Traveling in Indonesia for 2 Weeks
And just like that, with one click of the mouse, I’m traveling to Indonesia for 2 weeks. The first question is most likely, why Indonesia? Honestly, there was not one thing that I could say that would truthfully answer that question. Of course Bali, with it’s endless beaches and countless waterfalls could be a suitable reason. Or Nusa Penida with it’s turquoise water and rugged landscape could be another. And I mean who would not want to visit Komodo Island and look into the eyes of the largest lizards in the world, the Komodo dragons. All viable explanations of why Indonesia. But I would be lying to say that these were the reasons I clicked ‘book it’.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience traveling to the world’s largest island country that is Indonesia.[/tatsu_text]
Yogyakarta the Soul of Java
Our journey started Yogyakarta. A traditional city located on the Indonesian island of Java. It was the first day and that was all it took for me to realize that I will not dare to try and drive here. It was hypnotizing seeing scooters dodge and weave their way through traffic like they were swimming through the sea. We were dropped off at our airbnb, which was a beautiful guest house that was hidden in an oasis of trees and water. Our time was limited but our priorities were straight. First indulge in street food, second explore the soul of Yogyakarta.
Sunset at Prambanan Temple
We only had one day in Yogyakarta and we were eager to make the best of it. Our first evening of soul searching was spent watching the sunset at Prambanan Temple. It was a immense field of ancient ruins. Watching each step, I carefully made my way through the stone remains. I tried to imagine what it would have been like in the 9th century. Walking up the steps, and overlooking the 244 Hindu temples scattered throughout the landscape as the day slowly fades away. I snapped back to reality as child screamed with laughter, running through the most beautiful architectural grave site I’ve stepped foot in.
Sunrise at Borobudur Temple
It was 4:30 am and I was rubbing the last bit of yesterday from my eyes. I gathered my things, opened the bedroom door and walked into the darkness of the morning to meet our Grab driver. He drove us through winding roads showing us the plethora of markets that were already full of life. The car started to slow and we came to a stop at Manohara hotel. This is the only ‘official’ way to enter the world’s largest Buddhist temple Borobudur and since I did not feel like getting arrested this trip, I thought this would be our safest bet.
We walked through the entrance, paid our fee and they handed us our flashlights. We turned them on and started walking towards the soft chatters of our fellow sunrise chasers. We found the stairs and started the trek up. It was still picth black but with the faint light of the flashlights I quickly felt the immensity of this sacred site.
I waited patiently, feeling like the lights just dimmed in the theatre and you knew instantly that the show was about to begin. The rays of light broke through the horizon first as the sun quickly followed. The scene turned from pitch black to the warm colors of the morning, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I really wish that my photography did justice to this wonder of the world that is Bororbudur Temple but below is my attempt.
Bali seems to be forefront when speaking about Indonesia. It has become a consistent tourist destination for good reason. It honestly has everything for everyone. From walking along white sand beaches to swinging over a stretch of rice fields to drinking a cup of koi luwak coffee in the middle of a forest after hiking to a waterfall, it was more of a playground for me.
Truth to be told, I could have spent a month here and still have much more to explore. With 99% less than a month in our schedule, we booked an Airbnb Tour to see as much as we could. It was worth it. Walking up to the Gate of Heaven in person, overlooking Agung, the biggest volcano in Bali, was an image I’ve seen all over instagram and blogs and now I know why. Experience. The air you soak up at Tegalalang terrace, feeling the water hitting against your face under the Tukad Cepung waterfall, or smelling the mixture of scents filling the air at a coffee plantation, makes these places you see behind a screen real. Visit Bali just once and you’ll understand this.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
I woke up to unfamiliar sounds on my balcony. I rolled over to see the source and to my surprise, a monkey was making itself comfortable. Then another and another joined and the next thing I knew, my friends shoe was over the edge. This was going to be a good day.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, also known as the Ubud Monkey Forest, is home to over 600 Balinese long-tailed monkeys. You are the visitor as you walk through this forest sanctuary that is their home. From a mother feeding their child to a group sitting watching as children performed a balinese dance, there was a humanist quality to them. It was quite captivating in a mysterious way. Although one of the warnings were not to look at them in their eye, I caught a few glances. Here are a few photographs from a stroll in their habitat.
Nusa Penida is the largest of the Nusa Islands sitting just south east of Bali. If there was an image that influenced my choice to going to Indonesia it was this island. Kelingking, also known as the t-rex arm, fittingly appeared like it was preserved from the Cretaceous Period. It was lush, rugged and like a scene from a movie, enclosed a beautiful secluded beach. The hike down was somewhat challenging and some places a little sketchy, but once your feet hits the sand, surrounded by cliffs, and seeing the crystal blue water, those thoughts are quickly washed away.
Wild and free. This was how the whole island felt. Exploring through rough terrain, sitting along endless cliffs and unwinding in the warm tropical water, all to fall asleep under a blanket of stars, that is what Nusa Penida was for me. Diamonds scattered throughout this pebble in the world, just waiting to be found.
Traveling to Komodo
Komodo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Lesser Sunda chain of Islands in East Nusa Tenggara. It’s also known for, drumroll please, Komodo Dragons. Yes I know shocker! But these islands are the only place in the world to see them so as they say, when in Indonesia! So we hopped on a plane from Bali and headed straight to the closest town which is Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.
Like Bali, we were extremely limited on time and so we booked an all day excursion with Bintang Komodo Tours to experience as much as we could. It did not disappoint. Starting in the early morning, a few of us set sail as the sun began to rise and arrived at the first stop which was Padar Island. The view from the top of this hike was worth everything and more. A panorama view of the landscape that looked like it was crawling out to sea. We then stopped by the famous pink sand beach (pink due to it’s Corals) and an small banana shaped island/ sand bar to snorkel and finally made our way to see the legendary lizards.
Komodo National Park
There has been a lot of talk about Komodo National Park. Mainly about tourism. It was said that they would close off the park to tourist in 2020 and just recently rumored that it will be open but at a premium cost of $1000. We were fortunate enough to make it before any drastic changes were made. Upon arriving, we were given a tour guide, explained to us the risks, and ended on a somber note of the good possibility of not seeing any dragons at all. Optimistic though, we set out and within 5 minutes, stumbled upon 6 Dragons, 3 adults and 3 babies, all in one communal area! It was a surreal moment for sure, that I will not take with a grain of salt. Encountering the worlds largest and quite deadly lizards, with saliva and remnants of blood on their face is a memory I will hold onto.
Snorkeling in Indonesia
With over 17,000 islands comprising of Indonesia, snorkeling is a rights of passage when visiting. I have never snorkeled in my life, like really snorkeled. There may have been a few incidents when I’ve placed a snorkel mask on my face and swam around the pool looking for pennies at the bottom. But trust me nothing like this.
I still can’t quite comprehend what I saw. One day we hopped on a boat in Gilli Island and the next I was circling around an underwater sculpture, watching the array of tropical fish swimming along not taking notice or more not caring that a stranger was hovering around their neighborhood. The next time we jumped on a boat in Nusa Penida, I did the Shaka shake for my GoPro as I spilled over the side of the boat and all of a sudden an 11 ft Manta Ray came gliding above me. Lastly, on our excursion in and around Komodo Island, felt more like a grand finale. From beautiful coral, to nibbling tropical fish to sea turtles and chasing down a giant manta ray, it was quite the underwater adventure. I think I did good for my first time, if I say so myself.
Faces from Indonesia
You meet a lot of interesting people when you travel. From literally all ends of the world. Some faces you see for a moment and they pass, others stay with you. This trip was this trip because of people. From my friend Tyler who stuck out every second of this hectic ride, to all of the drivers, tour guides and hosts that did everything they could to make our trip the best it could be to the little girl who tried her best to teach me a little bit of the Indonesian language and laughed at my American pronunciation. this is what traveling is. This is why I love it. These are some of the faces from Indonesia.
The main reason, the true reason that I started traveling was to wander away from my comfort zone. The first time I ventured from North America was to Iceland. That trip opened up my eyes to the beautiful possibilities the world has in stored. I was curious about the unknown but frankly I yearned to know what was beyond that hill, those houses or across that ocean. So I went. Just me. I look at myself a little bit differently after traveling solo to Scotland. You learn quite a lot about yourself when you’re alone.
But being a travel photographer persuaded many of these adventures. I chose places in which the landscapes pulled me in. I already had glimpses of myself stepping at the edge of Trolltunga in Norway or walking up the Seceda Ridge in the Dolomites of Northern Italy. I found myself in an uncharacteristic comfort zone. I got caught up with these photographic pilgrimages and I wanted to step away for one.
I went to Indonesia to see more with my eyes and less from behind the camera. 11 flights, 10 islands and 7 boat rides later. I choose right.
A Road Trip Through Italy: Italian Cities
Back from the Italian Alps
Still in a daze from the scenes of Northern Italy, we continue traveling on the open road. Living out the words to Chuck Berry’s No Particular Place to Go, we find ourselves in a flux of mountains and age-old cities. Arco, a small town north of Lake Garda with its ancient hilltop castle and mountainous backdrop was the stunning welcoming that we needed. Without thinking, we pulled over. From the second I pulled the door handle, my eyes were jumping from one scene to the next. This was the start of a new adventure.
Exploring the Italian Coast
Although, the objective is to head down the Italian Coast and make a loop back to Venice, this trip was not ruled by an agenda. We took each road, each turn, each place as it is. This is the only way I can imagine traveling for myself. It’s cliché to even type “Its the not the Destination, It’s the journey.” But that is what traveling, adventure and memories are. I can share pictures of beautiful Italian destinations but what I can’t share are the laughs, the long rides, the happiness that simple conversations with strangers bear. I try to convey as much as I can through photography while at the same time, I enjoy keeping some of the most important moments to myself. Moments that I will look back on in my own time and just smile. I did that, I was there, and I will never forget this.
Lost in Italian Cities
Italy is alive through its stories, through its past. From Venice to Milan to Florence, you could close your eyes and imagine with ease walking in a time that’s not yours. A hurried Filippo Brunelleschi drifting through the streets of Florence or a glimpse of Leonardo da Vinci as he adds the final brush stroke to The Last Supper in Milan. It’s hard not to get lost in your surroundings, to get soaked up in the architecture, art, nature and landscape of this beautiful land. I have never stepped on a street that felt so catalytic in the importance of history than the streets of Italy. It’s hard not to fall in love in a country like this.
Serendipity: The City of Siena
The chants of a faceless crowd finds its way through the winding, cobblestone streets of Siena, Italy. Moments later the crowd with their Contrade’s emblem banners raised in hand, marched their way around the corner. This was the celebration of the The Palio horse race. A passionate event with its origin tracing back to the 6th century. This was how Italian cities felt. Frozen in time while the rest of the world marched on.
What was important about this, was that this was never planned. We didn’t know about this city nor of this celebration that only happens twice a year. Sunset was quickly approaching and our original destination was out of reach. By chance we entered the city of Siena for the night. This was probably one of the most memorable moments of any trip that I have ever had. It wasn’t scripted, it was living in the present. It was discovering a love for a place that was waiting to be found.
If you like this, you will love A Road Trip Through Italy
Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory
Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory is an oasis tucked in the urban sheets of the city. After a pretty grueling winter, walking through the front doors you will quickly understand why this conservatory is described as “landscape art under glass”. The air seemed a little bit fresher, the light beamed a tad brighter and my mind was happier. It was my first trip here this year, and it seemed like time stood still since my last. I curiously move through each of the 8 landscape gardens, eyes moving from one exotic species of plants to another. From beautiful flowers, to towering palm trees to tropical ponds and waterfalls, the Garfield Park Conservatory is 12 acres of nature that is filled with life in Chicago.[/tatsu_text]
Macro photography, or photos in general, has never been my first intention in coming here but I have always found sort or therapeutic. I see, react and just allow myself to lose myself in it. But more importantly, it forces me to enjoy each moment; The way a petal is slowly curved up, the way the rays of the sun passes through the leaves, or the way the light accentuates the colors in flowers, photography forces me to focus on the simpleness of life.
- 2.1 k plant species in growing in 8 indoor show houses and 10 outdoor acres
- 245, 242 visitors enjoyed the conservatory in 2018
- 28 exhibits and displays open to the public
- It’s free
‘Twas the morning before Christmas and all through Chicago, the lakefront was silent apart from the waves below. (I know, I know, I’m quite the gifted wordsmith.)
My eyes slowly opened to the alarm I instantly regretted setting just a few hours ago. It was Christmas Eve morning but the view outside of my window begged to differ. I hazily grabbed my camera bag and stumbled out of my apartment which was still enclosed in the shade of night. Like the every previous time I chased the sunrise, the first 10 minutes being awake I contemplated turning around to the dream of falling back into the comfort of my own bed but how many moments worth remembering started off like that? (rhetorical question…I’m sure many.) Shaking out the cobwebs, I pressed on to my favorite place to watch the sunrise on the lakefront.
It’s always that moment just before the sun rises above the horizon, where the warming hues spill its way through the sky that keeps me forever in awe. Seeing how beautiful the start of a day can be seemed like a fitting way to end off the year. It’s like they say what feels like an end is often a new beginning.
Where to can you watch the sunrise? Click Here to see my favorite Chicago Spots
If you like this, you will love 360 Chicago Sunrise
Fall Chicago Photography
For a brief period in time, nature and Chicago becomes in accordance with each other. Bright reds, yellows and orange strewn with life throughout the city; a blanket trying to warm the life of the city as the temperatures begin to lower.
Chicago goes through a momentary identity change as the trees begin breathing life into the architecture. Fall is my favorite time of year. It reminds me of how captivating change can be but also how delicate and short it can be as well.
This year I feel like I took it for granted. At the first change of color, I told myself that I would be out enjoying it behind my camera. But one busy weekend after the next, time quickly passed and I felt like I missed one of the most magical times in Chicago. I knew I had to make my way to see the remnants of the passing season. On a Saturday morning in November, I walked and walked throughout the city seeing familiar scenes in a new way.
Here are a few snapshots from a brief period of time I thought I missed.
If you like this, you might like 360 Chicago Sunrise
A Road Trip Through Italy
I honestly do not even know where to begin. It’s been about a month since getting back from Italy but the winding roads, the running canals and the picturesque backdrops are still fresh in my mind. Ever since seeing a picture of the slopes of Seceda in the Italian Dolomites, I knew that I would be walking on that very grass to witness it for myself. With no plan in mind except to go, I booked my ticket. There’s no turning back now.
The Floating City
Every adventure starts somewhere, and mine began in Venice. An agglomerate of land carved out by canals running through it like veins in a body. Truly the most romantic city that I have ever seen. Without a single road, you experience every twist and turn right under your feet, seeing fragments of history at every step. From San Marco Square to the Grand Canal to the singing of the gondoliers as the sun touches down, Venice was a masterpiece that surpass every expectation that I ever thought I had about it. A dream city floating on water and this was only the start.
The Pale Mountains
Located a short few hours from Venice, sits one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Dolomites are a mountain range that crowns northern Italy. A place of wild mystery and now a friend & I are about to make our way through it. The very first time seeing just a hint of the jutting rock of the Dolomites my eyes were transfixed. The jagged mountains shooting up into the sky, surrounded by rolling green hills and mirrored lakes, this was a paradise that could have only been dreamt up in fairytales.
Lago Di Braies
This was the first night in the albino rhino (which I secretly called our white Jeep). We just spent the day on the road winding our way through the Dolomites heading north toward Pragser Wildsee for the night. Arriving in a small town well past 9pm, we found the only place that was open for a meal. It was a small Hotel/ Restaurante that I wouldn’t ever have known existed if it wasn’t for our late arrival; it was posted at the end of numerous switchbacks overlooking the small, flickering city below. It was a hidden gem that was home to some of the most welcoming people but also offered one of the best meals on this trip. These are the moments that I will always stay with me.
After eating, we found our way to a small parking lot to call home for the night. Not being a stranger to sleeping in a car I quickly got as comfortable as I could to call it a night. I laid there listening to a few passing cars but my mind was still racing with excitement. Although I could feel my body physically tired, these swimming thoughts of what was in stored for the next day won the battle for the first few hours but eventually faded.
We woke up at first light to the brisk mountain air and made our way to this little lake in the Prags valley. Lago di Braies is one of those places that I have/ you may have seen many pictures of but nothing could have prepared me for seeing this place in person. The water was still and blue, the light was just waking up and slowly finding it’s way through the surrounding mountains. There were few people up, making it beautifully quiet. This was the first time (but not the last) where these far away places that I grew up seeing pictures of weren’t so far away anymore.
Every oversea trip that I have ever been on has been based on one single image. Kirkjufell in Iceland, Trolltunga in Norway, Neist Point in Scotland and for Italy it was the Seceda. These are the places that restore the childlike mentally of how simple life can truly be. These are the places that swim over you like a breath of fresh air, that revives that sense of curiosity and adventure. These are the places, that makes me believe how beautiful the world really is. I really wish I could talk more about it, but I don’t have the words. I mean the Seceda ridge line was the catalyst of this whole trip and when I first laid eyes on it, I just sat, and laughed in disbelief. A place like this actually exists.
The first leg of this trip was the most important part to me since it was the whole reason why I pushed the confirm button at checkout for my flight. I have been fortunate enough to have seen some beautiful places in my life but experiencing the Dolomites was something else. It left me speechless with a feeling that I really can’t explain. You just have to go and experience it for yourself. It’s such a beautiful place that many people do not associate when talking about Italy and maybe that’s one of the beauties of it. With every turn was a moment filled with anticipation as I could never have predicted what I would see next. Northern Italy makes you feel small and unimportant in the best possible way, washing away egos and selfishness and shines light on the world around you. Now off to the next adventure.
If you like this, you will love A Road Trip Through Scotland
Chicago Lakefront | Sunrise
Photography has led me down on an array of unpredictable paths thus far. It has sent my curiosity on adventures across the world, has kept my mind awake as I drove through the night across the country and has me constantly exploring every aspect of Chicago. This seed of curiosity has always existed, but photography has this uncanny ability to push and drive a person. In this case, the person is me.
My First Time…
The first time I have ever felt this push was on an early Sunday morning. It felt like yesterday (This is definitely the first sign of me sounding old right? Next I’ll be saying “Back in my day we had to listen to music on compact discs…) that I woke up to my 5 am alarm. A difficult feat for a person that usually falls asleep at 2 am, but nonetheless I was determined to see my first ever Chicago sunrise. Still in a daze, I grabbed my camera, tripod and made my way to Dunkin Donuts because well yeah. Once I was able to think again, I made my way to Chicago.
Being my first sunrise, I did not have a clue on where I should go nor did I think of simply googling “where to see the sunrise”. As I was brainstorming possible locations, I found myself on autopilot to a little stretch of the lake shore in Lincoln Park. The Fullerton Beach has always a favorite spot of mine during the day. It had it all; a skyline view, a beach, an endless view of Lake Michigan and my personal favorite, a rocky coast. At around 6:30 am, a warm glow began to spill over the horizon. I was completely alone on this little oasis outside of the city and had a front row seat to the greatest show on earth. It was surreal. Ever since that day, photography pushes me to not only wake up, but to continually chase, see and soak in more of these beautiful displays. Although, these pictures are not from this story, I come back to this spot often and think about this day every time I watch a sunrise here. (they updated this location from when I first came here but you can still see the remnants of the rocky coast that I so much enjoyed)
A sunrise is the most honest moment I have ever seen.
I think we all have that place where you can sit without any of the worry and noise of your life, and just… be. This little strip of the lakefront is mine.
Want to see a photo from this story? See my first Chicago Sunrise Here >
If you like this, you might like Natural Moments in Chicago >
Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory has always been one of those places that I have seen countless pictures of but had yet to make my way through it’s entrance. I walked in, not knowing what to expect, and was immediately hit with a breath of fresh air. At that moment I understood what a “landscape art under glass” was. An indoor oasis, a grand terrarium… actually, it’s a world of nature encased in a small glass capsule occupying a piece of Chicago. Yeah, that sounds a lot better. Each door carried along it’s own backdrop and door number one was flowers. I didn’t stand a chance.
Still reeling from the effects of winter, seeing so much color and just… life is a bit overwhelming. I often find myself focusing on the entire picture that I miss the simple details. At the Garfield Park Conservatory, I focused on those.
A hidden gem of Chicago, teeming with life and the perfect transition to spring. I still can’t believe it took me this long to discover this place. It’s safe to say that I’ll be back soon.
A little about the photos.
I did not have a macro lens but I did have an extension tube. An extension tube is basically a hollow tube that separates your lens form your camera and allows you to get closer to your subject. Along with my 50mm I was able to create my own macro photography.
If you like this, you might like Natural Moments in Chicago >
A little about the Garfield Park Conservatory
- Garfield Park Conservatory is the third largest public plant conservatory in the world
- Has more than 2,000 different plant species
- It has FREE admission (suggested $5 donation) and is open 365 days a year
- The conservatory occupies approximately 4.5 acres inside and out
- First opened to the public in 1908 and designed by Jensen along with Prairie School architects Schmidt, Garden and Martin
Learn more about the Garfield Park Conservatory Here >
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