Java Bali Tour: Visit Indonesia

If you’re inspired by reading about the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali but haven’t visited these amazing islands, this Java Bali tour could be just right for you.

Lynda Bransbury is offering very reasonably priced places on her Java Bali Heritage Tour in December 2012-January 2013. I met Lynda while I was studying Javanese gamelan music and she was studying puppetry in Solo, Central Java. You can read more about her tours in this interview or head straight to her own website.

MountainsHere are the juicy details:


27 December – 12 January 2012

17 nights in Java & Bali £770 single room; £612 if 2 people share

13 nights in Java £481 single room; £373 if 2 people share

7 night tour of Central Java £270;

Come and experience the wonders and beauty of Java and Bali for 17 nights. Vibrant tropical vegetation, lush rice fields, impressive volcanoes, sacred and ancient sites, dating back to Hindu Buddhist times.

BorobudurEach country has its own rich, cultural heritage. Traditional performing arts and rituals remain a vibrant and valued part of daily life. The 17 night study tour (13 nights in Java and 4 nights in Bali) combines visits to the major historical sites from the Hindu Buddhist past, including the World Heritage Site of Borobudur Temple, with opportunities to see traditional dance, ritual and performance. You can also take part in workshops led by internationally recognized Javanese artists in sound, movement, meditation, traditional dance or shadow puppets.

We visit Javanese mountain villages where the traditional way of life has hardly changed in generations, and stay overnight in village houses. You get to see traditions, performance and farming practices that tourists rarely see.


Lynda Bransbury at or telephone (+44) 873 812 664 for more information or to book a place. See

Balinese dance


What I Ate in Surabaya: Soto Lamongan


Soto Lamongan





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Soto is the name for rice soup, found all over Java. Lamongan is a town not far from Surabaya and soto Lamongan is its speciality. This dish is available all over Surabaya, and I tried it at a streetside foodstall near my hotel.


The rice is in a turmeric yellow stock, with white noodle, chicken, egg and a squirt of lime juice. It tasted richer than the Central Javanese soto I am used to, but less curryish than the Jakartan soto I have tried. It was delicious, rich and filling but not too much so, and is well worth a try if you get the opportunity.


Soto Lamongan

@thome Surabaya Hotel Review: Good Value for Money in a Rundown Neighbourhood

I found this new hotel on the internet, and chose it due to its low price and convenient location in the north of Surabaya. My room came with a TV, air conditioning and very comfortable twin beds. The shared bathroom had hot water, and a separate toilet was also available.

Comfortable bedsThe small hotel has nine rooms, of which three have windows (including mine). In fact I was given a choice of rooms, a nice touch. The owner and his wife who staff the hotel were polite throughout our email exchange and in person.  There is one bathroom and one toilet per three rooms, which means that if all the rooms were full there would be six people per toilet. Luckily I was the only person on my floor so I actually had the bathroom all to myself

The hotel was spotlessly clean; it only opened in December 2011 so everything is fairly new. All the facilities worked perfectly. If you are looking for value for money in the north of the city, a few minutes walk from ITC mall and Pasar Atom, @thome is a great option.

Reception @thome

@thome reception

However, there are a couple of reasons why I would not recommend this hotel for everyone. The immediate vicinity of the hotel is very rundown; it is essentially in a former shop, and the block is mainly closed down, derelict, used by wholesale sellers, or (relating to my other complaint) being renovated. The wall at the end of the street was covered in graffiti, rubbish littered the street and I saw several gigantic rats. Returning to the hotel at night down this narrow, dark and empty street would certainly unsettle some people. Secondly, the hotel is rarely staffed; most of the time there is no one in reception, so anyone could walk in, and I did have to wait when I wanted to ask something.

@thome is up this unwelcoming street

@thome is up this unwelcoming street

I stayed two nights at @thome and was woken at around 7.30am by really loud banging. I assumed the owner was fixing something in the hotel, but when I went outside I saw that the neighbour two doors down was having a wall knocked down. Since the buildings are adjoining the sound echoed throughout the entire hotel; I could feel the floor shaking if I stood in the wrong place.

If you want to stay in the north of Surabaya, and get air conditioning, a TV and hot water for only Rp. 90,000 (around US$9) per night, and you want to be up and out every morning and stay out until 5pm to avoid the noise, @thome is excellent value for money. The smart, modern rooms, overall cleanliness and friendly staff make the place what it is. If the area immediately outside the hotel was improved, I would be able to recommend @thome.

View from my windowIf @thome sounds like the kind of hotel you’re looking for, their website is here, and they’re also on Agoda.

What I Ate in Surabaya: Lontong Mie


Lontong MieLontong pieces (rice cooked in a banana leaf until the individual grains become indistinguishable and it can be cut with a knife, as served with chicken satay in Solo), topped with yellow noodles, beansprouts and green leafy veg, served in a meat stock with black bean paste and chili sauce.

I tried this Surabayan dish at the Pasar Atom foodcourt. Up on the top floor of this “old style” mall, a huge variety of foods is available, including many local specialities, and it’s a good spot for people-watching.

Hotel Trio, Solo: A Grand Hotel at a Tiny Price

Hotel TrioSet in a beautiful old building, I had been eyeing up the exterior of this hotel with its grand mansion look for a while, and I was pleased that the interior did not disappoint. Set in what appears to have been a large house, with massive double doors and a spacious hallway, it is hard to believe that this is merely a budget hotel.

There are two types of rooms, standard rooms which are in a separate modern two-storey building at the back of the hotel, cleverly designed with rooms looking out to a pond area and space to relax outside, and more expensive rooms which are in the original part of the building.

We took a cheaper standard room, with twin beds (none of the standard rooms have a double bed), and were pleasantly surprised by the facilities: hot water, air conditioning, TV and breakfast, for only Rp. 150,000 or about $15. I took a sneaky peek at the more expensive rooms which were very large, with king size and single beds, and a seating area.

There were clean towels and blankets in our room and soap was provided. I was pleased with the overall cleanliness which was of a very high standard. The air conditioning kept the temperature perfectly cool, but not too cold, and there was very little noise from other guests. The rooms were far enough back from the main road to be free from traffic noise. We watched TV, which was set on a bracket above the door, in the perfect position to be watched in bed. The bathroom featured a sit-down toilet, a traditional Javanese style water trough but with hot water as well as cold. There was also a sink and mirror outside the bathroom.

Garden Area and Cheap RoomsService at the hotel was polite, efficient and friendly. Breakfast was a choice of fried rice, noodles or bread, with tea or coffee.

Overall Hotel Trio is amazing value for money compared to other hotels and even hostels in Solo. Mainly catering to Indonesian guests, it’s time that foreigners considered Hotel Trio for great facilities and a good night’s sleep at the same price as a hostel.

Hotel Trio is located right in the centre of town, just north of Pasar Gedhe, at Jalan Jen. Urip Sumoharjo No. 25, Surakarta. Telephone 0271 632847 or 0271 656240.

What I Ate: Sate Ayam or Chicken Satay

Part of an occasional series about food I have eaten in South East Asia.

Sate AyamSate ayam, or chicken satay, cooked over glowing embers, giving it a slightly smokey flavour. With a generous drizzle of peanut sauce. Sitting on a bed of lontong. Lontong is rice wrapped up tightly in a banana leaf in a tube shape, and boiled until the rice grains are no longer visible, then allowed to cool, before being opened and cut into chunky slices to eat.


Sate ayam is usually sold in the evening here in Central Java, both at street food stalls with mats for diners to sit on, and by sellers who push their boat-shaped trolleys around the streets hawking their fare. Many sate sellers are from the island Madura, just northeast of Java, and Sate Ayam Madura is therefore well-known.

Travel Plans for April

That exciting feeling of buying plane tickets has happened again! The parting of money in return for the excitement of a forthcoming trip. These are my travel plans for April; let me know if you have any tips on any of these places.

I’ll be flying out of Surabaya so I hope to have a day or two to explore that east Javanese city first. From there I’m headed to Flores, one of the Indonesian islands that makes up Nusa Tenggara, east of Bali and Lombok. It’ll be the furthest east that I’ve travelled in Indonesia. I’m flying into Maumere in the east of the island, exploring the length of the island and leaving from Labuanbajo in the west. Then I’m off the Bali to review the Viceroy Bali for Worldette. After that it’s time for a relaxing break before returning to Java.


My time in Flores will be limited to eight days but since I’m happy to be travelling most of the time, that’s no problem. I enjoy the idea of being able to do short trips within Indonesia, since I am here anyway, instead of feeling like I have to backpack around for months. If I was in the UK I wouldn’t hesitate to take a short break in Europe, without feeling like I had to see all of a particular region, so I’m trying to do that here.

I’m planning to see Kelimutu, since everyone says it’s amazing. These colourful volcanic crater lakes are Flores’s most popular attraction. And I will stop at places including Ende and Bajawa. I’m interested to see what the local cultures are like, and as always when I travel, I want to talk to people about their lifestyles. Have you been to Flores? Where would you recommend?

How about Surabaya? I’ve heard people say many things about this East Javanese metropolis, including that there is nothing worth seeing there. Tales of traffic jams abound. Yet I am curious, having visited many other Javanese cities, to see how it shapes up. Have you visited Surabaya? Any tips?