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  • Writer's pictureÈric

Our feelings after travelling as a couple in Indonesia for a month

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Today is our last day in Indonesia and also we have been travelling for more than 1 month since the start of the sabbatical.


Travelling as a couple in Indonesia for a month has been a mix of feelings. Let's go first with the good feelings and finish with the bad ones at the end.


Good feelings


- Richness of culture: On one hand, the richness of Indonesian culture is huge, you can feel that everywhere with the food, the languages, the style of the people, the color of their skin, the variety of animals at each different island, etc. And you can feel that everywhere. For example something as basic as thank you was


"Terima Kasih" in general Indonesian

"Suksma" in Bali

"Tampiasih" in Lombok and Gili Air

"Enjo" in Raja Ampat.


We were told that there were 300 different languages in Indonesian... so this was only a glimpse of it haha.


photo with Indonesia on top of Europe?


- Nature and landscapes: The natural wonders in Indonesia are really worth it. From beautiful waterfalls, temples and rice terraces in Bali


Bali's most iconic temple photo by Two Travelling

to amazing animals and islands in Komodo



Padar island with Trixi from Two Travelling

Komodo dragon picture by two travelling as a couple

to beautiful caves and beaches in Lombok



Èric and Trixi from Two Travelling in a cave of Lombok close to Kuta

to the gorgeous places in Raja Ampat



Piaynemo drone view from two travelling

Trixi on a sandbank at cape kri in Indonesia


The people: another highlight are the people itself. They smile a lot and they are usually curious about tourists and try to help you when they feel they can. Although sometimes they do it expecting money in exchange, many other times they are genuinely happy with tourists.


The stories of the locals: these were some of the big highlights of the trip. From the stories of Annie who started from nothing and sharing a 2m2 bamboo house by the beach with the entire family to being able to go to the university by having many debts with the neighbors of her community to being able to be an English teacher by having learned directly from tourists in exchange for free food. You can check more on these details in this post.


The other stories from the locals that were very emotional were the stories of an Indonesian woman living in Raja Ampat. She is originally from Sumatra and she lived a Nomad life with her family until the age of 11. They were actually always lighting up a fire each night with the family to be protected from tigers. And they were killing dangerous animals as soon as they saw them, such as snakes with some kind of machete…


What was more emotional about her story was that she actually lived the time of destroying a full jungle to make palm oil in the east of Sumatra. Apparently, many families were promised to have a big piece of land for free and in exchange they just had to plant palm trees for palm oil. Of course many locals took the opportunity, including her parents who stopped living a Nomad’s life when she was 11. Then, they were offered a piece of land of 3 hectares and it was full of trees, basically delimited by 4 sticks showing the area that was theirs. Then they started cutting the trees and burning the area and when they burnt the area they could hear the animals crying. One day, she even saw an elephant crying that came back to the area that used to be its home… It was very sad to hear these stories. After many years of having lived in Jakarta and having worked in big resorts, she learned a lot about the reality of what was happening and now she understands how bad it is for the jungle, its nature and its animals. However, she still understands that her family and many other families are still using the land to farm palm trees because for them this is money and they don’t think about the consequences for the animals and plants…


Even though some of the stories were shocking and sad, it was an experience on its own to hear such life summaries.


Safety: We felt safe during the entire trip in almost any situation at day and during night. We must say however that we were not in Jakarta at night. We’ve heard it can be pretty dangerous, especially close to the harbor. For us everything felt safe except when wanting to take a Grab taxi from the harbor of Sorong, in which the groupof the yellow Taxis reacted very violently as we will explain below in the bad feelings.


The not so good feelings of Indonesia after one month


The food, water and hygiene: Although the food is mostly tasty, it’s also in general not very hygienic with maybe an exception of the tourist restaurants of Bali and the resorts of Raja Ampat. We had a couple of bad experiences with food, including a cold chicken tempeh in Nusa Penida that gave me a stomach ache for 2-3 days. The first day was the worst and we rested a little bit in the morning. Afterwards it was mostly going to the toilet. Then in Labuan Bajo (Komodo), the food was not very tasty to us anywhere… We tried the local restaurants and also the tourist restaurants such as the Italian restaurants or the Japanese one or the Chinese. Somehow I had a stomach ache almost every day.

Lombok was not an exception either. Even by the popular Mexican I had a stomach ache the next day.


The resorts in Raja Ampat were a bit better but as soon as we had dinner in Sorong we both had stomach ache and that was pretty bad, especially for Trixi. We were in the best hotel in Sorong and my food at its restaurant had a big piece of plastic with sharp edges that was inside the fish flesh of my Bakso soup. The size was that of a coin and it looked like glass. Luckily I chewed on it thinking it was a fish bone and I realized it was a huge piece of plastic… On that same meal Trixi had a Nasi Goreng Tempeh (Tempeh was not in the menu but she wanted something vegetarian) and since they usually don’t cook with Tempeh in that restaurant, we got a Tempeh that was probably expired. It had some weird texture and we just thought it was from the fermentation process but two days afterwards she’s still having stomach cramps.


Finally, at the Ibis hotel restaurant near Jakarta, Èric got a pasta aglio e olio to have something vegetarian as well and it was a “fireman” idea (Catalan expression for a bad idea) because it was extremely spicy, even though there was no spicy symbol on the menu. And Èric is used to eating spicy food but this was next level. Of course, his belly is not ready for Indonesian spicy so last night in Indonesia we were both going to the toilet almost every hour (as a souvenir to remember…)


The solution: well there is not so much of a “safe” food and it’s difficult to identify. So in general it doesn’t matter if it’s a touristic place or a Warung (street food stalls), it’s a bit like a lottery. But of course to play safe you can always ask how they did the ice cubes for example (and ideally ask it in Indonesian or using Google translate to be sure). In most of the places they use the huge bottles of water to create the ice cubes which is safe but in some places such as the KFC in Makassar airport they said they used tap water…

Use the rule of peel it, cook it or leave it. Basically, just eat fruit or vegetables that you can peel and eat only things that have been cooked.

And one trick that we would add is to ask whether the fish was frozen or not. Eating frozen fish is much safer than eating the fish that is “fresh” and it’s been all day full of flies on top of it like in the fish market of Labuan Bajo.

Also we would add to ask whether food is Indonesian spicy or Western spicy because our belly is not ready to eat the “Sambal” chillies from Indonesia (moreover it burns twice ;))


Soap: in many toilets and in some hotels there’s no soap or shampoo (even in the resort in Raja Ampat) but in the ones where you can find soap, the soap that you get everywhere is extremely harsh. Maybe it’s made of palm oil… Whatever they use to make soap was not gentle to any of our skins as you can see in this picture after using soap for a month in Indonesia (it looks like I'm changing the skin similarly to the local snakes from Raja Ampat):



dried hand after using harsh soap for a month in Indonesia


However, not washing your hands regularly isn’t recommended either as the hygiene is not the best. Be sure, though, to moisturize your hands once you notice a skin rash.


“Mis-”Communication: Miscommunication was common between all islands of Indonesia. Whatever you ask, the locals will answer “Yes” even when they don't understand the question. I understand that it’s a developing country and that the English level is not very high in most of the places but answering “Yes” when you don’t understand can cause many problems. However, speaking to the locals such as the one from Raja Ampat, they said that they answer “yes” in general when they don’t know how to react or what to answer, apparently also in Indonesian language… This caused many many miscommunications. I will explain some of the examples here (they are also pretty funny when explained, so enjoy):


Example 1: Doing laundry in Labuan Bajo. We asked if the laundry would be ready for the day afterwards and of course the woman said “Yes” but the next day was a Sunday so the laundry was closed and we almost didn’t get our clothes because our flight was early in the morning. We even used google translate to ask her the question.


Example 2: Doing laundry in Sorong. This was also fun. You can actually get the idea from this whatsapp chat. They basically said we could pick the clothes tomorrow morning but the clothes were actually already at the hotel 😀



Whatsapp text of Indonesian miscommunication


Example 3: Ordering a virgin piña colada in Sorong’s best hotel. I ordered a virgin piña colada and I pointed out the drink in the menu. I said to the waitress that I wanted it without alcohol, so I wanted it virgin. I also asked how the ice was made and they said it was with the big bottle. Of course, I got the piña colada with alcohol after asking 3 times. I thought of asking it a 4th time and I should have done it haha


Example 4: We asked in Jakarta whether the train goes all night (even in Indonesian with google translate) and they answered that it actually goes all night. Then we asked another person at the terminal and she said it only works from 7 AM to 8 PM….



The solution: ask many many times and use Google Translate. You don’t have to feel bad to ask many times or to show the Google Translate screen to be sure that you’re getting the correct answer. Most of the time (like 90%) the answers changed when we asked the question in Indonesian….


Be careful with the Taxi drivers (especially in Sorong): We would recommend using Grab or Gojek. You pay a fraction of the price and you’re much more safe than taking local taxis. I mean the difference is from 20k idr to 150k idr (7.5 times higher price) and you know you will be safe because the trip is recorded in the app, so you can review people and report problems.

However, the local taxis hate that you take a grab for a normal price and they can be very violent. This happened to us in Sorong harbor and it was a bit scary.

We ordered a grab car for 20k to our hotel to pick us up near the harbor but a bit further away from the main place where all the taxis are exactly to avoid conflict.


However, when the Grab car appeared suddenly, two of the yellow cars of Sorong drove very fast, cornering him and blocking his way so that he could not move. Then they started grabbing the Grab driver (pun not intended) and screaming at him and the Grab driver was very nervous and said many times sorry to them and then he said that we should cancel the Grab.


He stayed there with the two yellow cars and we started walking feeling bad about him. However, the story went on. One of the yellow taxi drivers started following us for 15 minutes on our way to the hotel at our walking speed. And another taxi driver looked us in the eyes and said “Grab NO” screaming and making a sign of killing with the finger crossing the neck under the chin…. I was recording the situation so when they realized that I was taking a video of the taxi driver following us they just left and we could catch a Grab safely from the city :/


The solution: book always with apps (Grab or Gojek) and don’t book such cars or motorbikes if you’re close to a place that is full of local taxi drivers and it is not the airport.


In Bali they want money for everything: Bali is beautiful and very hyped. Many people who we met during the trip were a bit disappointed with this island. One of the reasons why people were disappointed is because tourism is not controlled and they want to get money for everything. That means, going to a place, parking at the place, walking to a place, taking a picture at a place, etc. All these things you need to pay an entry fee. Even if that’s in the middle of a natural place. Of course there are workarounds as we mentioned in Bali but in general that’s what you will see, unless you go really far away from the main attractions.

Luckily enough this is especially a Bali thing and in the other islands the nature is much more natural for now in 2023.


The solution: Escape from the main attractions or go there at the times where the tours usually don’t go (e.g. Tanah Lot during the day and not for the sunset, Mount Batur during the day or evening and not for sunrise, etc.).


All the Instagram artificial stuff that is destroying the beauty of nature (for now only in Bali): here I’m talking about all the swings, all the infinity pools in the rice fields, the zip lines, etc. They are putting these swings in every waterfall and every rice field that is close to Ubud so that you can get a picture for Instagram… And the worst is, people pay 200.000 IDR for it (which is around 12 €, quite a lot of money in Indonesia). They even rent a long dress for the “fake” “perfect-picture” at the rice terraces :D Or the monkey selfie at the monkey forest in which you pretend that you’re taking a selfie with the monkey… annoying the monkeys to have a couple of likes. Or even making an effect with a mirror so that it looks as if a temple has some water being reflected: that’s so extreme. Basically you can put the water with photoshop afterwards instead :D and people are queuing to get this picture there. Of course not everyone, but this kind of tourism is present in Bali. As well as the alcohol and party tourism of Mallorca or Lloret de Mar, which is everytime more present in Bali unfortunately.


The solution: Escape from the main attractions or go there at the times where the tours usually don’t go (e.g. Tanah Lot during the day and not for the sunset, Mount Batur during the day or evening and not for sunrise, etc.)


Plastic: There is lots of plastic in many places, especially on the rivers and on the streets. But also in the ocean. It’s not just small plastic but many bottles or packages of food.


Plastic in Indonesian rivers close to Kuta Lombok

Sorong full of plastic at the harbor in Indonesia

Solution: as a tourist, the best you can do is try to minimize the use of one time plastic and also throw the plastic in the proper bins. You can also participate in beach clean-ups


Money: Indonesians work very much with cash and whenever you want to pay with a card you need to pay between 1 and 3% extra charge. There is a bank that offers withdrawing of money for free (Mandiri bank) so you can search for the ATMs of this bank whenever you’re in the country. There are many of them so you have many possibilities.


Solution: try to search for Mandiri and have always cash with you to avoid extra costs.


Plane delays: this happens very often. We got one plane canceled and one plane delayed. With the plane canceled they were able to realocate the plane but we arrived 4 hours later than planned. luckiliy enough we had one extra day planned to arrive to Raja Ampat. However, the play from Makassar to Raja Ampat, which is a direct plane, was also delayed for 2h. We arrived at Sorong at 14h and the last boat from Sorong to Raja Ampat was leaving at 14h so we ran as fast as we could but we didn’t make it. We actually saw the ship departing just in front of our eyes… So we had to stay one less night in Raja Ampat and one more night in Sorong…


Solution: the best way to plan against that is to plan 1 day of buffer between flights in case the flight is cancelled or delayed a lot (for even one day).


Summary


We would recommend visiting Indonesia. It's a beautiful country with so many variety of natural species that are unique to this country. With so many beautiful landscapes and sunsets and so many nice people smiling! But you just have to be careful to eat healthy since we are not used to the hygiene levels of Indonesia with respect to food, water and soap. And also be careful with the communication with the locals and with the delays of the planes.


Have a nice trip! What do you think about this post? Can you comment below?


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