Updated: May 28, 2020
After having some wonderful experiences in Yogyakarta we travelled to Semarang, the capital and largest city of Central Java province. It was a major port during the Dutch colonial era, and was called 'Venice of Java', because of its many canals. Semarang was - and still is - home to a large H.B.S. 'Hogere Burger School': the high school my grandmother and her siblings attended. As seen on the picture below it was founded in 1877 and nowadays it still is a high school.
Bali: rich with tourists ánd food culture
After visiting the old high school of my grandmother, we traveled to Bali. Bali is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world because of distinguished Balinese culture, temples, lush jungle forests and beautiful rice terraces. Back in the '70s, when my mom and dad went on their honeymoon to Bali, present-day Kuta was just a sandy beach, mostly visited by hippies. Nowadays its crammed with hotels and resorts to accommodate the ever-growing tourist population. We spent some nights at a resort in the jungle near Ubud and visited the beautiful temple complexes in the vicinity of Ubud as well as the Monkey Forest.
Bali is also famous for its food culture. Apart from traditional Balinese cuisine and street food, a lot of popular dishes like Poke Bowls and Buddha Bowls can be found on the island. Balinese cuisine has its own kind of satay skewers 'satay lilit', nasi and sambal 'sambal matah' - the famous Indonesian chilli paste. In one of my other posts I will tell you more about making sambal and its variations.
Because Bali is so developed, local cuisine is refined too. You can find various restaurants which combine traditional Balinese cuisine with modern tastes and techniques and even some fine dining restaurants. We had an amazing dinner at Sangsaka Restaurant. Make sure to follow their Instagram because they post their beautiful food creations regularly.
Komodo archipelago and eating food on a boat
When people travel to Indonesia, they mostly visit the well-known islands of Bali and Java. Sumatra is a less touristic destination. But if you really want to go off the beaten track there are beautiful islands east of Bali - such as Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores and Timor. All are islands where you can have a more authentic Indonesian experience.
I was really excited to go to the Komodo archipelago because it is the home of a prehistoric dinosaur looking creature called the 'Komodo Dragon'. The Komodo Dragon is a species of giant lizards which can only be found on some remote islands. It is the largest still existing species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 meters (10 ft) and weighing up to approximately 70 kilograms (150 lb)! The Komodo Dragon was once part of Earth's 'megafauna': large creatures like the saber-toothed tiger which roamed the Earth but became mostly extinct by the end of the last ice age.
On Padar island - pictured below - the Komodo Dragon lived until recently, but it is now extinct. Luckily, the view hasn't changed, it's absolutely stunning!
We sailed to the Komodo archipelago by boat, which I chartered at the harbor of Labuanbajo - Flores. The boat crew cooked delicious meals for us every day although they hardly had any cooking appliances. Fish was marinated in a plastic bucket and most foods were fried to prevent food deterioration. This may look unsanitary in our eyes, but the food was yummy!
Seeing the Komodo Dragons up close at the Komodo National Park, hiking to the top of Padar island for a magnificent view and eating lovely foods at the boat while sailing through the Komodo archipelago was a once in a lifetime experience. But like all good things: they come to an end. We had to go back to Jakarta to catch our flight back to Amsterdam. When arriving at my apartment in Amsterdam my girlfriend thought I was fed up with Indonesian food, so she cooked a 'proper' Dutch meal (mashed kale and potatoes with smoked sausage) for me. No need to say that I wanted to go back to Indonesia immediately ;)