My 5 month journey through South East Asia moved on from the Philippines to Indonesia, a vast chain of islands with a Dutch colonial past, along with muslim and catholic cultural influences, amongst others, it has a lot to offer. Throw in amazing volcanic scenery, unique wildlife and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and you have a lot to see and do across Indonesia!
The local people, especially kids and students love to practice their English with you, so expect to be approached often (sometimes in the heat and crowds it can be very overwhelming) and be asked similar questions right across Indonesia (name, home country, favourite food, favourite place etc.). People love their selfies too, so expect to be asked to be in photos constantly! They are generally always friendly and polite in asking but sometimes though it can get a bit rowdy in big crowds!
A sad note is that nearly everyone I met said most foreigners are very unfriendly and often ignore them or even run away when approached! Come on people, lets stop this “I want to travel and see the world, as long as I can hang out with other westerners and do what I do at home” movement! Interact, meet the locals, enjoy the culture! Outside of the “popular” foreign tourist hot spots of Asia, most locals are not trying to sell you something or rip you off, they just want to say hello and meet someone from a world they often can only dream of seeing (plus as they have told me, we are so different, they just find us fascinating – as bizarre as that may seem)!
After a particularly tiring morning in the heat and crowds of the Kota Old Town in Jakarta (17th Century Dutch Colonial Old Batavia), where I spoke with literally hundreds of kids and older students, I found my way on to a hot city commuter train, that was packed with people and no spare seats. Then I heard “Mister Dean, Mister Dean!“, looking down the carriage I saw one of the teenagers I had met earlier, smiling and waving at me, she moved everyone down and gave me a seat! Instant karma – thanks kid!
Note: At times whilst travelling around Java, even though I was always friendly, there were times when I had to politely reject requests to practice English or take a photo. Mainly because I was overwhelmed with sheer weight of numbers, the heat was draining my resolve (it was a humid furnace most days) or I was in a museum and trying to take in the exhibits etc. in peace and quiet. Sometimes you could see the disappointment in their eyes but ultimately I would never reject little kids and would always say yes to them. For older teenagers and adults though, that’s a different story and from time to time I just had to say no, sorry not today! They would always smile and politely say farewell.
Once again a one month tourist visa means you can barely scratch the surface of Indonesia but I did my best! First I travelled across Java mostly by train, taking in many cultural and natural wonders including Borobudur Temple and Mount Bromo, an active volcano in a dusty, post apocalyptic, movie like setting! Then I headed east to the islands of Flores and Bali (more on them in my next post). So here goes, the big island of Java summed up in 5 photos (people and the rugged beauty)…