Indonesia is a country made up of islands, over 13,000 of them to be precise, and it is a country that has so much to offer any traveller. Whether you are travelling for business or leisure, whether you plan to stay in one place or intend exploring some of the many islands it makes little difference and many tourists will not get much further into the country than any other tourist and that is a real pity.
As the largest country in the world made up entirely of islands, one would expect a great deal of diversity and indeed there is, but few people go further than the capital Jakarta or the island of Bali or Sumatra. Why is this? Firstly, Jakarta is for business and Bali and Sumatra are very much tourist destinations with beaches and tropical forests, like few places on earth. Also, to go beyond the conventional tourist and business hubs, the barrier of language becomes a problem, and that puts people off.
By learning to speak Indonesian, all 13,000 of it's islands open up and for anyone on an extended holiday or young people exploring the world, accommodation can be booked locally, often at a very good rate because you have some grasp of the language. Getting into the villages where the Indonesian people live, work and play becomes part of the experience. Just because you speak the language, you can now get to know the people and get under the skin of a truly amazing country.
Tour guides that will take you places of interest are always available in your native language but, with the language, you can begin to explore places and ask questions and discover what makes Indonesia tick. Talking to locals about a place or something that is happening allows you to see things in a whole new way, a way in which many will miss out on without language.
From Komodo Dragons and Orang-utans, speaking to a local in their mother tongue can create a whole new experience, making a trip to see these amazing wild animals very special indeed. Anyone can perhaps see these animals, but only a local will know the secrets to seeing them up close or seeing them where normal tourists cannot get to. Even food becomes better with language. With language, food itself can become an adventure and being able to ask for a dish with or without something more to your liking makes the exotically spiced or seriously fresh cuisine of Indonesia something you will never forget.
So, when you plan your trip to Indonesia why not take the opportunity to learn the language, instead of expecting everything to be done in your language. Step out and get under the covers of Indonesia and explore the many islands with greater confidence and showing respect the people you meet along the way. Language is the one thing you cannot pack into your suitcase but it is the one thing that will make your trip to Indonesia more enjoyable than you could ever imagine. Learn Indonesian at VLLC and expand your horizons.
Made up of over 13,000 islands of which just under half are inhabited, Indonesia is a fascinating country with its own wonders and local weirdness. It is a popular country to visit and Jakarta is a prominent business hub in Asia and, perhaps, the first weird thing about Indonesia is its name. Indonesia is actually Greek from the words Indos and nesos that literally mean “Indian Islands”. But what else makes Indonesia a wonderful place to visit?
Indonesia is home to the beautiful and serene Lake Toba that is the size of Singapore. In North Sumatra, Lake Toba is about 100km long and 30km wide and is a very popular tourist attraction. But don’t be too drawn into the beauty, the serenity and peace of the mountain lake hides a secret. Lake Toba is the largest Volcanic lake anywhere in the world. Like most countries in the world it is often not the country that is weird but the people and their traditions. Speaking to the locals in Indonesia will unearth some wonderful and strangely bizarre traditions, language always opens up a few hidden doors when traveling here are just a few.
Walking with the Dead. One of the weirdest Indonesian traditions is also among the creepiest anywhere in the world and is perhaps not one for those who are just a little bit sensitive. Tucked away among the mountains of Tana Toraja, the Toraja tribe have a bizarre ritual, a family reunion of sorts, that is said to bring blessings to those who take part. Every August, the Toraja tribe exhume the bodies of their long dead, and not so long dead, loved ones and relatives and spend some time with them. They dress and groom the corpses in new, clean clothes and then take them for a stroll around their village. If you are ever in the area in August and you see a man walking a dead person don’t be afraid, consider yourself lucky but remember these people are dead so even the most fluent Indonesian speaker won’t be able to communicate.
If the dead is just a little bit too much for you then why not head to Banten, West Java and watch, or try to watch the art of Debus. Debus is a rather freaky, dangerous and yet fascinating part of Martial Arts that is said to demonstrate the proof of invulnerability through faith in God. Participants practice a variety of self-harming techniques such as slicing with knives, eating fire or broken glass and sticking needles in cheeks and other parts of the body. The idea is to walk away unharmed. Try speaking some Indonesian and you may find out some of the secrets.
Buffalo in the Streets. No death, near death or blood on this weird and wonderful tradition performed by farmers in Banyuwangi, East Java. No real buffalos are used in the wonderful Kebo Keboan Ritual that is performed with people dressed up as the main work animal for many farmers in appreciation of a good harvest. Buffalo are regarded in high esteem by local farmers as they plough their fields and play an important part in local farming this event honours them. The ritual of Kebo Keboan is a fun filled event, full of laughter with some of the “buffalo” going completely crazy in the streets after one or two too many drinks.
This handful of Indonesian wonders are part of the real Indonesia that not many tourists get to see. However, if you learn to speak Indonesian these and many more weird, wonderful and even hidden gems will come your way, simply because you can speak, listen and understand. After all, understanding other cultures is very much a reason why different places are visited.
Travelling is an exciting opportunity which can be enhanced by learning the language before you go. This blog contains some interesting articles about language and travel.