hotels in the highlands surrounded by tea plantations, elephants wandering the

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Weh Island : The Outer Edge

Weh Island : The Outer Edge

A small tropical treasure trove of peace and adventure can be found tucked away in Aceh’s far north, at the north-westernmost edge of the Indonesian archipelago. Weh Island is a small active volcanic island with a fringe of magical beaches, colourful corals, and rich marine life, just 45 minutes by

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Dieng Plateau “Abode of The Gods”

Dieng Plateau “Abode of The Gods”

Dieng Plateau “Abode of The Gods” Some wonderful examples of the oldest architecture in Java lie sprinkled across the Dieng Plateau in Central Java.  Towering volcanic peaks surround these isolated Hindu temples, which date back to the 7th and 8th centuries when Java was ruled by a vast Hindu empire. 

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Sumbawa – Tales, Myths and Legends

Sumbawa – Tales, Myths and Legends

Abu Bakar, the grave keeper, recited the legend of Princess Lala Jinis to me as we sat in the 1,000-year- old cemetery that Abu conscientiously protects, near the small village of Seran, in a remote part of West Sumbawa. “My quest for more tales and legends took me to the

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North India – Pride of the Desert

North India – Pride of the Desert

  Every year, the Rajasthan desert plays host to the vibrant Pushkar Camel Fair, as well as a spiritual festival at Lake Pushkar, to purify the soul. A line of camels, horses and their traders, as well as musicians, vendors and snake charmers appeared over the sand dunes, stretching for

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Vietnam – Heavenly Halong Bay

Vietnam – Heavenly Halong Bay

A boat trip into Halong Bay, a world heritage listed site in North Vietnam is a spectacular experience. The beauty of this region leaves you spellbound as you cruise alongside hundreds of sheer limestone peaks rising out of the sea, stone mountains clad in jungle, ancient caves and thundering waterfalls.

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Bodie: A Wild West Ghost Town

Bodie: A Wild West Ghost Town

Bodie: A Wild West Ghost Town It’s a long bleak road to Bodie, a ghost town left abandoned in the arid high desert plains of the Eastern Sierras, California. It’s a day trip out of Mammoth Lakes on the Scenic Highway 395 North. The lonely 13-mile stretch of dirt road

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Sumba – Pascola and Ancient Rituals

Sumba – Pascola and Ancient Rituals

Recommended by Stephanie Brookes   Written by David Metcalf Photos by David Metcalf  www.davidmetcalfphotography.com Sumba – Pasola and Ancient Rituals Adi steadied his horse as he prepared for battle. A chorus of feisty yelping surrounded me, as Adi’s fellow clan members urged him on. The frenzy was exciting and frightening

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Aceh – Into the Wilderness – Gunung Leuser National Park

Aceh – Into the Wilderness – Gunung Leuser National Park

A trip to the Gunung Leuser National Park, in Southern Aceh is a no-frills affair and puts you right in the heart of pristine virgin rainforest and orangutan country. At my bungalow forest stay, Wisma Cinta Alam, mornings were a busy affair with fellow trekkers packing water, strapping up their

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The Ancient Wonders of Sulawesi

The Ancient Wonders of Sulawesi

Tana Toraja Located in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago, Sulawesi sprawls out across the sea, resembling the shape of an orchid, between Kalimantan and Maluku. The journey into Tana Toraja takes about eight hours and starts by heading North out of Makassar (Ujung Padang). An Indonesian road safari is always

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Selayar Island

Selayar Island

Selayar Island is a secret find; an unspoilt island tucked away in South Sulawesi.  The charm of the island combines genuine, warm hospitality with first-rate diving and a little German hospitality. Selayar Island is positioned near the famed Takabonerate National Sea Park, in South Sulawesi and is the third-largest coral

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Memoirs of the Tsunami

Memoirs of the Tsunami

Sri Lanka is a tropical island of legendary beauty. It is often described as the “teardrop island” as it sits off the coast of India like a tear. It is a compact island with beautiful beaches, sheltered bays, ancient relics, wildlife and is largely untainted by tourism. I embarked on

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Romancing the Waitakere Ranges

Romancing the Waitakere Ranges

The Waitakeres Ranges is a 16,000-hectare parkland of outstanding beauty. The one-hour scenic drive through the Ranges is studded with tree ferns, giant Kauri trees and spectacular views. It’s easy to fall in love with the soft romantic waterfalls, misty bays and birdlife. If you prefer beaches, then at the

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Secrets of the Unknown

Secrets of the Unknown

North Lombok Largely unexplored, North Lombok offers a peek into an exotic world of natural wonders and ancient communities. Under the shadow of Mount Rinjani,  a stunning coastline and beautiful rice terraces await you, as well as a culture that holds strong to its traditional values. Only 35 kms east of

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Horse Riding Lombok

Horse Riding Lombok

According to Chinese astrology, the Year of the Horse is a time for fast victories, unexpected adventure and surprising romance. It is an excellent year for travel, and the more far away and off the beaten track the better. On Lombok, not only do you have the deserted beaches of

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Nomads of the Sea

Nomads of the Sea

I sat talking with Asman, an ethnic Bajau Palauk on his wooden fishing boat as sea cucumbers dried on the upper deck and we spoke about his seafaring life. “We love to be on the ocean. The ocean is our land. We feel very happy and content and it is

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Discovering Orangutans

Discovering Orangutans

A journey on the Rungan River, Central Kalimantan allows you to explore primate country, experience traditional village life on the river and have contact with the local Dayak culture in a pristine jungle environment, with no other tourists around. Gaye and Lorna, the Australian and English owners of the Rahai’i Pangun

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Banjarese – The River People

Banjarese – The River People

Recommended by Stephanie Brookes    Written by David Metcalf    Photos by David Metcalf  www.davidmetcalfphotography.com Packed in with hundreds of jukungs you float around small boats with piles of vegetables, towers of fruit, a bounty of fresh fish carefully laid out and hardware items for sale. The activity kicks off

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A trip on the Mighty Mahakam

A trip on the Mighty Mahakam

Recommended by Stephanie Brookes   Written by David Metcalf    Photos by David Metcalf  www.davidmetcalfphotography.com Kalimantan is one of Indonesia’s greatest adventures. Tales of fierce headhunters moving stealthily through the rainforest, poison blow darts speeding through the air from apparently invisible sources, dangerous bears, giant snakes and enormous leeches deterred

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Mountain of Fire

Mountain of Fire

Mount Bromo Sometimes you just have to get up at 3.30am to view a spectacular sight and hope for that wow factor.  Most of the places worth seeing in this world always require a bit more of an effort and Mt Bromo is no exception.  It might be hard to believe that

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Kawah Ijen Volcano

Kawah Ijen Volcano

East Java Extremes There are some pretty extreme locations to visit in Indonesia and up near the top of the list is a hotspot that may leave you breathless and hot.  Ijen crater lake sits high on a plateau 2,386 metres above sea level and its steaming hot – volcanic

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Jakarta Expat lifestyle

Jakarta Expat lifestyle

Living in Jakarta is one big adventure, moment by moment. It’s a busy city teeming with people, bicycles, motorbikes, chickens, buses, noisy bajajs (three wheeled passenger vehicle pedicabs), cars squeezing between lanes and street cart vendors pushing their mobile shops around. To live amongst this is both exciting and bewildering

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Central Java

Central Java

Central Java – Hidden gems of Central Java Far from the maddening crowds there stands a tropical gem in Central Java.  As I awoke in the early morning, the volcanic peaks of Central Java started to reveal themselves.  A backdrop of eight volcanoes surrounded by swirly mist, slowly came into

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Banyuwangi and Beyond

Banyuwangi and Beyond

Are you interested in getting a closer look at a steaming active volcanic crater? Are you into adventure travel? Have you ever heard of Banyuwangi? If you are keen to get way off the beaten track then Banyuwangi, a little tucked away spot in East Java, a region that gets

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5 must-do’s in Jakarta

5 must-do’s in Jakarta

1. EATS Eating at Lara Djonggrang (http://www.tuguhotels.com/laradjonggrang) is like taking a step back in time. Take a walk through the ancient beauty of Indonesia and treat yourself to a unique dining experience. The restaurant is in a majestic old house and you can tour through the many different rooms with artifacts

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10 things i love about Jakarta

10 things i love about Jakarta

The capital of Indonesia and its surrounds are full of surprises for the visitor. Jakarta – a city full of life and colour, with the outlying regions offering just as much diversity. At ground level you will see people hanging out of bus windows, street musicians busking, motorbike taxis expertly

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Wae Rebo – A lost village in Flores

Wae Rebo – A lost village in Flores

A lost village in Flores A last minute decision to buy a pig before setting off into the isolated mountains of Manggarai, Western Flores proved to be a wise decision. I was about to embark on a three-hour trek to the old Manggaraian village of Wae Rebo and I felt

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Komodo and Beyond

Komodo and Beyond

As the crew heaved and tied off in practiced unison, the seven sails billowed and flapped as ropes snapped into place. The sails filled and caught the breeze. The sleek wooden schooner came into its own; we were sailing. We cut through the white waves (Ombak Putih) with ease and,

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Malang – Grand Old City

Malang – Grand Old City

Stephanie Brookes glides through the streets of Malang, on foot and by becak, to discover its urban colonial charm and rural countryside. I stood outside the Tugu Hotel in Malang, pondering which becak (cycle rickshaw) driver I was going to use for the day. All of them were sporting tennis-ball-sized

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The Baduy People Urang Kanekes

The Baduy People Urang Kanekes

Hidden Heritage: A Cultural Journey of Discovery Text Stephanie Brookes | Photos David Metcalf Diversity : Our travel stories this month take us back to a former time of innocence in the backwoods of Java, and an adventure to the fabled Ring of Fire. The Baduy are a proud group

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Waisak Day Festival – Borobudur and the Birthright of Humanity 

Waisak Day Festival – Borobudur and the Birthright of Humanity 

Every May, on the night of the full moon, thousands of Buddhists gather at Borobudur Temple for Waisak Day. This holy festival celebrates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana (ultimate freedom). It is affectionately known as Buddha’s birthday. The celebration serves as a moment to create world peace among people regardless of racial,

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West Kalimantan – Karimata Islands

West Kalimantan – Karimata Islands

Pontianak in West Kalimantan is the starting point for a trip to the Karimata Islands. The bustling harbour is alive with activity and home to a myriad of traditional boats. After stepping down from the pier, I had to scramble across a number of unseasworthy looking boats and was delighted

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An Interview with Kinari Webb

An Interview with Kinari Webb

Saving Lives and Rainforest An Interview with Kinari Webb, MD of ASRI Medical Clinic, West Kalimantan How does a remote medical clinic, in West Kalimantan, come up with ideas like “payment in kind”, a non-cash exchange for medicine and life-saving treatments? What is behind their successful health project that has

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Life & Death in Toraja

Life & Death in Toraja

Life & Death in Toraja Believed to have descended from the stars, the Torajans of Sulawesi are a unique people who practise elaborate funeral rituals for their deceased. Words: Stephanie Brookes  Photography: David Metcalf Located in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago, between Kalimantan and Maluku, Sulawesi sprawls out across the sea,

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The Celebration of Love

The Celebration of Love

Romance for many unfolds around nature, the whispers of the inner and the outer world, framed by a setting that allows you to climb to the top of stairs and shout “yes”. Whether you are planning to get married, wish to fall in love for the weekend or have loved

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The life of a fisherman

The life of a fisherman

The Sasak and Bugis coastal settlements, some dating back as far as 4,000 years, hug the Lombok coastline and many traditional small fishing villages can be found in between mountain regions and fertile alluvial plains. The local people of Lombok, known as “Sasak”, share a few insights into life in

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Into the heart of Borneo

Into the heart of Borneo

What is a New Zealand photographer doing with a documentary film crew in a longboat in the wilderness in Borneo? David Metcalf is passionate about the Dayak people of Borneo (Kalimantan) and has spent years exploring the outer reaches of one of the most ecologically diverse landscapes on the planet.

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Kalimantan – The Plaited Craft

Kalimantan – The Plaited Craft

As mina (aunty) Herta sat on the wooden floor of her humble weathered eighty-year-old home, she flexed her big toe and masterfully plaited three strands of rattan.  This would soon become a handle for the rice basket she was making. Between the strands of a woven basket, there is a

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India – Nagaland – Tales of the Naga

India – Nagaland – Tales of the Naga

The Hornbill Festival of northeastern India celebrates the 16 major tribes of Nagaland, bringing to life the ancient tales of the Naga people through song, dance and storytelling. Hornbill feathers are worn when performing ceremonial dances. The power and majesty of the hornbill, which soars above the mountains of Nagaland,

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Blitar – Hidden relics of the past

Blitar – Hidden relics of the past

Falling into history and stumbling upon ancient relics is what is in store for you when you take a journey to the far east of Java. The 80km stretch from Malang to Blitar reveals weathered stone shrines and alluring temples from the Majapahit Kingdom, which ruled eastern Java from 1293

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