Things to Know Before Visiting Indonesia
Are you going to be visiting Indonesia? Wondering what to expect? Amanda Boby has been travelling around the world and she shares her impressions and how she found visiting this fascinating and diverse country.
1. Indonesia is Huge
One element of our trip that stuck out was that Indonesia is such a diverse country. When initially planning the trip, I was overwhelmed with the vastness of the country and how it spans 5000 KM, from West Sumatra to East Timor. From the mainland to the beautiful islands of Indonesia, you won't run out of places to visit and things to do here.
2. Slow Pace of Life
After travelling for many months and visiting so many different countries, Indonesia slowed us down for sure.
The pace of life in Indonesia is a lot less hectic compared to other destinations in Asia especially outside of the larger cities like Jakarta. This didn't mean visiting was any less active, but it just had a relaxed and calming environment especially on the islands.
Even the popular touristy islands like Bali is very relaxed. If you are backpacking on a budget check out some of the best free things to do in Bali.
3. Spectacular Sights
There are so many unique locations and sights in Indonesia and a lot more to the country than just Bali. Our first stop was the island of Java. After arriving in Jakarta (where we spent two nights), we headed to Borobudur to see the well-known Buddhist temple. This was built circa AD 850, however left untouched soon after completion.
Borobudur is one of the best tempes to see in Asia. It was fully restored on 23rd February 1983 when it became a UNESCO site.
Prilgrams still make their journey to Borobudur to see the temple, although this is mostly a tourist site, albeit an impressive site and one that made me think of other hidden temples that could be discovered in the future.
The Islamic faith makes up 90% of the population in Java, Catholicism makes up 9% and 1% is classed as 'other', which includes Buddhism. Bali is then predominantly Hindu which is extremely rare in other parts of Indonesia. Such a contrast in a small space.
5. Friendly Locals
Indonesian is spoken throughout the country although in touristy areas a lot of locals also speak English.
People are very friendly, we were lucky to stay at a guesthouse owned by a guy that had lived in Borobudur all of his life (Amrta Guest House). He took us to see a local Catholic school which was built in 1902, used by the Japanese as a POW camp in the Second World War and since returned to a school and local place of worship.
The school was side by side with a Muslim school. It was peaceful; both were operating together in harmony.
6. Stay on the Tourist Trail
Travelling has definitely made me appreciate the local history and culture, to ask questions, and has encouraged me to avoid 'tourist traps'. Although we chose quite well trodden paths in Indonesia, for our first time it made sense.
We have sometimes found the most unique places staying just outside of the main areas, for example in Ubud. We opted to stay out in the padi fields, in a private villa (using Airbnb), that allowed for countryside walks and access to smaller, locally owned restaurants and businesses.
8. Eco Tourism
What was quite a memorable part of our trip was the conservation practiced within the country, especially the smaller islands.
We have stayed in retreats/resorts previously that claim to be ‘eco friendly’ but we have been disappointed to see it as no more than a sales pitch for those that use this as a buzz word.
It was comforting to stay in places that have not altered the land to build their retreat and also have a strong eco ethos that is clear to see in all the facilities on offer and their business model (Kebun Kupu Kupu Gili Meno Eco Resort).
Some even the chance to learn to scuba dive in Indonesia and help coral conservation.
It pays dividends to research and read up on where you’re staying, especially if you are looking for a more unique experience or one that fits your particular beliefs.
We saw a lot in Indonesia and took the time to relax and catch up on some of our personal hobbies while enjoying the food, spectacular views and being greeted by some of the friendliest and most helpful people on the planet.
I would highly recommend visiting Java and especially Borobudur, especially if you are after a relaxing cultural experience. If you are travelling solo you might want to consider Indonesia group tours to see the highlights and travel with other like-minded people.
By Amanda Boby