Diving in the 3 Pearls

June 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Exotic South East, Nature

Indonesia is the widest archipelago in the world, with more than 80,000 km of coastline and 3.1 million square km of marine area. With such a large marine area, it’s no wonder Indonesia is often described as a diver’s paradise. There are plenty of attractions for all kinds of marine lovers, but this time around, we will focus our attention on three small gleaming pearls – North Sulawesi’s Gangga Island, Bali’s Candidasa, and Lombok’s Gili Trawangan.

Photo credit - Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

Photo credit - Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

The Gangga Island, North Sulawesi

The Gangga Island arises from the depth of the ocean north of Sulawesi, in the Bangka Archipelago, just off the National Marine Park of Bunaken. A volcanic island, Gangga is adorned with lush tropical trees and colorful flowers. There are several diving areas within reach from Gangga Island, suitable for beginners and experienced divers. The diving spots available in Gangga offers an astonishing kaleidoscope of life forms in more than 25 first-class dive spots in its central position between Bunaken and Lembeh Straits, which also happens to be one of the major playgrounds of paradise for macro-photographers.

Another island paradise bound to attract scuba divers is the renowned Raja Ampat, long heralded as scuba diving’s Holy Grail. Be mesmerized by the crystal clear water, white sandy beaches and pristine marine beauty in this jewel in the ocean!

Photo credit - Hagwall

Photo credit - Hagwall

Candidasa, Bali

Towards the south of the Indonesian Archipelago is Bali, the Island of Gods. At the Eastern coast of this island, far from the crowd, lies the small village of Candidasa, a key location where your choice of tours in the water, and out, begins. Bali has a superb reputation as a diving destination, and overal there is as much diversity of dive sites and marine life here than anywhere else in the region. In the eastern coast of Bali, the feature is on the Mantas, mola mola (sunfish) and tiny pigmy seahorses.

Candidasa is also home to the Bat Cave Temple (Pura Goa Lawah), an important temple to the religious locals which is home to thousands of bats hanging on the rock of cave walls. Legend has it that the cave extends all the way to Pura Besakih up at Mount Agung, more than 30 kilometres away. During various holy days, thousands of pilgrims would visit Pura Goa Lawah to join in sacred ceremonies, before heading up towards Mount Agung.

From water-sports at white sandy beaches to first-class shopping, to luxurious gourmet treats and a relaxing escapade at a hillside cafe, Bali has it all. Here are some of the must-do things in Bali, the Island of Gods.

Photo credit - Jos Dielis

Photo credit - Jos Dielis

Gili Trawangan, Lombok

Last but not least on our quick island hopping is Gili Trawangan, one of the three small islands off the coast of Lombok. Here, visitors can experience the serenity of a small island, the excitement of the underwater world, and the energy of island nightlife all at once. The island was renowned as a backpacker mecca in the 90s, and while it is still true to some extent, there is now a range of luxury and glamour on the island, and especially so on Gili. On one hand, you have a multitude of relaxing laid-back beach-side cafes serving home-made drinks and local delicacies, but on the other end you also seafood buffets, gourmet treats and luxurious stays.

The diving on offer is excellent, and the island is well-known as a teaching center for diving newbies. There are however, spots with strong currents and drifts better suited for the experienced, with the focus on barracudas, manta rays, sharks and hundreds of turtles.

Other than the above three gleaming pearls, the archipelago of Indonesia boasts plenty other diving attractions. Be sure to check out our list of amazing dive spots in Indonesia before you book your trip down South!

Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best travel ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.

Kuta Beach Getaway

May 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Exotic South East

Bali has been Indonesia’s top tourist destination for decades, with Kuta Beach establishing itself as a surfing mecca on Asia’s popular backpacking route in South East Asia. Long golden beaches, stunning coral reefs, a vibrant island culture, international cuisines, luxury shopping, and world-class surfing are just a few of the activities that visitors can enjoy here. Today, Kuta is known as much for its luxury accommodations, fancy restaurants, and posh nightclubs as it is for its wild parties and festivities. Amongst it all we managed to find a few rare gems that have injected a fresh dose of creativity to the lifestyle and glamour of this once sedate fishing village.

Eats – Local Favorites

Smack in the middle of Kuta Square, Dulang Cafe serves unpretentious local cuisine at a reasonable price. You’ll probably notice the bright greenish-blue canopy while you walk and shop around the area. Head in and you’ll find some of the best local fare in town, such as the juicy Sop Buntut (Oxtail Soup), which comes in two versions – one with fried meat, and another with stewed meat. Other local favorites include Ayam Penyet and the spicy Sambal Terasi that comes with it!


Play – Surf and Turf

Surfing is the name of the game at Kuta Beach. There are a number of options for surfers of every age and ability, so there’s no reason to miss out on the fun. Kuta Beach is famous for its sandy bottom, which not only creates a relatively safe environment for those just learning, but also allows surfers to cut loose without having to think about any coral reefs or rocks lurking below the surface of the water. Beginners can take their pick of various surfing schools in the area. Two of the most popular are Rip Curl School of Surf and Quiksilver Surf School Bali.

Photo credot - Meaduva

Photo credot - Meaduva

Drinks – Party On

Not far from the Bali bombing memorial, M-Bar-Go, a large two-story bar has recently opened and created some fierce competition with other dance bars in the area. A favorite with expats and locals alike, M-Bar-Go has great music and even holds the occasional fashion show to spice up the atmosphere. Right next to it, Sky Garden is another happening venue.

Stay – Boutique Charm

Deep inside the famed Poppies Lane, dekuta boutique hotel has just recently opened its doors. The hotel is just steps away from the Kuta beachfront, but secluded enough to keep you away from the bin and din of the local nightlife. This unpretentious hotel offers a blend of unique personality and chic interior design. Travelers can expect comfort, ambiance, and flair at an affordable price. We recommend heading to the depalm rooftop bar and lounge to enjoy a mesmerizing Kuta sunset for a fresh change from the usual crowded bars of Kuta.

Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best Family Holiday Deals and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of divers paradise in Indonesia.

The Morning Ritual

September 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Exotic South East

It is well before dawn in the paradise land of the Gods of Bali, Indonesia. As the sun approaches, the ladies of Bali are dutifully performing a morning ritual which has been the tradition since centuries past. To outsiders, it is but a simple day-to-day offering and morning preparation of food, but in the tradition of Bali, the “ngejot” offerings are so much more than that.

Photo credits - kcl_seattle

Photo credits - kcl_seattle

This morning ritual begins with the Balinese women rising well before dawn to prepare for ngejot. It is considered extremely impolite to eat before the ritual, so people will abstain from eating until the ritual is finished. The preparation begins at the same time the morning meal is prepared, and similarly as well – by boiling water and cooking rice.

The Balinese believes that “ngejot” will keep a harmonious relationship between the world of the humans and the world of the Gods, and as such it is a ritual that you would always see every morning in the houses of local Balinese. The ritual is prepared in the kitchen, a sacred place according to Balinese tradition, as well as the various tools used to prepare the ritual offerings.

Photo credits - StrudelMonkey

Photo credits - StrudelMonkey

Once the rice is cooked, it is then time to assemble the “nasi jotan” which will be used as prayer offerings. Using banana palm leaves cut into small squares, the rice is placed accordingly and on top of a traditional holy bamboo tray known as “kumarang”. Additional decoration are placed on top of these rice offering as a way to appease the Gods.

A Balinese lady will then prepare herself for the ritual – she must put on a “kamben”, a traditional Balinese sarong, worn with a “santeng” that is tied around their waist at the beginning of the ritual. The prayer offerings are to be palced around various points of the kitchen and areas of the house as an offering to the God, a way of saying thank you for keeping the harmony intact.

The ritual gives one an insight into the local culture of Bali, a place where religious mysticism abounds, and the magical often comes alive. The Balinese believes that a proper “ngejot” will help the kitchen become a source of protection, and will help repel negative energies or attacks from the world of the spirits.

About the Author. Char Magalong. Char Magalong, freelance web designer and programmer, spent two years living, working and traveling in Singapore. Another two years stint right after that in Malaysia led to homesickness, after which she promptly returned to the Philippines. With her myriad of treasured experiences for apt comparison, she comments regularly on the beauty of Philippines and its surrounding country side.

Candi Prambanan & Mendut – Yogyakarta

September 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Exotic South East

Other than the famed Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta is also home to countless other Hindu temples. Two other temples that may be of interest are Candi Mendut, and Candi Prambanan, pictured below. Travelers driving in from Jakarta will usually pass by Candi Mendut, which also serves as a welcoming sign, while Candi Prambanan (below) is the largest Hindu compound in Indonesia, consisting of a large garden picnic area next to the temples and various museums on Yogyakarta’s history and Hinduism.


This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.

Snapshots of Java

May 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East, Nature

For this week’s entry into Photo Friday here’s a collection of snaps taken from Losari Coffee Plantation, Central Java. This collection of photos reflect the charming nature of Java and the idyllic nature of vacationing at the heart of Java itself.

The resort itself occupies 22 hectares of an active coffee plantation, surrounded by mountains and within driving distance to the mystical Borobudur. The scenic view was remarkable, a perfect place to rejuvenate and refresh. It is the perfect place to experience Central Java and its rich history of ancient kingdoms and vibrant cultures.

Visitors can take various tours such as the steam train tour, where you get to ride in a classic Dutch steam train through stunning rice fields, plantation grounds and traditional Javanese villages. There is also a tour through the coffee plantation, for the caffeine lovers, where you get a walk-through from growing to grinding coffee. Finally, there are also tours to Borobudur temple itself, and to various Hindu religious shrines around the area.


This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts on Unearthing Asia.

8 Diver’s Paradise in Indonesia

More than 5 million square meters of water surrounds the island archipelago of Indonesia. Undoubtedly, it is a grand settlement for hundreds if not thousands of underwater species and beautiful, colorful coral reefs. At once, this country offers plenty of spots that many diving enthusiasts can only dream about.

Thanks to the unusual political turmoil and usually exaggerated travel warnings, you’ll rarely find this country on the average traveler’s itinerary. Fortunately for the brave and adventurous, that means less tourists, more peace and quiet, and a better chance of enjoying all the serene beauty on your own sweet time. Here’s a list of Indonesia’s 8 Amazing Dive Spots for you to dream about, and one day try on your own!

Bintan Island. Photo credit - jensen_chua & Roro Fernandez.

Bintan Island. Photo credit - jensen_chua & Roro Fernandez.

Bintan Island, Riau

Probably the most accessible island from outside Indonesia, this diving hotspot is less then an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore. The island boasts of 18 km of pristine white beaches with rich marine life, and various dive spots for your enjoyment and perusal.

Not far from the northern coast line there is a small gorge 8 meters deep with a flat bottom, a perfect site for those trying out scuba diving for the first time. Another unique site here is Ship Wreck Point, where you can explore the remains of an old tanker boat sunk years ago in the depth of the sea.

Pulau Seribu. Photo credit - tjhinn & Ria Qorina Lubis.

Pulau Seribu. Photo credit - tjhinn & Ria Qorina Lubis.

Pulau Seribu (Thousand Islands), Jakarta

This unique area consisting of over a hundred small islands (thus the exaggerated name), has always been the playground for divers from Jakarta. From the various islands, a few of the more popular ones are Pulau Kotok Besar, Pulau Kotok Kecil, Karang Bongkok, Pulau Sepa and Pulau Pantara.

Pulau Seribu is very accessible, you can simply rent a speedboat from the Marina, or a fisherman’s boat from one of the various piers. About one to two hours worth away from Jakarta and you’ll be able to dive to your heart’s content. Some of the larger islands provide better accommodation such as resorts and villas, but you’ll have to rent a boat to visit the smaller islands – that’s where the beautiful corals are!

Karimun Java, Central Java

Another side of Java Sea that’s also a diver’s paradise is the island across the sea at Semarang, Central Java. This area, called Karimun Java, is a collection of 27 smaller islands surrounded by ocean water rich with blue coral Acropora reef. Divers can explore the remains of Indonour, an ancient merchant ship that sank long ago in 1955. An additional treat here is the various sea turtles that hatches in the conservation park.

Derawan Island. Photo credit - degi.

Derawan Island. Photo credit - degi.

Derawan Island, East Kalimantan

About 50 miles away from the Tanjung Redeb, Berau Province’s capital, is an area covering several smaller islands. Its filled with spectacular corals and underwater caves for adventurous exploration. Derawan has more than 17 dive spots across the area, each with its own unique attractions for you to consider. Some of the more popular sites are at Pulau Sangalaki, Pulau Kakaban and Pulau Maratua.

At Sangalaki, you can find eagle rays, sting rays, leopard sharks and cuttlefishes as well. It is also the preferred hatching spot for giant green turtles, which you can view every night. The main attraction at Pulau Kakaban is the 5 square meters saltwater lake filled with stingless jellyfish and goby fish. And finally, at Pulau Maratua, you’ll find plenty large-sized fishes such as barracuda, tuna and mackerel. Sightings of hammerhead sharks, and up to eight species of whales are also often reported here.

Scuba diving enthusiasts should also check out our photographic journey through the marine paradise of Raja Ampat, long renowned as the Holy Grail of Scuba Diving.

Komodo Island. Photo credit - smulan77 & thejerk.

Komodo Island. Photo credit - smulan77 & thejerk.

Komodo Island, Flores

This island is usually associated with the Komodo Dragons, with it playing host to these fiery gigantic lizards species. But in regards to scuba diving, this area also plays host to a score of dive spots that are known to be some of the best in the country. From Sebayour Kecil, Pulau Tengah Kecil and Pantai Merah, various underwater attractions are on offer, such as various mackerel, cod and grouper fish.

At Pantai Merah, or roughly translated as Red Beach, you’ll find not far from the coast a 5 meter drop-off filled with colorful fishes. There are more dive sites at the western coast of Flores, such as Pulau Tatawa, Pulau Tatawa Kecil, Pulau Rinca and Pulau Nusa Node.

Nusa Penida. Photo credit - Saylow's & whitecat-singapore.

Nusa Penida. Photo credit - Saylow's & whitecat-singapore.

Nusa Penida, Bali

Pulau Nusa Penida, located east of Bali, is a popular dive spot amongst both local and international divers. About one hour away from Bali, this island has some of the healthiest coral reefs, with exceptional visibility of 15 to 35 meters.

For beginners, there are various dive spots at the northern coast of the island better suited for exploration. At the southern coast, there is also Blue Corner, Nusa Lembongan and Gamat, for those more experienced divers looking for a challenge. The sun fish is often sighted at Crystal Bay, while manta birostris are common occurrences at Manta Point.

Diving at Bunaken. Photo credit - naturemandala & Erwin Kodiat.

Diving at Bunaken. Photo credit - naturemandala & Erwin Kodiat.

Bunaken, North Sulawesi

This is another hotspot that is better known internationally compared to the rest, consisting of the smaller islands of Pulau Sialdoen, Gangga, Mantehage, Nine and an old volcano in the middle of the sea, Manado Tua (Old Manado). Snorkeling and diving are both extremely popular, with up to 16 dive spots spread amongst the islands in the area. Bunaken features a slope with up to 30 meters drop-off housing various species of fishes and marine life. Sightings of shark are not uncommon, so beware!

Indonesia is home to so many amazing diving destinations, its simply impossible to write about them all at one go! Here’s another diving-related article – Diving in the 3 Pearls in Indonesia.

Diving at Lembeh Straits. Photo credit - CW_Ye.

Diving at Lembeh Straits. Photo credit - CW_Ye.

Selat Lembeh (Lembeh Straits), North Sulawesi

Still at North Sulawesi is another icon of the diving world, Selat Lembeh (Lembeh Straits). This dive site is famed internationally with its diversity of marine life, some unique to the site. Here you can find the mimic octopus, pygmy seahorse, flamboyant cuttlefish and hairy frogfish among others. It’s a haven of underwater photography, and is often called the “Mecca of Macro Photography”. Be warned however, that the delicate nature of Lembeh Straits means it is only appropriate for experienced divers.

Travel smarter! If your looking for the best deals on Indonesia hotel prices, head on to SmartHotelComparison.com for a one-stop portal which allows you to compare prices from over 500 booking websites!

For some of the best car-rental pricing comparison, check out Cyprus car hire!

Borobudur, Central Java

May 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Exotic South East

Central Java is a melting pot of ancient kingdoms, refined courts and vibrant wilderness. This area is thick with history and religious spirituality, filled with temples and palaces erected by Buddhist and Hindu Dynasties reflected the splendor they achieved. Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist monument in Magelang, Central Java, is one such monument.

The grandiose monument comprises of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and decorated with thousands of relief panels and Buddha statues. It is both a shrine to Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage.


Getting there is easily arranged through which ever hotel you are staying in. Entering the site costs you around US$10, and public entry is allowed from 6am in the morning to 5pm in the evening. This is a place thick with religious mysticism, so if you can I would advise a sunrise trip in the wee hours of the morning where you can enjoy the mesmerizing views without the stream of visitors.

The reliefs on the monuments depicts narrates various Buddhist stories or philosophies, with the main theme of Borobudur often considered to be the Gandavyuha scriptures, about a pilgrim who visited 110 gurus on his quest to become a bodhisattva.

This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts on Unearthing Asia.

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