Reflections on Indonesia

It feels a bit of a misnomer to say we’ve been to “Indonesia”. It is such a vast archipelago; our visits to Bali and Java felt like they barely scratched the surface.

Indonesia is certainly a tougher nut to crack than Malaysia; the language barrier, the bartering culture and the simple fact that you stand out far more as a western tourist (certainly in Java) make for a big culture shock as soon as you step off the plane. That said, we both (Craig in particular) quite liked the sense of “otherness”; here you felt you really had come to the other side of the world.

The food was also not what I was expecting. I had imagined plentiful street food and the same variety of food I had enjoyed in Malaysia. Actually, I found Indonesia’s food a bit less varied than I had anticipated and found that street food was a bit intimidating. Was the table of people sitting by the roadside a restaurant, or would I be plonking myself amongst a family having their evening meal and be shooed away? The uncertainty put me off having a go, which was a bit of a shame.

I was also a bit disappointed by how much Ubud had been turned over to tourism; so many shops in a row sold the same things that you could see the desperation in some shopkeepers to make a sale which felt uncomfortable, and like Ubud had slightly sold it’s soul. However, I feel a bit like I can’t be too critical as, ultimately, we formed part of Ubud’s swelling visitor numbers for a brief time – however hard we tried to avoid the souvenir tat.

At times I found it exhausting. Walking along a hot, dusty, busy road being constantly hassled by taxi drivers – who you then needed to go through a protracted negotiation with for a fairly short journey – certainly isn’t an easy way to pass the time.

But it does get easier. By the end of our too-short fortnight in Indonesia, we were trying the face-meltingly spicy broth from a street cart, and Craig was cheerfully (and successfully) bartering with taxi drivers. I really wish we could have had longer to really find our groove in Indonesia, and I think we are both keen to return if we can.

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The snorkelling was also spectacular – I’ve only come to appreciate just how amazing it is now that I have left and I’m keen to see if the diving is of the same standard.

I feel like I’ve been a bit negative here, and making out like I spent a lot of the trip disappointed or fed up. Actually, in the end it wasn’t disappointing at all. It was just a destination that defied expectations and pushed us a bit out of our comfort zone. And is that not exactly what we came away to do?

The Budget

Indonesia lends itself well to budget travel. We set ourselves a (generous) daily budget of £30pp, and we ended up being about £60 over our final budgeted amount due to booking some last minute flights to Bali.

We certainly could have done much better; I’d like to say we used the savings from our free stay in the L Hotel to bring us in under budget but we basically spent the money on a few days of lavish eating, drinking and drunkenly building forts out of incredibly fluffy pillows instead. Sorry not sorry.

2 Comments

  1. Amy said:

    Interesting to read your reflections on Indonesia. We visited the country pretty near the beginning of our trip and had a bit of a bumpy ride there; we got hassled a lot and suffered from an extreme case of culture shock when we arrived in Jakarta after several months in New Zealand and Australia. I’m definitely glad we visited Indonesia though, when I look back on the photos we have from there I remember, above all else, how beautiful it was there. I hope you’re having fun in Australia 🙂

    October 21, 2014
    Reply
    • Katie said:

      Hi Amy!
      Thanks for your comment. I remember that post; your blog was incredibly helpful in helping us plan our trip. It was quite nice to arrive in Australia, which felt very familiar so I can imagine the culture shock you must have felt doing it in reverse. We actually skipped Jakarta entirely as it just sounded so unpleasant, so thank you for saving us! 🙂
      Enjoying Australia very much (we’re heading to Melbourne today) but also excited about heading to New Zealand next week!
      Katie

      October 23, 2014
      Reply

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