Sometimes, when I was on the motorbike, it could happen that the driver was hitting the brakes rather suddenly, which caused me to jolt forward and hit my helmet against their helmet. This made me feel immensely stupid and a little bit like I was in a cartoon.
You get really good at rejecting people. I have been proposed to a lot, have gotten a lot of offers from guys who offered to be my boyfriend within the first five minutes of meeting me. You learn to say no.
You also learn to say yes. You need to, in order to get friends, join activities and do things that you maybe wouldn’t do otherwise.
During my time in Jakarta, I went to see the Star Wars movie in the cinema. It was a very interesting film to see in an Asian country. In the end of the movie, a lightsaber is being offered with a left hand, and the whole scene is supposed to be very respectful. But in Indonesia, it is very disrespectful to hand somebody something with your left hand, because it is seen as unclean. It was interesting to see the movie from their perspective like that.
There are a lot of unwritten rules in Indonesia, which is why you should totally connect to the locals to find out where things are and how you should behave in certain situations (buying a bus ticket is not the easy process it once was when you were in a western country)
Musicians in Indonesia don’t get paid for their musical talents. They get paid to leave. After giving them money they move on, which is what most people want. It is really a different world out there.
Smiling is like second nature to the Indonesian people and after a while it will become yours too.
I have written this blog a while ago, back in December when I visited the Toba lake. But I hadn’t gotten around to typing it out and actually publishing it, so today is the day you get to enjoy it and picture yourself on a local bus in Indonesia.
“The tourist bus leaves now, come,” a random guy at the busstation told me. But I had a local guy drop me off who said this bus would be much more expensive. I’m always up for saving some money, but the difference was only about a euro or two. Normally, I would have chosen a more comfortable option for this price difference, but my newest friend told me the other bus would have ac and would be fine as well. I should have known that wasn’t true.
But, I ended up on a local bus from Medan to the Toba Lake. A trip that would take two to three hours according to Google Maps, but took six hours with this lovely, non-ac, smoking allowed, all the windows open bus that not only had people in the seats, but also crammed people into the aisle like stacking Tetris blocks. I was very, very happy with my seat in the back where I could not move my legs, as it was better than not being able to move my whole body at all.
And off we were. Perhaps you didn’t know, but busses in Indonesia generally don’t do the whole busstop thing. You just stand along the side of the road that the bus passes and it will stop for you. And I noticed they had a very clever system of doing this.
There were three people working on the bus. The bus driver, who did nothing but drive, and two boys who took care of everything else, like helping people on and off (and they needed the help, trust me) and letting the driver know when to stop and go. The boys were all the way in the back, so to let the driver know they tapped a small rock on the side of the bus, a sound that apparently travels.
So as people get on and off at random places all along the road, we head to Parapat. It took long, because of the many stops, of course, but people were not all that was being transported on this bus. Along the way there were also folks who handed the two guys packages of God know what, that they proceeded to dump outside of the bus in the middle of nowhere. Nobody was there to collect them, they were just tossed there, although I’m sure someone would come for it later. Gotta love the Indonesian system.
I really respected the guys for the work they did, because it was really hard. They constantly hopped on and off the – sometimes still moving – bus and they were sweating like pigs in the Indonesian heat. They hauled people’s luggage and children around like it weighed nothing and never seemed to complain. Their speed also didn’t decrease. Amazing. And during the few moments they had, they were either drinking some well-deserved water or collecting and counting the money from the many, many passengers they got from A to B,C,D,E,F till Z that day.
When I decided to leave my hometown for over a year, without any certainty I would come back there for a long period of time, I was excited. I was so ready for an adventure on my own and I had been living towards the moment of leaving for a very long time.
The first stop was Jakarta, and I would be there for five months. So even though I was going abroad, I still sort of had a home.
And now I have travelled a bit through Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia (click here to see where I’ve been) and I came along two struggles that I keep running into (in daily life in Jakarta, as well as when I’m on the road).
Traveling alone vs. seeking out people to travel with.
I usually try to meet some people on couchsurfing to show me around their city, because I like meeting new people and I love it when they can show me all the great places. But I also like to be alone sometimes. But this is a constant dilemma. Because, at times, when I am looking at a great view and enjoying my trip, I would love to be able to share it with someone. But when I am constantly traveling with somebody, it can absorb a lot of my energy also. So for each destination and activity, I try to figure out if I want to do it alone, or if I would like to find a travel companion.
And then, while I am traveling alone, the question is not about finding somebody to travel with, but to socialize in general. For instance, while I am on a seven hour long bus ride, I prefer to be alone, just listen to music, read, sleep… whatever I want basically. These trips tend to take a toll on me even if I am alone, so if I have to talk through it, I will arrive even more exhausted.
But when I am sitting in a restaurant by myself, some company would be appreciated. But, what do you know, in the moments where I want company, it is nowhere to be found (or we have no way of communicating).
Trying to see everything vs. enjoying the moment and relax
Another two parts of me are constantly fighting each other. On the one hand, I really want to see as much as possible and do as much as possible. But I am the kind of person who sincerely enjoys spending a whole day reading a good book, or spending a whole day writing… And while traveling, I always feel guilty when I decide to have a day like this. I feel like I’m not making the most out of my trip and I could do more. I could meet new people, see new places, make new memories. And while most of the times this side of me wins the battle, sometimes I just need (half) a day to unwind, even on short trips. Because when I am at a magical place such as an island inside a lake inside a volcano, I just want to take my time to enjoy the place, and spend all day just staring at the view. And I might as well do this while having my kindle in my lap, reading, and occasionally glancing up with a satisfied sigh.
Now that I’m almost leaving Jakarta, you may wonder how it went with the resolutions (see the resolutions here, check out the first update here).
Well, some things were easier than others, but all in all, I think I failed a little.
It was easy to eat fruit and yes, I ate a lot of rice and a lot of vegetables. So that’s good. I’ve tried exotic and weird fruits, such as dragonfruit, snakeskin fruit (yes, it’s a thing), starfruit, papaya and the best mango’s in the world. The food here is fantastic, but, even though I thought it would be very healthy, it turned out to consist of a lot of oil, sometimes a lot of sugar… Yes, they use fresh ingredients, but a lot of the food contained some not so healthy additions as well. So that was a downside.
Walking to work is something I did every day, and most of the times I walked back also. Sometimes I had plans after work, or I just felt lazy and ordered a Go-jek.
The thing about Indonesia is that it is hot. And the warmth makes you feel lazy and slow, which made it very hard for me to get off my but and hit the gym. So I only did this a couple of times and I wasted perfectly good money on the membership. So even though I did walk to work everyday, and back, most of the times, I didn’t really run or jump or whatever. In the next few months I will let this resolution go also, because with all the travel it will be tricky, but there will be a lot of walking. And then when I move to the next location for a longer period of time, I will create a new plan.
I really wanted to learn yoga while I was here, but I didn’t. I feel bad about that, but my new plans include a ten-day meditation retreat in Thailand, in March, where the morning includes an hour of yoga. So I hope that will give me the basis I need to start doing more yoga.
So yeah, not all my resolutions were accomplished, but that is basically how they work though, isn’t it? I have many resolutions for my time in Paris as well, but we’ll just see how they go. But right now, I am assuming I will accomplish them all then, so I can go on a guilt-free trip the next month and a half.
(full disclosure, the picture at the top was taken in Singapore)
The name: Belitung.
The atmosphere: Tropical.
The scenery: White sand beaches, blue water, beautiful palmtrees.
What more do you want? Nothing.
I went to Belitung, an island in Indonesia, where I spent a relaxing weekend with my friend when she came to visit. Our house was right next to the beach and had everything you could want (a bed and bathroom). The place is only 25 euros a night and you won’t find anything like this in Europe for that price.
The beaches were truly amazing and on the second day we went islandhopping. We got on a boat (by walking into the water and climbing the ladder) and sailed into the great big unknown. We saw a beautiful lighthouse that proved to be very photogenic, we went into a bit of a jungle, we interacted with one of my new favorite animals: turtles and we went snorkeling. And when I say WE went snorkeling, I mean my friend went snorkeling while I was crawled up like a ball in the boat for half an hour, trying to fight the seasickness.
I did throw crackers into the water though, which makes all the fishes come to you and that was awesome.
The next day we went into more jungle, we saw the smallest monkey in the world (but we did see the biggest kind of the smallest monkey, the Tarsius monkey) and we went to a museum. We also saw the place where a movie was shot, called Rainbow Troops. I still haven’t seen it, but it’s on my to watch list.
Just dream away with the pictures we took, and if you want more information or the number for our contact on the island, just contact me 😃