Offbeat Indonesia: 5 Destinations to Escape the Tourist Trap

If I had a dime for every time somebody thought Indonesia was all about Bali, I’d be a billionaire. Straddling between two oceans, this Asian archipelago is made of more than 17,000 islands! Still, most of us can’t seem to move on from Bali. If you are the type of traveller who likes to trod on paths less travelled, here are some breathtaking parts of Indonesia that go way beyond the beaches that flood your Instagram feed:

#1 Tanjung Puting National Park

Sekonyer River in Tanjung Puting National Park (courtesy: Thomas Fuhrmann)
Sekonyer River in Tanjung Puting National Park (courtesy: Thomas Fuhrmann)

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to appreciate nature. As Indonesia reopens tourism, take a look at its indigenous flora and fauna. The Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Borneo is a fantastic choice for ecotourism, popular for its orangutan conservation endeavour. Go on an indulgent multi-day cruise along the Kumai and Sekonyer rivers, admiring the enchanting forest which is home to Bornean butterflies, clouded leopards, hornbills and monitor lizards, among several other creatures.

#2 Kei Islands

Kei Islands (courtesy: Visit Kei Islands)
Kei Islands (courtesy: Visit Kei Islands)

Wish to get lost in a remote tropical island? Welcome to Kei Islands! Tucked away in the Indonesian province of Maluku, Kei Islands are a group of 47 islands. The lagoons are rich in corals, giving the waters that distinct turquoise glow. While the islands are full of simple villages, white sand beaches or volcanic mountains, the real treasure is underwater. Go on a diving trip to see soft corals and other marine life such as wrasses, rays, sea snakes and sea horses.

#3 Yogyakarta

Taman Sari (Water Castle) in Yogyakarta (courtesy: ginomempin)
Taman Sari (Water Castle) in Yogyakarta (courtesy: ginomempin)

The Javanese city of Yogyakarta may be known to you, but did you know that there’s more to this place than ancient temples? Often hailed as the epicentre of culture, Yogyakarta is a paradise for art enthusiasts and shopaholics. Pick up bags and dresses with elegant batik print fabrics, ethnic Javanese masks and silverware as souvenirs for your friends back home. For deeper insights into Indonesian heritage, stroll through Yogyakarta’s palace complex or browse through museums that dot the city.

#4 Aceh

Laut Lampuuk in Banda Aceh (courtesy: Saiful Mulia)
Laut Lampuuk in Banda Aceh (courtesy: Saiful Mulia)

A place safely off the tourist radar, Aceh may come off as quite conservative. However, this ensures a crowd-free travel experience when you visit its eponymous river, the capital city of Banda Aceh or its beautiful beaches and lakes. The terrain of this Sumatra province varies greatly, from hilly regions to sandy beaches to freshwater lakes to dense forests – a delightful experience for those who wish to do a lot in a limited period of time.

#5 Sulawesi

Sulawesi (courtesy: Fabio Achilli)
Sulawesi (courtesy: Fabio Achilli)

Rich in biodiversity, the giant island of Sulawesi offers a lot to the modern explorer. Swim in its transparent waters by the beaches, visit its marine parks and terrestrial national parks, or be mesmerized by the volcanic Mount Tongkoko. Nature’s exquisite beauty is manifested through its native trees such as the rainbow eucalyptus, animals like the tarsier, and colourful birds like lorikeets.

While Bali may still be your dream destination, you can extend your Indonesia trip by adding these lesser-known gems to your itinerary. Book your next Indonesian adventure through Thomas Cook and unravel its best-kept secrets.

Got more offbeat Indonesian destinations that I can add to my bucket list?

Is Indonesia on your travel radar yet?

Let me know through your comments below.

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Make Your Past Trips Come Alive Until You Can Travel Again

It is hard to ignore what the pandemic has done to the travel industry. On a personal level, the simple joys of jetting off to a new place on a whim has become a distant dream. Even a short walk about the neighbourhood requires masking up and social distancing, while returning from a trip to the grocery store is followed by manic sanitization. In the middle of all this, how do we keep that enthusiastic traveller in us alive? I’ve penned down some suggestions which have personally worked for me. Hope you will benefit from them too.

Flip Through The Old Albums

I stand under a pergola in Warsaw's Łazienki Park
I stand under a pergola in Warsaw’s Łazienki Park

The future may seem a bit bleak for now, but you can go back to your past to relive those times. A classic way to do this is to bring out the dusty photo albums tucked away in a shelf that’s hard to reach. If most of your memories are stored digitally, stack up your external hard disks, pendrives and even old laptops which have hundreds of folders that you haven’t opened in ages. Time will fly quickly as you stop to look at each picture and smile, almost like an octogenarian reminiscing about her youth again.

Read About The Places You’ve Already Visited

The Alpsee Lake is before me in the Bavarian village of Schwangau
The Alpsee Lake is before me in the Bavarian village of Schwangau

This may sound like an odd thing to do. We mostly read up on destinations that we haven’t yet been to, aiming to gather tips on what to do and see if we ever plan a trip there. The other reason for most of our obsessive travel reading is to experience a place that seems totally out of reach to us. (If I can’t ever be there, I can at least dream about it, right?) But I’m suggesting that you pore over books and articles on the sights that you’ve already seen. The joy that familiarity brings is quite different from a vicarious travel experience. You’ll also end up feeling delighted, knowing that you’ve already explored something so beautiful.

Share Your Memories With Family

My husband and I pose for photo with the turquoise Maldivian waters as the backdrop
My husband and I pose for photo with the turquoise Maldivian waters as the backdrop

Happiness multiplies when shared. We have heard this so many times, yet how little use we make of it. Sit down with your partner, children and folks to talk about all the trips you’ve taken together. Project the old videos and photographs on your big-screen TV and walk on the memory lane together. My parents-in-law love it when we show them clips from our holidays. Even my husband loves looking through pics with me.

Immortalize Moments On Canvas

Our click from The Maldives on a canvas print by Canvas Champ
Our click from The Maldives on a canvas print by Canvas Champ

The best times I’ve spent with my hubby abroad has been in The Maldives – the destination we chose for our honeymoon. We have countless pictures from that luxury holiday, and just can’t stop gushing each time we flip through the clicks. I decided to surprise Martin with a canvas print of our photo taken in front of the water villas, and he was overjoyed! You too can delight your loved ones with canvas, acrylic or metal prints of your favourite pictures on CanvasChamp. You’ll even get 5% off when you make a purchase through my referral link and use the code OINDRILADE.

Binge Watch Travel Flicks

My treehouse at Pench Tree Lodge, Madhya Pradesh
My treehouse at Pench Tree Lodge, Madhya Pradesh

If there’s anything more exciting than browsing your own travel videos, it is watching a movie based on a location that you’ve already visited. While the plot or the romance add to the essence of the place, it is ultimately the destination that will excite most of us travellers. Travel documentaries can be just as good, if not better.

What does your post-pandemic travel scene look like?

Do you believe that printing your photos make the memories tangible?

Let me know through your comments below.

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Take Your Travel Blogging to The Next Level Through These Upskilling Techniques

If you have been in the travel blogging business for a few years, you will agree that old school writing no longer makes the cut in the present times. While good content is still valued, it is very rarely read. Most Millennials are impatient even with the blogs they read and the content they consume. Also, thanks to the boom in online content, it is hard to grab anybody’s attention, to begin with. There is no reason to lose heart, though. There are many ways to revamp your travel blog, and very specifically, your articles. Take some cues from the tips outlined hereunder.

Draw Inspiration From High-Quality Content

Most of my travel writer friends are voracious readers.
(Caught my pal from Nat Geo Traveller busy with her favourite pastime.)

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: you cannot be a great writer unless you are an eager reader first. Get into a habit of reading well-researched, high-quality and engaging pieces. Understand what draws you to those types of articles. Is it the writing style? The in-depth coverage? Or a concept so novel that you cannot seem to ignore it? Gently try to incorporate the techniques that work best for the most widely read posts. A word of caution here: do not imitate! Try to be original in your writing style while putting all the inspiration to good use.

Make Friends With Grammar Nazis

Take time to reflect on the constructive criticism you receive.
(Deep thinking with my buddies in the hills of Prabalgad, Maharashtra)

If you are a true writer of yore, you’ll most likely be a grammar Nazi yourself. However, if you are a new-generation blogger without much of a flair for writing, you can still cultivate this art. Pay attention to some basics such as spellings and grammar. The only thing that can ruin a really good travel story with stunning photos is a poorly worded article. Not everybody is a gifted writer, but that does not mean one cannot master this skill. Do not be upset when you encounter grammar Nazis who constantly point out spelling mistakes or grammatical corrections that are wanting in your blog posts. Embrace learning even when it comes in the form of criticism.

Improve The Images That Go With The Words

It has taken me years to better my photography & editing skills, and I’m still learning.
(My click from Thimphu, Bhutan)

About a decade ago, an excellently written piece was enough to make a blog post a big hit with the readers. Unfortunately, a lot more is required today. When your post is competing with several other articles waiting to be read, (apart from other tasks lingering on the long laundry-list of the average reader’s schedule), you’ve got to up your game. High-resolution, well-framed and neatly edited photos are almost mandatory if you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, more so if you do travel blogging. Pepper your long posts with beautiful pictures that are relevant to the content. If you struggle with photography, you can always procure images from copywright-free sources.

Consider Taking An English Test Prep Course

Exams have a way of setting you on fire. You learn more when you know you’ll be tested.

Don’t feel shy about taking up courses in the English language (if you blog in English or wish to start eventually). If your trips to English-speaking countries have stoked your wanderlust enough to move or work from there, you will have to take the IELTS. I suggest signing up for the IELTS reading practice test and the  IELTS Writing Practice Test at BestMyTest. With features such as realistic simulations of IELTS tests, personalized study plans, diagnostic reports, instructor assistance and in-depth reviews of all testing sections, especially the subjective ones (Speaking and Writing), BestMyTest sets itself apart from the competition. They will even offer you 10% off all online IELTS preparation plans when you use my referral link with the code 2DEALSPOTIELTS! Your fluency in English is certain to improve when you get serious about it.

Experiment With Different Tones & Writing Formats Until You Find Your Best Fit

I’m busy blogging even as I await my flight out of Russia.

There is no golden formula for a well-written travelogue. While some talented writers focus on the destination and the locals, some others like to assume an introspective tone, sharing mostly about their personal experiences on a trip. Elaborately worded adjective-heavy sentences are a staple of certain bloggers. On the other hand, some prefer to keep their travel accounts simple and crisp. I know of blogs that provide detailed information on a place, while certain others exist only to generate curiosity, barely giving anything away. You can play around with different styles and see what works with your audience and also what you personally like. In the end, your writing should reflect a bit of you, regardless of what you write about.

Are you a travel blogging veteran with more tips to share?

Or are you new to travel writing who needs more guidance?

Let me know through your comments below.

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Sustaining a Career in Travel Writing When COVID-19 Has Disrupted Tourism: Tips on Balancing Work & Mental Health

So much has changed in the world since we took our last trips. Even though some countries and territories are gradually opening up again, COVID-19 has effected some changes that are most likely here to stay. The pandemic that brought tourism worldwide to a grinding halt (even though solo hikes and certain activities were still allowed in a few nations), has had a ripple effect on many allied careers, including travel writing. The disruption seems to have taken a toll on the mental health of many professionals. I write today’s piece not just to reflect on the current situation but to provide some hope and help to my friends and associates who are eagerly waiting for the world to get back to its pre-coronavirus times. While my advice is mainly for travel writers, some tips apply across industries.

Build Trust With Existing Clients

I remind myself how the fishermen in Kerala work together in trust.

If you are fortunate enough to still have some of your travel clients in business, go the extra mile for them. Now is not the time for hard negotiations and highhandedness. Be empathetic towards your business associates who might also have been affected by the change in various laws following the coronavirus spread. If you have fallen on hard times, reconnect with your past clients to check if they would like to work again with you. We often assume that a shut door will never reopen. But experience tells me that most businesses are happy to reconsider working with a valuable freelancer. When a couple of big names (that I used to get regular work from) were badly impacted by the global lockdowns, it was a long-standing old client that sustained me. I count myself lucky to have the rare opportunity to actually grow my savings when I thought I would run short on earnings.

Master Time Management To Balance Writing & Other Chores When You Lose Helping Hands

I sneak in some blogging notes while relaxing with my husband in a forest hideaway in Maharashtra.

One of the unique challenges most of us face in India is a result of our undeserved privilege and skewed social demographics. Before the COVID-led lockdown, many of us (including me) were used to house help who would do our sweeping, mopping and even cooking in certain cases. Now that all our maids are under stay-at-home orders, our days have gotten longer with the extra chores and backbreaking routines. It is how we deal with this added responsibility that will determine our mental peace. We had always been balancing our writing work with constant travel (when you think of the good old times). It’s time to repeat that with blogging deadlines and household chores. Time management is the key to winning this game. Divide your days into writing slots, chore slots and relaxation-with-family slots. Also, take a moment to reflect on how valuable your domestic help are. Try to be more compassionate and generous with their wages and leaves once they’re back.

Bank On Your Remote Working Skill To Scout For Work From Other Geographies

I pose at an almond grove in Chowchilla, California. I’m thankful for all the blogging assignments I get from the USA, among other countries.

As freelance travel writers, we are quite fortunate to have the liberty to work for anyone in any part of the world while residing in any geography. Make use of this advantage by pitching to clients in countries that are offering travel writing work. While the coronavirus numbers tell us one story, reality speaks another. When the UK was peeking its hospital capacity and the outlook seemed grim, I surprisingly got a chance to write for a London-based AirBnB management services company. Do not let all the morose news bring your spirits low. Many countries are opening tourism again. A bunch of European nations, some South-East Asian islands and parts of Africa will soon be launching their travel campaigns. (Now you know where to start pitching. 😉 )

Follow A Routine That Puts Your Mental Health Before Your Career

Take time off to relish the little pleasures of life such as afternoon tea and cookies.

Finally, remember that your career is not everything. It does not fully define you, regardless of how much of your identity depends on your work. When your writing career is going through a lean patch, take some time to enjoy the activities you love but are always too busy to do. Cook your favourite dishes, read the books you’ve been neglecting, watch some feel-good movies, or go for a walk if that’s allowed in your city. Also, set aside some time for exercise. A healthy mind dwells in a healthy body. While you’re busy doing this all, the world will soon start to look rosier!

Are you struggling with your career because of the economic slowdown & travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic?

Are you constantly demoralized or have depressive thoughts?

Let me know through your comments below. I will be happy to offer you a listening ear and some help or connect you to somebody who can assist materially.

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7 Gorgeous Pre-Wedding Photoshoot Destinations to Rock Your D-Day Countdown

Does travel have to stop when wedding bells are in the air? Not at all! While marriage brings with it a bix box of changes, there are plenty of moments you can enjoy as you continue to indulge the travel bug in you. If you are planning to do a countdown to your wedding day, celebrate the entire journey through professionally clicked photos in breathtaking locales. Pre-wedding photoshoots are quite “in” these days, and you shouldn’t miss these last fun memories of your bachelorhood. Here are 7 beautiful places that will add some more oomph to the romance brewing between you and your soulmate-to-be:

#1 Northern Ireland

A soon-to-be-couple hide from the thundering Irish clouds under an umbrella.

Few destinations can match the pristine sights of Northern Ireland. Whether it’s the Irish countryside, the charming Tudor castles or the unpredictable weather, this part of the United Kingdom offers stunning backgrounds to add some character to your pre-wedding photos. If you’re planning on staying even longer, the capital city of Belfast makes for a great destination wedding option as well!

#2 Kerala

The forests of Kerala set the perfect tone for a romantic shoot.

If your wedding countdown pictures are to be shot in India, there are choices galore. The enchanting forests and backwaters of Kerala add rich colours to the photographic palette. You don’t always have to stick to the popular areas of Munnar, Periyar or Fort Kochi. Go beyond and explore the riverside of Iritty or the waterfalls of Peechi.

#3 Vietnam

Rural Vietnam provides a charming backdrop for pre-wedding pictures

While Vietnam is traditionally a favourite with backpackers and solo travellers, the Asian gem has special offerings for couples looking to shoot their pre-wedding pics. Skip the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City and escape to the rock-strewn island of Ha Long Bay to snap some gorgeous photos against clear waters. The country is quite affordable, so the only big expense you’ll have to take care of is that of the photographer.

#4 Rajasthan

The groom-to-be twirls his bride-to-be in a palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

How can we forget the Indian state famous for its palaces and regal gardens! Rajasthan’s diverse landscape affords you the lakes of Udaipur, the desert sands of Jaisalmer, the blue-hued houses of Jodhpur, and more. Find top pre wedding photographers in India and create your own royal-themed pre-wedding album with period costumes to match the grandeur of the forts.

#5 New Zealand

Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown makes for a great place to kiss!

There’s so much more to New Zealand than Hobbiton! Live your fairytale dream in Queenstown as you pose before the mighty Southern Alps. Looking to add a local cultural twist to your pre-wedding pictures? Head over to Rotorua to dance with the Maori tribe as your photography team tags along. To lend a formal feel to your pictures, Auckland provides the urban cityscape you might be looking for.

#6 Ladakh

A man proposes to his lady by the Pangong Lake in Ladakh (PC: Saurabh Chatterjee)

The newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh is blessed with magnificent scenery. From the Himalayas of Nubra Valley to the Buddhist monasteries with their giant prayer wheels, there’s a lot to see. Pastel shades of clothing work best with the barren reddish brown and dark grey mountains of this part of Kashmir. Stage a romantic dinner or proposal by the famous Pangong Tso – the lake which attracts travellers from all over the country.

#7 The Maldives

My husband and I share a cosy moment on a private island in The Maldives

This classic honeymoon destination is also a lovely option for a pre-wedding photoshoot. The Maldives has over a thousand islands that make this country so exotic. Book yourself some water villas on a private island, and get ready for the most romantic settings on white-sand beaches, tropical gardens and even beside underwater corals!

Still wondering whether you should organize a pre-wedding photoshoot before you tie the knot? The short trip will certainly be worth your time and money!

Where did you have your pre-wedding photoshoot done?

Getting married? Which photo-destinations are on your mind?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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