This was my first time in Asia and in the Southern hemisphere.
The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane is that Indonesia is hot. Crazy hot. We had more than 30°C during the day, and not much less during the night.
As a consequence, there’s AC everywhere. Unfortunately it’s always set to crazy cold. The one in our hotel room was on 12°C when we first got in. I messed up with it (sorry again, KatDave) and got it turned off for part of one night instead of just turning it up to a less freezing temperature. Of course the room temperature got unbearable and Kat had to get up in the middle of the night to turn the AC back on.
Traffic is insane. It’s dense, roads are large and vehicles go fast, often ignoring red lights. Lots of cars, but also lots of mopeds and motorcycles. It doesn’t seem to stop, ever. The noise level is high. Crossing the streets is… dangerous.
Life is cheap. The exchange rate was basically 15k rupiah = 1€. At some point I saw shirts selling at 12k. A meal was about 80k, the most expensive one we had was 150k.
Talking about food, it was excellent. I knew I had to stay away from anything labeled spicy as even the “a bit spicy” food was almost too much for me, even if I usually like to eat things that are “a bit spicy” by French standards. Of course that wasn’t an issue for Dave who’s British and as such was raised on hot curry. The highlight was nasi goreng (fried rice) which has of course rice, but also chicken, egg, onions and vegetables. My favorite drink was jus sirsak (soursop juice). I was a bit disappointed by salak (snake fruit) which looks awesome but doesn’t have so much taste.
The architecture was like nothing I had ever seen. Parts of the cities are filled with huge buildings (skyscrapers?). Other parts have small houses with only one or two floors and that seem made of scrap parts.
In Depok, apart from conference attendees, I met absolutely no foreigner. There were some near our hotel in Jakarta, but we were in a really touristic street and even then we didn’t meet so many. In all countries I had been to before, even if there was one majority, you’d still meet people from other origins in the street. It felt odd not to have any visible minority.
I realise after writing all this that it may come out as a negative impression of the country, but believe me it is not at all! My general feeling was one of cultural shock and that was refreshing.
On the Sunday after the conference, a nice tour in Jakarta was organized for the speakers. We first went to an awesome theme park that gathers cultures from all over the country. You can see and visit traditional houses and meet people that come from all the regions and who speak the local language from the area they represent. After that we went to see the National Monument which sits in the middle of the largest square in the world. It was then time to say goodbye to everyone.
I got home on the next day, while some others stayed for a few more days to visit the country. After a long flight, I arrived in my hometown on Tuesday early afternoon. The constant noise was gone. The temperature was bearable without any AC. A few birds were chirping in the trees in my backyard. I crashed on my bed, and fell asleep.