Spirituality is the main vibe in Bali, and Ubud, as the center of Bali, came with few of the best temples in Bali. Visiting temples in one of the things to do in Ubud besides the museums, spa, massages, and shopping.
The main religions here is Balinese Hinduism and its temple is known as pura. The term pura is originated from the Sansrkit word that means “walled city” or “palace” and has now evolved aptly to mean temple complex in the Balinese language.
Pura Taman Saraswati temple, Ubud
This temple is built 60 years ago and dedicated to the Goddess of Arts. It is well known for its lotus-filled pond, which is often called the “Lotus Open Pond Stage”. The gardens and pond can be visited during the day but only Hindus are allowed inside the temple. There is also a Cafe Lotus attached where you can slowly soaked in the serenity. This temple hosts a variety of traditional dances on different days and is touted to be one of the best in Bali.
How to get there: Located in Ubud, this temple can be found at Jl. Kajeng.
Pura Dalem Taman Kaja, Ubud
Well-known for its kecak dance, it is touted to be the best place to enjoy this popular dance in Bali. You can find the shows on Mondays and Wednesdays. This temple is located beneath a huge banyan tree and the stairs leading up to it are lit by oil lamps. A truly magical experience going into the temple.
How to get there: Located in Ubud, this temple can be found at Jl. Raya Ubud.
Goa Gajah Temple
Goa Gajah temple is a temple dated back to the 10th century and is known as the Elephant cave. One of its main attractions is its carved entrance of menacing creatures and demons. Inside the cave, you will find statues of the Lord Ganesha (the God with the elephant head). Also within the site are an extensive bathing pools, which are not only excavated until the 1950s.
How to get there: It takes only 10 minutes drive from Ubud city center.
Pura Tirta Empul Temple
Also known as the water temple in Ubud, Pura Tirta Empul has its own sacred spring water with healing properties. This temple dates back to 926 AD and is well revered by the locals. Many will come and climb up to the temple for a bath and meditation in the long main pool. It is believed to bring good fortune and health. Base on a legend, this spring us created by the God Indra as an antidote to the poisonous spring of an evil demon King.
How to get there: To get to Pura Tirta Empul would take 30 minutes drive from Ubud
Pura Gunung Kawi Temple
This temple, known as the “valley of the Kings’ is located in the cliffs between rice fields at the south of Tampaksiring, Bali. The Pakerisan river flows through the ravine and flanking the river is the shrines and carved stones that are meant to commemorate the 11th-century kings and queens. Though technically not a temple, it is still revered as a holy place by the locals. This site is more of an actual tomb for the royalties that are cremated here base on Balinese customs.
How to get there: This also takes 30 minutes drive north from Ubud
As you can see, Ubud is a strong spiritual center of Bali with its variety of temples worth a visit. Along with the temples, you will also find shows and festivals that are bound to entertain. When I visited here, I have also chose Ubud as my central place to explore Bali, especially with so many good places to stay.
Where to stay in Ubud
Stay in Ubud for culture, nature, arts and markets. Ubud has plenty of places that tourists will enjoy staying at. There’s the Como Shambhala Estate *, which is a health retreat deep in the rainforest. There’s the Hanging Gardens Ubud *, which has a spectacular view and private pool villas. The Purist Villas & Spa * is another popular place to stay in Ubud, as it’s a stylish boutique villa complete with meal and spa facilities. A popular boutique hotel is Uma by COMO *, which is located on the hillside in Ubud.
Indonesia has been known well for its thousand kinds of local food. In Jakarta itself, you can find all the food from around Indonesia ranging from street food to restaurants. We locals love to eat out too in search of our own favourite foods and here are our very own best restaurants in Jakarta. The restaurants here are mainly from Javanese and Balinese influence.
Eating out in Jakarta will definitely delight your palate with sweet and spicy dishes such as turmeric fish, fried duck with green chillies, mixed rice with all sorts of dishes, meat skewers and much more.
Here is a list of the top 10 locals’ best restaurants in Jakarta that you should try:
This restaurant is located in the Kota Tua (Old Town) of Jakarta. Do not be surprised if see more foreigners than Indonesian people here. This restaurant preserved its colonial design and structure since 1837. Enjoy your seating in the classy wooden chairs with your selected local food such as Soto Betawi, Nasi Campur, or their signature Batavia Fried Rice.
Address: Jl. Lada No.14, RT.7/RW.7, Pinangsia, Tamansari, Jakarta Barat 11230
Taken out from the Javanese language, Omah Sendok literally means “House of Spoon”. This restaurant used to be a house which has been turned into a restaurant. That is why you will find the authentic home ornaments such as its wooden chairs and tables. There is also a view of the pool while you enjoy your meal. I recommend to try Bandeng Priyayi, a dish made with milkfish with a touch of turmeric inside, covered with eggs on the outside, and served with crunchy crisps on the top.
Address: Jl. Taman MPU Sendok No.45, RT.8/RW.3, Selong, Kby. Baru, Kota Jakarta Selatan 12190
If you ask the people in Jakarta about the best place to eat duck in Jakarta, they will definitely answer “Bebek Kaleyo!”. This place is especially for those who love spicy meals. The duck which can be a kind of tough meat can be found tenderly cooked here, with the taste of spices perfectly absorbed deep within. The favourite dish here is Bebek Goreng Cabe Hijau (Fried Duck with Green Chili). But if you still cannot live without red chillis, don’t worry as they are always ready on each table.
Address: Jalan Lapangan Roos No.49, RT.4/RW.1, Tebet Timur, Tebet, RT.4/RW.1, Tebet Timur, Jakarta Selatan 12840
Balinese food does not have to be enjoyed in Bali. It can be found in this capital city of Jakarta too. Just located not far from Bebek Kaleyo, Smarapura Resto has a homey ambience with a local touch of Bali. There are 4 wooden gazeboes adorned with typical Balinese fabric in its surrounding. The waiter and waitress here also wear a traditional Balinese suit. A famous dish from Bali you must try is Nasi Ayam Betutu. Another good option is Nasi Campur Bali.
Address: Jalan Tebet Timur Dalam II No.43, Tebet, RT.3/RW.3, Tebet Timur, Jakarta Selatan, 12820
From Bali, we move then to Java. Mbah Jingkrak is a restaurant which serves many kinds of Javanese dish with the typical taste of sweeti and spicy. The menu is displayed in the front and you may choose your own favourites here. There is also a live Javanese music called Keroncong every day starting from 7 PM until 9 PM here. Mbah Jingkrak is located in an ancient Javanese concept house. There is also a pool at the corner that contains colourful balls that you can use for your photo background. Address: Jl. Setiabudi Tengah No.11, RT.1/RW.1, Setia Budi, Setiabudi, Jakarta Selatan 10220
This is another Javanese restaurant which specifically serves a variety of dishes from Solo, Central Java. As the other Javanese restaurant, dishes at Dapur Solo comes laden with sweet and spicy. One of the most renowned food from Solo is Nasi Liwet or in Javanese, we call it Sego Liwet. Nasi Liwet is a kind of rice cooked with coconut milk and Indonesian herbs added with shredded chicken, cooked squash, boiled egg, and of course, sambal (chilli sauce).
Address: This restaurant has few branches. One of them is located in Jl. Panglima Polim Raya No.1, RT.3/RW.6, Melawai, Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta Selatan
For some more Indonesian local cuisine, you should give this A-class restaurant which a Dutch architecture a visit. This restaurant is very popular among the expats around Jakarta. You will find the entire restaurant filled with luxurious furniture and wallpaper. For the food, you can try Nasi Buketan, a big portion of green rice accompanied with meat skewers, sweet fried potato, diced omelette, and chilli sauce.
Address: Jalan Cik Ditiro No.35, Menteng, RT.10/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, 10310
Adopted from The Balinese language which means Dirty Duck, Bebek Bengil has been here in Jakarta since 2009. The first branch is originally located in Ubud, Bali. Their concept is actually to bring the Balinese ambience to this city. The signature dish here is the Crispy Duck served with stir-fried of string bean and bean sprouts. Don’t worry, the chilli sauce has been included in the package.
Address: The Ubud Building, Jl. H. Agus Salim No. 132, RT.1/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat 10310
Sate Khas Senayan
This is one of the restaurants that has opened a lot of branches in Jakarta since 1974. Just like its name, Sate, meat skewers, is their main dish here. The decoration is dominantly filled with the Javanese touches such as the Wayang characters framed on each branch. Wayang is a popular puppet-shadow show in Java. If you visit Sate Khas Senayan, you should order Sate Ayam Campur which serves you chicken skewer layered with good fat and served with peanut sauce.
Address: They open so many branches in Jakarta. One of them is in Jl. Salemba Raya No. 59, Kenari Senen, RT.9/RW.5, Paseban, Senen, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10440
Kedai Tiga Nyonya
When we recall in memory of our grandmother’s cooking, we would go to Kedai Tiga Nyonya. Before you even enter the restaurant, you will see a window styled in typical traditional windows of Batavia (the previous name of Jakarta). You will also find some pictures of old generations framed on the wall with a touch of sepia colour. The recommended food from Kedai Tiga Nyonya is Ayam Siao. It is a chicken dish cooked with ketchup and a touch of kluwak (one of the typical herbs which can only be grown in Southeast Asia)
Address: TIS Square Kav. 8-9, Jl Mt Haryono, Tebet, RT.11/RW.5, Tebet Barat, Jakarta Selatan 12810
As previously mentioned, Indonesia has plentiful of local cuisine, so it might not be enough to just visit one restaurant to have a representative of the Indonesian food. So, get your stomach ready and choose what typical local cuisine you prefer. Do not forget to always order sambal, which is really mandatory to accompany any kind of Indonesian food.
Just like its neighbour, Yogyakarta, Solo (or often called Surakarta) is also still identical with a long history of monarchy government. Yogyakarta and Surakarta both make their palace as the center of cultural development and preservation.
Furthermore, the palace is also a symbol of the king’s power. Unlike Yogyakarta whose Sultan is still automatically elected as the governor, Solo has another governor who runs the city. Governor in Surakarta is elected by the people in Surakarta.
If you are coming to Solo, here are some suggestions you might put on your to-do list.
Look Up to The Palace Closer
One thing you really must see is, of course, this beauty of Keraton Kasunanan Surakarta. This palace is a complex of buildings that still runs a function as a residence of Sri Sunan Pakubuwono and palace households that conduct royal tradition until today. Keraton Kasunanan Surakarta Is open for visitors from 09.00 AM-02.00 PM except on Friday, Keraton is closed for public. Admission fee is only IDR 10,000 for domestic tourists and IDR 15,000 for foreigners (about USD 1.2)
A majestic view of Keraton Surakarta at night. Photo by Isti
Learn to Bargain at Klewer Traditional Market
It is still typical of Indonesian habit to haggle at a traditional market to have a better price. The most wanted market to see is this Klewer Market (Pasar Klewer) which is located near Keraton Kasunanan Surakarta. You can just walk on foot to get here. This market offers you thousands of stores selling fabrics, batik, jewellery, trinkets, even puppet leather. FYI, Klewer Market was damaged by massive fire back in December 2014. Now, though you may not be able seeing how this authentic market looks like, you can still find many Javanese pieces of stuff here at the new face of Klewer Market.
Gate to Pasar Klewer in Solo city. Photo by Benny Lin
Try Serabi, the original pancake in Surakarta
Serabiis maybe slightly different from pancake you know with its thick dough and flat shape. They combine the rice flour with coconut milk which finally makes the pancake tastes both savoury and sweet. The thin crispy crust surrounding it makes it even more tempting. The original Serabi from Notosuman is actually white and plain but they also make more variants by adding some toppings like chocolate sprinkles, slices of banana, and also jackfruit. You can find many Serabi mongers on the side street along Jalan Slamet Riyadi but the one with its legendary recipe since the 1920s is here in Jalan Mohammad Yamin No. 28.
This temple is located in the area of Gumeng village, Karanganyar regency, which is 36 km away from the city center of Surakarta. One of Javanese-Hindu temple which is still undamaged by years since Cetho Temple was built around 15th century. Pay attention to the every inch of its beautiful cravings accompanied by the mild breeze coming from such plantation complex nearby.
Watch the shadow puppet show
If what you only know so far is just shadow puppet show, you also have to attend this special show which brings the puppets alive. Wayang Orang, which literally means Human Puppet will show you group of real human act out characters based on various forms of drama. The story is mostly adapted from Javanese version of Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Human Puppet Show is run daily from Monday until Saturday on 8 PM. The ticket fee is only IDR 10,000. Just go to GedungWayang Wong in Sriwedari, Jln. BrigjenSlametRiyadi No. 275, Surakarta.
Getting Around The City with A Fancy Double Decker Bus
Department of Transportation Solo provides double decker bus which will take the passengers going around the city to see the beauty of Solo city by just paying IDR 20,000/person. This bus is called Werkudara Bus and it is taken from a character in Mahabharata story. Werkudara is described as a tall, brave, and certainly doughty man, quite an apt name for this giant bus in bright red colour. In the middle of the journey, there will be a time when passengers have to exchange their seat. If you have first chosen a seat in the upper deck, then you must come down halfway to a seat in the lower deck.
Quench your thirst with Es Dawet at Pasar Gede
Pasar Gede literally means Big Market. Try to find Es Dawet Telasih Bu Dermi here. It is no easy feat to find this place because it is only such a small kiosk. The stall can only accommodate six customers at the same time. Do not ask how it tastes like, just go and try it! Trust me, you would be wanting to come back here again and again, lining up like all the others for a taste of this addictive sweetness. This Es Dawet consists of cendol (green pulpy dish of rice flour), tape ketan (fermented glutinous rice), bubur sumsum (rice flour porridge), and with the main ingredient telasih/selasih (basil seeds).
Hunting Batik in Kauman Batik Village
There are actually two Batik villages in Solo, Laweyan and Kauman Batik Village. The nearest one to the city center is the Kauman batik village. Here you can find local houses with parts of it converted into a boutique. You are also able to watch the batik making process here. As you know, the stamped batik (batik cap) is cheaper as they are easier to make. But if you appreciate batik that is painstakingly hand-drawn, then they are well worth the splurge.
Find Cool Spots Around Post Office
When night comes, the area around Solo Post Office comes to live. People, mostly youth, gather around here just to spend their night. It is also popular to get the best angle shot of the classical buildings here or the passing by vehicles as your downtown background.
Mandarijn Cake For Your Family and Friends
The most famous place to have snacks and cakes is in this oldest bakery in town. One of the tourists’ favourite is their Roti Mandarijn (Mandarijn cake) which has two layers, yellow at the top and dark brown at the bottom. Pineapple jam glues both these layers together.
Solo is known as the “Spirit of Java”, and for a reason I am sure. You should put this city into your next destination wish-list when you visit Indonesia and find out if what they say is true. I personally agree!
Banda Aceh is one of the lesser visited provinces in Indonesia, although those who make the trip will be rewarded with interesting sights and things to do. Banda Aceh is easily accessible as you can fly in directly to the main airport here or you can travel to Medan in North Sumatra and then move on from there.
The province was devastated by a tsunami in 2004 but has been rebuilt so that only a few reminders can still be found. This is also the only place in Indonesia to have Shariah law but visitors will find it remarkably laid back, at least on the surface, and while you should dress conservatively you will not be expected to cover up as the locals do.
Here are our top picks of what to do in Banda Aceh:
Mesjid (Masjid) Raya Baiturrahman
Mesjid Raya is the main mosque in Banda Aceh and was built in the 19th century by the Dutch. This mosque is an absolute must visit. The mosque is decorated with gorgeous domes and beautiful traditional Muslim Islamic motifs. It is very picturesque and is the favourite of many photographers at day or night. At night, it lits up beautifully with the strategic lightings. Note that if you visit you will have to dress conservatively and women will have to wear a headscarf.
Jalan Mohammad Jam Opening hours: 7-11 am and 1.30-4 pm.
Admission is free although donations are encouraged.
The Tsunami Museum is one of the top attractions in Aceh and is designed as a powerful tribute to those who lost their lives when the waters raged into the province. Around 170,000 people are said to have died in the floods and the Tsunami Museum is filled with waterfalls that mimic some of the experience. You will also find videos and news reports of the tragedy and this is an exceptionally moving visit if you want to learn more about this difficult period of Aceh’s history.
Jalan Sultan Iskandar Muda, Banda Aceh. Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9-12 pm and 2-4.30 pm. Friday 9-11.30 am and 2.30-4.30 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tsunami Museum. Photo by Dinokl, via Wikimedia Commons
Another reminder of the devastating tsunami can be found on a visit to PLTD Apung which is a large ship that would have once sailed in the waters around Aceh. When the tsunami hit it was carried inland and has been left there as a monument to those who lost their lives. You can actually climb aboard the ship and walk around and one of the best reasons to do this is to look out across Banda Aceh and take in the scenery.
Jalan Harapan, Banda Aceh.
Monday – Sunday 9 am – 12 pm and 2 – 5.30 pm. Fridays 2 – 5 pm.
PLTD Apung ship. Photo by Andy Doyle from Dublin, Republic of Ireland, via Wikimedia Commons
Warung Kopi Solong
If you make it to Aceh then you absolutely mustn’t miss the chance to visit Warung Kopi Solong which is something of an institution in Banda Aceh. The region is known for its delicious coffee and this place has been serving up some of Aceh’s finest brews since 1974. If you are looking for a souvenir of your trip then you can also buy bags of the delicious and earthy grounds beans.
The Aceh Museum is well worth exploring if you want to learn more about the culture of this part of Indonesia. Inside you will find some collections with photographs and memorabilia like farming equipment, textiles, swords, and other traditional curios. The signature piece here, however, is a stuffed baby buffalo with two heads.
Jalan Sultan Alauddin Mahmudsyah Opening hours: Tues – Sun 8 am – 12 pm and 2 -4.30 pm. Fridays 8.30 -11.30 am and 2.30 – 4 pm. Closed on Mondays. Admission: IDR 10,000.
Museum Banda Aceh. Photo by Si Gam, via Wikimedia Commons
Rumah Aceh is actually part of Museum Negeri Banda Aceh and sits in the grounds of the museum. Rumah Aceh features a house on stilts which shows you how people would have lived in the days of old. This is actually the most interesting attraction at the museum so make sure not to miss it.
Jalan Sultan Alauddin Mahmudsyah Opening hours: Tues – Sun 8 – 12 pm and 2 – 4.30 pm. Fridays 8.30 am – 11.30 am and 2.30 pm – 4 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Admission: IDR 5,000.
Rumah Aceh Tenggara. Photo by Rilies via Wikimedia Commons
Kherkhof Cemetery and Museum
Another moving sight in Aceh is Kherkhof which is a large cemetery with Dutch and Indonesian graves. The soldiers interred here died while fighting against the Acehs and there are inscriptions of the names of those who died at the entrance of the cemetery. The area was destroyed in the tsunami and the grave stones ripped up by the waters but these have now been replaced with wooden crosses.
Jalan Teuku Umar Opening hours: 8 am – 6 pm.
Kherkof Cemetery and Museum. Photo by Rachmat04 via Wikimedia Commons
Gunongan is a pretty little attraction although you may not know what you are looking for at first. This is actually a monument built by Sultan Iskandar Muda for his wife as a reminder of her hometown of Pahang in Malaysia. It would have been used as a bathing place for the princess although now anyone can visit.
Jalan Teuku Umar Opening hours 8 am – 6 pm.
Gunongan monument Banda Aceh. Photo by Si Gam, via Wikimedia Commons
Pasar Malam Rek
Pasar Malam Rek is definitely worth a look if you are in the area as this is the most famous of all the night markets in Banda Aceh. As darkness falls, the stalls start up, and you will find delicious treats such as freshly grilled satay, fried rice, and toothsome noodles.
Intersection of Jalan Ahmad Yani and Jalan Khairil Anwar. Opening hours: 5 – 10 pm.
For many people, the main reason to come to Aceh is to visit Pulau Weh which is an island that can easily be reached from Banda Aceh. Pulau Weh is something of a hidden gem in the region and you can expect azure seas and some excellent snorkelling opportunities. This is one of the top tourist spots in Aceh both for foreign and domestic tourists although you are unlikely to find crowds whenever you choose to visit.
Boasting so many things to do and attractions, Banda Aceh is truly a delightful surprise of Sumatra. From here on there are many places to visit such as Medan, Lake Toba, Berastagi and Pulau Weh Island. So if you are ever in Sumatra, remember to add on this interesting city to your trip list.