When we told our (Chinese) friends or acquaintances that we were going to/ had just come back from Yogyakarta, they weren’t impressed. To many of them, going overseas equals to a trip to Hong Kong/ Taiwan/ Singapore/ Korea. Not only that, they probably only know Bali (and maybe Bandung too) among all the places in Indonesia although Indonesia is our neighbor and the country is so much bigger in size than ours. The Boyfriend, for one, kept on mistaking Yogyakarta as Jakarta that I often felt the urge to smack him whenever he did it. That aside, Indonesia and Malaysia aren’t getting along all that well despite all the similarities we share. We blame each other for the problems the countries face, yet funnily we depend on each other.
I too had my own reservations about the country before my trip. However, it turned out to be one hell of a humbling experience.
Our biggest comfort was no language barrier as our national language is similar to theirs in many ways, thus opened up opportunities for us to interact with the locals – the brothers sitting next to me welcomed me to their hometown when our flight landed in Yogyakarta; the taxi driver picking us up from the airport spared us the stories of his past working experience in Sarawak; the cashier at 7-11 asking me where I was from and was surprised that I am Malaysian because I don’t look like one lol; the husband and wife street hawker cooking us some of the most delicious fried noodles and rice that kept us going back every night for dinner; the young owners of a restaurant opening up to me about their aspirations, frustrations and views on Malaysia; the hotel’s workers showing concerns when The Boyfriend was bedridden.. not to mention our tour drivers, the villagers at Gang 1&2, and all the helpful people who directed us all the way to our destinations. None of them turned us down when we were on our rented motorcycle, stopping by randomly asking for directions!!
It caught me by surprise. I thought it was all to easy to detach myself from the surrounding and locals. After all, I was a passer-by. I wouldn’t stay long. Also, I intended to hide my nationality, lying that I was Singaporean instead. My worry was not unfounded as I flipped through their local newspapers and read headlines along the lines such as “Indonesians being detained by Malaysian policemen or Indonesian workers died being killed in plantation”. The Chineseness in me on the other hands struggled not to get cheated – only wanted to pay local price everywhere we went which was tough luck. At one point, I started to question myself whether it was the necessary to be acting the ways I was acting. What’s wrong with paying more? It is not like I couldn’t afford that (after currency conversion) and that amount of money probably meant more to them than me. Plus, I was supposed to relax and enjoy. Then I started to loosen myself up and be less petty and snobbish as The Boyfriend would call me. I started to say hi and morning to the villagers I passed by every morning. Their face lightened up and they greeted me back. Then I realized with a smile, a friendly nod.. I gained even more than I gave!! I was humbled.
So do visit Indonesia! Sadly, it is so underrated. It does have a lot to offer with its diversity in everything!
The old lady outside our hotel whom I bought the delicious Nasi Gudeg from every morning for breakfast
Our jeep tour guide at Merapi Mount. A really nice guy. He and his family returned home and rebuilt their life after the volcano eruption in 2010 destroyed everything.