Indonesia Expat
Featured Travel

Do you know the stories behind Indonesia’s Five “New Bali”?

new bali - lake toba

Indonesia is known to have diverse tourism destinations, from picturesque highlands and pristine beaches to unique cultures to embrace.

Locals like to justify their homeland by exclaiming dari Sabang ke Merauke, or “from Sabang to Merauke”, to further detail being vast and affluent with a diversity that doesn’t need much persuasion to provoke tourists to pack up their bags and be in absolute awe. There’s a saying roaming in the interwebz: “Spend more time on experiences”. Well, travel is one way to spend time. A bonus is doing it in this auspicious tropical paradise.

In 2021, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry announced that there will be “New Bali” for holiday seekers to stay in, explore, and be infatuated with. The Ministry is currently going out of its way to developing the Five Super Priority Destinations, namely Borobudur, Central Java; Likupang, North Sulawesi; Mandalika, West Nusa Tenggara; Lake Toba, North Sumatra; and Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara. Note that there are more “New Balis” projected.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has instructed respective ministries to introduce this concept to enhance the country’s tourism, explained Minister Sandiaga Uno. Convenience and comfort are therefore keys in terms of infrastructure, creative economy products, telecommunications networks, and hospitality.

Airports, ports, roads, etc to arrive in Indonesia and roam around are getting enhanced to meet world-class quality. Telecommunications services will allow the digital-savvy generation to connect, communicate, and share during their travels.

One fond way to experience a new culture is through native culinary specialities. Each region has its identic foods and drinks – for example, Yogyakarta is dubbed as the City of Gudeg. Tourists may also purchase one-of-a-kind creative products for their loved ones back home or keep a loving reminder of their travels. Shopping, therefore, will positively impact the country’s economy as well as the locals’ prosperity.

Moreover, Indonesians are recognised as friendly beings. The quality of human resources welcoming and catering for tourists will undoubtedly be a memorable part of a travel story. “Bali already has the best human resources in the world. We must also have this in Labuan Bajo, Likupang, Mandalika, Lake Toba, and Borobudur so that tourists who come there with the standards they expect like in Bali can be met,” said Uno in the Wonderful Indonesia Podcast on Thursday 29th April 2021.

According to Uno, focussing on just five destinations is to ensure quality as domestic and international tourists visiting can stay longer in Indonesia. “We have to look for five destinations that have the potential to become the ‘New Bali’. If these five destinations have been prepared this year, next year we will expand,” added Uno.

How will these destinations appeal to tourists? Here comes storynomic tourism, a tourism approach putting forward narratives, creative content, living culture, and using the power of culture to introduce a destination and therefore attract tourists to first-hand experience those stories – not just listen, watch, or read others’ adventures. The New Balis all have eccentric and compelling stories. What comes to mind when you look back on your Bali escapade?

Below is how the ministry has prepared the packaging of storynomic tourism in the Five Super Priority Destinations on their official website.


Borobudur Temple, Central Java

Standing since 750 AD, Borobudur Temple is the largest temple in the world shaped like a pyramid, comprising 500 Buddha statues and 2 million stones. This Buddhist temple is the “Longest Temple Relief in the World”, with 2,672 relief panels along 4 km. According to the concept of Buddhist cosmology, Borobudur Temple is likened to a mountain that connects heaven and the world. This “mountain” is surrounded by mountains, seas, and large rivers.

likupang beach - new bali
likupang beach

Likupang, North Sulawesi

Likupang is said to be the place where nine angels from heaven came down to bathe. They bathed in a lake owned by a farmer named Mamanua, who arrested one of the angels to make him his wife. They welcomed a child named Walangsendau. However, his angel-wife returned to heaven due to a mistake Mamanua made. The angel advised Mamanua to take Walangsendau to walk through the forest, rivers, and mountains following the sunlight when the child cried. This journey led the pair to a clear white sandy blue beach where corals and fishes are visible.

putri mandalika - new bali
putri mandalika

Mandalika, West Nusa Tenggara

Mandalika’s unique tradition, Bau Nyale, is usually held in February and March to commemorate the sacrifice of Princess Mandalika. Legend says, Princess Mandalika’s beauty mesmerised many men to marry her. Confused, Princess Mandalika meditated seeking clues. To maintain the peace of the island, she stood on a rock and threw herself into the sea whilst all the princes gathered on the 20th of the 10th month of the Sasak calendar at Seger Beach. There was no sign of the Princess yet lots of colourful worms called nyale appeared, which locals believe is the incarnation of Princess Mandalika.

Lake Toba
Lake Toba

Lake Toba, North Sumatra

As the largest lake in Southeast Asia and the second largest lake in the world, the legend of Lake Toba’s formation is rarely known. Legend says Lake Toba comes from the story of Toba who fished in a river and obtained a goldfish that turned into a gorgeous woman. They eloped under the condition Toba keeps his lover’s identity a secret. Their son, Samosir, was assigned to send food to Toba in the fields. Toba was enraged when Samosir ate his lunch, snapping “kid of fish”. Heavy rainfall poured down, submerging the village into what is now Lake Toba.

Labuan Bajo - New Bali
Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara

Labuan Bajo is the main gate to Komodo Island, one of the seven wonders of the world according to the New 7 Wonders that are well-guarded by the locals. Called Orah by the locals, they believe it was conceptualised when Putri Naga married a young man from the other side of the island named Moja. They were blessed with two twin sons, Orah and Gerong. With his lizard-like appearance, Orah was exiled to the forest. Gerong accidentally met a large lizard years later and then hunted it yet his mother stopped him and then revealed the lizard to be his twin.

Indonesia has the resources and potential to be a hit world tourism destination, especially with these interesting stories behind the natural beauty. That is if the development of these chosen destinations is continuous and boosted to the max. Which of these New Bali destinations are you attracted to explore?

Related posts

Jakarta Residents Chose to Enter Coffins for Violating Face Mask Regulation

Indonesia Expat

Transportation Ministry: Detailed Rules for Domestic Flight Travels

Indonesia Expat

JIS Learning Centre: Keeping Families Together Through Inclusive Education

Indonesia Expat

Celebrate the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at The Langham, Jakarta

Indonesia Expat

McDonald’s Indonesia Introduces Nasi Goreng Burger and More

Indonesia Expat

Must Visit Indonesian Places: Kota Tua

Indonesia Expat