10 Things I liked about Indonesia (from a Thai’s perspectives!)

During my limited experiences across Java and Bali, the 2 weeks or so solo trip (Jakarta > Bandung > Yogyakarta > Surabaya > Probolinggo  > Banyuwangi > Bali) roughly gave me some sense of differences to be compared with my home country. Before we move to the next list of a few things I was ‘not quite okay’ about Indonesia, it’s desirable I be mentioning those good things I liked in Indonesia.

1) CATS. Pets.

Newbies of their first visit to Indonesia should be advised by Wikipedia that this place is one of the most Muslim-majority countries, statistically the world’s largest one. Coming from a dominant pseudo Buddhist country, Thailand, where wormy stray dogs are everywhere. Abandoned, public, stray, street, uncared, temple, maltreated, whatever-you-name-it dogs are as ubiquitous as the presence of 7-11. I got a Muslim lady’s visit to my house once and she instantly asked if our house had a taboo creature – dogs – or not. I only had a stupid fluffy white rabbit which turned out to be unwelcome for her. “We are not okay with animal that eat their own shit” said she. Unfortunately, my rabbit ate her own shit often. (I suppose it’s rabbit nature, mannnnn!)

Confession: I’m a cat slave. I don’t want to be emancipated. I’m openly expressive to the world about my obsession with cats. Meooooooooow~

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In Thailand, we have to pay to those ‘cat cafes’ to boost our egos of slavery to cats. We pay to those places just to be able to pat the cats and listen to their meow-meow sounds and be willing to have our souls taken by the cat bosses. We even have a club in Meetup.com “Cat Cafe Meet-up” (or something…) Can’t you imagine how cat cafes look like? Here you go: 7 Cat Cafes in Bangkok (Translation is needed) In fact, there are more than 7! It doesn’t mean that we don’t have street cats, we do! But much less!

Though cats in Indonesia as I’ve found were paranoid or Anthropophobic, some cats were artful enough to pretend being human-friendly at some degrees. PARADISE.

COMBO Compilation of street cats and domesticated cats I was lucky to meet.
COMBO Compilation of street cats and domesticated cats I was lucky to meet.

Apart from cats, you can find other lovely animals such as house birds (mostly common in Yogyakarta).

These birds I found were in just one city, Yogyakarta.
These birds I found were in just one city, Yogyakarta.

I couldn’t miss this chubby green fellow ❤

Hello! You stupid eyeglasses-wearing human! I'm from Borobudur!
Hello! You stupid eyeglasses-wearing human! I’m from Borobudur!

2) Taxi service

I never trust any crazy world rank that once voted Thailand’s taxi to be the #1 best. The voters or the website editor must be affected by some diseases. Okay, for westerners’ cost of living standard, going around the city or even across provinces by taxi is somewhat easily affordable. The cars are generally clean and not old. Speaking here on behalf of Thai locals, taxis are frowned upon amongst us because they are “Western Butts Chasers”©. Tourists (if you are caucasian of course) are not just welcomed, but are magnetic to those taxi drivers. It’s most likely that blackhead locals are invisible to them. We don’t deserve any kind of their great services. “Service mind” among the drivers cannot be spelled if customers are Thai locals.

What I liked about Taxi in Indonesia is the lower cost of service charge. The charge here is set at 35฿ (13,500-14,000rp) and will be getting higher. While in Jakarta and Bali, the surcharge is at, what?, 7,000rp? (18฿) and even 6,000rp (16฿) in Yogyakarta (If I’m not mistaken…) Damn half price…. Taxi here, if you’re stuck in traffic, you’re charged MINUTE BY MINUTE and the rate of your first 20 kilometres is higher. I took a taxi from a TransJakarta shelter back to my hotel, not that far though, it cost me in total 10,3000rp = 26฿ (even less than Bangkok’s initial surcharge!)

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Going around by taxi in Indonesia gave me a sense of ‘wowwwww I can’t do this back in my hometown!’

I was stunned by this receipt printer right from the taxi meter in Bali… I even asked some German friends whether they had this in Germany or the Netherlands? They were also in awe.

Civilised.

You can notice that this driver’s name/surname is SWEDEN. In Basa Bali, it means ‘delayed birth’ (Swe = slow, delayed | Den = be born)

2. bali taxi


3) Train system (​I mean provincial trains, not metro trains!)

Frankly speaking, I regard my country not that far different from Indonesia and the Philippines. We are probably at the same level of development. This ticket printer machine standing at every train station amazed me. Wow… Thailand, can you survive after the implementation of the AEC? Can you be competitive with neighbours? You are at loss, poor you, Thailand.

Having been around Southeast Asia, I dare say that our train service system sucks. The suckest. The train itself is near to rubbish. It smells. Thailand was the 2nd country in Asia that pioneered the train transportation, just after Japan. The first in Southeast Asia. State Railway of Thailand was established in a century ago. We are so proud of our being the first in the region to have railway system that we still maintain the trains to look the same as they used to be in a century ago. (Hopefully you can sense my sarcasm)

It’s not the best train system, but it’s still better than in Thailand 😀

I booked a train ticket via Tiket.com (highly recommended to anyone). You will get a booking code once successfully purchased. Your duty is just move your ass to the ticket printing machine that is impossible to be missed. Touch the screen and select alphabets that match your booking code. Check your information and select ‘enter’ or ‘print’. Done.

I imagined what if this happened in Hua Lamphong, the SRT would yell that human force was replaced by alien machines.

3. train

The departure time from Jakarta to Bandung was at 19.57, it left at the EXACT 19.57 and even arrived Bandung a bit before time!!! OH… I can’t forgive the State Railway of Thailand. I can’t even….

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4) Oil price

It’s known that Indonesia is one of Asian oil exporters. Fuel subsidy campaign becomes a must for every government. It’s a double-edged sword for Indonesia, too. In a mainland Java, oil is cheaper than Bali. For Bio Solar, it was around 6,000rp (16฿) and premium Benzin for 10,000-ish rupiah (27฿). 60%-150% cheaper than in Thailand and 400%-500% cheaper than in the Netherlands…

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The Premium price is equal to the price for our cheapest and shittiest Gasohol.

4. oil price
It was like a pilgrimage, I told my Indonesian friends, that I must take photos of their petrol price boards. This one is in Bali.

5) Mobile data & SIM Card price

Vietnam probably has mobile data with the best value. Their mobile data speed when used outside was as almost fast as using WiFi. It even beat Singapore. Public WiFi spots are easy to find and to connect without asking password.

However, Indonesian Sim Card cost around 10,000rp-20,000rp (27฿ – 55฿) and internet speed was not too different from that in Thailand or Singapore. Getting a local sim card and package is wiser. Now let’s compare mobile internet package. (left: Indonesia, right: Thailand)

5,500IDR = 14TH฿ —> 50MB in Indonesia | NOTHING in Thailand
10,000IDR = 26TH฿ —> 100MB in Indonesia | NOTHING in Thailand
25,500IDR = 67TH฿ —> 400MB in Indonesia | probably 50MB in Thailand
65,000IDR = 170TH฿ —> 2GB in Indonesia | almost 300MB in Thailand
110,000IDR = 290TH฿ —> 4.5GB + unlimited in Indonesia | almost 500MB in Thailand

However, Indonesia is the cheapest for mobile data plans. Statistics says here!

5. mobile data


6) Cheap tour

I guess this is an indirect outcome of their cheap petrol price. Although Thailand remains one of the cheap or student-friendly price destinations, travelling in Indonesia is even cheaper when it comes to transportation. As you see below, these were vouchers for my 2 days & 1 night tour package from Yogyakarta city to Mount Bromo. (It’s extremely advised that you get a tour package instead of roaming yourself. Scammers in Probolinggo were awful. Guaranteed by another Korean traveller who happened to go to the same destinations.)

MENTALITY CHECKED: “INSANELY CHEAP”

7. cheap tour
Left: jeeps at Bromo | Upper right: Bus from Banyuwangi getting onto ferry to Bali | Lower right: semi-van/semi-SUV car from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo

Total cost was 500,000rp (1,300฿). The agency’s office was just 5 blocks away from my hotel in Yogyakarta. I found it randomly and was too lazy to find. With this money, these things are included:

1) A semi-van/semi-SUV car with driver to take you from Yogyakarta city to Probolinggo hub. It usually takes 10 hours. (I left at ~8.30 and arrived Probolinggo at ~20.30, whole daytime as there was an unlucky flat tires accident in the morning.) In this car, I shared with 2 other German travellers. Just 3 persons. 2 at minimum and 10 at maximum.

2) Another semi-van/semi-SUV car with driver from Probolinggo hub to the mountainous village near Bromo where your hotel is.

3) A night in accommodation. (w/ voucher)

4) Breakfast included

5) A jeep to take you from hotel to the Bromo viewpoint (w/ voucher)

6) A jeep from Bromo viewpoint down to the crater’s area – take you back to hotel

7) A semi-van/semi-SUV car with driver to take you from hotel to Probolinggo

8) A voucher for bus to Banyuwangi port to Bali

9) A voucher for 30-minute ferry to Bali

10) The number 8) bus from the west of Bali to Denpasar city (sort of Bali’s capital)

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7) Spectacular sceneries!

Indonesia is a mystery ruby in Southeast Asia ❤

I was there to witness the beauty of Mount Bromo and other volcanic sites I can’t find in mainland Southeast Asia.

Ok, their Borobudur may run after Cambodia’s Angkor Wat but Borobudur is majestic. (Or probably because I went to Cambodia before I went to Indonesia. Then I got used to ancient Hinduism/Mahayana Buddhist architecture and its historical backgrounds so I felt quite so-so with Borobudur.) What makes Borobudur fantastic is their volcanos as background. Borobudur is the main element like folders on desktop with Mount Merapi as wallpaper.

Upper left: Sunset at Seminyak beach, Bali | Upper right: Sunrise at Setumbu hill viewpoint | Lower left: Sulphuric surface and foggy morning at Bromo site | Lower right:   Very sheer and vast plantation terrace in East Java
Upper left: Sunset at Seminyak beach, Bali | Upper right: Sunrise at Setumbu hill viewpoint | Lower left: Sulphuric surface and foggy morning at Bromo site | Lower right: Very sheer and vast plantation terraces in East Java

Your eyes are your best camera.

Gunung Bromo and surroundings
Gunung Bromo and surroundings

8. gunung bromo2

Sorry, I’m not into beaches or seas. I have mild scale of Thalassophobia or fear of dark and deep water & open ocean.  I can’t even look at photos of seas like this… and those surrounding dark spots are evil…. (F**k! I’m trembling and turning my face away from the screen! Is there any tool that hides this photo?!!)

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(“Thalassophobes might not be afraid of the sea per se; they are simply afraid of encountering sea creatures. Oceans are vast and relatively unexplored”) Agoraphobia (Fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places) can fall into my category whilst my Claustrophillia (Being in a small confined space is more than comfort, it’s passion.) is overwhelming!


8) Fresh Greenness

I am also from a tropical country where evergreen trees are common. Anyway, I always feel like concrete can fall off onto my head to death anytime and anywhere in Bangkok. Looking up to the sky? You’ll see those BTS lines that hide views. Driving along the roads, you’ll only see animated ad boards on traffic islands MUCH MUCH MORE. Bangkok setting is so arid and trees are somewhat sacred organic creatures that are only preserved in segragated parks. It’s likely that the definition of urban planning for Bangkok municipality’s head is “uproot all trees and replace with overhead concretes”. Even the most urbanised areas in Jakarta still feel so greeeeen. I don’t mean that Bangkok is void of trees at roadsides but the look and feeling is just……. dry. Much drier than I felt in Jakarta and most parts of Indonesian major cities.

9. greenness

Greenness makes me happy!

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9) Feeling of warm welcome for noob/basic Indonesian language learners

This is ordinary.

People appreciate it when you talk to them in their own language without asking if they speak English first, even if you’re reading a question right out of a book. Using a phrasebook successfully is like reciting charm spells from a book of incantations. You speak these unknown words that feel unnatural on your lips, and watch the spark of recognition flicker in someone else’s eyes.

The positive side of the language barrier I value is that it’s challenging. It’s a tester of survival and independence skills. Going somewhere that English is not a primary language is just… hard. It encourages you to be a better communicator with the helps of animated gestures and non-verbal expression. Spontaneous problem solving comes as prerequisite course of this Go with the Flow lesson. It’s inevitable that you walk out of little comfort zone and be fearless to go local and experience more novelty in life. It’s less convenient but every time you look back to your past journey you will just ‘Phewwww! I could manage to get shit done!”

I met a Jakarta friend whose daily life is in a factory and he couldn’t use English well, he admitted. Yeah his spoken and written English was nothing close to ‘good’ but it was decently understandable. What-if scenario, putting a Thai of the same social, occupational and age backgrounds with his to the same situation, this is something unthinkable or not even imaginable! (Thailand’s notoriety of its being the lowest-ranking loser of ASEAN’s foreign language proficiency is always made fun of. My English is not good either — at least to my own and world’s standards)

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As an avid Bahasa Indonesia learner, I always jotted down any unknown words in my Google Keep.

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I bought 17 books to help me learn Indonesian language.

Finding proper course books designed specially for English-speaking leaners was quite a job. So I ended up buying books for Indonesian learners of the English language instead. That was my last resort. They usually have bilingual subtitles, English on top and Indonesian below.

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This reference book is invaluable.

One thing missed to mention, I seem eager to learn Indonesian as I took a short course for basic Indonesian during weekends from Nov 2013 – Feb 2014. I learnt Indonesian 1 at a language institute for non-formal education level in Bangkok.  Unluckily, I could not extend to Indonesian 2 (It was supposed to be 40 hours for Level 1) due to a massive political conflict…. damn close to civil war and the university where this language institute is located in was like a battlefield 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 (creepy sarcastic faces)

An official visit to Indonesia was planned to determine whether I should continue learning this language or not. My answer is it’s worth my learning, time and desire. I set a goal that if I can’t reach to the level that I can read their internet forums in Indonesian, my life will have something missing. ^o^


10) FRIENDS!!!!!!!!

Thankfully, @Chaidarammar dragged me to enthusiastic “Thai Holic” groups.

A gathering of Thai movie, music, entertainment, celebs, culture, country, etc lovers from Indonesia.

They tried to speak Thai while I tried to speak their language. That’s the best part of travelling somewhere and we have things in exchange. MORE FUN! Thank for caring and accommodating me. I never felt alone although I went solo. I had people I was supposed to visit in almost every city I went to in Indonesia: Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta.

I missed their transparent happiness to teach me local lifestyles and welcome to blend me into a part of them. It was my first time wearing Hijab!

6. friends
Gari, Meli, Nanci from Bandung | Chaidar & his family, Inu, Romi in Jakarta | Erna & Daisy from Yogyakarta

“In this photo it looks Indonesian and Thai cultures are gathered into one 🙂 Beau was teaching us Thai culture and we were teaching Beau Indonesian culture, we learnt our each cultures together. Moral compass when do traveling is Go Local! Being Local” – Chaidar Ammar

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