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.
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)
In contrast to what you may suspect after seeing this title, this post is about food, not technology. In Indonesia, there is this thing. This amazing thing. It is the kind of restaurant that they should have everywhere. Actually, a variant of this does exist in several countries under the name of ‘buffet restaurant’. But it is not the same.
In a warteg (Warung Tegal, named after a certain region in Indonesia), they have many different features, which all create a technological idea causing many people to name these kinds of restaurants a touchscreen restaurant.
Feature one: touchscreen. You can look at the different kinds of food, and point at what looks good. Then, the seller will put it on a plate for you (if you want to eat there) or wrap it up in paper (if you want to take away). It’s very easy.
Feature two: voice-activated search. If you are not sure what you’re looking at (which is not uncommon with Indonesian food) you can try to use the voice-activated search feature. If you want to eat some vegetables, you just say ‘sayuran’ (vegetables) and the seller will point at one of the plates that has vegetables on it, all the while looking at you questioningly. If it looks good, nod once. If it does not look good, shake your had, or give a small wave of the hand.
This kind of restaurant is really great. There is something for everyone. But, most of these restaurants make the food in the morning and they will leave it out until it it sold. So if you go there for dinner, you should know that the food won’t be very fresh. For me, a person who doesn’t eat meat, fish or egg, that’s not a problem. But I wouldn’t recommend buying these foodgroups late at night (but, me being me, I wouldn’t recommend buying these foodgroups at all :) ).
A funny thing is that when you want to eat at a warteg and your friend wants to eat at the street-cart outside… there is no problem. One of you can just get the food and sit at the other establishment (if you can call them establishments). You can also bring your own drink to the warteg if you want. Oh, and, you will probably never spend more than a euro when you eat at a warteg. They also have loads of krupuk, free for the taking. But you have to pay afterwards ;)
There is also another kind of shops, called warkop (warung kopi). Literally translated this means coffeeshop, which is funny because I am from The Netherlands. While at the warteg they sell full sized meals, at the warkop they sell snack-like foods. To go with your coffee, or tea.
And remember, if all else fails: NASI is everywhere.
So, my 31st of December did not go as planned. At all. I was staying in Yogyakarta during New Years and had planned to go to the celebration at Borobudur. The plan was as follows: I was supposed to go to the Borobudur temple around the beginning of the afternoon and then stay there until the celebration. Then, in the night, I could go back to Yogya.
I had not really thought this through, I was just sort of assuming everything would work out. But the first wrong turn was when I woke up and my host took me to lunch, because it all took a lot longer than a simple lunch should have. So eventually I got ready to go to Borobudur, but then he said I should come to his office first, and from there I could get transport. But there was no way to go to Borobodur by Go-jek, like we hoped, and all the other options took a lot longer. Normally, that’s not a problem, but seeing how it was already three o’clock at this point, I did not want to arrive at the largest Buddhist temple with limited time to see the damn thing. I also did not want to pay 40 euros for these limitations.
After sitting in the office of my host for a while, thinking about the best solution, I felt a little desperate. It was the 31st of December and if I didn’t go to the Borobudur celebration, I had NO celebration.
Simply. Not. An. Option.
So, I made a new plan. I would go there in the evening, party all night, and go to the Borobudur when it opened, at 6 AM the next morning. It seemed like a solid plan, and my host thought so too.
The next issue that arose, was the transportation. Man, this story is going to become so long, because the whole day felt like that and having to figure all of this stuff out, I really wasn’t having much fun. The options were to go by bus, having to transfer two times and it would take very long. The other option was to borrow the motorbike from my host and go by myself. At that point I did not know the roads would be rather good, so I was scared to go by myself. But it seemed like the best option. However, the minute I decided that yes, I was going to conquer my fears and go on a motorbike, by myself, in the dark, to a place 40 kilometers away, my host started telling me horror stories and said that as a woman alone I would run into criminals.
‘So, what, they will rob me?’ I asked, a little scared. ‘I just won’t bring much money. And I can drive away quickly on the motorbike.’
‘No, no, they won’t rob you. But maybe they will stab you.’
Okay. So I won’t be going by myself then.
The final option was that my host would bring me (BRING ME) and then drive back with his cousin. She was arriving from Semarang that evening (but what bus did she take?) and instead of going all the way to Yogya, so that my host would have to stay at home to let her in, she would get out in Borobudur so she could drive the rest of the way with my host. A very elaborate construction, that was so nice of them so that I could go to the celebration.
So, we left the house around 9 or 9.30, which I thought was a little late, but okay. Then we made a lot of stops on the way, to get gas, to go by his office, and finally we were on our way. It was a very long ride. By now I am very much used to being on the back of a motorbike, but this was just… so long. Maybe it is unnecessary to say, but my ass hurt when I finally got to hop off.
During the motorbike ride, my host turned to me and asked:
‘So where are you staying tonight?’
Uh. What? I thought this party was going to go on all night. We talked about me staying up all night, but he never mentioned that the party would be finished around 1 AM. So what am I supposed to do for five hours, until the opening of the park? Well, I brought my Kindle, so I supposed I could just walk into a random hotel and asked if I could hang out in their lobby, reading. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I was feeling adventurous.
We arrived at the temple and a new problem surfaced. Where the hell was the entrance to this party?!
The temple is big and there were several entrances. We kept walking around and finally we found the way in. At this point, it was already after 11 o’clock. So even though I reserved a ticket, we didn’t pick it up. And it was unnecessary because there was a gate, but there were many people outside the gate as well, and from there you could see the stage and the festivities really well. So it was good. I was there, at the celebration.
My host had to leave. I figured he would at least join in some of the celebration, together with his cousin. I didn’t realize he was JUST going to drop me off. So I looked around, desperate for some company, and then I saw two people with long blonde hair. If anything, they were bound to speak English, so I approached them. I introduced myself. I asked them if I could hang out with them for the duration of the party, because I was all alone. They said yes. My host left.
And so I made new friends, friends that were my best friends for two whole hours. And this is a perfect segway for me, into a wise lesson that I learned.
Sometimes you just have to accept that your contact is short term and you won’t see each other again. And you can enjoy it and be okay with it.
For a long time I just thought of social contacts as something that was an opportunity to grow. I didn’t really feel like hanging out with new people if I knew it would just be for one evening (travelers for instance). I wouldn’t get something out of it in the long term. And I know this sounds horrible, but that is how I reasoned sometimes. I can actually be a very selfish person and I am totally aware of that.
But now I don’t feel that way anymore. Because each person you meet teaches you a lesson. Maybe it is a lesson about their culture, about communication differences, about yourself… But a lesson it will be. As well as a memory. And now I am collecting these lessons and memories and I treasure each and every one of them. I get inspired daily while traveling and meeting many people from all over the world. They show me different views on things, tell me different opinions, share stories about their lives, which may differ from mine in so many ways.
I have short term contact all the time now, and they continuously brighten my day.
Alright, enough of that. The story continues. The two blondes had a friend that was Indonesian (saying the world is small is the understatement of the century when we realized that the guy actually lived two streets away from me in Jakarta!!!) and this friend had two more friends. (I can feel this story boring you, but please, stick with it. It is about to become one of those weird experiences that you only gain when you travel or live your life in a crazy spontaneous way)
He told me that those friends would go to a hotel of another friend of them and that I could join them. Well, didn’t that just seem like the perfect solution. I was happy as a clam.
When the clock struck twelve I wished my temporary friends a happy new year, I texted some people back in The Netherlands (actually no, I sent them a video) and it was about an hour later when they were planning to go back to Yogyakarta. And if I didn’t want to see the Borobudur I would have probably been able to catch a ride with them, but that was not the plan. No, the plan now, was to go to a hotel with two strangers to hang out with said strangers until the sun came up.
They introduced me to the two friends of the guy (I’m sorry, I did not remember their names so you’ll just have to do with my non-descriptive descriptives) and they were two policemen who had to oversee the event. Do you see where I’m going with this?
They told me they would be a little bit longer to round everybody up and do their debriefing or whatever, but I could wait in their car and we would leave shortly. Next thing I know, we are walking to their car, I get in the backseat and wait for my newest two friends to come back and drive me to the hotel.
I was giddy with anticipation and with the way my day was turning around. And when they came back after half an hour they drove me to the hotel, where I met the owner. He had studied in Belgium for six years and spoke perfect Dutch. Who would have guessed?!
He made me a sandwich, I got some water, and we hung out in one of the small wooden thingies… (what to call them…? See the picture) I was totally set, the evening turned out great and while having a conversation in a mixture of English, Indonesian and Dutch, the owner mentioned he actually had some mats to sleep on, if I wanted to get some shut-eye.
Well, I wanted, so after a few more minutes I went to the back where he laid out a bed and went to sleep for a little bit.
As it turns out, the Borobudur temple actually offered a sunrise tour, so around 5 AM the owner drove me to the entrance of the park and I watched the sun rise at the Borobudur temple. It was a bit rainy and there were many clouds, but honestly, who cares. It was great.
I was there by myself, alone with my thoughts. I walked around, studied every nook and corner and when it was just after 6AM, I got a drunken call from two of my best friends to wish me a happy new year.
So yes, full disclosure, I felt a little bit lonely at that point. They were on the phone, in the midst of insane noises of fireworks going off, people having fun. And I was alone at this amazing temple. I got over it pretty quickly, but I missed my friends at that point and was really honored that they would spend twenty of their drunken minutes with me (of which their recollection the next morning was foggy, at best).
Also, I was amazed by modern technology, that would offer me the possibility to talk to my friends, basically for free (whatsapp call) while staring at an amazing artwork of a building.
So that’s it. That is the crazy story that saluted my new year in style and that will probably set an example for the rest of my travels. And if all my failed plans and changed itineraries will be anything like this… I’m truly going to have the time of my life.
A weekend ago I went to another Indonesian island, called Sumatra. I flew there from Jakarta on Wednesday and went back on Monday. I encountered so many friendly acts and faces here, that I just wanted to share some with you.
On Couchsurfing, I posted a request for someone to host me on my first night in Medan. I landed at the airport there and in the morning I wanted to continue my journey to Lake Toba, but I needed a place to crash. I realized this was not something that people may be jumping up and down for, and I posted the request two days in advance, but I got a reply. And the reply was so nice. It was from a guy who works at the airport and lives very close to there. That night he had a nightshift, so what happened was that he picked me up from the arrivals section, drove me to his house and left me there. His work finished at 8 am, so around 9 he picked me up and dropped me off at the busstation! He even stayed with me until I got on the bus and we had some fun conversations. But this was such a selfless act and I so appreciated it. Later, when I flew back to Jakarta, he met me at the airport and gave me a souvenir. It was a little Batak house and he walked me all the way to the plane (because he was awesome and had security clearance for everywhere).
When I arrived at Lake Toba, I just enjoyed everything so much. I took the first day to relax and read and write by the lake. The second day I went out for a new adventure: riding a motorbike. I entertained myself in the afternoon, just learning how to give enough gas (but not too much) and watching the amazing views of the lake and the mountains. In the evening I went to see a local Batak performance of dance and music. I was seriously unimpressed by the dance performance, because it was very easy. Which is probably why they asked some people to join them for the final dance and when I was asked I didn’t see a reason not to join – everybody could do that dance.
So I did. After that there was a wonderful music performance of which I have a little (big, whatever) clip.
I left Lake Toba on Sunday and my flight back to Jakarta was not until Monday evening. So I posted another request on Couchsurfing, to find somebody to show me around Medan. The girl who replied was very nice and showed me all kinds of places. One of the things that was very memorable for me, was the moment she went to the mosque to pray, in the afternoon. I placed myself on a bench in a small tent where they sold some street food, and I got my Kindle out, because there was no one there. But that never lasts long when there is a bule around.
First, three little boys came up to me.
‘Hello miss, hihihi. Where are you from? Hihihi what is your name?’
I answered all of their questions and after two or three questions they became too shy and ran off. Then, I looked over my shoulder, where I was sitting against a gate. And three little girls’ heads stuck through the gate next to me and smiled sweetly.
I greeted them and asked them in Indonesian how they were, which caused many giggles.
‘Dari mana, umur berapa, apa nama anda?’
I replied to all of their questions and they too ran off shyly.
It was quiet for a little while and just when I got my Kindle back out, I was interrupted again (which was welcome, of course).
This time, an old man. He came up to me speaking English very well. They are never very original in their questions, so I answered the same ones once more and just as he had his answers, more men came up. They all shaked my hand and I felt like I ended up in a meeting of the old men’s club. I was introduced to everybody (“Look, she is from Belanda”). And I always sort of have this picture of old men together, being very calm and wise and mellow. But they were a bunch of rowdy men laughing and joking with each other. It was such a great atmosphere and when my friend was done praying, I had to say goodbye and I left with a big smile.
And then, later that afternoon, when we were walking down the street, I was stopped by a man of whom I’m pretty sure he never saw a white girl before, because he was so excited. He asked me many questions in Indonesian and I was proud to be able to answer and then he proposed (yes, I mean for marriage).
My answer: ‘Maaf ya, nggak mau.’ (Sorry, I don’t want to)
Oh how he laughed.
He kept shaking my hand and put his arm next to mine to compare skin colors (Duo Penotti is the best way to describe it) and then I kept walking, because otherwise he probably would have taken me home to meet his entire family.
Even though sometimes the attention you get here as a foreigner can be a bit overwhelming, they have the best intentions and are always so welcoming. This time away has been proof of that yet again. And it just makes me so damn happy.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take any pictures of my trip to Sumatra.