In 2013, I was fortunate enough to travel to Indonesia with Dan and his family.
So, Indonesia is a country which consists of lots of islands… and I mean LOTS of islands… more than 13,000! Understandably, we didn’t quite manage to see them all, but we did get to visit the islands of Java and Bali. For the first part of our trip we first flew to Java, to visit the country’s capital, Jakarta. Dan was born and brought up in Jakarta, so it was great for me to have the chance to visit the city he and his family know so well.
In case you’re not familiar with Indonesia, I’ll give you a really quick blast of facts. Indonesia is situated in South-East Asia and has a population of over 240 million! This makes it the fourth most populous country in the world (after China, India and the USA). As a country, it has the world’s largest Muslim majority, although it’s also home to huge numbers of Protestants, Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists. The country has over 300 spoken languages, the predominant one being Bahasa Indonesia (I’m slowly learning it myself).
So, after two loooong flights (with an eight hour stop off in Dubai), we arrived, tired but excited, at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. We were greeted by our host family who whisked us away to have some much needed food. Our first meal in Jakarta was a Padang feast. Padang is the capital of West Sumatra, and typical Padang food consists of a large array of individual spicy dishes. You don’t actually order from a menu; all of the dishes get brought out to your table, and you choose which ones you want to eat. Padang food is traditionally eaten with your hands; a practice which is commonplace across the country.
As a vegetarian, I was a little apprehensive about what I was going to be able to eat in Indonesia. Vegetarianism is relatively unheard of there, so I was prepared to eat a lot of boiled rice! As it turned out, eating was easier than I thought. This was partly due to the fact that we were staying with a local family who had a cook who understood what I could and couldn’t eat, and also because Dan and his family speak Indonesian, so could translate menus when we were out.
Over the next few days we explored the city, shopped in the local markets and malls, and ate lots of delicious Indonesian food. Traffic in Jakarta is really bad, so as well as cars, there are also tons of mopeds and bajaj (see picture below). We had an awesome trip across the bustling city in a bajaj, which gave us chance to really get a feel for the place and take in the vast array of the city’s sites, smells, sounds and the general hustle and bustle.
Instead of staying within the confines of the city for our whole trip, we took ourselves away to visit a range of different places outside of Jakarta. If you’re considering travelling to Indonesia, I highly recommend going to the mountains in Puncak, located a couple of hours’ drive from the city. We spent a day here, walking through the vast, green leafy sea of tea plantations, which the area is famous for. The views were breath-taking and the fresh mountain air was such a contrast to that found in the smoggy city. When standing in one of those plantations, you really feel a million miles away from anywhere.
Another day trip that I’d highly recommend is to a place called Taman Mini. It’s basically an attraction set out as a ‘miniature Indonesia’ – the whole place is arranged with different sections of the park dedicated to different parts of Indonesia. There are 26 areas in total and each section has historical and traditional features relating to the area it represents, like traditional houses and dress. There are several gardens, museums and religious buildings at Taman Mini too.
Considering the size of Indonesia and the sheer number of islands, you’re highly unlikely to visit it all in real life, so Taman Mini is great for getting an idea of how the culture varies across the archipelago of islands.
One of the reasons that we travelled to Indonesia when we did was because of Arsenal Football Club. Yes, my husband and his family are such big arsenal fans that we booked our holiday around an international friendly between Arsenal and the Indonesian All Stars. That’s dedication right there.
This last photo is one that I took back in the city of Jakarta. It shows the stark contrast between the lifestyle of the rich and the poor within the same city. The level of poverty is clear to see, yet the city’s skyscrapers are looming, just behind.
I really enjoyed our trip to Jakarta. The people were friendly, the food was good, but most of all, I just loved the hustle and bustle and feel of the city. I’m certain that it’s a place that we’ll return to one day; possibly for another holiday, possibly for longer. I think it’s important that Baby J gets to see where her Daddy was born and raised.