After a whirlwind of experiences during the Southeast Asia tour that had followed our time in Thailand, I was unsure of what I would be met with upon landing in Yogyakarta. Indonesia was one country that I knew very little about – and forgive me, but I played into some stereotypes when I was trying to wrap my head around it. As a vast archipelago filled with many different cultures, people, histories, and foods, it can be difficult to sum up Indonesia with just a few words. I guess in my mind I was envisioning something that was somewhat like a combination of Malaysia and India… not because of the similarity in names, but because I really had no idea how developed the country is, or what the culture is like, or even just how I would be received as a tourist.
As it turns out, Indonesia is not like Malaysia or India – it has its own feel. Yogyakarta, as a college town, is full of small coffee shops and universities, and many many young adults. We were lucky enough to have student buddies to assist us in getting to know the city and Indonesian culture and customs, through Atma Jaya University. We visited Borobudur, Prambanan, participated in a homestay, took Bahasa Indonesia classes, and made batik. We had the opportunity to play gamelan and learn a dance, Kuda Lumping, originally created in response to Dutch colonials. We ate salak (or snake fruit), rambutan, ayam goreng, and nasi kuching. Professor Gareth Barkin led us in an engaging and challenging course that explored Southeast Asia (particularly Indonesia) in the light of Orientalism, colonialism, modernity.
This brief summary does not do justice to all that we saw, experienced, tasted, drew, and heard. Indonesia marks the fifth of the Southeast Asian countries we’ve visited that have reaffirmed the fact that my lack of knowledge about the region has only encouraged my growing love and appreciation for these places. Having always been interested in East Asia, my interest in Southeast Asia was minimal, and my knowledge of the region was even less. In Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and finally, Indonesia, I have realized just how much the things I love about traveling and exploring new places are apparent everyday during my time in these countries. I am already planning my next trip here, and I am counting down the days until I’m back.