Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 24 July 2014 • Destination
Vindhya, my travel mate at the time, said Labuan Bajo used to be a small dark town, with minimum places to stay, countable internet cafes, generously dusty roads, and the ambiance of a pirate port city. This was how it was back when she did the trip with Vira to Komodo National Park in 2011. She told me this while we were strolling opposite-wise on the one-way street to an Italian restaurant that had bean bags as seats (I had you at bean bag, didn’t I?). That said, it’s not as it used to be. This small port village has now become a moderately modern and busy tourist town being the gateway to Komodo National Park. Exposure does change a place, but is it for good or bad?
The best way to get an orientation of the city is to pick a high point and see most of the city from above. On whatever time of the day, Labuan Bajo from the top is a sight for sore eyes.
The center of activities is easily spotted near the port. Aside to receiving and sending out ships that travel between islands for the people’s goods (such as to Sulawesi, Sumbawa and Timor), Labuan Bajo is the port that will take visitors that intend to see the Komodo National Park. Some of them will do day tours, departing early in the morning and coming back when the sun sets. Some will be doing the live-on-board experience, arriving the first day and coming back tanned a few days later. Amongst them will be boats with SCUBA tanks, for divers that are ready to dive in Komodo National Park.
Outside of this port is the main tourist street or Soekarno-Hatta Road, which reminds me much of Legian Street in Bali. I’m assuming Legian grew similarly to this, with small well-presented businesses along each side of the road. It’s probably common to find western influenced restaurants and cafes at such a small hub town like this, however I was pretty surprised to find really good ones. Naming a few would be Mediterraneo Restarurant with the bean bags, good pizza and wi-fi, La Cucina Cafe with its cakes, and Tree Top Restaurant with a great establishment for sunset viewing and moderately good food. Other bigger surprises were the wine shop, the bohemian boutiques, and the spa. All of which had nothing to do with the Flores culture. It really brought out the ‘Legian’ or even that ‘Seminyak’ flavor to Flores.
Top: Mideterraneo Restaurant, bottom: La Cucina cafe. Pictures was provided by www.ibupenyu.com
On another side of Labuan Bajo is the hilltop, where you can find a few good cafes and accommodations. I had the pleasure to stay at the Bayview Garden Hotel and it was be-a-utiful! I love the lush green surroundings, the spacious aircon-ed room, the spectacular view for all day and night, and the price that was surprisingly wasn’t pocket-breaking. This was a second option to the Golo Hill Top Hotel. They had a pool, you see, but Bayview Garden worked better on me much better than I expected. The only consequence I had to swallow was the hiking I had to do to get to the room. This room was IDR 400.000/night including breakfast.
A few cafes are also located on the hill looking down at the port area. The Pesona Bali is a general café with a great view. The food was acceptable, though not memorable. It was nice to spend a clear sunset here. A more popular option was the Paradise Bar, which I have yet to visit. But Vira says back in days this Bar has a view to the port and at night you’ll see the lights against the pitch dark sky. She said it was a great laid back venue. It’s on my list once I come back.
Fortunately, I also had the chance to travel to the other side of the coast and stay at the Luwansa Hotel. It was a really fancy minimalist hotel with a pool, a seaside restaurant, and direct access to the beach. On the south side of the city, fancy hotels are built and lined up for those with a little more to spend.
For an affordable budget accommodation, trust @ibupenyu to find one. The Bajo Beach Hotel or the Hotel Bajo is affordable and meets the essentials. Optional AC or fan rooms are available and start at IDR 250.000/room.
Hotel Bajo is located just a few hundred meters from the port on the main tourist road or Soekarno-Hatta road.
Did I mention the new airport? Yes. This year, 2014, Labuan Bajo finally has a new futuristic-looking airport, after a long delay. It looks sleek and hopefully the service is a few years a head of the current time on the island.
I have to say, Labuan Bajo is now a nice hub to cater all sorts of visitors from all over the world that want to see the Komodo National Park and Flores Island as a whole. Both low and high-end travelers can make their own way through the town. With this, more people can see how beautiful it is on this part of the world. Personally, it’s also a nice city to find after a Flores overland trip, especially if one is traveling from east to west. For those that seek a little pampering like a touch of an affordable room with AC, such as myself, Labuan Bajo can be heavenly.
This is still part of the old airport but I still like the komodo. Do we have a connection?
On the other hand, I really hope that Labuan Bajo doesn’t become the next Legian, being overcrowded, overpriced, and over-westernized. There’s potential for it. I know it sounds bad to wish for a slower development, but I’m just hoping for a wiser one.
A more comprehensive insight can be read here from Travelfish.