Indonesia by the Book – While travel was once a privilege enjoyed exclusively by the wealthy, the prevalence of low-fare airlines now allows more people to visit even the remotest places in the world.

And for most travelers, a guide book holds the key to the secrets of a foreign land. At least, that’s the view of Indonesian backpacker Bowie Holiday.

“It’s our holy book,” he says of the Lonely Planet travel guide.

Lonely Planet was founded in 1972 by Tony Wheeler and Maureen Wheeler as a guide for backpackers. It now publishes 500 book titles in eight languages. Partially owned by BBC Worldwide, Lonely Planet also produces television programs, magazines and mo bile phone applications.

For travelers who want to explore Indonesia, the ninth edition of Lonely Planet Indonesia, released in January, offers a wealth of information about the world’s largest archipelago. The 908-page book is divided by region into eight sections: Java, Bali, Sumatra, Nusa Tenggara, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua. You can find information about well-known attractions, as well as obscure, remote locations, to visit across the country.

Lonely Planet highlights Indonesia’s astonishing beauty and invites the traveler to check out the archipelagos’s numerous isles. Among its top recommendations is Derawan Island in East Kalimantan, known for its turtles and rich coral reefs. The book describes Derawan as “the tropical island you came to Southeast Asia dreaming about.”

The guide book also recommends a visit to the Gili Islands where you can, “happily burn daylight hours diving, snorkeling or chilling by the sea.”

Lonely Planet reminds travelers that Indonesia is not just about gorgeous sunsets or beautiful beaches.

“Jakarta is a hard city to love,” says Lonely Planet. But besides its busy streets and slums, the guide book points out the city’s good-natured people and the unforgettable clubbing experience visitors can enjoy. Tourists can also rely on the guide book to find great museums and other historic attractions that Jakarta has to offer.

Lonely Planet provides interesting details about the history and culture of each destination and contains easy-to-read instructions on how to find hotels, restaurants, ATMs and other practical services needed by every traveler. The book also provides useful transportation options to consider when planning your itinerary.

A good travel guide will help you get around without getting lost, says Bowie, a marketer who caught the travel bug in 2008. It should also provide guidelines on local customs and how to behave in various destinations, he adds.

Bowie always has a Lonely Planet in his bag when he travels and has 10 on his book shelf at home. “I feel safe having it around, knowing I have a trusted source where I can seek information,” he says.

Although Lonely Planet now serves mainstream and affluent travelers, along with low-budget backpackers, the book still holds invaluable information about how to travel on the cheap.

For Bowie, getting to know a place means avoiding luxurious and sterile locations. “That’s not travel,” he says.

For travelers like Bowie, who like to visit places most people don’t know about, Lonely Planet provides directions on how to get to the not-so-popular destinations. He likes to focus on the unusual things about a place and is always eager to learn about the quirks of its culture and people.

Bowie has been to a lot of remote locations in Indonesia, such as Weh island in Aceh, Singkep island in Kepulauan Riau and Karimun Jawa in Central Java.

Beaches are his favorite. “Nothing can beat lying on the white sand reading a book while listening to the sound of the waves and getting a tan,” he says.

Despite its popularity among travelers, Bowie says Lonely Planet Indonesia is not perfect. “There’s so much information missing,” he says.

He points out that Kakaban Island, near Derawan Island, is not included in the book. Kakaban has a unique brackish lake filled with non-stinging jellyfish, making it a world-class diving site. “There are only two places like that in the world,” he says, the other being on Palau in the Pacific Ocean.

Bowie rates the book an eight out of 10. “Perhaps Indonesia is just too large to put in one book,” he says.

Lonely Planet Indonesia Ninth Edition

(By Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Celeste Brash, Muhammad Cohen, Mark Elliott, Trent Holden, Guyan Mitra, John Noble, Adam Skolnick, Iain Stewart and Steve Waters.)

Follow him on Twitter @TravelJunkieID

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