When most visit Indonesia, they stick to the familiars of Bali and the Gili Islands. Some venture across the sea to Lombok and Java. If you’re looking to go a bit more off the beaten track, look no further than the island of Flores.
Lonely Planet has named Flores as Indonesia’s “next big thing”. Much less developed than the likes of Bali or Lombok, Flores isn’t exactly “convenient” for tourists. This was the wake up call I needed. We were travelling through Bali and I was getting far too comfortable in my air-conditioned, white linen rooms, and being welcomed with cold towels and beverages on arrival.
For any of you high maintenance travellers out there, look away now. Flores is under developed. There are no real “stores” in sight, just stalls and shacks where mice and rats perch casually beside the merchandise. But you’re sick to death of tourist crowds, could strangle the next person who asks you to take their picture, and want to snap every selfie stick you see in half, then Flores is for you.
We arrived in our accommodation in Labuan Bajo (LB) late evening, which was situated directly behind the local mosque. The call to prayer became our soundtrack for our time here, and was a handy alarm the next morning when we had to wake up at 4.30am for our Komodo tour!
Our accommodation, the Orange Hotel was nothing to shout about. At $30 a night for two, we got a bed, a private bathroom with some towels and air-conditioning. This “hotel” was probably on par with a poor hostel in Bali. We weren’t picky however and settled in for a good night’s rest (once the call to prayer died down!).
If you have time to explore more of Flores, rent a bike. The roads aren’t as insane as available, but the rules of the roads do seem to act as more “guidelines” to the locals! If we ever needed to get somewhere that was too far to walk, we simply hopped on the back of a local guy’s scooter. They’re willing to offer lifts for a bartered price of about 10,000rph ($1!).
A lot of the locals have little to no English, which was in stark contrast to the Balinese people, who have picked up a lot of Aussie lingo. The local kids were adorable, clearly highly amused by the white tourists wandering through their small fishing village. Every few minutes we were greeted with a “hiya mister!”, and a chorus of hysteric giggles.
Most travellers who arrive in Labuan Bajo are here to make use of the port, the main gateway to the Komodo Islands. Bargain with the fishermen who will bring you out on their boat for cheap. If you want something a little more official, go visit the tourist stands. You’ll pay more, but from the impression I got, will be looked after a little better.
While staying in Labuan Bajo, we came across an absolute gem of a restaurant, the Bajo Bay Fisherman’s Club. Standing at two stories, make sure to visit at sunset and take a seat upstairs overlooking the bay, what a view! The waiters’ English are all great and the food is delish, definitely recommend this spot! If you’re looking for something a little more authentic, there are night markets in town, where you’re sure to get a taste of the local life.
Flores is a breath of fresh air after over-indulging in Bali. If you’re looking for an adventure, not a holiday, your thirst will certainly be quenched here.