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While we all #stayin due to the current situation around COVID-19, reminiscing, and dreaming about our past and future travels are totally acceptable. Don’t we all love to vicariously live through our favourite travel bloggers’ amazing travel stories? Through #TNLRevisits, we get your most loved travel bloggers to spill the beans about their favourite places, off-the-radar destinations, and about countless other experiences that they have encountered through their journeys. Travel photographer and founder of Streets Of India, Dikshit Mundra, recounts stories from his wanderlust-worthy trip to Indonesia. By Amitha Ameen
1. Tell us about your fondest trip of 2019.
We were on a two month trip across Vietnam and Indonesia, which was cut short in the first week of 2019, but it still counts, I guess.
2. If you have to revisit the same place once travel bans are lifted, how differently would you explore the place this time around?
Although we meticulously planned a one-month itinerary to Bali, we were only able to do seven islands. I really wish to explore more of Bali, especially the North East and North West part of that Island and Raja Ampath and Java, too. Next time I am going to dedicate two months to these places, take lots of photos and try not to crash my drone or lose my camera gear, this time around.
3. Do you remember meeting and interacting with locals there?
Yes, very much indeed. In fact, I got my first tattoo there. Throughout the trip, we made sure to stay at each of the places for at least a minimum of four to six days, just so that we could become friends with our hosts. We spent many nights enjoying dinner together over Bintang (an Indonesian beer speciality).
I made an amazing friend in Canggu who is a photographer himself and runs a cafe by the name of Pangaea Coffee; he would wake us up every morning and take us to lunch and show us around places. The family whose hotel we stayed at in Munduk were one of the sweetest families we came across in Bali; one evening we got together and played badminton and they even offered us dinner on the house.
While heading to Gili Air, which is one of the three Gili Islands in Indonesia, we came across two best friends from Canada who were travelling for the past six months and still had about three months left of their southeast Asia trip. We ended up spending the entire Gilli Air trip with them along with another friend from the UK. That’s the thing about travel, you always make friends along the way.
4. What hidden gems did you discover there?
It has to be the Secret Gardens of Sambangan. I personally loved North Bali as it was less crowded and not too mainstream. Only a handful of travel junkies visit the north side of Bali because of which, and if you are lucky, the entire waterfall is just for you. Munduk has such a dreamy vibe and mood-lifting weather; it’s a must-visit.
Then, there is the Menjangan Island. Now imagine this — a tiny island surrounded by water all around with a sizeable population of the deer herd on it. During sunset, you can see deer roaming around and running on the beaches. It’s just magical.
5. Any particular local food that you would like to recommend?
I have two words for you — NASI GORENG! We tried all kinds of Nasi Goreng and no matter what we were having it with, it was always part of the order. We were quite disappointed with the heavy influence from the west that majorly played a part in all the restaurants majorly serving Italian, fast food, and the likes rather than the authentic dishes. So we would try and visit those places that were serving authentic Balinese or Sumatran cuisine.
This one particular smoothie that I tried in Gilli Air at a smoothie station was by far the best in my entire life. It’s located right after you leave the port station.
6. Give our readers five reasons of why should they visit this place once the pandemic evaporates?
I will try to keep this short because if I start speaking about the many reasons one should visit Indonesia it’s going to be a time consuming read!
1. Sunrise and Milkyway sighting at Mt.Batur.
2. Snorkelling in Gilli Islands and if possible visit Raja Ampath too. Just Google about Raja Ampath and you will be stunned. It is one of the very few places on earth where the coral life is healthy and thriving.
3. Waterfalls, waterfalls, and more waterfalls.
4. Nusa Islands and their beaches.
5. And just the pure joy of riding scooters and bikes on these islands. It’s pure bliss, especially the early morning rides.
7. How are you coping with the lockdown and where will you travel to when things get back to normalcy?
I was supposed to go on a year-long bike ride within India covering around 50,000 odd kilometres in India and maybe Myanmar and Bhutan but that got postponed due to the current COVID-19 situation. So, I am just planning and making some changes to the itinerary as the days go by because the entire trip depends entirely on the weather conditions in each state during the months that I will be travelling there.
But right now, I am not stressed and am looking at it as a necessary break that we all needed. By all of us, I also mean mother nature.
8. Any armchair travel tips?
I am honestly avoiding streaming or binge-watching web series of travel documentaries as this is exactly what I was doing during the pre-COVID situation. I am currently reading a lot of travel books that I’ve bought from airports and have never had the time to read. My current read is The land of lost borders, which was a gift from a fellow traveller. This time is really precious and I would suggest spending it doing something important and useful to oneself.
Try to avoid screen time as much as you can. I’ve been my most creative whenever I was in ‘no network’ zones. It takes away the distraction and trust me when I say this, your brain can come up with amazing ideas just about anything once you take away these distractions.