Temples, Chillies and Chips Inside a Crater. Dieng Plateau, Java


The Dieng Plateau is about 150 km from Yogajakarta in central Java. Being 2093 metres above sea level it is a unique part of Java, where everyone wears jackets and woolly hats, and chillies become an even more important part of the diet than at sea level.

Beware: Merapi. Java.

Back in Yogyakarta there was one volcano I had not visited yet, Mt Merapi, or Fire Mountain in Javanese, the most active volcano in Indonesia. Merapi just keeps on erupting. On my third night in Yogyakarta I was thrown around in my bed at 3 AM as an earthquake caused by the volcano shook the city. Ash and pumice was thrown from the cone at the same time.

Vote A or B for my new Turkemenistan guidebook cover about to launch

I need to choose a book cover, which should it be? A or B. As you may or may not know, I have a travel guide being published in the near future on the rather extraordinary country of Turkmenistan. It will be a mixture of a guidebook/ travelogue, which will be entertaining to the armchair traveller, or inspire a new wave of intrepid tourists to visit the country (if they can navigate the complex visa requirements!).

Borobudur. Reaching Nirvana before the tour groups arrive. Java.


Borobudur is one of the most visited sites in Java. Justifiably so, as the 9th century Buddhist temple is a beautiful and inspiring site to visit. It had been on my bucket list for years, and after having my fill of volcanoes, it was time get my history fix.

The Islands you cannot leave. Karimunjawa, Java


The Karimunjawa islands are hard to get to, and very hard to leave. Not just because they are beautiful, sparsely occupied and teeming with sea life, but because the Java sea often puts paid to ferries being able to visit, particularly in the rainy season. I was lucky in getting out to the islands, with a very calm and sunny sailing from the north coast port of Jepara, but I had to return early, on a very choppy voyage, with warnings of bad weather and likely ferry cancellations likely to strand me there for up to a week. The locals told me that two weeks of isolation were not that unusual!

Volcano Chasing. Getting close to Mt Kelud, Java.



The volcano Mt Kelud had exploded a week earlier. Flights across Indonesia and Northern Australia were disrupted, 76,000 people were evacuated, Yogyakarta and Malang had been blanketed in ash, and the temples in Borobudur were closed (and due to risk of acid rain from the ash remained closed for a further two weeks). One small volcano in Java did all this? I wanted to see it.