Indonesia: Adventures in the Land of Diversity
Prambanan, a 1,200-year-old Hindu Temple. (Photo by Cybil Litwiller)
By Cybil Litwiller
Over winter break, my friend Heather and I headed to the “Land of Diversity”, also known as Indonesia. With more than 17,000 islands and only 10 days to explore, we had our work cut out for us. Here are five of my To Dos.
First stop, Jakarta. The capital and economic centre of Indonesia is home to 9 million people, an uncomfortable amount of smog, a lively culture and a blossoming paparazzi.
To Do 1: Embrace Your Inner Celebrity.
Maybe it’s because we’re gorgeous, but more likely it’s because we’re tall, girls and look like stereotypical English-speaking Americans (which I’m NOT), but either way we were asked repeatedly for pictures. From our first dinner, where Heather was interviewed for Indonesian TV, to the school groups surrounding us for a photo-op, we were fawned over and pestered. At times I couldn’t stop smiling and at other times I wanted to run away screaming, but throughout it all, I was fascinated by the whole experience, surprisingly different to what I’ve encountered in Japan and I have to say, I liked it. But then again, it could be because I’m a diva.
To escape the pollution of Jakarta, we flew to Yogyakarta, home of two incredibly old temples, Borobudur (a 1200 year old Buddhist temple) and Prambanan (a 1200 year old Hindu temple). We only had time for one, so we headed to Prambanan, the closer of the two.
To Do 2: Take Buses to the Temples.
The trip turned out to be the sketchiest and most memorable ride of my life! The #4 bus had a literal jump on and off policy, where you stuck out your hand on the side of the road, and the bus would slow down enough so you could jump on. There were no doors, the walls and roof were held together by tape and the driver and his helper stopped occasionally for a drink from a stall. On the way home, I rode up front, with a hole in the floor and no speedometer or gas gauge in sight. I prayed to the Hindu gods we wouldn’t break down. It was one of the most intense rides of my life. Not only did we get to experience Indonesian public transit, we also got the scenic tour of the beautiful countryside and the opportunity to people watch, all for the price of… 200 yen. And how was Prambanan? Amazing, but a bit dull compared to the journey.
Soon tired of history, heat and adoring fans, we decided to put our terrorism fears aside and head to Bali. We pondered the 20 hour, ¥2000 bus ride versus the 1 hour, ¥15,600 plane ride.
To Do 3: Fly.
Not only did we get a lunch box and drinks with Garuda Airlines, but also smiles, something you only dream of when flying short economy-class flights in North America.
Once in Bali, I decided to try something new. Indonesia is great for scuba-diving and bungee jumping, or so I’ve heard, but I wanted to try something cheaper, less scary and on my “things to do before I die” list.
To Do 4: Try Surfing!
Bali has a ton of surf schools if you want to learn, and places to rent boards if you didn’t bring your own. I chose RipCurl, as it was the closest to my hotel, and I’m glad I did. Surfing, though tiring and difficult, was a huge rush, especially when after only a few wipe-outs, I finally got up on the board! I was surfing, much to my and my instructor’s delight. Three lessons and about 10,000 yen later, I’m no Kelly Slater, but I have developed a new passion and the crazy idea that I should move to Australia for 3 months and surf.
After 6 beautiful days in Bali, it was time to fly back to Jakarta. Due to a crappy booking, we were scheduled to leave on New Year’s Eve.
To Do #5: Roll with the Punches.
To make a long story short, I decided to have a pre-leaving party at the surf school which coincided nicely with their New Year’s party. Unfortunately JDs and coke are not a good mix for me, and I missed my flight, much to Heather’s alarm. Instead of losing it, I continued partying in true University of Waterloo style, deciding to deal with it in the morning, something very atypical for me. The rest of the night included meeting a Balinese family and falling off a motorcycle. I do not remember midnight. Looking back, I was extremely stupid. However, since I made it back to Jakarta in time and mostly in one piece (minus a small knee problem) I count myself lucky and smile when I think of it. It is one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life.
So how was Indonesia? The food was incredible, the scenery amazing, the people fantastic and the activities plentiful. But most of all, it was truly unforgettable. Don’t take my word for it though, go and check it out yourself!
There are a number of ways to get to Indonesia. There are direct flights to Bali and Jakarta from Tokyo and Osaka, but especially during peak seasons, it might be cheaper to find a connecting flight through Hong Kong, or another Asian country. You can book your tickets through a travel agent, or use a travel website.
Taxis are extremely cheap in Indonesia, with one hour rides costing less than 500 yen. In Jakarta, look for BlueBird Company, the most reputable taxi company. For long distances you can take overnight buses or fly. Garuda Airlines is a good company with many flights daily.