Things I ‘was not okay’ about Indonesia

The last post I wrote about “10 Things I liked about Indonesia” and some feedbacks suggest that I overrate things. So I come back to satisfy them if they want to know some not-so-good opinions 😀 We must understand each other’s grounds first that many things in Indonesia are not too different, either far better or far worse, than those in Thailand. But, yeah, I’m talking about things I was not quite okay with it. It doesn’t mean total dislikes. Those problems were tolerable but just a feeling that it should not happen as we Thai people already have had enough 😛

1) Lethargic transportation

It’s kind of surprising to have seen some of Southeast Asian’s first modern international airports which turned out to look disappointing. I’d read somewhere before I went to Indonesia that Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is still the largest and very modern airport. Yes, it is — if you dated back to a couple decades ago. I was clarified that “It is not the terminal that’s large, it’s the runways area that is.”

It smelled even on the first step I got off the plain to the aerobridge. Probably the same scene (apart from smell) we arrive the old Don Meung (which is now replaced with Suvarnnabhumi). Public toilets in the airport were not impressive in term of sanitation. Entering into the toilet may feel like an adventurous journey. It takes courage.

The capital itself looks almost the same as former Bangkok before the operation of Bangkok’s Metro (BTS, MRT) systems 20-30 years ago. Fortunately, at least Jakarta has TransJakarta which covers most of its major areas. (Not 90% full coverage though). TJ reminded me of our Bangkok’s unwelcome BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system that runs along residential area. The first subway lines in Jakarta are still under construction and that’s a good headway!

It was annoying that the TJ buses sometimes just passed by and didn’t pick up passengers for many reasons: traffic, gas fuelling, mood of drivers, etc. For me, TransJakarta should be the same type of public metro as BRT. Punctuality or predictability, cleanness, safety and passengers zoning or management are expected. TJ’s doors were not stopped at the same position with shelter’s exits so it’s all about your lucks to step forward to the entry while you’re flooded with people jam behind.  The bus doors are not on the same level with shelter’s platform. Getting on TransJakarta felt as if I was using the normal semi-suicidal buses in Bangkok (buses that are not BRT). The TJ’s walkways floor is made of aluminium that is easy to get slipped after few minutes of Jakarta’s pouring rain.

One exception for TJ: it’s so cheeeeeeap. I forgive.

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upper left: soekarno-hatta airport’s terminal | upper middle: TransJakarta’s shelter | upper right: motorbike             trespassing into the bus lanes | lower: another evening in Jakarta

I’m not a regular passenger of Bangkok’s BRT as the routes are not in my frequent destinations and mostly located in residential areas. After trying TransJakarta, I self-inspired that once I set foot in Bangkok I must try BRT!. (It’s not the best, not even ‘good’ for us and we complaint about BRT a lot! But admittedly, it’s still nicer than Jakarta’s TJ)

Bangkok's BRT
upper left: Bangkok BRT’s walkways connected with skytrain system | upper right: inside a BRT station | lower left: the interchange area between busway BRT & BTS skytrain that now becomes one of Bangkok’s landmarks | lower right: BRT platform

And that Angkot in Bandung that took me through a sandwich of other 2 Angkots at both sides with only 2-3 inches away from the one I was sitting in….

The feeling I had while I was in that Angkot in Bandung.
The feeling I had while I was in that Angkot in Bandung.

All my feelings about spending a day commuting in Jakarta can be summed up in one picture… tumblr_mlya6j7YCz1rcy99do1_500


2) Food

This is not a topic to say that “I dislike Indonesian food”. Your food and our food are pretty similar as we share Southeast Asian culinary values. I would say that it’s not Indonesian food that’s to blame or the problem. It’s WE, Thai people, who are to blame or the problem. Three things to keep in your mind: 1) Thai people’s taste buds are just plain weird 2) Thai food’s tastes are plain weird 3) It’s all about our food preferences that are plain weird.

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Home food is good and not so different. But the lack of variety for made-to-order or street food is somewhat leading to boredom. It’s a rule of Thai food to blend all 5 tastes into 1: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, bland. The mixture of various tastes makes it quite unique and internationally recognised. I’m a weird Thai who’s not passionate about spicy food and thus I find many Thai foods unbearable for my preference. I’m ethnic Chinese whose home cook food is just bland and ordinary. Oftentimes I feel that to really have Thai food = eating foreign food for our family 😛

What seemed to be problem during my eating out in Indonesia is that the taste is either plain sweet or plain salty. Just 1 taste. Maybe this is the world’s standard of taste but we are just weird. The next thing is the lack of veggie scenes. Very few pieces of vegetable in Nasi Goreng unless you asked for special veggie one. It’s likely that when it comes to lunchtime, what you’ll usually see is a loop of Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng, Nasi Ayam, Nasi nasi nasi…blahblah with a few mixes of different meat. I even wanted to bother myself asking Indonesian people “Hey! Don’t you get bored of the same food every day?!!”

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Food in Indonesia: Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice), Nasi Ayam + Sayur (Rice with vegetable and chicken), Godeg (An iconic dish in Yogyakarta), Mie Goreng (Fried noodle)

My friends gave me feedbacks “Darrrrn your photos taken from Indonesia are so amazing! It’s so beautiful that I want to go! But the food scenes you sent me change my mind!”

It’s understandable because not everyone likes Thai food. There are Thai food lovers and Thai food haters. A Jakarta friend said to me frankly he didn’t like sour taste of Thai food and he’s not into any kind of Thai food. That’s normal.


3) Humidity. It rains A LOT.

We’re a mainland neighbour a bit up north away from Indonesia. Thailand is also a tropical country, yet it’s drier and less humid. I’m a nut who likes to check Weather’s statistics and Indonesia’s humidity has never been below 70%. I’m from a province that’s quite dry where humidity is just 30-40% whilst many parts in northern and northeastern Thailand can have less than 30% humidity. Jakarta’s humidity reached to 91%. You’ll feel sticky and sweaty all the time. Your hair feels like a chunk of seaweeds. If your shoes got wet, you’d feel you didn’t want to only throw your shoes away but you also wanted to cut your feet off!

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4) Less social/dressing open-mindedness.

I can say here I’m unconventional, even more unconventional than average Thai.

I am an avid supporter of gender equality, LGBT movements, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, abortion rights, rape punishment, dress codes and individualism. Islamic influences on dressing and actions are understandable and respectable in this largest Muslim country. I never encourage visitors to Indonesia to wear shorts, boob-presenting tank tops or any suggesting outfits. I hold the concept of going local and respecting the different ways of life.

One thing I mind is the usual stares from people that were fixed on my head. And I instantly felt awkward.

“Wassssup! What have I done wrong?! What seems wrong with my head?!!”

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I had this orange-ish/yellow-ish hair colour for 3.5 years. It was extra light and kept lighter and lighter after every hair wash.

Currently I’m having my natural hair colour (the colour every Asian is supposed to have.) As I felt so overwhelmed with my unintentional ‘dressing’ crime in Indonesia. I felt so guilty for having this outrageous hair colour that deemed ‘alien’ for most Indonesians that I promised with myself “When I return home, I must remove this colour!” It was probably the same feeling of a reformed drug addict who’s recently been sent to a rehab centre and started to have self-reflection of his own felony.

BUT IT’S DAMNNN NORMAL IN THAILAND.

I never felt I was an alien in Thailand with this hair colour!

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My former outrageous orange-ish hair colour. Remove that if you are Asian and you don’t want to feel like you’re committing some kind of bullshit crime in Indonesia.

Noticeably, the more eastwards you travel to, the less xenophobic local people are. It could be estimated that my head got the most attention in Jakarta, probably 70% of stares. Then less in Bandung, lesser in Yogyakarta and the least in Bali. Every time I got stared at, I just pacified myself with the mind “Hey! go! I AM CONFIDENT!” *sings Julie Andrew’s “I Have Confidence in Me” song with shining aura*

I AM F*CKING CONFIDENT!
I AM F*CKING CONFIDENT!

5) POEPLE WHO OPENED MUSIC/MOVIES

OUT LOUD WITHOUT EARPHONES!

This is more about individual’s common sense of privacy or public manner. It’s not applicable to a stereotype of overall Indonesian. I just had bad luck to have met those ill-bred people who were not conscious of other people’s being and their own privacy.

I met a mother of a young girl at Changi airport in a transit terminal of a flight to Jakarta. They were definitely speaking in Bahasa Indonesia. It would be much lovelier if the mommy plugged an earphone into the iPad jack while opening some Disney movie for her girl. Preparing an earphone before trip and pick it out from your bag and plug it into the jack is easy, why didn’t you do huh? The volume was hearable from 5 metres away. I’m not exaggerating my words. 5 METRES AWAY! That was my first encounter with non-earphone disturbers.

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Please, lady, you deserve this from me.

The 2nd non-earphone disturber was a man sitting on the same seat as mine in a train from Jakarta to Bandung. I heard loud noise out of nowhere. It was SO LOUD THAT I thought that might have been the train’s entertainment service — opening movie for passengers. I was wrong. Any TVs were non-existent in the bogies so the presumed service was impossible. Finally I tracked the origin of that noise and TADAAAAAAA it was at the right side of me. And this was our brief conversation:

Me: “Excuse me? Do you need a headphone?”  (picking my headphone from the backpack)

He: No

Me: “I have a headphone. I can let you use it.” (hand the headphone to him)

He: No

Me: “But I need you to use it. Your movie is disturbing me. It’s loud”

He: (volume down but still continue watching movie without earphone beside me…)

Other nosy passengers: (turn their back and stare at me as if I were doing something wrong for asking that man to ‘stop bothering me and other passengers’)

I know I was being ‘too straightforward’ and ‘breaking his face’ or did something ‘Asians are not supposed to do’.

Did I care?

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The 3rd person who did the same was a man in a train from Bandung to Yogyakarta. A night train. He sat opposite of me and was opening Transformer 4. Your generosity to entertain people with that exciting movie was appreciated, but, no, thank you. I didn’t want it, neither did other passengers I suppose… 😀 This time I started to put up with it…………… for 10 minutes. I gave up and offered him my headphone. Nice… he accepted my offer!

The 4th person who committed this non-earphone entertainment was a woman around my age in a bus to Denpasar, Bali. I tracked the origin of that noise as usual (seemed that I got used to it haha). She was at the left side of me watching some sissy Korean MVs OUT LOUD. LOUUUUUUUUUUD. This time I was tired of offering my headphone so I just moved my ass to the backseat of bus.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a gift for you!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a gift for you!
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