We’ve moved from Indonesia to Thailand, so that means it is time for final thoughts on Indonesia. Although, once again, our final thoughts on Indonesia are limited by the fact that we only stayed in Bali (Nusa Dua and Legian) and Java (Yogyakarta).
Kuta Beach on Bali is where many of the tourists go. We think there is pretty much only one reason to go to Kuta Beach, and that is to visit the local branch of Paradise Dynasty. Yum….soup dumplings. The rest of the area is pretty much just one big Australian drunk fest.
While we were in Yogyakarta, we were stopped repeatedly so that locals could take photos with us. We loved it, even if we didn’t really understand it. The only other place where anything like that has happened to us with any regularity was in Myanmar back in 2015 and there the locals largely tried to be surreptitious about taking our photos.
Tipping is SO complicated in Indonesia. Everything we read said tipping isn’t expected but is highly appreciated. Great. That isn’t very helpful. And, then we read that we were expected to give our driver lunch money. And give him a tip at the end of the day. So much for tipping isn’t expected…..
We love, love, love the crackers in Indonesia. When you go to a restaurant, oftentimes there will be a pail of crackers on the table. Sometimes the pail is huge. I’m talking like a 5 gallon paint bucket big filled to the brim with bags of crackers at the beginning of the night. The crackers vary. Sometimes they are prawn crackers, sometimes they are rice crackers, sometimes there are nuts involved. They are pretty much always delicious. Trust me, just try them. They only cost about 3000 IDR (21 US cents), so you really have nothing to lose and plenty to gain.
While Bali is predominantly Hindu, Java is predominantly Muslim. But the Islam religion practiced in the Yogyakarta region of Java would be surprising to most Americans. For example, a local introduced us to a fermented rice wine beverage with a small quantity of alcohol in it. When we asked why this was popular in Java (given that it was our understanding that practicing Muslims don’t drink alcohol), we were told that most Javanese Muslims drink some alcohol, they just aren’t blatant about it and don’t drink enough to get drunk. Similarly, when we asked our driver if we needed to make sure he was somewhere where he could participate in Friday prayers, he thanked us profusely and explained he wasn’t expected to pray if he was working. We were also told that intermarriage is common. Apparently, the couple has to be the same religion on paper (which we were told tends to be Islam because it is easiest to convert to Islam in Indonesia), but then can actively practice whatever religion they like. And, while most of the women cover their hair, almost none cover their face. (There are other parts of Indonesia where the predominant form of Islam is much more strict).
Yogyakarta is full of graffiti. Most — but not all of it — it is really, really bad.
If anyone offers you anything made of “green beans,” they aren’t talking about haricot vert. They are talking about mung beans. We were so confused when given a dessert made with “green beans.” Don’t get me wrong, desserts made with mung beans aren’t much better (come on, vegetables don’t belong in dessert — I’m talking about you carrot cake), but at least mung bean desserts are familiar to us from our past travels.
Everything in Java is sweet. The chicken is sweet. The coffee is sweet. The only thing that isn’t sweet is the dessert. (Well, except the doughnuts. The doughnuts are excellent and tasty and come in some unique flavors and are a sugar bomb and I loved every bite).
It is interesting how cheap healthy food is in Java and how expensive crap food is. One day, we had a healthy and filling lunch of chicken and noodles for under $3 for the two of us. Then, we had coffee, a cold version of hot chocolate, and a doughnut at a local doughnut shop, and it was more than twice the price of our lunch.
The mosquitoes in Java are vicious. Trust me, I’ve lived through a Northern Wisconsin summer or two. Those mosquitoes can’t even compete against the Javanese mosquitoes. They are tiny, so you can’t see them. They bite during the day. They bite during the night. The bite when you are outside. They bite when you are sound asleep in your hotel. And, they bite through massive quantities of Deet like Deet is the best tasting thing in the world to them. (Only 2 more days and counting until we are outside of the dengue fever incubation period….).
The Javanese ADORE Barack Obama. As soon as anyone found out we were American, they started telling us their “I almost met Barack when he visited Java” story. They absolutely LOVE him. One guy tried to say with a straight face that Trump was also a good president, but changed his tune and looked relieved immediately when we disagreed.
We still don’t understand how all the tattoo shops in Bali can survive. Likewise, we don’t understand why tourists come to Bali and get Native American inspired tattoos.
Beer is often listed as a “soft drink” on menus in Bali. I kid you not. You can rest assured that did not happen in Yogyakarta (where beer wasn’t even on most menus).
For some reason, all over Indonesia the locals call male tourists “boss.” Do you want to buy a t-shirt boss, do you want to rent a scooter boss. Robert hates, hates, hates being called “boss.” (On Java, Indonesians call Caucasian tourists “bule,” which kind of sounds like boul-ay. There is a great debate as to whether the term is derogatory or not and I’m not weighing in on that mess.)
There was something very sad and ironic about hearing “Wind of Change” by the Scorpions multiple times a day in both Bali and Yogyakarta. Recall that the video for the song contains images of the fall of the Berlin wall (even if the song wasn’t actually about the wall). Interesting that the song was being played over and over and over in Indonesia while the U.S was tearing itself apart about whether to build a wall on the Mexican border.
The Indonesians we met love John Denver. And Bebe Rexha. Go figure.
If you want a 60 day visa for Thailand, the place to get it is Bali. Talk about a piece of cake. Show up with your paperwork and money, and three days later you have your visa. Genius! We were a little bit worried about how unofficial the visa looked (e.g., everything filled in by hand), but they let us into Thailand so I guess it was official.