Well, after telling everyone at work and various friends about our trip, I realized that it’s really best to start at the beginning and talk about the interesting things I noticed on that day… That being said, there are some large sweeping generalizations that need to be addressed about the trip and traveling in general.
First of all, let me say that we loved Indonesia. As far as a country to visit it’s a bargain. It cost about $1200USD for 2 full weeks, which included food, inter-island airfare, taxis/drivers/bus transportation, hotel, shopping, etc for 2-3 people depending on whether or not we paid for our friend/guide. We tried to pay for him as much as we could but many times we just didn’t have small enough bills or needed cash. It’s like paying for a water at a boy-scout fund-raising booth with a $100 bill.
We only felt scared once or twice. It wasn’t because we were in danger, but more because we were in unfamiliar territory. The first time was when we arrived in Sanur–it was late and all the locals were on the beach, which was a bit intimidating. It also happened to be the first time that we were not with our friend Tony. The other time was when we were at the airport in Makassar and we had a few issues with getting the taxi to get to Tony’s house. Neither time were we really in danger; it was just very unfamiliar and therefore, scary.
The people in Indonesia LOVED us (and our money was part of it, I’m sure). They don’t hate Americans; they hate our government. They really liked to see us and a lot of people talked to us just to practice speaking English. We did have a few smart asses who said something in English then insulted us in Indonesian. It’s really only funny to insult someone if they understand it (which we didn’t), so I’m not sure why they bothered. On the whole, however, those people who were making jokes were far and few between and were greatly outnumbered by everyone else.
We visited 3 islands:
Java – Jakarta
Bali – Ubud & Sanur
Sulawesi – Ujung Pandang/Makassar & Rantepao (in Tana Toraja)
Jakarta is like any other big city–it has its good parts and bad parts.
Ubud is a shoppers paradise and has some neat cultural things.
Sanur is a neat beach town. I’ve been told it’s much quieter than Kuta, which is where all the nightclubs are and the bombings were a few years back. We met a guy at our hotel who left Kuta to go to Sanur because he’d been pickpocketed and had his $$ and passport stolen… it was kind of a pain to get that all back. If that kind of place is your scene, by all means go, but be extra careful.
Ujung Pandang/Makassar is a big industrial city compared to Jakarta. It didn’t seem that nice from the airport, but under the light of day it’s not so bad. We didn’t do much tourist stuff there, though.
Rantepao is the biggest town in the area but the shopping areas are small and you can really only spend a day there and have stuff to do. Use it to establish base camp for hiking and such in other villages in Tana Toraja.
Despite the US Gov’t travel advisory against going to Indonesia, I would strongly advise visiting there. Just be careful in Kuta & try not to offend anyone on purpose anywhere. When you stay, I recommend the homestays (many are listed in the Lonely Planet guide) and local restauarants since your tourist dollars will have the most direct effect on Indonesian’s lives. Think of it as direct foreign aid without the interference of government and corruption :). In most places, but especially on Bali, you can stay in western hotels and pay western prices but you just don’t get the same experience. You may as well go to the Caribbean.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll go through our trip day by day. I’ll talk about all our impressions of the people we met and places we visited and even those establishments that we really enjoyed. I’ll eventually post some pics, too, and link those under the photo section.