Day 216: Terima Kasih, Indonesia

Sun. 17th March 2013

Bicitaxis all lined upWe have just spent 28 days in Indonesia, a country that we weren’t planning to visit before we left home (other than a vague notion of going to Bali) and a country that we knew very little about. Like Bolivia, previously, this has been a very pleasant surprise and we are glad that we had the flexibility in our plans to be able to accommodate a trip here.

Dramatic sunset from the roof of our hotel in JogjaOur time here has gone really quickly. We have seen so much and yet so little of this huge country – we’ve only visited 4 out of 17,000 islands – and there have been some stark contrasts: From the tourist packed streets of Sengiggi in Bali, to the tourist free city of Jember in Lombok; From the beaches of Kuta, Lombok, to the sulphur mining in Mount Ijen; From watching the tortoises, sharks and fish in the coral reefs around Gili Trawangan to watching the sun rise at Borobudur. We have loved it all and we have met some lovely people too. Of the many, many photos we have taken 231 photos we’ve rated at 4-stars and have a handful of 5-star photos too – so we know we’ll keep the memories.

All the while, we have had cries of “Hello” from the friendly locals. In some places they have been curious about us (for example, on our visit to the school or wandering around Ampenan in Lombok; the locals have usually gone out of their way to help us (pointing us at the right bus, for example). Only very occasionally have we felt that they have being trying to scam us for money. Even with the taxi drivers and street vendors a cheery “no thank you” is sufficient to deter them.

Ibis Styles hotel - quirky but goodAnd it has all been so cheap – somewhat ironic when there are so many zeros on the price of everything. (We have pretty much got used to the currency now and no longer panic when the bill for a meal comes to R120,000 – £8). Janet has been tracking our expenditure (you would expect no less) and for the Indonesia segment we have been spending pretty much exactly £100/day. This includes all of our flights, transfers, tours & trips, hotels, meals – and my diving course and additional dives! We haven’t really skimped and looking back, we can see that we could have spent even less if we’d really tried.

Great view from the pool in the hotelNow though, we are off to Melaka (aka Malacca) in Malaysia. We are booked in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur for Thursday night and we have tickets for the Grand Prix on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Before then, we wanted to do more than just slog around KL and we had Melaka suggested to us as a place with an interesting history but still close to KL. Even better, although our flight doesn’t land until 5:30pm, we think that we can still get to Melaka that evening.

Our transfer nearly went off without a hitch. Rather than load up on the local bus with our backpacks, we took a taxi to the airport – for £3.50 it wasn’t too much of an extravagance. Jogja’s airport is a lot bigger than some we have been to but still tiny by modern airport standards. There were few facilities or shops (nowhere to buy water or refill our bottles after passing through security) but the waiting area was quiet so we could crack on with sorting photos and writing the blog and the time soon passed.

Airport in Jogja is not exactly packedWe are getting to quite like Air Asia –the fares are cheap(ish), the service is fine and the flights seem to run to time. Its a pleasant change when the plane pushes back on time and lands a few minutes ahead of time. The one question we had though was – where have we landed? I suppose it just means that we are under-prepared but we haven’t got our heads around KL’s airport. Are there two airports – KL International Airport (KLIA) and Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) – or is LCCT part of KLIA? We thought we were flying to KLIA, but seemed to end up at LCCT and are still none the wiser as to the distinction!

Air Asia - could be our favourite low cost airlineWe also had a small scare at immigration – it was too easy. We’d not been given any landing card or immigration form on the plane and there was no sign of any forms being handed out as we got into the hall. So we stood in the short queue and went up to the desk when it was our turn – and it was that easy. 90 day tourist visa, no forms, no charge, no fuss. We like it.

I’m getting used to having access to data on my phone so I picked one from on of the mobile telecoms stands in the baggage hall and swapped out my Indonesian SIM for a Malaysian one. A bit more fuss and faff than immigration but also straightforward. Janet even had our bags by the time I was sorted. It was all going so easily!

If we were at LCCT, then there were buses to Melaka. However, if we were at KLIA, then there aren’t. So, when we spotted a counter selling taxi tickets, we decided to take the easy and (what should have been) the quicker way – especially as even in the taxi Melaka is a couple of hours away. Again, at first, it was all easy. As we were heading out of the airport, we saw lots of banners for the Grand Prix – the Sepang circuit is near to KLIA. (I was also able to find out from my phone that Kimi Raikonen had won the Australian GP earlier today).

Welcome to Little IndiaThe only hitch came when we got to Melaka. As we passed the Ramada hotel, I remarked “ah, we’re close. Our hotel is near the Ramada”. But the taxi drove on and on. Once we got down to the sea, we knew we had gone too far. Not only was the taxi driver lost but after ringing the hotel to get directions he still heads off in the wrong direction. Once again, the GPS in our phones came to the rescue. Not only were we able to be insistent that he was going the wrong way, but we were also able to navigate him to the hotel. Phew!

Entrance to ChinatownIt was nearly 9pm by the time we had checked in and dumped our bags. We hadn’t eaten since the plane (and that was airline food) but we were beyond food by now. Instead we had a wander down the road and towards the river past the entrances to both Chinatown and Little India. This all looks very promising for later exploration but our priority was to find a bar and a beer. Over our beer, we quickly get over the taxi journey and reflect back on the time we’ve had in Indonesia. We want to return – in dry season – there is more we’d like to see and do here. In the meantime, all we can say is Terima kasih – Thank you – Indonesia.

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