Vagabonding Field Report: Java, Indonesia
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
We were on a seven hour train ride from Banyuwangi to Surabaya, and just about every imaginable Indonesian product was being hawked on this train. Fried rice, hot soup, live music, live animals…I was thisclose to buying a bird with a 6 inch beak protruding from it’s cage, and for only $5. My friend pointed out that it would probably attack me before flying away forever, so I reluctantly passed.
Describe a typical day:
My friend Nicole and I were constantly on the go, so we would pack up and move on to the next city (from Denpasar to Jakarta in three weeks) almost every morning. We ate a lot of rice, endured staring contests/cell phone photos wherever we went, got excited every time we saw monkeys, sweat through all of our clothing, and tried to figure out how to use the shower/toilet in every new accommodation. We traveled by train, bus, motor bike, taxi, ferry, and plane. Staying cool and hydrated was a challenge, especially when you have to be mindful about showing too much skin.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
After getting off the ferry in Banyuwangi, we realized that we had no idea where to go and no one was speaking any English. We wanted to make it to Surabaya, but the train wasn’t leaving until the next morning. Covered in bug bites, soot, and sweat, we wondered around aimlessly until a very nice family decided to adopt us for the day. Hilmi and his wife and two children insisted on helping us find our way, and we wound up spending the entire day with them despite our language differences. They took us to lunch, to an internet cafe to use Google Translate, to their home, and eventually to a nearby hotel. They were Muslim, and one thing Hilmi said in English a few times was “please do not be scared of us because we are Muslim and because of terrorists.” They were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
Indonesia has some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. Volcanoes, mountains, quiet islands, clear water, ancient temples, and starry night skies. A lot of the people were very friendly. Accommodation and transportation was affordable. Dislikes: it was extremely hot and humid, which could get exhausting. Being white with blonde hair made me stick out like a sore thumb, which was awkward at times. Stomach problems were frequent. Traffic and pollution in the cities.
What new lesson did you learn?
Good people are everywhere. Taking care of the environment is beneficial to everyone. Monkeys will try to steal your hand sanitizer if you keep it in a visible pocket.
Right now I’m in London, in two weeks Hawaii, then hopefully to Jordan! More travels here!