12 Days in Indonesia
Indonesia. The largest archipelago in the world. It is home to many natural wonders. It was also my home for almost a year in 2002. This 2017, I’m back in Indonesia to see more of it. And in only 12 days, I’m seeing more of this nation than I have seen it during my seven-month stay here 15 years ago.
This trip took shape because of fellow bloggers from the Kerala Blog Express (KBE) in India. My fellow Negros Blogger and season 3 winner Jojo Vito has been asking me last year to accompany him to Indonesia upon the invitation of his KBE season mate Haryadi Yansyah, who is from Palembang in South Sumatra. When I won this year for season 4, Indra Pradyah, who was with me in this season, invited me to visit his hometown, Lampung, also in Sumatra Island of Indonesia. We beckoned to their invite, and made a long journey from our hometown in Bacolod to Manila to Singapore before we touched down in Palembang then proceeded to Lampung to Yogyakarta via Jakarta and then back to Jakarta where we took our flight heading home to the Philippines via Manila then Bacolod.
Here was our itinerary around Indonesia:
Day 1 – arrive in Palembang; visit Al Quran Al-Akhbar; visit Batik and Songket factory/shops; Ampera and Musi River
Day 2 – Museum visit; Jakabaring Sport City; traditional market; overnight train to Lampung
Day 3 – arrive in Lampung; visit East Lampung: Pugung Raharjo and Way Kambas National Park; dinner at Cikwo Coffee and Resto
Day 4 – Tangkil Island; Batik shop; El’s Coffee; overnight bus to Jakarta
Day 5 – arrive in Jakarta; train to Yogyakarta; arrive in Pesona Jogja Homestay
Day 6 – Borubudur and Prambanan
Day 7 – Jl. Malioboro; Kraton; Batik factory; Batik painting gallery
Day 8 – rest at Pesona Jogja Homestay; overnight train to Jakarta
Day 9 – arrive in Jakarta; Taman Mini Indonesia
Day 10 – meet Indonesian friend; Blok M; Pasar Baru; Jl. Surabaya
Day 11 – go around Jakarta; Sarinah
Day 12 – back to Manila
Below are my blog posts expounding on the attractions and experiences we had during this Indonesian trip.
- First-time in Palembang
- First-time in Lampung
- 10 Things to do in Yogyakarta
- 10 Things to see in Jakarta
We made a two-night stop in Singapore and met up with my fellow KBE season 4 winner Bernard Tan prior to our 12-day Indonesian adventure. This trip made me feel it was my first time to be in Indonesia, save for the familiar words I hear from locals. This exciting exploration helped me learn a lot of new things about this country, both during my first-time in Sumatra and in my return to Java. Each day taught me a thing or two and here are 12 things I can share with you about my impressions of Indonesia during this trip.
1.) Each city has a different charm
Even though I spent 7 months living in Indonesia 15 years back, I was only staying in Jakarta and was only traveling to cities in Java, mostly for work. Now that I am stepping on Sumatra soil for the first time and I am seeing Java in a different light, I now notice the unique charm each Indonesian city holds. Palembang has Musi River so most activities are within its riverbanks. Lampung has mountains, the beaches and the smaller islands, creating a different vibe to it. Yogyakarta is of old temples and the Kraton, and this popular tourist city is teeming with energy. Jakarta is the capital and its wide highways and tall buildings can overwhelm you a bit, yet wow you with its beautiful structures.
2.) Tasting the local food to know the place
When I travel, I make it a point to taste the local food to know more of the place. Palembang has Pempek or fish cake, as the river is a good source of fish. There are several fish ponds in the area, too. It was in Lampung where I first tasted tempoyak, or fermented durian, along with seruit, which is a mixture dish that has tempoyak. Yogyakarta’s food are sweeter compared with other Indonesian cuisines, while Jakarta already has a fair share of local and international gustatory venues.
3.) Slow travel and more time on the road
We could have taken the plane from Lampung to Yogyakarta, but we opted to spend more time on the road to save on money while learning more of the place, at the same time. From Palembang to Lampung, we took a night train, giving us a glimpse of train travel in Sumatra. From Lampung, we rode a bus that eventually crossed the seas on a ship towards Java Island. It was almost a 10-hour trip but it gave us a sense of how Indonesians get from one part of the country to another by sea travel. Jakarta to Yogyakarta and back was again by train, which took us to sceneries that made this trip more memorable, while providing us an opportunity to interact with the locals and fellow travelers alike.
4.) Growth on the road
As we have spent more hours traversing Indonesian roads and railways, I saw how traffic jams are also building up in city centers like Palembang, Lampung and Yogyakarta. Jakarta is a common case, being the capital, and traffic jams have been in existence even when I lived there in 2002. It can be a bit daunting but it also meant progress.
5.) Go around by Go-Jek
While you can take the taxi or bus or becak (a local rickshaw) in certain cities, Indonesia has revolutionized commuting through its Go-Jek smartphone app. We usually take a car just by using the app, which is very convenient and cheaper, especially when you are using Go-Pay. But we also ordered food through this app. Users can also request for other things, such as a massage, a cleaning service, ticket purchase, grocery delivery, and so much more. If you plan to travel to Indonesia, this is really a big help. Get a local SIM with big data capacity and download the app for your convenience.
Most of my Indonesian contacts communicate via WhatsApp. Even hotels, travel agencies and other services can be contacted via WhatsApp. It’s a great way to get in touch with locals and offices. If you have your local SIM, have this app in your phone. Of course, others can also be contacted via Facebook Messenger. At this day and age of smartphone technology, these phone applications make traveling and communicating a bit easier.
7.) Indonesian hospitality
If Filipinos are know for its warm hospitality, Indonesians are also good in this area. In every place we visit, our Indonesian friends and those we meet on the road were always willing to lend a hand and guide us through our journey. Staying in Haryadi’s home in Palembang made us feel like being part of his family. Indra and his friends also made sure we were well-taken cared of. Even the drivers we hired by Go-Car were extremely friendly. One was even a huge fan of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and Filipino billiard player Efren “Bata” Reyes.
8.) Asian brotherhood
It has become like a running joke to us that we are brothers becaue of the many similarities between Filipino and Indonesian language, culture, food and looks. Well, we definitely are. Somehow, portions of our country were influenced by the reign of the Majapahit Empire that dates back from the late 13th century to the 16th century period. Many of our words are similar or related. It’s always good to see our commonalities because we get to appreciate our roots and how we all relate with each other.
9.) Heritage that binds
Our architecture, especially the traditional houses on stilts, and our agriculture are very much similar. It is common story in the Visayas (which is believed to have come from the word “Srivijaya”, a part of Sumatra heritage) region of the Philippines about the arrival of the 10 datus from Borneo. This bridges our history and origins As we explored the museums and the heritage sites in Sumatra, we found several similarities between our cultures. When traveling, I find it an eye-opener to know the history of the place and how it is inter-related with other cultures.
10.) Markets and local industries
For this trip, we probably spent more time in the markets (apart from being on the road). It is interesting to see the local products and how they differ or evolve from one place to another. We’ve seen so many clothing, as this is a major industry in Indonesia, accessories, and home decors. We visited places where they make batik and songket. We also tried some of their oleh-oleh or various food and pastry souvenirs, which can also have different versions from one place to another. Local industries are also a way of getting to know more about a place. Observing the interactions in traditional markets also allows travelers like me to feel the vibe of their locality.
11.) Clothes and culture
Batik is very popular in Indonesia. But as we roamed their markets and visited their factories, we found out that there are variations in designs for each place. Palembang’s songket has more weaving, with a bit of shiny materials. Lampung has the siger or the crown worn by brides during weddings (which we saw several times on the road). They also have elephant designs because East Lampung’s national park has an elephant sanctuary. Yogyakarta has a mix of the brown traditional designs and some modern pastel colors. Even the cut of the dresses and the shirts are evolving as there are more forward-looking fashionable pieces. Jakarta also has the traditional wears worn for formal occasions.
12.) Onto the future
While heritage and the local traditions and culture are being preserved in Indonesia, they are also moving with the tide. Palembang and Jakarta are hosting the Asian Games in 2018 and they are rearing for this event. Tollways and metro trains are now being built to usher visitors to the game venues. Similarly, Lampung is strengthening its tourism, especially with its beautiful beaches and small islands. Yogyakarta has changed a lot since I first came here and it continues to grow as a city, with its flyovers and wide highways.
Even when I haven’t left Indonesia yet, I was already wanting to come back here in the near future. I hold a lot of memories of this country and this trip this year has provided me with more to treasure.