LUEX’s Head of Surf and lead Indo aficionado Phil talks us through his top travel tips – from dealing with money to what to wear – for the one true surf Mecca: Indonesia
Indonesia is quite simply the ultimate surf destination: nowhere else on the planet has surf a wealth of waves in all shapes and sizes, that fire so regularly and so perfectly. The water and the air is warm, the food delicious and cheap, the culture vibrant and exotic… From tourist hotspot Bali to the wild reaches of the Mentawais Islands, you could spend a lifetime exploring Indo and still find something new on your next trip. Perhaps this is what makes it so addictive – no matter how many times you visit there’s always another incredible experience just around the next corner.
I’ve been lucky enough to indulge in several Indo trips over the years (in fact the LUEX team is currently based in Canggu, our little Bali hipster surf paradise), and if I know one thing about Indonesia, it’s to expect the unexpected! Be that as it may, there are a few things to help smooth the way on your trip. Here are just a few of my top travel tips:
Indonesian food is delicious, period. Classic dishes are Nasi Goreng and Gado Gado but there’s so much more too! Definitely make sure you try Nasi Campur at one of the many Warungs all over Indonesia, a bit like a buffet where you can create your own dish – my personal favourite is the Rendang (slow cooked beef in a tasty coconut sauce).
Bali in particular has plenty of ATM machines everywhere, but when traveling to Sumatra it’s best to always keep a cash reserve and plan well ahead, in case one of the ATMs doesn’t work when you need it urgently. When traveling to the Mentawais you need to get enough money before the trip to pay for crew tips, possible souvenirs in the islands and also the photo package of your surf photos if the boat offers that.
One thing to note with Indonesian ATMs is that they work in a different order to the rest of the world – the cash comes out before the card! May sound like a simple thing, but you’d be amazed how many people forget their bank cards when running on autopilot..!
3. What to wear
Leave your warm winter clothes at home, unless you want to squeeze in a hiking trip to a volcano (Indo has a lot of them!): Indonesia is tropical all year around and the only reason to surf in more than boardshorts is the intense sun. Areas further south (like Bali) are not quite as sweaty as some destinations closer to the equator like Sumatra so you can get away with a pair of jeans at night if you feel the need, but generally shorts, t-shirts and flip flops should be all you’ll need.
Apart from hinduistic Bali, Indonesia is predominantly Muslim. No matter if mosque or temple or any other public area, just use common sense and if anything overdress a little rather than push the boundaries. In the surf you’re generally fine in just board shorts, though do be prepared to cover up if there’s a religious ceremony going on on the beach.
You will definitely want to bring more than one board, to have a back up if you snap one and also to have fun in all different conditions from small beachies to hollow overhead reef breaks. Apart from shopping paradise Bali the board selection is fairly limited in rest of Indo, so don’t count on finding anything worth riding that you don’t bring yourself.
5. Other kit
DEFINITELY bring good waterproof sunscreen and zinc to protect your skin when surfing! The local kids also love small gifts (crayons etc are much better than sweets), card games etc for boat trips, a Kindle, good music on your phone, and maybe a couple of films to keep entertained when you need some chill time.
Indonesians love their scooters. Driving on Bali is fun but please drive with care, always wear a helmet and bring an int. driving licence (otherwise your travel insurance will be void in an accident!). Like most of Asia the traffic can be a bit crazy at times, but somehow it all works with the ‘unwritten rules of the road.’ Beep your hooter when overtaking to let others know you’re there, indicate, and make like a swarm of fish (safety in numbers) when crossing busy intersections.
It’s pretty easy to get by in English in much of Indo – tourism is big business (particularly from Australia) so most locals can communicate to some degree. It’s always good to learn some words of Bahasa Indonesian though – it’s a simple language and the locals love it when you show some interest in their rich culture. You’ll get plenty of smiles in return! Here are some useful words to try:
Good morning (until 11am) – Selamat pagi
Good afternoon (until 3pm) – Selamat siang
Good evening (until 6pm) – Selamat sore
Good night (at night from 6pm ish) – Selamat malam
Please – Tolong
Thank You – Terima Kasih
No, thank you – Tidak, terima kasih
What time is it? – Jam berapa?
I want ….. – Saya mau…..
What does it cost/how much is it? – Berapa harganya?