First Impressions & Basic Information: Indonesia

Although your feelings towards and opinion of a particular country will grow and evolve as you see more of the country and experience more of the local culture, nothing can ever duplicate your initial impressions. For that exact reason I will be publishing a First Impressions post for every one of the 80+ countries on my RTW adventure.

Arriving in Jakarta airport was just like any other country. However by the time you claim your bags and make it through customs it quickly becomes clear that you have arrived somewhere tropical. The touts are everywhere and they are very eager for your money. Everyone from the currency exchange attendants to the taxi drivers are literally fighting each other for your business. With so many shady taxi companies and other traveler horror stories, it really helps to know who to go with.

Blue Bird taxi service (spelled taksi in Bahasa Indonesia, the local language) is the best and most honest company. However Express is also a close second. Those are both basic taxis but if you prefer something better, Silver Bird has a top-notch fleet of Mercedes and only cost slightly more than their inexpensive sister company, Blue Bird. For example from the airport to my hostel was 150,000 rupiah ($15USD) via Blue Bird and 210,000 rupiah ($21USD) via Silver Bird.

Silver Bird Taxi, Jakarta, Indonesia
The view from inside of my Silver Bird Taksi

Exiting out into the city visitors will quickly become aware of two things: lots of traffic and lots of trash. The last few years have seen a substantial increase in the number of vehicles and motorbikes on the roads without any significant road or public transportation improvements. The worst part is this trend shows no sign of changing. As such, one has to wonder what traffic in Jakarta and the other big Indonesian cities will look like in five years? Ten years?

Jakarta Traffic
Jakarta traffic…fun fun! But this isn’t really that bad — wait until it starts raining!

Just like other metropolises in developing countries, the roads and highways here can be shocking to first-time visitors. The lines on the road mean practically nothing, with everyone just swinging around each other in the hopes of getting to their destinations a few seconds faster. The motorbike drivers weave in between cars nonstop, seemingly fearless despite the fact that many have their whole family — infant(s) included — on that one small bike. All vehicles must truly have great brakes and a working horn if they hope to survive the drive.

After safely arriving at the hostel and dropping my bags off the first thing I did was check out that famous Jakarta street food. Luckily I didn’t have to go more than 20 meters to already have a variety of options. The best part is everything is amazing! Whether soto ayam nasi (a unique rice soup with chicken and veggies), capcai (mixed vegetables in soupy sauce), mie masak sapi (noodles with beef and fried egg), nasi goreng ayam (fried rice and chicken), or anything else, it’s all good!

Take A Look   Mmmmm Food!   My next post is all about the food of Indonesia and how to order it.

Food at Bubur Ayam Sukabumi
Nasi Goreng Ayam Spesial from Bubur Ayam Sukabumi

Bubur Ayam Sukabumi menu
The menu from Bubur Ayam Sukabumi

All together my first impressions of the country are quite positive, despite all the warnings from both travelers and local friends alike not to trust anyone. Many others do not have very many positive things to say but the majority of those only have the negative thinking because they have never been to a major metropolis in a developing nation. Manila and Mexico City are both very similar.

Yes, something tells me I am going to enjoy my time here in Indonesia!

  Be sure to check out my new posts on Indonesia for more great sights and activities! Saya tinggal disini sekarang!

Have you ever visited Jakarta or anywhere in Indonesia?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

14 thoughts on “First Impressions & Basic Information: Indonesia”

  1. Thanx for the fair review of my country. If you’re still in Jakarta must try Padang food at resto called Surya in Bendungan Hillir area, south Jakarta.
    Enjoy your stay!

    • I’m actually on my way to Yogyakarta now but will be passing back through Jakarta on my way up to Sumatra next month. Will have to check it out then, thanks for the tip! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Way to go Derek! I’m glad that the start of your RTW is going very well. Looking forward to reading more about it. Oh, and one question. Do you have a specific amount of time allotted for your RTW trip or it’s just as long as it takes?

    • Ummm well almost nothing about it is planned more than a day in advance. One of the beauties — and downsides — of crowd-sourcing an RTW adventure via Twitter. But I anticipate around four years. This includes the first leg (Indonesia to Portugal via land/sea travel only) as well as the subsequent Africa and South American parts of the trek. Of course we’ll see how it all goes hehehe ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I’ve never been to Indonesia, would love to go though. Dale would like to work in a coffee plantation one day because of his coffee love & addiction too, I am the same or even worse.
    We like big cities so maybe we’d enjoy Jakarta too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I love big cities too, particularly because of the abundance of cultures and things to do. Oh and of course the variety of foodnever hurts.

      But I think y’all would have more fun exploring the other amazing places in this great country. I’ve been to so many places and done SOOOOO much already that I’m hooked.

      But there is a downside…I’ve been too busy exploring and spending time with locals that I’ve fallen WAY behind on my writing. Expect a flood of posts soon ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks Laura. The hardest part is definitely finding the time in between adventures to write about everything. Any time I flip open the laptop I automatically feel like I am missing something important locally…. :/

  4. Got the feeling that you are going to have some adventures here. Looking forward to your next post about the food there. I’ve started a series on my site about street food so do shout if you’d like to write a guest post about Indonesian street food. Happy travels.

    • Adventures? Oh yes indeed, having plenty! All have been positive too, at least until arriving in Bali. I originally was going to skip this island but now, after 72 hours here, I really wish that I had stuck with my original plan. Nothing is worth the crap I’ve been thru since stepping foot on this island. Bali is an absolute cesspool that epitomizes everything which is wrong with this otherwise impressive island nation. (Expect that post to come soon as well.)

      But yes, to answer your question I would be happy to write up a post on Indonesian street food for your blog. The one for my site will cover the overall basics but for my guest post I could highlight the subtle differences between cities and regional dishes of the islands that make each one unique. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. you should come to Jogja if you wanna see temples and palaces, and some traditional performance. or to Bandung if you wanna taste more more nice foods, and tea farm in Puncak is amazing. Enjoy!

    • Thanks for the tips Dina ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve actually already been to Jogja and Bandung — just am really far behind on my writing — but have not yet visited Puncak, despite the fact I went to Bogor as well. Just finishing up the whole Bali – Lombok loop, headed back to Jogja next, maybe over to Malang afterwards. May end up taking a 2-week batik course in Jogja if the master is still offering it. Certainly hope so!

      Anyway thanks again for the advice Dina, let me know if you’d like to cross paths during my time here. I’ll be in the country for another 5-6 weeks, seeing all I can see ๐Ÿ™‚ Best wishes!


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