Labuan Bajo, Gateway to Komodo.

Come for the Komodo Dragons, but stay for the chilled atmosphere, liveaboard boats and stunning scenery. Just be prepared for the plastic waste everywhere, unfortunately this isn’t just a Labuan Bajo issue so try to limit your plastic consumption at all times.

THINGS TO DO IN LABUAN BAJO.

Labuan Bajo is a far cry from Bali, with just one main street by the water, it’s mainly filled with dive shops and a few restaurants/hotels. Make sure to take a walk along the promenade and check out the amazing Komodo statue and the cute pink jetty.

STAY ON A BOATEL

Our first two nights were spent on Le Pirate Boatel! Le Pirate Located out beyond the harbour, it’s so cute. With just ten rooms and a deck it’s small and it doesn’t feel busy. The room consists of a double bed, a shelf and a cupboard and toilets are communal. Make sure to book through their own website for free breakfast.

We arrived via the shuttle boat service which runs throughout the day for those missing dry land. We got there in the evening, but awoke to the most beautiful sunrise. Make the effort to get up, it’s worth it for the views and the turtles that swim past.

The rest of the day was spent lounging on our private outdoor area, in the hammock and diving into the beautiful warm waters. The sunset that night was possibly even better than the sunrise!

Snorkeling is free on the boat and if you head towards the jetty and beach there’s a lot of marine life to see. Unfortunately the beach is absolutely covered in rubbish and there’s quite a bit in the water which was a big let down. It was fun watching monkeys playing on the beach in the morning though.

RENT A SCOOTER

We rented a Scooter for the day and rode up to sunset hill for amazing views of the bay. It’s much prettier on the opposite side to the docks. We found a secret beach that all the locals were at, drive around the East side of the peninsula to find it.

The water was so warm and clear, and you can walk out for ages as it’s so shallow. Park up, strip to your swimmers and jump in! It was fun to be around all the locals, they’re so friendly and find it extremely fun to talk to us.

We got back on the bike and it wouldn’t start, a small kid tried helping us to kick start it before another local just lifted the stand up and it worked. It was pretty embarrassing stuff.

There were a few nice beaches along this road, but be prepared for plastic everywhere, it’s such a shame because it would truly be paradise otherwise. We drove around and found a cool bar up at the top of a hill called One Tree Hill! It was super colourful and had cool street art covering it.

The views from the top were amazing! A huge storm rolled in as we were there having a beer and it was incredible. I bet the sunset is amazing from here too.

As we drove along we stopped off at little shops along the way to cool down and get a can of something to drink. It was great to use the local places rather than spend all our money in a circle K.

VISIT SOME CAVES

As we were driving around we saw some caves on Google maps and it was such a fun experience.

Batu Cermin is only a ten minute drive or so from the town, and costs 50,000pp to enter plus a small parking fee. We weren’t sure what it would be like as we walked past clumps of bamboo and spotted monkeys playing around.

As we got closer we were amazed by the formations of the rocks, and we found out that the whole island used to be underwater and these rocks even had coral embedded in them.

As you walk between the rocks birds and butterflies are flying around you and the light coming through makes everything look even more beautiful.

You can take a guide if you’re nervous about going into the actual caves but otherwise helmets are provided at the entrance. It’s pretty cool being underground and you do have to crouch and crawl a bit, but it’s totally worth it for the passageway with a small window high above that lets in the sun to light up the cave.

There are more caves around Labuan Bajo and you can even swim in some of them like Rangko cave.

PLACES TO EAT

We ate at a few places, our first night was at Le Pirate hotel on the top floor. It’s decked out nicely, with a hostel vibe to it, the food was good but nothing spectacular and reasonably priced.

Happy Banana is the highest rated restaurant in the area, but it has no soul and you could be eating anywhere in the world, it’s also on the higher end for prices and no sunset views.

Bajo Taco is a Mexican place that we went to for the rooftop bar, and stayed for the happy hour deals and tasty food. Get there before sunset for amazing views and a soundtrack of the Islam call to prayer. The food here is really good and well priced, the free chipotle mayo was gorgeous.

Warung Mama was our favourite place, just walk up the stairs and over to the glass cabinet, pick out your choice of Indonesian food with rice and enjoy. It was really good for us vegetarians and the cheapest meal at 66k for 2 and 80k for 2 plus drinks.

We stopped at Blue Marlin for lunch one day and at the time thought it was pretty good, but after visiting Warung Mama and Bajo taco we realised it’s pretty basic. Also watch out for the extra taxes that aren’t included in the price. The sunset was good from here though.

Don’t be afraid to try the little Warungs dotted about, Craig got a really good Nasi Goreng in a place just across from our hotel. If you’re worried about the meat etc, just ask for it veggie! We had no problem with this everywhere we went like one place on the main street that we tried after Mama had run out of veggie food.

Eco-tree hotel gets a bonus mention, we only had beers here but the sunset views were amazing! Plus it’s a cool building, head to the top floor to walk the plank.

LIVEABOARDS AND DAY TRIPS

Read all about our Komodo National Park boat tour HERE. Booked through Seek Sophie

After doing the tour we would definitely recommend taking a liveaboard boat trip for a few nights around the islands, our tour was amazing but we wished we’d had more time at each place and could’ve discovered more of the amazing islands.

We spent the rest of our time here relaxing by the pool at our hotel, Bintang Flores and enjoying the amazing Indonesian sunsets. I don’t think we had a bad one in the whole week.

Kuala Lumpur, the gateway to our Asian expedition. 

After an 18 hour or so journey, nearly missing our connecting flight in Dubai, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. This was our gateway in and out of Southeast Asia and a great starting point to ease ourselves in. The capital of Malaysia it’s an old colonial City, the Chinese settled here first before the British used it to impose their imperialism on the area. 

Arriving at the airport it’s really easy to take the 30 minute train to the main station. We had glimpses of the Petronas Towers and skyscrapers in the distance while we passed through rainforest. 

Our first view of KL was from the monorail, there are several transport options to get you round the City but our hotel lay on this line. We passed Hindu and Chinese temples, Mosques and a church, showing the multiculturalism that KL is famous for. 

We checked in to the Park royal which I would definitely recommend. We upgraded to their orchid lounge giving us a more private breakfast area, and free nibbles and drinks in the afternoon and early evening. Plus a nicer room! We had a quick look at the pool and view of the KL tv tower too. 

Taking my trusted lonely planet guide to the City we planned our day. It was around midday at this point and we decided to head out of the City for the Batu caves, one of KL’s major sights. We took the monorail back to the station and got on one of the many trains out of the City to Batu. Beginning in 1890 the caves have been a major Hindu centre of worship. They are famous for the 140ft statue of the Hindu God of war, Lord Murugan. 

We had half an hour to wait for the train so wandered around the connecting mall, it was huge! Mall culture is massive in KL with various sized places dotted about the City. 

As the train set off it started raining, but luckily it had finished by the time we arrived. We started off at a smaller cave off to the left of the station, where a big statue of another Hindu deity Hanuman. 

The cave is full of statues picturing various Hindu legends and you can climb up through the limestone formations. The colourful scenes are really fun, but it would have been good to know some of the stories behind the depictions. 

Leaving the cave we walked round the cliffs and got our first look at the gold statue of Murugan. Batu caves are also famous for their contingent of monkeys that live around the place, entertaining and tormenting tourists in equal measures. After some dicey moments with monkeys in Cambodia I was a little hesitant to get too close. 

We climbed the 272 steps up into the main cave area, passing various sized Macaques on the way, it was pretty humid out here but with a couple of breaks the steps were okay, the scenery surrounding us distracting from the climb. 

Inside the caves it was a bit cooler, and the size was impressive, reaching up above us. We wandered through before finding ourselves in daylight once again. The cave had no roof and sunlight poured through the natural skylight. 

We headed back down the steps and past the dark cave which we unfortunately didn’t have time for as I had made plans for the evening. Making it back to the hotel we had a quick swim and got ready for an evening out. 

Our destination was the famous Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in the world and still the tallest twin towers. It’s a beacon of Southeast Asian development. We walked from the hotel and caught our first glimpse of the tower from a lovely park located at the feet of several skyscrapers. 

I had pre booked the tickets to go up the tower, so we checked in for our time slot, and after a brief introduction took the elevator to the corridor between the two buildings. 

The views from here were amazing and we weren’t even at the top yet! The skybridge takes up the 41st and 42nd floors and us 170m above ground. It’s designed to slide in and out of the main towers to avoid breaking and give the towers additional support.

We took the lift up to the top, the 86th floor and now the views of the City were incredible, even with the cloud coverage you could see for miles! It was such a cool way to spend our first day in Asia. 

After 15 minutes or so up there it was time to head back down. It’s definitely worth doing and I really enjoyed it. 

The sun was setting as we stepped out into KLCC park and we wandered around the little lake, finding a spot to sit and marvel as the City transformed around us as night fell. The view of the towers at night is amazing and after being the subject of a few locals pictures and live streams the light show on the lake began. 

I loved this moment, it really felt like we had arrived somewhere magical and foreign to Manchester and the UK. I could have stayed there for hours taking it all in, but hunger struck and we decided to go for dinner. 

I had read about a few street food places that sounded good, and one was back towards our hotel underneath one of the malls. It was fun walking through these bustling mini metropolis, with the air con you can see why they’re so popular with the locals. 

We ate underneath Lot 10 mall, in the food court full of old street hawkers who have been given this space. We got some Korean influenced food with a mix of dishes served to us. It was so good and I couldn’t wait to try more Asian food, after the long flight and day in the humid City we were ready to go back to the hotel. Although I had to get a bubble tea and some ice cream on the walk back.