A couple weeks ago in my blog Celebrating In Bali I already announced that I was selected as one of the travel bloggers to join the Trip Of Wonders 2017 with the Indonesian Tourism Board. Time had come to travel to Jakarta to meet up with all the bloggers and start our trip around the country.

Meet up Trip of Wonders in Jakarta

It was only 10.00am and after waiting in line for 15 minutes at the Air Asia counter they told me they couldn’t find my flight. I didn’t book it myself, it was all sponsored but I am sure they didn’t mess it up. I texted another blogger who was supposed to be on the same flight: which airline are we flying with? Garuda mate! Ah damn that explains a lot! Welcome to traveling with Traveltomtom! Lol :)

A couple hours later we were invited at the welcome dinner where the Ministry of Tourism introduced themselves and where we met all the other bloggers. I met up again with Dave from jonesaroundtheworld.com as it was only a couple weeks ago that we traveled together through Israel. Together with Chris from backpackerbanter.com and 6 other bloggers from Canada, USA, India, Indonesia and Australia we were about to conquer Indonesia. Let’s go…

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Batak Culture Lake Toba, North Sumatra

It was a very short night and the bloggers coming from the US must have been broken that morning but we straight away headed to the airport to catch a flight to Siborong Borong. In this area in North Sumatra there are many cool things to do but the main tourist drag is Lake Toba and its interesting Batak culture. We started our tour at the TB Silalahi Center, a museum that taught us about the life and traditions of the Batak people that live around Lake Toba. In the museum we were shown the history and for me as a Dutchman that was a very interesting experience, as Holland ruled in Indonesia for 350 years and only left about 70 years ago. There are obviously a lot of connections between Indonesia and my country. Some good, some bad, but hey it wasn’t me! ;)

Lunch was served on the rooftop with amazing views over the biggest crater lake in the world. Yes this country may contain 17.000 islands but is also home to lakes. Right in the middle of Lake Toba there is an island as big as Singapore, so you can imagine how big this lake is.  After a traditional dance was preformed in a Batak village nearby we hopped on a boat and headed towards the island as this would be our base for the next two days.

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Visit a Batak cannibal village on Samosir Island

I am not really a morning person but it was not even 11.00 o’clock and I already preformed in a traditional dance show, enjoyed a boat ride on the lake, got tortured and executed, touched boobs for good luck in my love life, learned how a couple centuries ago these people lived like cannibals and got invited to a local home. Visiting a traditional Batak village on Samosir Island was way more interesting than I had expected and our guide the brother of the laid king was a legend. He made my day! :)

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Watersports on Lake Toba

In the afternoon we had a couple hours spare and Dave and I could not resist having some fun on the banana boat. At first we thought about renting a jet ski for $20 per hour, but we decided to hop on a banana boat. Chris decided to fly around with the drone capturing our happiness on the banana boat, while Dave and I captured our happy faces with a GoPro.

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Relocating from Sumatra to Java

With 17.000 islands traveling in Indonesia is not like in many other countries and it was time to fly again. I don’t mind flying as every flight is the start of a new adventure. Today though we had to get up super early to catch a boat to leave the island. The start of our journey turned out to be a scenic one as the sun was rising while we were on the lake. After that we hopped on a bus for 3 hours to be right in time to catch a flight from Siborong Borong back to Jakarta were we had to transfer for our flight to Solo. It was a typical day traveling and one of those days you never read about. First a boat trip, then a bus ride, our first flight back to Jakarta then waiting 6 hours for our delayed connection flight, then flight 2, into a bus again and finally arrive at our the welcome dinner in Solo, Central. We were welcomed with a traditional dance performance and great Indonesian food  before we finally arrived in the great old Dutch Heritage hotel: Roemahkoe. It was a long day and after 15 hours I realised I had to post something on social media to keep you guys happy! Who said travel blogging was always fun? 

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Dutch heritage in Central Java

In the morning I strolled around this beautiful Dutch heritage hotel to find my way to the breakfast table. Here in Central Java one of the best things to do is to experience the rich culture through its history. A lot of architectural highlights date back from the era that the Dutch ruled this region. We visited the palace of the royal family, went shopping on a local market and visited the Batik museum. Batik is the local dresscode and it is somehow made with wax. How that worked we found out the next day as we were taught how to create our own Batik. I can tell you I was not a great student and making Batik is definitely not one of my talents! ;) We also visited the first railway station in Indonesia built by the Dutch a long time ago. It was a great architectural masterpiece, but apparently also haunted. No one told me about that until after we left. A couple years ago you were still allowed to stay overnight, but now it is closed for that purpose. Does that may be have to do anything with this building being haunted? I would have loved to find out… ;) Before we left Central Java we were toured around in a tricycle and dress up for a local ceremony. This photoshoot turned out to be so much fun!

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Culture trip with Indonesia.travel: Trip Of Wonders 2017

Writing about this made me once again realise how much my travel style changed being a professional travel blogger. Yes this is a sponsored trip by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia and everything is taken care of by them. International flights, food, hotels, tours, activities, 7 domestic flights, data costs, laundry and everything else imaginable. It feels amazing being guided and surrounded by such a professional team, but obviously I also had to deliver and live up to my status as a blogger and social media influencer. My task is obviously to write about my Indonesia adventures, create content and spread the word about these off the beaten path destinations. Being on a cultural trip is something completely different than traveling in 5 star resorts or going on epic adventures. This trip was a challenging one and all day long I was thinking what can I write about this, how can I get an awesome photo that I can post on my Instagram. Thoughts like: damn it this palace is not Instagramable went through my head a lot. Stress, stress, stress! LOL

Though writing about it now actually makes me realise how much fun I had and how many unique things we did in such a short time. Until this day we were only on our way for 6 days and I dressed up a couple times in traditional clothing, danced with locals, ate the best local food saw the worlds biggest crater lake, learned about cannibalism and more about the Dutch history in Indonesia, extra interesting was to hear it from an Indonesian perspective. Trip of wonders was really intriguing so far and this country is starting to steal my heart bit by bit.

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More blogs about this country can be found on my Indonesia page, with for example:

Thank for keeping up with Traveltomtom, next week I will tell you how some cultures burry people above the ground and I will embed a great video about out trip! To keep up with my adventures sign up for my newsletter, thank you.

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