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AP_INDONESIA_1 Indonesia

Asia

The size of Indonesia is over whelming and offers visitors a very individual experience.Whether you are shopping, visiting temples...

string(9606) "The size of Indonesia is over whelming and offers visitors a very individual experience.Whether you are shopping, visiting temples, enjoying the beaches and resorts in Bali, or venturing further to discover remote villages or the jungles of Borneo an Papua, visitors are sure to be amazed by Indonesia’s diversity. Capital and major centres As the nation’s centre of government, business and industry, the capital Jakarta is a modern society that reflects recent decades of remarkable economic growth. The mega city has a population of 10 million and is surrounded by the metropolitan area, Jabotabek, with a population of around 28 million. The island of Bali, a tropical paradise and tourism hot spot, lies off the eastern tip of Java. A rich culture, beautiful landscapes, coastline and rural villages keep visitors returning in droves. The islands of Lombok, Sumba, Flores and others form a chain all the way to the easternmost province, Papua. Sumatra, the world’s sixth largest island, is located to the west of Jakarta. The equator divides it in two just north of Bukit Tinggi. The scenery in Sumatra is amazing, offering incredible mountains, rivers and almost 100 volcanoes, 15 of which are active. Kalimantan, the southern two-thirds of the island of Borneo, was once, and still is for the most part, a vast, jungle-covered wilderness. Boats and ferries are the main modes of transport, and the native Dayak tribe is a main attraction. The highland region of Sulawesi offers national parks, and a festive culture that includes the famed funeral festivals of Tana Toraja on the south western peninsula. Further east still, in the islands of Maluku previously known as the Moluccas, lie the fabled Spice Islands. Many of these areas are just a two-hour flight from Jakarta, and an extensive and convenient network of air services connects the major cities and towns. The people The fourth most populous nation in the world, Indonesia’s estimated 257 million people speak more than 500 different languages and dialects, and range from city dwellers to sea gypsies. Sixty percent of the people inhabit a mere seven percent of Indonesia’s land area on the island of Java, while most of the archipelago remains unexplored. Nature Indonesia has one of the world’s richest natural environments, offering an incredible diversity of animal and plant life. While a number of species of fauna are familiar to both Asia and Australia, there are many indigenous species in Indonesia such as the orangutan apes of Sumatra and Kalimantan, the giant Komodo dragons, the only ones of their kind in the world still roaming free, the one-horned rhinoceros of Java, the wild banteng oxen, tigers, and many other species now protected in wildlife reserves. East of Komodo is the island of flowers, Flores, where Komodo dragons can be found along the west coast, the only other place apart from Komodo. Also on Flores is Kelimutu with three coloured lakes in the caldera of the volcano. These lakes change colour depending on the oxidation state of the water and go from bright red through to green and blue. Papua, once part of the Australian landmass, has kangaroos, marsupial mice, bandicoots, ring-tailed possums, crocodiles and frilled neck lizards. Indonesia has 400 volcanoes and a spectrum of landscapes from lush green mountain slopes to warm sandy beaches; from rice fields to rain forests and mountains topped year round with snow. The sights The most visited islands tend to be Sumatra, Java and Bali, and there is a great diversity of landscapes and cultures in these regions alone. There are also many temples from the Buddhist and Hindu dynasties such as those in Borobudur, Prambanan and the Dieng Plateau, the palaces of the sultans in Surakarta and Yogyakarta, the Maimoon Palace of the Sultanate of Deli in Medan, and the Hall of Justice in Bali. There are remote villages, the ruins of ancient fortresses and museums, mosques and churches. Where to stay Accommodation in Indonesia ranges from deluxe hotels and resorts through to simple economy hotels, ‘wisma’ (guesthouses) and ‘losmen’ (rooms to let). Deluxe hotels complete with convention facilities can be found in places such as Medan, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Jakarta, Bali and Makassar, while Jakarta offers a good mix of elegant five-star hotels and quality three- and four-star establishments. In Bali, accommodation is available in all price categories, in the mountains or along the beach. In Bandung in West Java two old hotels have been restored to their original art deco style. Most hotels in major towns have air-conditioned rooms, but budget hotels are very basic. Getting around Indonesia has a huge variety of local transport, with public minibuses found in cities and villages. Many towns have bemos, three wheeled pick-ups with two rows of seats down the side, while the bajaj is found only in Jakarta. Becaks, or bicycle rickshaws, operate mainly in the suburbs of Jakarta and Surabaya, and are increasingly being banned from the central areas of major cities. In Bali, Yogyakarta and many other centres you can hire self drive cars, bicycles or motorbikes. Taxis are available in Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Solo, Semarang, Medan and Bali. Fares are generally low, and most taxis use their meters. If you choose not to use the meter make sure to agree on a price with the driver before you set out for the destination. Food and entertainment As with the cuisine throughout Asia, Indonesian food is largely based on rice. Nasi goreng, fried rice with an egg on top, is one of the most popular dishes. Seafood, including fish, lobster, oysters, prawns, shrimp, squid and crab feature prominently in the Indonesian diet and the cuisine is bold, rich in flavour and heavily spiced. Coconut is also very common and is produced for its cooking oil as well as its milk and white flesh that are used as ingredients in many dishes. A rumah makan, ‘house to eat’, is generally the cheaper equivalent of a restaurant. Markets are a good food source, especially night markets. Jakarta and Bali have a wide range of excellent restaurants offering all types of cuisine from ethnic Indonesian to Chinese, Japanese, and also Western and European fare. There’s entertainment in Bali almost every day with exhibitions of Balinese dancing either in villages or at hotels. Entry requirements All visitors need a valid passport/travel document with minimum validity of six months beyond the period of intended stay. Free visa entry on arrival for 30 days is now available for Australians. Activities Beach resorts offer sailing, surfing, scuba diving and windsurfing. Many areas are legendary for good diving, snorkelling and surfing. Of the 60-plus golf courses in Indonesia, Bali offers three of international standard, including the Greg Norman-designed Bali Nirwana Golf Course. The more adventurous climber can tackle Mt Bromo in Java or Mt Agung in Bali for a day climb, or try more strenuous climbs such as Gunung Rinjani, the volcano that dominates Lombok. Traditional spectator sports include bull races, bull fights, rowing and unique ram fights, all held during festivals. Silat, a martial art, is regularly performed as a dance or an exercise and is similar to karate. Camp Leaky, in the jungles of Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, is the site of Dr Birute Galdikas’ study of wild orangutans and is the longest continual study by one principal investigator of any wild animal, enabling visitors to witness the rehabilitation of these amazing primates. On the island of Sulawesi is the impressive Lore Lindu National Park, home to over 200 species of bird, the cuscus, tarsiers, anoa (a rare dwarf buffalo) and babirusa (an animal resembling both a pig and a hippopotamus). The park has been largely untouched by tourism and offers many different treks. Within the park are ancient stone megaliths, waterfalls, hot springs and the large lake of Danau Lindu. Sea walking is a new and popular activity that allows anyone to walk at a depth of three metres along the ocean floor without carrying heavy oxygen tanks. The Sea Walker helmets permit close observation of the myriad fish and sea life Indonesia offers. Shopping While Indonesian cities have air-conditioned shopping centres, supermarkets and department stores with fixed prices, bargaining is customary in smaller shops and particularly in the markets. The wax-and-dye art of batik is one of the country’s best-known crafts, and silverwork, wayang puppets and leatherwork are all found in Java. Wood carvings, leather goods, paintings, clothing, bone work,bronze castings and stone statues are all available in Bali. Beautiful furniture and homewares are for sale or made to order in Kuta, and from a number of warehouses between Seminyak and Ubud. Sumba blankets, the song-kets of Sumatra, the silks of South Sulawesi and the jumpuntan (tiedyed) items of Palembang can all be found in Jakarta. Climate It is hot throughout the year with daily temperatures from 26°C to 33°C with the wet season from October to April. Wear informal, light cotton clothing. In the highlands a sweater may be required. Discreet clothing should be worn at festivals, ceremonies and villages. A sarong or sash may be required for temple visits. Currency The rupiah is the currency unit of Indonesia. Most major foreign currencies can be easily changed in city banks, bureaux de change and large hotels. Credit cards are accepted in major hotels and restaurants. "
AP_PHILIPPINES_4_(visayas) Visayas

Philippines, Asia

Within this stunning island group is Borocay Island, home to White Beach, which is considered the best tropical beach in the world...

string(2585) "Within this stunning island group is Borocay Island, home to White Beach, which is considered the best tropical beach in the world. The Visayas is the Philippines’ main island group. Situated to the east of Palawan, and between Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south, there are multitudes of islands in the Visayas, large and small. The province of Cebu, probably the most well-known destination, comprises six of the 11 major islands in the country, and 161 smaller islands. Cebu retains much of its Spanish heritage in its historical and cultural attractions. It also provides an idyllic starting point for island hopping holidays, many within a couple of hours’ drive from downtown. Cebu City is a major gateway to the Visayas and, being the oldest city in the Philippines, it is often referred to as the ‘Queen City of the South’. Cebu’s five main cities are Cebu City, Toledo, Danao, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu (on Mactan Island). Cebu City is home to the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the oldest fort in the country, Fort San Pedro, and the restored 19th century home Casa Gorordo. Mandaue on the coast is the manufacturing centre, with the San Miguel brewery, Coca Cola plant, and a number of other factories from glass to rattan furniture and handicrafts. While in the Visayas it is a must to visit Bohol, the tenth largest island in the Philippines, famous for its Chocolate Hills comprising more than 1000 oval limestone mounds. A cruise down the Loboc River passes through the towns of Loboc, Loay and Bilar, which has a man-made forest that is home to the tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primates. Like Cebu, Bohol has a range of resorts, especially in Panglao, and also boasts dive spots. Iloilo in the western Visayas is an hour from Manila by plane. The city has wide, attractive streets and a number of historical monuments including churches and ancestral houses. The island of Negros, wedged between Cebu and Panay, is divided into two provinces, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, each with an impressive number of well-maintained historic buildings. The province of Aklan, also in the western Visayas, lays claim to two attractions—the fantastic religious and festive zeal of the Ati- Atihan Festival, the nation’s week-long mardi gras held in January—and Boracay Island. The seven-kilometre long Boracay is widely thought of as the ultimate island in the Philippines. On Boracay is White Beach with fine white sand and clear water. White Beach is considered by many to be the best tropical beach in the world. "
AP_BALI_4_(seminyak_canggu) Seminyak & Canggu

Bali, Indonesia, Asia

With its central location, burgeoning nightlife and accessibility to major tourist attractions, this area is a perfect alternative...

string(2344) "With its central location, burgeoning nightlife and accessibility to major tourist attractions, this area is a perfect alternative to Kuta. To the north of Kuta and Legian, are stylish Seminyak and Canggu. There are no shortage of villas between Seminyak and Canggu luxe villas paired with five-star services and facilities offering you your own private piece of paradise. Seminyak Seminyak, has a reputation among tourists for being more sophisticated and having a more stylish nightlife than Kuta. The shopping centres and busy streets of Kuta are just 15 minutes to the south, and the more rural area of Canggu is just a 25-minute drive to the north. Seminyak has also become extremely popular for its wide range of world-class restaurants featuring all cuisines and eateries lining the beach. The multitude of upmarket boutiques, galleries, shops and markets make for fascinating shopping trips. Seminyak has become the luxury spa destination in Bali. By local standards, treatments may seem expensive but are probably half the price, or less, than you would pay at home. Most hotels offer an in-house service and in-villa treatments are widely available. Canggu Further north of Seminyak is Canggu that is widely used to refer to the eight-kilometre coastal stretch running north from the village of Berawa, just north of Seminyak, to the village of Cemagi, just south of Tanah Lot. The once rural farmland full of green rice paddy fields is now packed with luxury villas, yoga studios, boutiques, cafes, restaurants and beach clubs. Its beaches draw in surfers from all around the world. Most of the action can be found near Batu Bolong, a beach best known for its longboard-friendly break and Old Man’s, a lively beer garden and surf club. Just north of Canngu, one of Bali’s most important temples can be found. Over thousands of years, the tiny island of Tanah Lot was gradually formed as a result of erosion by ocean tides. Surprisingly modest, it comprises of two shrines with tiered roofs, two pavilions and a few small buildings. Access down to the temple is through a sideshow alley of souvenir shops and market stalls. It is a highly spiritual place, and visitors will often see people making the trip to meditate nearby or walking to the water in order to receive the ministrations of priests. "
AP_BALI_5_(sanur) Sanur

Bali, Indonesia, Asia

As well as a beautiful white sand beach and a safe swimming area, there are plenty of restaurants, nightspots and good shopping in...

string(2875) "As well as a beautiful white sand beach and a safe swimming area, there are plenty of restaurants, nightspots and good shopping in Sanur. Sanur, a five kilometre east-facing stretch of picturesque coast, is an idyllic location. It is an upmarket alternative to Kuta, yet not as exclusive (or expensive) as Nusa Dua. The area has a relaxed holiday atmosphere without the hustle and bustle of central Kuta. As well as a beautiful white sand beach and safe swimming area, there are plenty of restaurants, nightspots and good shopping. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, chronicles refer to the importance of Sanur priests and scholars and today, Sanur is one of the few communities still ruled by priests of the Brahmana caste. These priests recognised both the threat and opportunity that tourism presented and imposed the famous rule that buildings cannot be taller than the highest coconut tree and established village co-operatives to ensure that a share of economic benefits remains within the community. Known throughout Bali as a home to sorcerers and healers, Sanur is often revered. The black-and-white chequered cloth seen around Bali is emblematic of Sanur. Symbolising the balance of good and evil, it can be found adorning the many temples in the region. A string of ancient temples can be found near the beach. Their low-corralled walls and platform altars are peculiar to Sanur. Anniversary celebrations at these temples are exuberant and strange to Westerners. Sanur is also home to the oldest dated artefact found on Bali—a pillar, with inscriptions on it recounting military victories more than a thousand years ago and making reference to King Sri Kesari Varma who came to Bali in AD 913 to teach Buddhism. Prior to World War II, Sanur was popular with a few prominent Western artists such as Adrien Jean Le Mayeur, writer Walter Spies and anthropologist Jane Belo. The Belgian artist Le Mayeur lived in his house in Sanur from 1935 until 1958 and it is now a museum. Activities in the area include camel rides, cycling and a plethora of watersports such as sea walking and snorkelling at the nearby reef. Sanur is renowned for its spectacular kite flying competitions during July, August and September which are staged by the local community councils. The kites can be up to 10 metres long, require a dozen men to launch them and traffic is halted when they’re carried down the roads. Part of the charm of Sanur lies in its tranquility. Mainly a resort for families wanting to experience genuine Balinese culture, the nightlife is limited to the bars and discos in the larger hotels. A huge advantage is its proximity to inland destinations, such as Ubud, which is around 40 minutes away. Sanur is a place of remarkable contrasts. It is rich in culture, history and activity and is bound to intrigue any visitor. "
AP_VIETNAM_1_(north) North Vietnam

Vietnam, Asia

Some of the most spectacular scenery in Vietnam is in the Tonkin region stretching from the Hoang Lien Son Mountains (Tonkinese Al...

string(3083) "Some of the most spectacular scenery in Vietnam is in the Tonkin region stretching from the Hoang Lien Son Mountains (Tonkinese Alps) eastward across the Red River Delta to the islands of Halong Bay. This area is home to many hilltribes, some of which have not been influenced by Vietnamese or Western life. A favourite vacation spot for Hanoi locals is Sam Son beach, 16 kilometres south-east of Thanh Hoa. The Tam Dao Hill Station, founded by the French in 1907, consists of weathered grand colonial villas. Here there is superb scenery, refreshing weather and good hiking trails. Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam under the Dinh Dynasty (968-980) and Pre-Le (980-1009). The ancient citadel covers an area of three square kilometres and the outer ramparts enclose temples, shrines and the place where the king conducted his court. Two sanctuaries worth visiting are the temples of King Dinh Tien Hoang and King Le Dai Hanh. A short boat trip away is Bich Dong Grotto in the village of Van Lam, and the Tam Coc Caves and the Xuyen Thuy Grotto. Close to the town city of Ninh Binh is the Cuc Phuong National Park, great for nature lovers. The Perfume Pagoda is one of several pagodas and Buddhist shrines built into limestone cliffs in the Huong Tich Mountain. A few hours drive from Hanoi is Halong Bay. With its 1969 islands rising from the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, it is an awe-inspiring sight and an absolute must on any itinerary. Day or overnight boat trips are easily arranged and are the ideal way to take in the spectacular islands. Hanoi Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital as well as the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. This beautiful, charming city was chosen as the capital by King Ly Thai To in 1010 and was renamed Thang Long (the Soaring Dragon) and Hanoi has been the capital ever since. Rich in ancient history, Hanoi preserves almost 600 pagodas, temples and many streets with centuries-old architecture busy with trade activities. The city also preserves its poetic features with rows of trees lining both sides of the streets, parks covering dozens of hectares and natural lakes. Tourists can visit President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Co Loa Citadel, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam, the oldest university in Vietnam), Quan Su Pagoda - the official centre of Vietnamese Buddhism, Chua Thay, the Master’s Pagoda, Tay Phuong Pagoda, Lenin Thong Nhat and Thu Le Parks, the Hoan Kiem Lake and the West Lake. Other attractions include Vietnam National Museum of History, the Vietnam Military History Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and a suburban village, where visitors can acquaint themselves with the life of Vietnamese peasants. The Old Quarter of 36 ancient trading streets is a fascinating area to explore, with its bustling trade and tunnel houses. In some of the quiet streets off beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake are an increasing number of boutiques and gift/ souvenir shops that combine local and modern styles, with delightful restaurants and cafés in historic shophouses. "
AP_PHILIPPINES_5_(manila) Luzon & Manila

Philippines, Asia

The city is a mix of old and new, of traditions and modern customs, of quaint street stalls and modern shopping malls. Luzon, w...

string(3651) "The city is a mix of old and new, of traditions and modern customs, of quaint street stalls and modern shopping malls. Luzon, where Manila is located, is the largest island in the Philippines and many of the provinces are just a few hours drive from the city. Northern Luzon is rich in panoramic views, green landscapes and old Spanish houses. Nicknamed the Summer Capital, Baguio City is a cool climate escape for Manila’s wealthy. The neighbouring city of La Trinidad, the provincial capital just north of the city, has some interesting sights. You can visit the vegetable market, climb Mt Pulag or see the well-preserved Kabayan mummies from burial caves in the north. Visit Asin, a woodcarving village with a hot spring swimming hole, natural streams and relaxing steam bath. A side trip to the tranquil mountaintop town of Sagada offers beautiful scenery and a cool climate. Its claim to fame is the hanging coffins, seen on cliff sides surrounding the town and in limestone caves. Hugging the northwestern slopes of Luzon are the provincial towns of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. There is a strong Spanish influence in Vigan Ilocos Sur, with 16th century Spanish houses lining the streets of the old section and a museum full of Spanish treasures. Antipolo is the centre of the May-time pilgrimage, while Angono is home to the Higantes Festival, held in November, when gigantic papier-mâché figures of men and women are paraded down the streets. Northern Palawan is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. The El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area showcases extraordinary flora and fauna, including mammals, reptiles, and birds that are abundant in the area. The dramatic landscape boasts of soaring limestone cliffs standing guard over crystal-clear waters, forests over limestone, and beaches with powdery white sand. Dramatic lagoons, mysterious caves, and colorful reefs are among the facets for Bacuit Bay in El Nido and Taytay Bay. A couple of hours by boat from El Nido are the snorkelling havens of Simisu Island and Cathedral Cave, Snake Island and Cudugman Cave. South Palawan is quite different to the north. Quezon is situated around 100 kilometres from Puerto Princesa, and is the nearest town to the archeologically interesting Tabon Caves, a half-hour boat ride away. Quezon is famous for its Pahiyas Festival celebrated in the towns of Lucban and Sariaya in mid-May Manila Manila has a population of around 10 million. The city is a mix of old and new, of traditions and modern customs, of quaint street stalls and modern shopping malls, of excellent museums and happening restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Although the city spreads a great distance along Manila Bay, the main places of interest are fairly central, concentrated just south of the Pasig River. Immediately south is the fortress of Intramuros (literally ‘within the walls’), once the preserve of the ruling classes. The Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church are two of the oldest churches in the country. Nearby, Casa Manila is a beautifully restored Spanish colonial home. The Cultural Centre of the Philippines is the central venue for all the diverse arts of the provinces, including ballet, concerts and stage plays. Within the complex is the stately Coconut Palace, made of materials from the coconut tree and other indigenous materials. This is also a great place to view the spectacular sunset across Manila Bay. At the huge Chinese Cemetery in Santa Cruz, tombs are fitted with crystal chandeliers, air-conditioning, kitchens and flushing toilets, to ensure comfort on the trip to paradise."

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