Do you dream of traveling to Indonesia? Java, Bali, Lombok, Borneo… Indonesia is full of magical places to discover. In addition, it seems that Indonesians are very welcoming and warm. We met Martine from the blog Leaving Indonesia, a lover and expert of the country (she lived there for 10 years, so much to tell you that the country does not have much secret for her!). She was kind enough to answer our questions and give us her tips and advice to travel serenely in Indonesia.
Can you introduce yourself quickly and your blog?
Hello, I’m Martine from the blog Leaving Indonesia. I would like to share with you my passion for this beautiful country that is Indonesia. I lived there for ten years. I was a guide at the National Museum in Jakarta, adventure travel organizer, diving instructor (I had the opportunity to dive on remarkable and uncrowded spots as a cruise director). Blogger, curious, great travel enthusiast, I traveled through Indonesia: alone, with my family, friends, tourist or professionally and I continue to do so.
Can you introduce us to Indonesia?
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world with about 17,000 islands and extends over 2,000 km around the equator and 6,000 km from east to west.
The main islands (in terms of area) are Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan (Indonesian part of Borneo Island), Sulawesi and West Papua. Kalimantan is bigger than France and Java is a little over a quarter of France!!! To this is added smaller islands but very tourist like Bali and Lombok and the small islands of Sunda.
Indonesia has great seismic activity. Located at the convergence of 3 tectonic plates (Asian, Australian and Pacific), there is a belt of volcanoes (called fire belt) that goes from Sumatra to Papua. Many volcanoes are still active and it is not uncommon to feel minor tremors and there have been some sadly famous natural disasters (Tsunami in Sumatra in 2004, eruption of the Agung volcano in Bali in 1963…).
250 million live in Indonesia, including 120 million on the island of Java alone. Like many Asian countries, you will be surprised to see people everywhere, especially in cities. For example, Jakarta, the capital is a city of about 12 million people. But this archipelago still offers many virgin and wild places.
It is a young republic with an elected president and various political parties. The majority religion is Islam. In the Indonesian constitution, 5 religions are allowed: Islam, Hinduism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Buddhism. There is no imposed religion, but Indonesians must declare one among the 5. The religion is also written on their identity papers.
When is the best time to travel to Indonesia?
Indonesia is a large country that covers several latitudes and is divided into two by the Wallace Band, which allows traveling there in all seasons. The best season to travel to Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi is from May to November and if you go further west to the Wallacea zone (or intermediate zone), to Maluku, Papua or to the small islands of the probe, the best season is from November to April.
The motto on the Indonesian beaches: REST!
Is it easy to travel to Indonesia?
The geography of Indonesia with its 17,000 islands makes it necessary to make choices:
- Either you go from islands to islands : you will have to fly or boat, so plan a minimum or have time, to book a ticket or even to find a ferry or boat schedule. You can buy tickets from Indonesian airlines from France, online at their sites (Air Lion, Air Asia, Sriwijaya, Garuda, etc…).
- Either you stay on an island : you have the choice between usual land transport: car, taxis, motorcycle.
The road network is not very developed and the traffic in the big cities is difficult. In Jakarta, there is a bus network not too bad (the new Transjakarta buses), and trains that go to the main cities of Java.
In Bali, buses are almost non-existent and the best is to rent a motorcycle or a car.
In general, in big cities you will find buses but no line plans. The easiest way is to look at the direction that is marked and ask the driver if it serves the place you want to go. Depending on the city, buses have different colors. These are actually mini-buses that stop everywhere on their way, at the request of customers.
My advice : If you can, take a driver, it is not very expensive and it will save you a lot of hassle. Driving is difficult especially in cities because of traffic jams and the passage of motorcycles all over the place. You will find cars and motorbikes for rent everywhere.
What is the language spoken on the spot?
Indonesians are usually bilingual since they speak their local dialect and Bahasa Indonesia. In tourist areas, English is quite common. By cons, French, not really.
Welcome to paradise
What are your top 3 experiences not to miss in Indonesia?
The diving of course…
If you have never had this experience, Indonesia is the country where you have to do at least one dive. The backgrounds are colorful, full of fish and visibility is very good. The temperature of the water varies between 22 ° and 30 ° C according to the places and the seasons. You will find diving clubs everywhere. The safety rules are the same as everywhere in the world and the procedures follow the specifications given by organizations worldwide (PADI, CMAS, NAUI, etc…) so do not panic on that side!
Nice little blue fish.
A trek of a few days…
At the Baduis in Java or elsewhere to live in a still virgin nature in beautiful villages, cut off from the outside world and discover their rich ancestral cultures.
The ascent of a volcano…
Like the Kawa Ijen in East Java where you will see porters of sulfur, the Rijani in Lombok from which you can admire the whole island, or the Kelimutu in Flores with its 3 colorful lakes or Mount Agung in Bali.
Be careful, do not underestimate these treks, because if they are not difficult technically, unevenness are very important. Many people turn around before reaching the summit because they are poorly equipped and poorly prepared. Do not go in tongues!!! Allow more time than the guides will tell you. But the view at the top is really worth the effort.
The Bromo volcano on the island of Java just majestic!
The Indonesian dish not to be missed?
Nasi goreng (fried rice) and soto ayam (chicken soup). This is what I take when I travel and I do not know the “warungs” (small restaurants). It’s very cheap, always good and you can find it everywhere with various recipes.
Do you have an unusual anecdote about Indonesian culture?
If you ask someone for help, and she tells you that she’s going to do what you want, she usually does, but it can be at the last moment (in fact, it’s often last moment). The key word in Indonesia is “SABAR” which means patience. It’s a bit difficult for us Westerners who want to plan everything, but there, if we lose patience, and we do not try to relax a little, we miss a lot of things. Indonesians live in the present and they are people who can be trusted.
“The key word in Indonesia is” SABAR “which means patience. ”
Make us dream: can you tell us about your best memory in Indonesia?
I have a lot of very strong memories, but I will choose the day we left the Korowais in Papua and where the children decorated with flowers, accompanied us on the tarmac of fortune, to the small plane that came to recover us. We were 6 women and we had just spent 5 days with them in their jungle. It was very moving this departure.
Korowais children in Papua
Do you have any other advice for future travelers?
Do not plan to drive too many kilometers because the roads are not in great condition. Take the time to relax and enjoy the scenery, people, your holidays what! Indonesians are very smiling and welcoming people, let them guide you, make you discover their country, their culture. They will always do it with great pleasure.
Thanks to Martine for sharing her vision of Indonesia with us. You will find more information, tips and tricks to stay in Indonesia on his blog Leaving Indonesia.
In addition, she offers a free guide ” Approach Indonesia by staying zen! ” With the 16 differences between Indonesians and you to know absolutely before you go!