I ate like a king, and felt like a millionaire in Indonesia.
Earlier this year, I quit being CEO of my start-up, and started travelling for a living. It's something I've always wanted to do. For 9 months now, travel has been my life; there's no looking back. One of the countries I recently knocked off my bucket list was Indonesia; and this is the tale, albeit just a summary, of the 30 days I spent in that crazy, big, humongous country.
I measure my life with the moments I have lived for
First of all, let's think of Indonesia as much more than just Bali. I spent most of my time around Java and some of the regions around Bali. I made a conscious effort to stay away from Bali itself.
My trip started off with a ferry ride from Singapore to Batam, and then a really, really long journey by ship to Jakarta. Sailing's always been something of an interest in the back of my mind. Well, here I was – on a 30 hour long voyage.
As usual (being Indian), I was late. I think, because I was the only non-Indonesian on board, I got even more of the royal treatment – from VIP access to different parts of the ship, to the food, I got it all. Sadly, with a broken phone and a missing GoPro, I won't be able to share any pictures of the voyage. But trust me on this, a journey by ship, though exhausting, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It guarantees some of the most interesting conversations you'll ever have.
I am a wanderer. A true wanderer
So there I was, in Jakarta – a city that, I'm surprised to say, has even worse traffic than Bangalore. Jakarta showed me what Indonesian food is all about; I had five meals a day. Mind you, the currency value here is so low, that even when you spend on something really cheap, you'll be spending millions. It's a great fix for when you're feeling really low, and want to feel like a millionaire.
The street food in Jakarta was the cheapest and the best I have ever had. Vegetarians rejoice: they have rice, lots of rice; just couple it with their famous potato dishes, or any other vegetable that you may prefer, and it’ll be like having 'ghar ka khana'.
Vegetarians can rejoice in Jakarta
On the way from Jakarta, I met lots of locals on the train. If there's one thing that travel has taught me, it's this: Keep Calm And Smile At Everyone. Life gets easier that way. I had lots of conversations with many Indonesians, who didn't understand a word of what I was saying. I didn't get anything they were saying either. Still, with smiles on our faces, we exchanged pleasantries.
Side note: When you travel in an AC compartment here, it literally means there's a split AC fitted into the train.
Keep calm and smile at everyone
I reached my station at 2AM to find all the hostels closed and no place to spend the night. Without an option, I began my tour of the city in the middle of the night. Up until I met a cycle rickshaw guy who offered me a place to sleep. What that meant was – I slept on the cycle rickshaw; best sleep I've had in ages.
I moved to a hostel the next day. Hostels are a great place to meet new people, some of who showed me around the city, and even took me on a hike. Mt. Ijen is an active volcano. I climbed the mountain at midnight, to see the blue fire within the volcano. Along with hundreds of climbers, I trekked all the way up, inhaling sulphur every step of the way just so we could witness the best sunrise of our lives.
Mt. Ijen, an active volcano
Despite myself, I reached Bali. It was all it’s made out to be. Commercial, and how. I picked fights with overcharging taxi drivers every day. Here's a tip: Skip the four wheels, and opt for a motorcycle. They're super cheap. Riding around Bali in one of these was the highlight of my time there. I found myself island-hopping and party-hopping for three days straight.
Lombok made for great R and R after Bali. It's a lot more peaceful, and way less crowded. I spent 2 days fishing and relaxing with locals. An Australian even helped me learn to surf. A regular, he comes to Indonesia every other weekend because it’s closer for him to get here than go from Perth to Sydney or Melbourne.
Food was the highlight of my trip, and it was only fitting that I ended my journey at a restaurant – waiting tables for a day!
30 days, lots of experiences, and many new names in my contact list later, I found myself on a flight to the next country – Malaysia.
It's one straight road. Flat, straight road. Ride on...
1.Book your flight tickets in advance.
2.Slow down, don't race to pack in everything at once.
3.Alternate between the mountains and the beaches.
4.“Teri ma kasih” means Thank You: and not what you think.
5.Shahrukh Khan is popular here as the Chaiya Chaiya guy.
6.Weather wise: it can get hot, cold, and rainy on the same day.
7.Eat! Everything! Everywhere!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Rohith Subramanian / Dominic S
Photographs by Rohith Subramanian