Sun, 26 Jun 2005

If you go...

* Remember to bring enough cash. Mandiri, Bank Negara Indonesia, Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Bank Danamon branches and ATMs are available in the city, but not in outlying areas. As you may have guessed, local shops accept only hard cash -- Visa can't take you there.

* Don't forget sturdy boots and a strong flashlight to get through the dark, muddy caves.

* For a picnic on the beach or at the Bird and Orchid Park, buy snacks and drinks in a supermarket downtown. Contrary to popular destinations, don't expect to find food vendors or toilets at the tourism sites.

* Be careful when you're driving. Dogs and pigs are considered valuable, and locals will fine you according to traditional laws if you hit any. The fines take into account how many potential puppies and piglets the animal may have created.

Flights: Garuda, Merpati, Batavia Air

Accommodation: * Nirmala (downtown), (0981) 22005/22162. Rooms: Rp 150,000 (US$15.60) to Rp 220,000, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. The air-conditioned rooms are rather shabby but considerably clean.

* Nirmala Beach, (0981) 26333/26777. Rooms: Rp 300,000-Rp 800,000, including breakfast. It is the best hotel on the island with cozy rooms and a bathtub.

Diving: Biak Diving, (0981) 26017, Rates: Day tours range from Rp 500,000-Rp 650,000 per person (minimum four people). Book a week in advance if you are going as a group or at least a day before if you're going solo.

-- JP