Indonesia days 20-23: last days in Nias island + day trip to megalith ruins & swimming hole + trip reflection

My last Indonesia post! After a fabulous start to Nias Island, my last days here were the perfect mix of relaxing and activity as well as bonding with the awesome people I’ve met here. Day by day, I fell even more in love with the island and its community. By the end, I actually felt sad to leave! I have a recap of the last few days and my usual post-country reflection below. 🙂

Day 20: Indonesia Independence Day

August 17 was Indonesia’s Independence Day. This was a big holiday across the country as almost all the locals took a day off from work and participated in celebrations – Nias was no different. 🙂 In the morning, the hostel crew and I headed to the town center to check out the festivities. When we got there, it felt like the entire island came out to celebrate. There was a marching band, dances, and other performances.

There were lots of street food stalls and we tried a few bites.

After getting a glimpse of the festival, I headed back to the hostel and did some trip planning. Since these were my last days in Indonesia, I had to figure out plans for my next country. More on this below. 🙂

Later in the evening, our crew headed back to the festival to watch the closing ceremony. Arif’s son was part of this ceremony, and we wanted to support him. All of the volunteers at the hostel and I have gotten quite close to Arif (the hostel owner) and his family. They are such a nice and fun bunch. The ceremony was a military march and taking down the Indonesian flag.

After the ceremony, we got some dinner in town. This place was recommended by the volunteers, and I finally got to try it. Everyone called it “the 6pm place” because it opened at 6pm. Clever, right? 😉

The evening ended with watching the sunset, card games, and hanging out with the hostel mates on the deck. Unlike my usual travel routine where I veg out alone in the evenings, I’ve really enjoyed evenings at this hostel and hanging out with everyone.

Day 21: chill day + snorkeling

The next day was mostly spent chilling. I got breakfast with Arif in town. He took me to a spot that served lontong, a traditional Indonesian breakfast. It was SO tasty! I really enjoyed this meal with Arif as we took our time and chatted away. He is a really great person and one of the reasons I felt so at home.

After that, some more chilling at the hostel. I enjoyed slowing down in Nias, especially since I’m planning to move a little faster after this portion of the trip.

In the afternoon, I went snorkeling with one of the volunteers from Germany. We walked to a beach near to the hostel. The visibility wasn’t great that day, but we enjoyed just swimming around and having this beautiful spot to ourselves. 🙂

Nias Island, Indonesia

The sun went down and the hostel transformed to its vibrant night vibes. I hung out with the usual suspects as well as Arif’s family. His daughter was the cutest!

Day 22: day trip to megalith ruins and secret swimming spot

My last day in Indonesia! It was a very memorable one. Arif had been talking about taking a day trip with the whole crew since day one, and we finally made it happen on my final day. We hopped on our scooters to another part of the island, about a 2-hour drive. It was quite the adventure with our janky scooters. Mine broke down SO many times! Me and my riding mate got really good at hopping off, kick-starting it, and hopping back on in 10 seconds flat – just fast enough to keep the crew within sight. 😛

The drive flew by as the scenery was beautiful and diverse – we saw the coast, the jungle, villages, rice fields, and more.

Our first stop was the megalith ruins that was the original Nias village – over 5000 years old. Between the 2-hour drive and uphill hike to the ruins, I don’t think people visit here often. Arif shared Nias’s history with us as we appreciated the ruins.

After the ruins, we got some lunch, and then Arif took us to a waterfall/swimming hole. He took us to one on the first day, but I thought this one was even better – the clear water and rock formations were stunning! We all beamed with excitement when we saw the spot and we jumped right in.

The water felt SO nice after driving in the sun on our bikes. There was also a cliff jumping spot which the boys tried out.

What a memorable and special spot. I remember thinking, “this is probably the last time I’ll experience something like this on this trip…” – a beautiful place all to ourselves with no other person in sight. One of the best parts of Nias and being off the backpacker trail.

We drove back at golden hour, and the views glowed in a whole new light. The rest of the evening was spent with hanging out around the hostel and saying goodbyes to everyone as I was heading out early the next morning.

Day 23: goodbye Nias + reflection

I took an early morning flight back to Medan, and then another flight to my next country. Arif woke up early to send me off. To anyone visiting Nias – I so recommend visiting Salty Dog Hostel! Some of the most chill, positive, and authentic vibes of all the hostels I’ve stayed at this year.

And with that, my time in Indonesia is through! Time flew so fast and it’s hard to believe I’m already moving on.

Overall, I really loved Indonesia, and I’m especially glad I decided to focus on Sumatra (versus the more popular islands like Java and Bali). There were also so many moments that I’ll never forget: spotting wild orangutans, hiking Sibayak Volcano at sunrise, roadtripping around Lake Toba, and bonding with the community in Nias.

I’ll admit though, after seeing several countries in SE Asia, I felt like Indonesia was quite middle-of-the-road for me. Nothing bad happened, but nothing crazy exciting either. This is not specific to Indonesia as a country but rather where I am in my travel trajectory. At this point, I feel like I’ve done everything at least once, and now things are less exciting as they repeat (another waterfall, another beach, another jungle trek, etc). Does that make me sound jaded? 😉

Looking back, I think Indonesia was largely defined by adjusting to traveling again. My 2-month break back home before this was fun and necessary, but I didn’t expect it to “reset” my mindset so much. I feel like it took over half my time in Indonesia to adjust and feel excited to travel again, much longer than usual for me.

It was such a blessing to end on such a high note in Nias. To be honest, I cut my time in Indonesia short – I was originally planning to stay one month, but I’m leaving at 3 weeks. I made this decision when I was at somewhat of a low point and feeling lonely at Lake Toba, but as things improved in Nias the past few days, I started questioning whether this was a rash decision…

But I’m trying to trust my intuition and know that whatever comes next will be wonderful in its own way. One traveler once told me, “You can’t see everything, so no matter what you choose, go out there and enjoy it.” Such simple advice, but I try to remember this whenever my perfectionist tendencies kick in.

And with that, I’m excited to enter the next chapter of my trip…Malaysia!! Up until a week ago, I didn’t know where to go next, but it was between Laos and Malaysia. I ultimately decided on Malaysia because, to my surprise, a lot of backpackers are going there right now. I think Malaysia will be the perfect balance of getting back on the backpacker trail (which I was looking for) while not being too touristy.

Have a great weekend and I hope to see you back here in a few days!


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