RD consults another source for travel advice.
I have continued my quest for detailed and impartial information to share with you on the best places to see and be in Indonesia.
So, I thought I would try a different source: Indonesia's banknotes.
While Indonesia's banknotes all contain a picture of a national hero on one side, many of them contain a picture of a famous or unique – you could say noteworthy! - location on the other.
(Yes, you may be slow to trust bankers or Bank Indonesia - especially when its previous governor and deputy governors are on trial for corruption - but please go with me for a moment).
Below are selected highlights. Please click on the one that interest you, or just scroll down to read them all.
Rp50 000, 2005 series
The second most famous and photographed Hindu temple in Bali after Tanah Lot. Great for sunrises, you can hire a small boat for a quieter lake view too.
Getting to Danau Batur is easy. If you're not already visiting with a tour group, it's most easily reached by chartered transport or hired motorbike; there are countless brochures advertising them in Bali airport's domestic arrivals hall. Generally speaking, the earlier the better.
Rp10 000, 2000 series
Getting to Lombok isn't so hard - boat or plane from Bali, with connecting bus to the trailhead at Senaru - but climbing Mt Rinjani is. It requires a hiking trip of a couple to a few days (depending on your fitness and whether you climbing to the summit - 3700 m), camping equipment, a guide, etc. It's quite steep and slippery down the edge of the crater to the lake. Be careful with timing, too; at that height it is often shrouded in fog.
Rp10 000, 1992 series
World heritage listed Buddhist shrine that pre-dates the arrival of Islam in Indonesia and was only re-discovered last century.
Fly or take the train to the nearest major city, Yogyakarta. Ask around at your accommodation for transport and/or a tour guide.
Rp5000, 1992 series
Volcano with three differently-coloured crater lakes. The place where you can see all three is aptly titled “Inspiration Point”.
Getting there is a bit complicated. The two nearest airports - Ende or Maumere - are served by Merpati (from Denpasar) and TransNusa (from Kupang), but not every day. You can join a tour, take a crowded bus or charter transport (from Maumere only) to Moni, a nearby town. Most people ascend for sunrise, so arrange pre-dawn transport (car or motorbike) the night before, or - if you're keen - hike all night (13 km) to the top. Note the car park is 1.5 km from the lookout.
Rp1000, 1992 series
Lake Toba, North Sumatra
The collapsed remains of a volcano that is now one of the world's largest inland lakes. Pretty scenery with a few remnants of life before the arrival of Western civilisation and modern times. Staying on Pulau Samosir is very relaxed and quiet.
Buses on the Trans-Sumatran Hwy (from Medan or Padang) all go to Parapat, the ferry point for boats to Pulau Samosir. Alternately, you can take the train from Medan to Pematang Siantar, and arrange onward transport from there.
Small island off the west coast of Sumatra known for its unique culture - the picture refers to native Nias people's ability to jump high stone structures - and surf. More recently, it has become famous for the Asian tsunami and subsequent earthquake.
Unfortunately, getting there is increasingly difficult. There used to be Merpati flights from Medan when relief activity was in full swing, but now it appears you have to take the bus to Sibolga (from Medan or Padang) and a ferry.
Rp100, 1992 series
The “child” of Krakatoa, which when it erupted in 1883 killed at least 36 000 people and was heard 2500 km away.
AK is in the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java; most people charter a boat from the latter, from Carita or Labuan. These two towns are a three-hour drive from Jakarta; alternately, you can take a bus from Kalideres or a train from Tanah Abang to Cilegon or Merak and a connecting minibus. Get the biggest/best boat you can afford, and make sure it has life jackets and a radio that works; seas can be rough, especially in the wet season (November to March).
So, do you agree with Bank Indonesia's selections of Indonesian locations for banknotes?
And if not, which places would you put on Indonesia's banknotes as a tourist highlight or national treasure of the country? I have heard rumours that a new Rp2000 note is in the works, so maybe you could even create a design showcasing your selection.
Update: October 2009
The new Rp2000 note has been released:
In my opinion, it seems a bit useless (if not impossible) to portray a traditional dance on a banknote, particularly when dancing usually involves movement - and you just can't do that in a still image.
In other news, I recently visited Kelimutu, previously found on a Rp5000 note:
You can read more about it here.