On the tarmac at Luwuk Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
On the tarmac at Luwuk Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

When You Travel in Indonesia

#Sulawesi

  Indonesia : Sulawesi + Raja Ampat – July 2017

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 


Ah, Indonesia!!! My favorite destination for scuba diving! But before being able to make bubbles with the fishes, you sometimes have to face the dreaded jam karet, the "elastic time"...

A long trip to Indonesia

That's right! This July 2017, I flew to Indonesia (again)! 😎 Getting to Jakarta, the capital on the island of Java, is easy. It's after that that the going gets tough...

Nothing is ever certain when traveling in the immense Indonesian archipelago. A volcano can wake up (like the Sinabung, at the moment when I publish this post, at the beginning of August 2017). Or the weather to make his. In Indonesia, late flights are the norm and, on many roads in poor condition, you never exceed 50 km/h. Over there, you never count in kilometers, but in hours. You're never sure what time you'll leave, or what time you'll arrive. When you travel in Indonesia, the only sensible thing to do is to put yourself in "patience and zenitude" mode.. And to tame the jam karet, the "elastic time"...

Any journey, any transport is potentially synonymous with hazards, delays, unforeseen events. You have to deal with it. And tell yourself that it doesn't matter. Because at the end of the day, you always arrive at your destination. Wonderful Indonesia, as the tourist office says.

On the tarmac at Luwuk Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
On the tarmac of Luwuk airport (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

For the first step of this new diving trip in Indonesia, I chose a remote area, quite far from the usual tourist routes. I've already done more twisted as a route, so I'm reasonably optimistic.

I booked in a tiny diving structure (only three bungalows for the moment, soon five), the nice Tompotika Dive Lodgelocated in Kampanar, a small Muslim fishing village on the eastern peninsula of Central Sulawesi. It is here:

The fishing boats on the gray-black sand beach of Kampanar village. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The fishing boats on the gray-black sand beach of Kampanar village. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

It's away from it all and very nice. With, as is often the case in small Indonesian villages, the typical sound environment that goes with it... 😂 Shrill cries of children playing, unexpected choirs of barking dogs, motorcycle and boat engine backfires, hoarse cock-a-doodle-doo competitions and very, very early morning calls from mosques...

Personally, I love this kind of atmosphere and nothing much wakes me up at night. At the risk of sounding preachy, I'll leave you with a word of warning for travellers who love the "authentic": in Indonesia, the peaceful atmosphere of a village is not necessarily synonymous with silence and tranquillity... 😉 I'm delighted with my stay in Kampanar. I'll tell you more about it in a future post.

Jakarta-Makassar-Luwuk

So here it is. I arrived in Jakarta on July 1st at 7am, after a 15 hours flight from France. At the end of the morning, I took a domestic flight to the city of Luwuk, in Sulawesi, with the Indonesian low-cost airline Lion Air and its subsidiary Wings Air.

I'm supposed to land in Luwuk at 4.50pm. It will then be a two-three hour drive to Kampanar. A driver sent by the Tompotika is due to pick me up at Luwuk airport in the late afternoon. (Yes, long journeys don't scare me, when it's to go diving... 😆)

The weather stretches ... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Time is stretching... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

But this Jakarta-Luwuk flight is not direct. There is a stopover and change of aircraft in Makassar, the big city of South Sulawesi. And it is there that the jam karetthe famous "elastic time", takes back its rights...

At the Makassar airport, at the boarding counter for the connection, the young woman in charge of receiving the passengers tells me to sit down and wait. The flight will be delayed.

Good. Nothing more normal, in Indonesia. In fact, I was rather surprised by the punctuality of the first plane between Jakarta and Makassar...

😂

30 minutes, then an hour, then an hour and a half pass. I come to ask again at regular intervals if we always leave from the same gate, the 5th one (because I've already had the unexpected change of gate, at the airport of Makassar). Yes, yes, they reassure me. And they reconfirm the delay.

I am coolitude and zenitude embodied. Jam karet ...

Flight reported

Late afternoon. Of course, by being late, the flight ends up being cancelled!

"Bad weather in Luwuk", explains an airport employee. An Indonesian I'm chatting to tells me that he's called a friend in Luwuk, and that it's pouring down there! A huge storm, with waterspouts. 😱

The small crowd of passengers who had been waiting patiently in front of gate 5 then followed an airport attendant in an orange vest, who led us through the corridors to the entrance of the terminal, where we were all ushered into the lobby of the Ibis Budget hotel. I remembered that I had already slept here, between two planes, during previous trips to Raja Ampat. We can hear the airport announcements in the rooms!

Everyone has to hand in their ID and boarding pass at reception. We're put up for the night. It's a bit of a mess, and I almost end up in an Indian businessman's room (we were the only two passengers with foreign passports, so we thought we were traveling together 😂).

But in the end, everything is not so bad. We just have to wait. The time stretches again, endlessly. Jam karet ...

The receptionists have a lot of work to do ... It is necessary to lodge for the night all the passengers of the plane! (Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The receptionists have their work cut out for them... All the passengers on the plane must be accommodated for the night! (Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The room at Ibis Budget Makassar Airport. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
The room at the Ibis Budget at Makassar Airport (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

Three guys from the airport come and go, collecting the checked luggage of those who ask for it. I am soon reassured to see that my bag followed me to Makassar.

The flight is postponed to the next morning, at 6 am. All you have to do is present the same boarding pass and leave the tags on your luggage. I get the information repeated three times to be sure of the time. By the guy at the airport. By the Lion Air office employee. By an Indonesian passenger speaking good English.

I did well to buy a local SIM card at an airport store when I arrived in Jakarta. I was able to keep my contact for Tompotika up to date as I went along.

In the evening, two Lion Air employees knock on my door. They reconfirm my 6 a.m. flight and ceremoniously hand me 300,000 Rupiahs (about €20, which is a lot for that place, I ate for 30,000 Rp) in compensation in denominations of 50,000, in exchange for signing a receipt and photocopying my passport and boarding pass. I'm pleasantly surprised, in fact the company is handling the situation rather well, I think.

Finally Luwuk!

At dawn, I meet again in the lobby of the Ibis Budget the guy speaking good English with whom I had talked the day before. I'm a bit undecided: should we wait here for the airport employees? He tells me that we can go there directly. Other passengers whose faces I recognize are there. A woman with her daughter, and another guy. We decide to go all together.

Here we are again, waiting in front of the famous gate 5. There is no sign, no screen, no announcement concerning our flight. We have to wait, that's all. Yeah, it feels like jam karet, That... My Indonesian companions don't seem more worried than that. The young woman bought buns, she offers us one to each. We chat, we joke. But I am much less relaxed than them.

My companions "shipwrecked from the sky" are much cooler with the "jam karet" than me ... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
My fellow "sky wreckers" are much cooler with the "jam karet" than I am... (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
It is not yet day, we embark, finally! (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
It is not yet day, we embark, finally! (Makassar Airport, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Small pleasure of a flight Lion Air: one finds there the famous pamphlet of prayers intended for the travelers, for all the confessions. (Indonesia, Sulawesi, July 2017)
A small pleasure of a Lion Air flight: you will find the famous book of prayers for travelers, for all faiths. (Indonesia, Sulawesi, July 2017)
Happy to finally land in Luwuk! (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Happy to finally land in Luwuk (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

Finally, shortly before 6am, we are signalled to board! Phew, no jam karet About an hour later, here I am on the tarmac still shining with rain of the airport of Luwuk.

A young man wearing the Tompotika T-shirt is there to welcome me. He takes care to get my bag and to carry it to the car where the driver is waiting for us. And here we go all three for Kampanar!

Flooding on the road

Very happy to be finally in Sulawesi, I am in a good mood despite the rotten road (jalan rusak) and gray weather. I jibe everything I know about Bahasa IndonesiaI'm doing selfies with both guys, who are thrilled. It's still raining a little at times.

And then at the end of one hour and half of road, after a fork, we must turn back. I learn a new word: Banjir. Flood.

Selfie! (Luwuk, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Selfie! (Luwuk, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Only motorcycles and pedestrians pass. The road is cut off by floods. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)
Only motorcycles and pedestrians pass. The road is cut off by floods. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2017)

We can not go through there, the road is impassable. We will try another route. Jam karet ... 

But via the alternate route, it's the same. We soon find ourselves immobilized behind a long line of vehicles. The river of the corner and the rice fields overflowed on the road. Then we wait. The driver and the guy of Tompotika leave to the news. Not serious, I have water, cookies. The time lengthens still. Jam karet ...

It will be necessary that a car, stuck in front, decides to try the crossing and succeeds, so that the other drivers, including mine, are emboldened and imitate it.

I'll let you appreciate the atmosphere, with the little video shot on the iPhone below... 😉

Finally, we will take more than five hours, instead of the estimated three hours, to reach Kampanar. Coolness and Zenitude, I am. Wonderful Indonesia. Jam karet ... 😂 

  Indonesia : Sulawesi + Raja Ampat – July 2017

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  1. Ah the joy of travel in Asia 🙂 I really like the way you tell about this trip, it sounded laborious but worth it I guess!!!
    I lived a bit the same thing in Laos, what a mess!

    1. @Bettina: yes, it was worth it! I'd rather they cancel the flight than send the plane out in a storm... It delayed my arrival by a day... On an almost month long stay, it's not a big deal.

  2. It is huge! This is also why I love Indonesia. But for having slept at the airport of Makassar, it is also done. But I was surprised by the newness of the airport.

    1. @Remi: Yes, that's part of the charm of Indonesia... We always end up where we want to go, it just takes a little longer than expected, sometimes... The airport of Makassar is a big air hub between the east and west of the archipelago. I discover thanks to Wikipedia that the new terminal was inaugurated in August 2008...

  3. We were in Lembeh during this time...and then we understand why the weather was not nice either, but fortunately still amazing below! Thanks for this nice C/R that brings back some memories...we are starting to miss the singing of the cocks and loudspeakers of the karaoke 🙂 !

    1. @Pascal: I went to Lembeh the week after... 😉 I was lucky, the weather got much better afterwards.
      Hey, hey, yes, I forgot that: sometimes, we also have the right to loudspeakers... (While walking in Lembeh, I remember having admired in the villages imposing "sound-systems" sometimes in front of shacks not paying mine...)

  4. We could have crossed paths because we left on the 19/07! I'm looking forward to your Kampanar / Lembeh comparison 😉 ! Good dives !

    1. @Pascal:indeed, we were at the same place at the same time... 😉 At Kampanar and Lembeh, I didn't really do the same kind of dives. Beautiful coral reefs offshore for the first one, mostly muck-dive in the strait for the second one... But I'll come back to tell all this very soon! 😎

  5. I confirm: Nam Air cancelled me a flight (maumere - kupang) at the last moment (the same morning), because of "broken plane". I had left my email and bought the flight two days before, but I never received any notification by email. I was offered to stay in a hotel and the company bought me a ticket on Wings Air for the next day flight. The proposed hotel ("city hotel") was not to my liking, so they compensated me with 300.000 rupiah, and I went back to my great hotel in Kupang (Hotel on the Rock), which cost 600.000. Obviously, the next day's flight of Nam Air had reappeared (plane repaired?). In short, I rather recommend Wings on this case, because they had two flights per day on this route and only one for Nam...

    1. @Robin: #WonderfulIndonesia 😀 Yes, the Lion Air / Wings company still makes me feel like it's a bit more reliable than others (it even came out of the famous "black list", I was talking about it there : Say Your Prayers on Lion Air (bis)).

      Regarding Kupang, I went back to see on my post from 2012, where I traced my journey to Alor and Raja Ampat I flew on Garuda to Bali-Kupang, then on Lion Air to Kupang-Makassar (via Surabaya).

      https://vimeo.com/46944181

      For my part, I borrowed Nam Air twice, during this new journey of July 2017, and everything went well: a flight Manado-Sorong (but I do not know why I chose this flight, which was really early at 4:00 and some in the morning, it was only afterwards that I discovered that there was a Garuda at more decent hours), and then at the end of the stay the direct Sorong-Jakarta, well convenient... 😉

  6. Hi Corinne, I am enjoying your travel stories, especially since I am in the middle of planning for our stay in Asia from January to April. And this time Sulawesi and Raja Ampat is on our list for the end of February and 1 month (maybe more!)
    Can you reassure me on one point? I read in the Petit Futé that to go to Papua you have to apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta. Is RajaAmpat part of Papua-West Papua? Excuse my great ignorance about this lost corner, I have only visited Bali-Lombok and Gili. For now I made a reservation at Tapokreng on Waigo island and I hesitate to go to Kri having read about the boat that devastated the reefs this spring. I would like not to plan in advance my travels and accommodations but I have a doubt about the ease of doing it once I'm there, what do you think? You represent a great wealth of experience for me, I thank you in advance! I can't wait to read you again!
    Sincerely, Louise

    1. @Louise: thank you for your little message! In Asia from January to April? Veinaaarde !!!!

      First of all, about Raja Ampat, I refer you to the page where I compiled a lot of information, if it can help you, it seems to me that I had mentioned somewhere this story of permit for Papua:
      https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/plonger-raja-ampat-voyage-20130303/

      I haven't done any recent research on the subject, so I don't know what the current situation is, but one thing is for sure: you absolutely don't need a permit from the Indonesian authorities to do tourism in the Raja Ampat archipelago.

      I believe that this formality is only required when one plans to travel elsewhere in Papua (Baliem valley and others). The authorities want to control the comings and goings of foreigners in this sensitive province, and to avoid in particular that journalists come to be too interested in the Papuan independence movement (I remember that two French journalists reporting for Arte, I think, were arrested some time ago...). I have also already been to in the region of Kaimana, further south in Papua, as a simple tourist, without particular care.

      The only formality that is required for Raja Ampat is the tax for the national marine park, which is currently one million rupiah (I talk about it in the practical article on Raja Ampat that I linked above).

      Finally, you would be wrong to stay in Waigeo and not to go to Kri and other islands. I think that from a distance, you do not realize it, but the marine park is huge and represents several hours of navigation from one end to the other... I dived two weeks ago on the reef (its name: Cross Over) that the ship ploughed: only a very small part is damaged (even if it is obviously too much). The ship did not break all the reefs of the whole marine park, which is huge !!!!

      To reassure you, you can check out the selection of photos I took underwater in Raja Ampat during this July 2017 trip and that I already posted on Facebook, as an appetizer:
      https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10159123228790158.1073741856.333947175157&type=1&l=0ded9461ef
      Most of these images were made on sites close to Kri, which is conveniently located just minutes from the most famous spots and the most beautiful ...

      If the choice of accommodation and the quality of the dives are priority criteria for your trip, I would advise you to book if possible, as you will be there during the high tourist season. Otherwise, if you have no particular expectations, I think you can always find a plan B, even at the last minute.

      So, don't hesitate to comment on the page of the article on Raja Ampat, if you have other questions (you can also write to me privately if you wish).

      Good preparation! 😉

    2. Thank you Corinne! You reassure me. And no I don't want to stay on one island only, and I am aware of the long distances between them, that's why I have to do some research to know which circuit would be the best. The ideal would be a live aboard but it's expensive!
      The positive side is our great flexibility, only the time of stay limits us, and still! I will surely have other questions to ask you, in the meantime I thank you a thousand times.

  7. In the Dominican Republic, they say that for them "Tiempo es Tiempo" and for the Europeans "Tiempo es dineros"! And again the nomads in the desert "you have the time, I have the time"... Only we run all the time and care about it! That's the way it is! Great article Corinne!

  8. thank you for your story; we were in sorong a few years ago via Makassar; the same for airplanes; delays, cancellation etc .; this year, for Komodo, no pb; Garuda Bali plane to maumere, for cruise waow (yesiiiiiiiiii) from maumere to Bali; too much happiness; in the meantime, my wife and I went diving in the Tuamotu and we drank coral wine to your health (following your blog) it was a great rangiroa and fakarava moment; next year we are targeting cenotes in mexico, do you know,? And at the end of the year, re waow j hope; in short thank you for your writings that make you dream and we will probably meet one another or a dive; wear well; marc

  9. It's true that delays in Indonesia look different than at the SNCF...but in my experience Cebu Pacific is not bad either.
    I confirm: it was very bad in Brittany in July! And then the Mediterranean was cold in June.
    So long live Asia which is still a diver's paradise.
    Alain

    1. @Feulvarch: mouhahaha... Yes, long live Asia, long live Indonesia!!! I don't dive in Brittany anymore, I admit. As for the Mediterranean, it's still too cold for me. And it lacks a bit of fish... One day, I might decide to try the dry suit and to better appreciate diving in France. For the moment, despite the hazards of the trip, I prefer Indonesia, there is no photo... 😉

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