I went to Indonesia (mostly in Bali) for three weeks. It was supposed to be one but it got extended. Here are a few things I learned about Indonesia while there.
Traffic is Hectic. The Taxi Mafia is Kinda Overrated But Are Still Around. Rent A Scooter If You Can
As much as the tourism industry has grown in Bali, the roads haven’t grown with it. Meaning that there’s a lot of traffic bottlenecks. The scooters can get really annoying as well, especially went they drive up the sidewalk. But they’re a great option for getting around. I recommend learning to ride a scooter since it is far cheaper than using Grab and Gojek. Make sure you use a helmet and get an international drivers license rated for motorbikes. Also if you’re a morbidly obese person, you’ll be fine in a scooter.
There’s a lot of talk about the taxi mafia. While they’re there, it’s a bit overblown. If you stay discrete, you’ll be fine. Ubud and Caggnu are far worse. You can be dropped off but you won’t be picked up. Leaving the airport is quite expensive (at least IDR100,000 which is ~US$7 ) compared to coming back so book a shuttle before hand just in case.
Hostels Are A Great Way To Meet People
I initially got a hotel but as I was unable to get a flight out, so I stayed at a much cheaper hostel called M Boutique Legian. For $9 a night, it has very comfortable beds, a non-extortionate snack bar and a good social atmosphere. It also has “free breakfast”, but there’s a reason I put it in quotes.
I think I’ll travel to these kind of hostels until I turn 35. Much cheaper and I stay somewhat social.
Lots of Countries Have Visa Free Access To Indonesia
As weak as a Zimbabwean passport is, I get visa-free access here (the main reason I came here). In fact, 170 countries do. Note that visa free entry is only applicable for 30 days and can’t be extended so you’ll have to jump out and get back in or get a visa on arrival if you come from certain countries).
If you made the mistake of being from a few countries, be ready for a hard time.
There Are Lots of Hustlers
As you walk through Bali, there are so many people asking if you want a massage, taxi or certain illicit items. Be prepared for lots of propositions.
Dragonfruit Isn’t That Great, But Mangosteen Is The Bomb
I remember trying Dragonfruit and hating it. Thought I might try it again here but it was still terrible. Meanwhile I discovered the Mangesteen fruit and it’s the best fruit I’ve ever had.
Kopi Luwak (Civet Coffee) is a Rip-off, But There Is Plenty of Good Tea and Coffee
When I went to explore Ubud for a day, I got to visit a few coffee farms. At the farms they grew Kopi Luwak, which is supposedly the most expensive coffee in the world (which it isn’t– It cost $3 to taste). It’s made from the poop of a civet (the ones I saw didn’t seem all too happy) which supposedly ferments the best cherries it finds to eat. While the sour fermented taste was definitely there, I had to pretend to like it given that I had to pay to try it out. It wasn’t that great to be honest. It’s argued that it would be better if the leaks were actually wild, but I doubt it would improve much.
The other coffees I got to taste were way better. That’s how I discovered mangosteen, my favorite fruit. I also discovered avocado coffee, which I had to buy being the millennial I am. It tastes great by the way so I bought it.
I was hoping to find Vietnamese Egg Coffee [VIDEO 9:04] but this isn’t Vietnam so I had to settle for Vietnamese Coffe which was pretty good.
While The Fried Chicken Is Great, Fast Food Isn’t Worth It Compared To The Great Food Vendors and Warungs
There are a lot of good options here in Bali, some of which are super cheap and filling although there are lots of places which are super expensive. Fast food for instance is real expensive compared to all the stalls and warnings around.
Jakarta Is A Bit of A Mess
Note: When I wrote this, I didn’t realize that there was a whole lot going on in Indonesia. Most relevant to this section is the widespread deforestation in order to grow palm trees. I apologize for my lack of sensitivity.
When I landed in Jakarta, the city had this great haze to it. While there’s a decent public transportation system in place, there is so much traffic due to single occupancy vehicles. I spent 1 hour just trying to get out of a 1 mile jam. Also the way you pay for it is really confusing. It’s supposedly electronic only to prevent corruption but there are times and places where cash can be used. You typically need to get a certain non refundable card to use most of the lines. At least the infrastructure is there.
No wonder they’re trying to relocate the capital.
Losing Your Passport is a Terrible Idea
Not sure how I lost my passport though I think it slipped out of my pocket As I was walking from the airport. If you lose your passport, you’re pretty much screwed. Thankfully I had family to help me out otherwise I would have been screwed.
I had to go to the embassy to get an emergency travel document which I couldn’t do until after the weekend. I wanted to explore Bali more but I was so tired I gave up. Thankfully I was allowed to fly with my state ID otherwise I’d have to go on a dangerous 26 hour bus ride to the capital which isn’t even cheaper.
I realized that the airport I chose, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) was far from the embassies in South Jakarta. CGK isn’t even in Jakarta! If you want to get close to the embassies, fly into Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport (HLP). Thankfully there was a rather quick train to get into the city center.
I then had to get passport photos at Gandaria Mall, which was a great place (surreal given what surrounds it) before heading to my embassy to get the emergency travel document. It didn’t take my country very long to get it. I then had to head to the airport hoping I would leave that day. On the way, I passed through an amazing food market. My favorite thing from there was telur gulung, egg on a stick.
I eventually got to the airport after I nearly missed the last train back. Unfortunately I couldn’t leave with my travel document since it hadn’t been stamped so I had to go back the next day. It took forever to get noticed by the immigration office only to be told that I need a letter from my embassy explaining my situation? Annoying but it wasn’t from far and I eventually got help.
Note: If you get a replacement travel document in Indonesia, you must go to immigration for them to issue you a new stamp with the entry information. In Jakarta, this has to be done at the Directorate General Office/Ministry of Justice.
You need the following:
- The police report,
- the replacement document,
- a letter from the embassy emplaining your situation and
- your flight itinerary although it might work if you told them where and when you entered
Unfortunately, the airline wouldn’t let me fly with my ticket since it ended up in South Africa instead of Zimbabwe, even though I had flights taking me all the way home. They could only help me if I got a full fare. After annoying my family, I got one but I never knew about the credit card validation so I missed the flight. Thankfully they waived the no show fee and the new flight cost just $25 more.
In spite of confusing everyone who had to look at the document, I got home. Now I just need to wait for the passport backlog to clear up. As frustrating as this was, at least most of the Indonesians I encountered could speak English. Barley but it’s probably their third language. My sister got her passport stolen in Poland and was locked up with no English speaking help at all. She found her stuff a few days later at least.
In Spite of Losing My Passport, I Wanna Go Back. Just With More Money.
I do wish I planned this trip better and I had more money, but this was a great trip. It has beutiful spots and it’s a cheap holiday spot— you’ll love large if you spent money here as you would on a US vacation. It was my first time in Asia and I hope to explore more Asian countries once I get more money. [INSERT SUPPORT PITCH HERE].