Observations on Indonesia

Indonesia may consist of a hell of a lot of islands, of which I have only explored two, but there’s a few things in common I have noticed so far…

1. Rules of the Road

When driving in Indonesia, you should overtake and hoot everything, road signs hold no meaning and when crossing the road as a pedestrian, you are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Even on a crossing, even if the little man is green.

2. The Village Gates

I’ve noticed across Bali and Java that when a village or community stems off from a main road, there tends to be an arch, or at least some pillars to let you know where you’re heading into. I quite like the idea. They are all quite personal – some are, I assume, sponsored by mobile phone networks, some display the date of independence and some are painted beautifully. These are my favourites, they look very grand, like you’ll be greeted by Mickey Mouse at the other end with Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder and magic in the air. On the other hand, the worst ones look like the gate into Auschwitz. They may as well draw up a sign, “You don’t wanna be passing through here. Rape, pillage, murder, we’ve had it all ‘ere”.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, after all you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, so why judge a village by it’s entrance arch? Who knows, behind the bright green one decorated with the independence date some twisted Walt Hitler could be waiting to attack.

3. No Smoke Without Smoke.

I hate smoking. Literally hate it. However, here in Indonesia, I would estimate maybe 80% of the population smoke. I think you can even buy chocolate cigarettes if my weak Bahasa Indonesian has taught me anything. And if there’s no-one smoking around you, then don’t worry, there’ll be a plastic fire not too far away to fill your lungs instead.

4. Double Standards.

This could be interpreted in a few ways. Number one; Indonesians are very house proud and will spend LOADS of time sweeping dead leaves from their porch….but the toilet may leave much to be desired. Number two; You could be driving through what appears to be a run down ol’ town full of shacks and bamboo hut houses…and suddenly pass the most amazing looking Mosque. Number three; Remember, the white people are infinite pits of money, this means tourists pay more!! I understand this isn’t exclusive to Indonesia but it’s very annoying.

Indonesia is like a really annoying friend. A bit smelly, might creep up on you and scare you for no reason, but you always have fun together so you keep seeing each other. (Don’t worry, I’m not thinking of anyone I know/have known/will know!) This is why I’m planning on coming back. I know, right?!

“But you hated Bali!”

“And that Couchsurfing girl!”

“And there’s rubbish everywhere!”

Yes, I know. But I want to like Indonesia. I think now, I’m half way there! I’m hoping Sumatra will make us friends for life. Maybe we’ll get those half heart necklaces to prove it.

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Some Surf, A Snorkel and Some Sunburn.

Pangandaran. I have finally learnt the name, the spelling and the pronunciation. I was a little worried on leaving Yogyakarta that I’d end up in Prambanan. A temple. Not far from Yogya, in the other direction to Pangandaran. And I’m pretty sure you can’t surf, snorkel or get sunburnt there. Ok, well, maybe you can get sunburnt there, but the other two are definite no-no’s.

Luckily, my weak Bahasa Indonesian had got me the right ticket, and after a creepy half hour with the bus company office guy who asked to take my photo, I was heading to Pangandaran.

Even better, when I arrived at a pretty decent looking hotel complete with Western toilet and shower, I noticed another “white person” arrive on his motorbike. His name was Cliff. And Cliff is one of the many that are being added to my list of saviours. He offered to take me out for some good food on his bike and is married to an Indonesian woman so visits every year and has been to Pangandaran a few times so knew his way around much better than I could have figured out on my own!

On my first day here, we headed to the National Park at the bottom of the village. Cliff went fishing around the corner on a different beach and I stayed on the coral rich beach at the top end of the park. There were so many starfish! I hovered around for a while but eventually, the people bobbing up and down in life jackets with little snorkels popping up looked a lot more appealing. Having no-one to leave my bag with, and having my camera, phone, and money in my bag, finding a trustworthy looking snorkel rental man was a must. Thankfully, the first guy I found was sat chatting to a police officer, so I thought, “If I’m gonna leave it anywhere, here’s the best bet!”. I’m so glad I did. Snorkeling made me want to dive even more so, so much so that I’m considering adding the Philippines into my trip much more than I was initially.

I was floating along, taking it slow, constantly bobbing my head up to check my bag was still there when a little man in a mask and snorkel called to me, “Here is good but over here is much better, follow me!” He seemed like quite a genuine guy, so, hoping that he wouldn’t be after a tip once the tour was over, I followed. He grabbed me by the wrist and must have been showing me round some amazing coral for at least 20 minutes. However long it was, it was enough for the back of my legs to get sunburnt!

I’d asked Cliff on the first day if he knew of any good surf instructors, or places to ask along the beach. He recommended Batu Karas, a small village 32km from Pangandaran. He was kind enough to offer to take me there on the second day. And so I attempted surfing! One of the things on my trip to do list. It’s a real tough workout! I paid 150,000 Rp (about a tenner!) for an hours lesson and board rental all day. My instructor was adorable, and reminded me of my old Spanish teacher Gonzo (for those of you who are now confused, I did not name my tortoise after my old Spanish teacher. That would be weird.). After a few failed attempts, he said to me, “If you don’t stand, you don’t pay! Money back guarantee!” As tempting as it was to get the lesson for free, I was determined that I would stand. And I did! About 4 times. Once I managed to stand all the way to the shore, and I caught about 10 – 15 other waves but bodyboarded them in as I couldn’t quite stand. Overall, not a bad first attempt, but definitely need more practice before I can be cruising along like some of them were!

And now tomorrow I leave Pangandaran. Not a temple. I’m heading to Bandung for one night, to catch a plane to Kuala Lumpur, where my mum and sister will be waiting to spend a few days with me! Very exciting! But today, I need to relax, stop swaying from the surf and keep applying the aftersun…


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Uploads, Uploads, Uploads!


Today I did a very relaxing, arty Batik course. I’ve had plenty of free time this afternoon and easy access to speedy internet so I’ve taken the opportunity to upload a heap of videos to Youtube and photos to Flickr. Feel free to check them out and have a break from my words and actually see what I’m up to!

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Pangandaran, which is a small beach town that was hit quite badly by a tsunami a few years ago so is now very quiet, but still a brilliant place to try surfing, which I hope to attempt!

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Crappy birthday to me.

It’s been a pretty rubbish birthday so far…allow me to explain…

Here’s yesterday and why I’m now in a hostel…..

Woke up, headed out to Borobudur which is a temple 2 hour bus ride away. host said her friends cs people were going – but then they didn’t have a mobile number so I went alone – again, her sister drove me to the bus station….
good day there, met Yvonne from york again who had met another guy (Matthew) and I went around the temple again with them. my host had been talking about this Ramayana ballet thing, which there was a big arrow on my map to. so between us, we decide maybe we’ll meet again there later!

we get the bus back, I get off near the centre coz I hadn’t eaten anything all day (she didn’t give me breakfast and her sis drove me straight to the bus station, so no food all day!). so I stopped for a meal….I’d just finished and I get a text “do you still wanna come? it’s a 40 min motorbike ride from my house” I’m thinking I’m closer than her house, so I text back saying I’ll walk from here…she texts back saying get the transjogja bus to “museum blah blah blah” so I go to the station, show the text to the girl, she tells me which bus…I wait, get on bus, check the bus map and think ok, so I turn round then get off…so I do that (not checking the name of the bus stop – I saw the Ramayana ballet place and thought “this must be it”…I wait for about half an hour then she starts texting me like “where are you?” “are you far?” “I can’t see you” etc….im texting back like “im here, right by the bus stop, outside the entrance to the place.”…..then I spot Matthew sat having finished his meal! so I head over towards him…and then get a text saying “I’m going home, ive been waiting like 25 minutes. im tired now.” so I text back saying “well, im here. I’ve found my friend from today so do you mind if i still go with him?”

we head over to get me a ticket, and just as I get my ticket, I get this message: “the curfew is 00:00 and make sure you come back before it. and I am absolutely disappointed, I had been waiting for you for 25 min and I broke my promise to the polish guys to see the show at prambannan. if you told me in advance that you are not interested of watching it, I can go by myself.”
what the hell?!?!?! you can’t let someone into your home and then turn schizo on them for a mistake!!!

it turns out that there were 2 Ramayana ballets last night – I’d gone to the wrong one (but the one that was signed very clearly on the map!!!). So I stayed and watched, it finished at half nine and I decide to head back. I asked a little rickshaw man how much to go the station near her house (i didn’t have her address on me, just the name of the station near her house and directions how to get to her house from there)…he didn’t seem to know where it was. so Matthew said he’d walk me home.

we got so lost! asked loads of people…from what I could remember of the street name, they didn’t seem to think it meant anything!! we came the street name, they didn’t seem to think it meant anything!! we came so close and then it was like 11.30 and she wasnt texting me back with her address so we had to get a rickshaw to the taxi terminal and then a taxi to Matthew’s hostel and I had to spend the night there.Ā  huuuuh. so yeah, that’s how I turned 22! fun times.

then today, i make my way back to her house this morning, i arrive she’s SUPER nice to me, says we are going to a cs meet up for the Indonesian independence day (today-my bday!) at 1, but I’d already arranged to talk with my boyfriend at 1 today so i told her this, she was SUPER nice, said she’d take me to a really good cafe with wi-fi and let me borrow her laptop etc, which she did. then we meet her friends at the cafe, they eat, i go upstairs to Skype, feel like she’s telling them about last night…i come down to eat, they are ready to leave, she seems annoyed that she’s having to wait for me to eat…we head to this meet up thing, she ignores me, talking to all her friends individually, they keep looking over at me, its obvious shes telling them about last night. i felt so angry!! you can’t treat people like that!!
then Isaline who I’d met the first night we went out came over and was really nice and I broke down coz my host had been so mean and I wanted to leave. she offered to take me to my hosts house on her scooter to get my stuff and then to town to get a hotel but my host insisted on coming….we left her house, Isaline took me into town and helped me find a hotel and we’re going to go out to a really good restaurant (she’s studying here atm and knows these things!) and have a proper birthday……she couldn’t have been more helpful. but my host was like schizophrenic or something!!! so now I have a nice hotel, with a proper shower and western toilet and I can relax and not be anybody’s pet! it was like I was her cs accessory – when I arrived this morning and said I wanted to use the internet at 1, she said, “well you must be tired, rest in your room til then.” and in her house I felt like I had no option but to rest in my room!! not that i wanted to socialise with her at this point but its the principal….phew. what a day….

Everyone has been lovely except the girl i was staying with!! the most important one to be nice!! hey ho, it’s over now, tomorrow is my new birthday! šŸ™‚

*NOTE*- I am aware of the bad grammar in this post. Frustration doesn’t allow for grammar!

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“You make like husband and wife in the bedroom?”

Everyday is a holiday in Bali. National Stare At The White Person Day. Everyday. You’d think with they amount of tourists (for reasons beyond my comprehension) that they’d have got over it by now. But apparently not.

My lasting impression of Bali is a dirty, overrated place full of stray dogs and heaps of plastic rubbish. If I was you, I wouldn’t bother.

The family I stayed with were lovely and couldn’t have been more helpful but I just didn’t get Bali. Here’s a little insight into my rather interesting itinerary…

Day One. Bali.

I had arranged a Couchsurfing place to stay in Bali. It was the first time I had tried it and if you’re not aware of it, it’s basically free hosting and staying all around the woirld maybe trading language lessons or cooking a meal. I was eager to try it and thought that a place like Bali, where I know very little about would be a great first place to try it.

I arrive at the airport, having been in text contact with who I thought was Ratna, the 19 year old daughter of the family. I knew that Papajero (the dad of the family) would be picking me up, but because I thought I’d been texting Ratna’s mobile, I thought she would be there too.During the huge visa queue, I get a text “I’m in a blue tshirt outside”. So when I eventually make it out of arrivals, I find myself confronted with many people (a lot with blue tshirts) all waving their signs with names of their victim to Bali. I don’t see my sign, instead Papajero has to ask me if I’m Lindsay, but we get there in the end.

Imagine the scene; arrive in a new country, not being able to speak the language, and then your only way out of the airport being a lone man with a long beard and an old 4 by 4. I was extra alert, any scary sign I’d be jumping out of that car. So when the conversation turned to boyfriends and the question “Do you make like husband and wife in the bedroom?” came up, I was ready to leap onto the nearest motorbike, of which I had plenty of choice.

“Err? Baa…nah, ye…but…meh…that’s a bit personal isn’t it?” was all I could manage on the spot.

“I only ask because in Bali, it is very bad. I meet my wife, we married after only one week.”

And so it went on for 2 and a half hours. Very scared, we eventually arrived at the house. I was started to doubt the family’s existence a little until his son, Udi came running to open the gate. Still not sure what to make of it, I eventually managed to fall asleep.

Day Two. Bali.

I am awoken very early to the sound of Green Day, “I hope you had the time of yoour life”. Yeah right. I attempt to have a shower, it’s quite weak. I go for breakfast and Papajero asks me if I want to go to Candidasa with him. Having no idea what else I can do, where Candidasa is or what there is to do there, I agree. We pick up two Italians from a hotel 5 minutes down the road and set off. It turns out Papajero has never been to Candidasa before and that it’s on the other side of the island. I sit in the hot car on my leather seat for about 8 hours. We had a little lunch break inbetween. By lunch I mean Nasi Campur, which is rice with whatever is lying around. That day little ants were lying around.

By now the dogs, plastic, fires by the road side and overtaking and hooting of every other veichle on the road was becoming quite draining. I was ready to come home. I chose to work damn hard for a year and save every bit of spare cash to have fun and enjoy myself not be stuck in the middle of nowhere, alone with a squat toilet and a pants shower!! The second night was very hard. I was literally planning the quickest way out. I already had a ticket from Bandung to Kuala Lumpur on the 25th of August. To get home from KL would be very easy, and relatively cheap cpared to if I carried on and flew home from somewhere else. This was a very tempting prospect. I could fly home on the 25th, be home for my boyfriends birthday and then come back out again in December – skipping the squat toilets!

It took a lot of self convincing over the time in Bali to stay. I knew, and still know, that if I go home early, I will have left my job for nothing, worked solid for nothing and endured 6 hours sat next to a Somalian pirate for nothing. It would be difficult but I knew I had to stay.

Day Three. Bali.

After the delights of the weak shower, I had to surcome to the mandi. A mandi is a deep bowl in Indonesian bathrooms that is filled with cold water to be scooped out and poured over the body. In the mornings in the mountains in Bali it gets cold, so this takes some courage. It’s not a pleasant experience, but being here in Yogyakarta where it’s a lot warmer, it’s actually quite refreshing.

On the morning of my second full day in Bali, I went to school with Coming. Coming is five and adorable. In fact her whole class were adorable.

I’d asked Papajero if I could maybe drop her off at school with him one day just to see what it was like andI was allowed to stay. For the two hours that they go to school. Towards the end, the teacher asked me if I knew any English songs or games, so I taught them the Hokey Cokey and we played Duck, Duck, Goose. I enjoyed my morning at the school, this was the kind of experience I was after. Things were looking up. Then it came time to leave.

“Oh, you must, email…” I followed the teacher into her office. She pulled out a book full of names, countries and emails. Apparently this happens a lot. I sign the book for her to then pull out another book, with the word “Donation” written on the front. Now, I don’t mind the fact that I had to donate to see the school and participate in the class. What I do mind is the fact that it’s at the end, after I’ve seen the school and participated in the class that the book comes out.

Later that day, Udi took me to the Water Temple on his uncle’s motorbike. I’d never been on a motorbike before and he told me not to hold onto the back because it makes him wobble. So I had to just sit. It was surprisingly easier than I thought! After the water temple, we headed across to the internet cafe.

“Are you going to go on the internet?” I asked Udi, just being nice.

“Yes” he replied.

In we went, and an hour later I head over to the man to pay. My hour had cost 4,500rupiah (it sounds a lot but it’s only 32p!) and I paid with a 10,000 note. The man gave me 3,000 change. I stopped for a moment and wondered whether it was worth questioning. Already hating Bali, I turned around, “Erm, 4,500? I gave you 10,000?”

“Yeah, but you pay for him too.”

I turned to Udi, “Did you use the internet? I though you were just watching that boy. I’m paying for you?”

“Oh yeah, sorry, I forget to tell you.”

“Oh right.”

The hatred for Bali was not due to disappear anytime soon. If you are white, you are rich beyond your wildest dreams don’t you know?

In the afternoon, Papajero invited me to a cock fight. It wasn’t my cup of tea but neither was sitting lonely on a porch in the middle of nowhere, so I agreed to go. Coming came too, and apart from her, I was the only female, and the only white person. Instantly asking for lots of stares. It was a pretty gruesome sight. Not the stares, the cock fight. They put the chickens in bags to make them angry. Then attach a little knife to their ankles and pluck feathers from their heads until they are very angry and then they let them loose on each other. The fight continues until one chicken dies or both are too close to death to fight. Although having said that, I only witnessed one draw.

When we arrived home, my luck had changed. A new family were stood on the restaurant platform looking quite lost. They were from France, and they were my saviours! Not only had they come at the perfect time when I really needed to vent how annoying it is to be thought of as a millionaire everywhere you go (which technically, in Indonesia, I am), but they were French! So I could vent my frustrations with no worries that the family would understand any of what was being said.

It was such a relief.

Day Four. Bali.

Now I had people to do stuff with, things became a lot easier. I had to wake up very early (5am!!) to get my ticket to Yogyakarta…Papajero had to collect a live pig for the ceremony the next day en route…I couldn’t watch the pig beingĀ put into a sack and dumped in the car live. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Neither was the chick with it’s legs tied together shoved in the glovebox. We then picked up a grandma. Then anotherĀ live pig. Then another grandma. THEN we went to get my ticket, finally! Ā 

In the afternoon, me and the parents of the French family went for a walk by the lake with Udi and later on we went to the GitGit waterfall. The waterfall was nice but the main attraction was the endless stalls of the same sarongs, batik and wooden carvings. I didn’t realise just how much you could barter down the goods until I watched the French family do it. I learnt to walk away and pretend you don’t want to pay that much and they instantly lower the price. It feels mean but the prices start ridiculously high so it’s ok. On the way back, we picked up a durian which we ate for dessert later that evening. It smells absolutely vile but tastes like creamy mango. Not bad, but nothing spectacular.

Day Five. Bali.

Day five was a biggie. It was the ceremony that I’d heard so much about. The pig, the fruit, the rice baskets, the gamelan…all was prepared and driven to the family temple. It was a very interesting experience! The gamelan went on and on. Then the dancing begun. Young girls came out one by one and picked their ‘victim’. I don’t know who was more of the victim though – the girl or the picked dancer. The first man to be picked was a leary paedo-esque man and it felt quite uncomfortable to watch.

“I don’t think I can watch this if it’s going to go onĀ for as long as the gamelan goes on” I thought. Then she picked me. Neil’s dad from The Inbetweeners came to mind. (*If anyone sees the film, let me know how it is!!*)

It was actually quite fun and the parents of the French family had a go as well. They were pretty good!!

We were then offered lunch in a bag and I sat next to my new found friend, {insert name here}. I never did find out her name. But she was very old, and short and cute. And she lived in the little house next to the temple. She wouldn’t let go of my hand, it was quite touching. Bali grew on me a little that day.

Day Six. Bali.

On my last day in Bali, we headed to the hot springs pool near Lovina beach. Papajero assured us that we would have time to hit the hot springs, beach and eat all before my bus. And we did!

And now I’m here, in Yogyakarta. So far so good. I spent the first day getting lost and making friends with Yvonne who studies in York and is also travelling solo, so we had lunch together. In the evening, I was invited to a Couchsurfing meet up by my host here. There is a HUGE Couchsurfing community in Yogyakarta. HUGE! Everybody knows everybody.

The next day (yesterday) I took the obligatory trip to Borobudur, which is a very impressive Buddist temple. I went alone but met a couple from Luxembourg on the bus who I felt like I followed around like a lost puppy until we found the temple! After one tour of the temple, I saw Yvonne arrive with someone she had met on the bus, who turned out to be quite the saviour!

My host had been texting me all day with details of the Ramayana ballet. Turns out there’s two Ramayana ballets here! And I got off the bus at the wrong one. Luckily, Matthew (who Yvonne had met on the bus) was there, so I went in with him and not my host (who had gone to the other Ramayana ballet – it’s all very confusing!). Turns out the Transjogja stops at 9. Which isn’t helpful when the performance finishes at 9.30. Matthew offered to walk me home, as the rickshaw driver didn’t seem to know where the bus stop near her house was. If I could have got to there, I could have worked my way back to her house. But no-one apparently knows where they live around here!! Thankfully, Matthew let me sleep at his hostel for the night as the curfew at my hosts house was 12am. This morning has been a restful few hours reading after breakfast on a bench and internet in KFC. Fun times!

Categories: Indonesia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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