Today exactly, we spent six weeks in Indonesia. Here some thoughts:
First of all: We still like the Indonesians and to be here. People are very friendly and help whenever they can. Of cause in some tourist centers there are people getting more and more into making business and forget to be nice, but in general they welcome you on every corner. Wherever we go, we are welcomed by a lot of “ Hello Mister”, “Hello Misses”, “How are you?”, “Where from?” and it of cause gets more like this as more east and as more remote you go. To be honest sometimes it really becomes a challenge not to show how annoyed you are, because after the 100. times in 30 minutes it really is hard to stay cool. But we always try to be nice and answer with a nice “Salamat Pagi/Sore/Malam” or “Baik Baik”, which sometimes leads to “conversations” where everybody tires out all his words in the other language. We asked people, who are living there for a while, why everybody is greeting you wherever you go. And they say, Indonesians are really just happy to use their English and to be nice. Which is true, that´s at least what we think about it. On the market in Ende, where not many tourists are walking around, we also got touched at the arms a couple of times from older woman. Either because they like our bright skin or to make sure, that we are real…?
Traveling is very easy in Indonesia, you get transport everywhere and you can rent a motorbike everywhere any time.
From the first day we tried to learn at least some basic Bahasa. And it is surprising how far you can get. The language is very simple and with some basics you can buy things, book hotels, get a driver or simply order food. And it is amazing how this opens up a different world for you. We had nice “conversations” with random people when we took breaks somewhere on the road, or in restaurants after we ordered our food in Bahasa. We also have the feeling it´s easier to bargain in Bahasa, because they like you… On the other side for us it’s a minimum to speak 10 important sentences in the language of the country you are travelling in. And most tourists don’t do that. So, they are even more happy if someone does. And sometimes if you are good at numbers in Bahasa, you can get Ideas of what the locals pay and what they ask you to pay.
As more east we go as better we like the Indonesians.
The only thing which is hard sometimes is that it´s loud almost everywhere. Most of the doors and windows are not doors and windows in the European understanding. If you close them there is no difference in the noise of the street. And Indonesians like very loud motorbikes. The street you are staying on can be as little as possible but there is passing the loudest motorbike you ever have heard for sure. And the Bemos and Ojeks love big speaker and very loud music all kinds. So to really come down you have to go on an island or at least to the beach. (by the way: They also love loud motorbikes)
Beside Bali all the Islands we have been so far where mostly Muslims. In Flores from Ruteng on you feel the change and it gets more and more Christian. Beside the one week of Idul Fitri (the week after the Ramadan ended) the muezzin was never disturbing us, beside it adds to the general noise level. But even if we are not Christians we both were surprised about the feeling of “home” we had, after hearing the bells of the church in Moni for the first time. I never expected this!
Now, there are two more weeks to go and a few more islands to explore. We are looking forward to seeing this part of Indonesia and are already making plans for the next are we want to see in this amazing country!