April 28, 2023
JAKARTA – For anyone who wishes to have joyous memories, wider horizons and a better appreciation for nature and history, 2023 is the perfect time, especially after nearly three years of the excruciatingly restricting pandemic, to go all-out with their upcoming vacations.
Considering several public holidays are already upon us, such as the five-day Idul Fitri break in late April, Ascension Day in May and the school vacation in June, there is no time like the present to start planning for your next detoxing excursion.
However, in case popular vacation spots such as Bali, Lombok and Yogyakarta are too “basic” for your vacation-related thirst this year, here are a few of Indonesia’s hidden gems, where you may experience the best and the most fruitful of times. In these places, Instagram-able views are just one of the many things you can take home at the end of the day. Remember, though, no matter where you are headed and where you come from, respecting the local culture and norms goes a long way.
Likupang Beach, North Sulawesi
Nusa Dua and Raja Ampat might be the vacation spots that cross the minds of most tourists when they consider spending their precious time off on a scenic, summery shore. However, Likupang Beach could be a tranquil destination for beachgoers in the mood for a more serene excursion. Notable for its natural beauty, white sands, green hills and meadows in the background, and the fact that it has yet to turn into a crowded resort area, Likupang Beach has progressively put its name on the country’s tourism map.
Located in North Minahasa regency in North Sulawesi province, the local government has proven its commitment to turning Likupang Beach into a flourishing holiday haven, initiatives include turning the beach into a special economic zone and encouraging sustainable tourism practices and a zero-waste lifestyle among the locals. The blue shores are not the only tropical sanctuary that Likupang has to offer. Minutes from the coast, tourists can enjoy the picturesque Pulisan Hill and savannah-like Larata Hill. For consummate food lovers, the culinary scene impresses with Likupang-specific delicacies such as lalampa, milu siram and binte biluhuta.
Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Borneo
In the mood for a jungle adventure on your next leave of absence? Tanjung Puting National Park should be on the top of your list. Nestled comfortably in West Kotawaringin regency in Central Kalimantan, the national park boasts a different, awe-inspiring experience compared with other municipal parklands thanks to the abundance of vegetation along the park’s Sekonyer River and orangutan conservatory. Moreover, Tanjung Puting National Park encompasses more than 3,000 square kilometers of world-renowned Borneo peat swamps, mangroves and coastal beach forests, lowland rain forests, tropical moist forests and secondary (regenerated) forests.
The Orangutan Foundation, in particular, runs the park’s facility called Pondok Ambung Tropical Forest Research Station, which supports local and international researchers in studying the diversity of flora and fauna nurtured by the foundation, including orangutans. Besides the latter, Tanjung Puting National Park is also a home for rare mammals such as gibbons and sambar deer and insects such as Bornean butterflies. Moreover, local tour companies around the park offer day trips for tourists to venture across the Sekonyer River and visit the park’s facilities and other research stations.
Lasem, Central Java
Move over, Kota Tua Jakarta; it is time for Lasem to become the country’s heritage town that enters everyone’s radar, particularly the history buffs and the xenophiles. The subdistrict, situated in the Rembang regency of Central Java province, has grown in popularity for its unique, blended Chinese and Javanese culture and historical values. Arguably one of the very first regions in Indonesia where the early Chinese immigrants stepped foot in Java in the 14th century, Lasem (formerly known as Lao Sam or “啦森” in Hokkien Chinese) is the town where many Chinese merchants set up shop after Admiral Cheng Ho visited Java to establish a bilateral partnership with the Majapahit Empire.
Besides the ancient Chinese architecture that remains intact across the town’s neighborhood, Lasem is also known as a batik center predominantly concentrated in the town’s Kampung Batik Karangturi. The city is also known for its religious attractions, such as the Jami Lasem Mosque, which has stood the test of time since 1588. The mosque is also regarded as proof of the first Islamic ministration on the northern shores of Java, dating back to the 16th century. For tourists who are looking for a more provocative side of the town’s history, a former opium house called Lawang Ombo, which is also known as one of the oldest residences in Lasem, is not to be missed.
Banda Neira, Maluku Islands
Known by the locals as “A Piece of Eastern Paradise,” Banda Neira is precisely that. Dazzling as the home of nutmegs, it has mirror-like waters that are crystal clear, so much so that one can observe the marine life underneath with the naked eye. No wonder the island was once fought over by European adventurers in the early age of colonialism. The island has no shortage of cultural, historical or even political appeal; Banda Neira was made famous as the island where some of the country’s most storied icons, such as Mohammad Hatta and Dr. Cipto Mangunkusumo were once exiled by the Dutch in the early 20th century.
Banda Neira offers almost every attraction to tourists, pilgrims and globetrotters. The island’s Lava Flow will astonish even the most experienced divers and snorkelers with its ethereal, oceanic biota. Fort Belgica should enthrall history buffs as they take in the still-standing remains of the 17th century and learn about the ferocious battles between the Dutch and local people. Pilgrims are very much encouraged to pay their respects to their ancestors at the Parigi Ranti Monument, built to honor the lives of the many people of the area who fell victim to massacres by the Dutch.