Indonesia: Daily Life

It’s been a few days since I last posted and things have been both busy and dull. After three days of going out to the markets and shops, yesterday we just stayed at home – home being my cousin Ricky’s house. I actually slept most of the day. I have no idea why I was feeling so lethargic yesterday – probably because I got a bit dehydrated. I did make sure I got some water though.

It’s currently the dry season in Indonesia, but yesterday it rained. The weather has actually been a bit cooler as well. Normally the temperature in Jakarta is around 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) with really high humidity, resulting in an uncomfortable stickiness. We have air conditioning, luckily, but last night we barely needed it because it wasn’t that hot. What’s new since we came here five years ago is the fact that the markets now have air conditioning. They didn’t before, and it was disgustingly hot, like a real market.

The market we like to visit is Mangga Dua (translation: two mangoes). It’s insanely huge, with multiple levels and multiple blocks. It’s very easy to get lost. Whether you see it as a good thing getting lost in all the stalls, or as a bad thing not being able to find your way back to where you started, is up to you. :P Back home in Sydney we have a number of markets which I know all too well after perhaps a couple of days browsing the stalls. At Mangga Dua, it’s practically impossible to know your way around really well unless you browsed every day for a month. On Tuesday my mum and I spent the whole day on one level, and didn’t even finish browsing that one level. Thankfully the levels are categorised so that clothes are on one level, electronics on another… and there is also a simple directory. Thankfully most of the stalls have names as well, but I can’t say that my mum and I remember most of the stalls by name. XD

I really love the exchange rate – one Australian dollar is about 9,500 rupiah, which can get you so much here. I find that I’m doing a lot of the calculations in my head every time I buy something. Fifty cent sundaes, fifty cent bread, two dollar shirts… @_@ I’m gawking at how cheap everything is for me as a visitor from Australia. It’s amazing how I can buy a meal for just three dollars, which would normally cost $12 back home (for example a bento box). My brother was laughing at the fact that we spent eight dollars on three complete meals for himself, me and Ricky. Food is really very cheap in Indonesia, but of course you have the more expensive restaurants too.

My brother enjoying cheap KFC XD

I have bought some shirts and skirts, and I bought a Hermes wallet/bag. No doubt it’s an imitation, but I couldn’t resist the gorgeous colour. Sorry for the shitty phone photos.

Hermes wallet
Hermes wallet
Hermes wallet

I also bought this cute red pair of shoes for just three dollars! /love

Red shoes!

What I don’t like about Indonesia and what I always dread is the toilets. Most toilets are squat toilets so you have to squat over a hole in the floor to do your business. Such is the norm in South East Asia, though, as far as I’m aware. :( You don’t use toilet paper, rather you wash yourself off with water. I’ve been lugging toilet paper around anyway, because I can’t live without it. I know people who live here are damn well used to the toilets, though. The things we take for granted!

Showers also consist of a large tub filled with water, and a container with which you grab water and pour over yourself. The water goes into a drain in the floor (don’t pour it back into the tub, geez). It sounds odd, but the thing I like about this is that it saves a lot of water. You don’t have the water continually running as you shower, but you grab it when you need it. This is also suitable because of the heat. You don’t get cold without water running, and there is rarely a need for hot water. It’s rather annoying to wash hair properly, but I’ve found it quite relaxing to take a shower anyway. Haha.

Another thing I don’t like is the traffic. It’s insane and rules are so flexible, they’re practically nonexistent. A lot of large intersections don’t have traffic lights, so everyone tries to get in the intersection at the same time. I’ve taken a photo to try and capture it, but it doesn’t quite capture the insanity and reality.

Traffic in Jakarta

The final thing I hate about here is how everyone stares at me. I look very un-Asian for someone currently in Indonesia: I am extremely pale, and my lighter eye colour and facial features are unusual for an Indonesian. I get a lot of looks and comments that pretty much translate to “oooh, white giirrrrl” from unattractive males. 🤮 It was what led me to cry when I was nearly ten years younger and had guys wolf whistle me when I was twelve years old. Two days ago I had a ten-year-old boy stare me up and down which made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

I wear appropriate clothing, mind you – a loose t-shirt and knee-length skirts or shorts, and I still get eyed and stared at.

It’s crazy how if you visit another part of the city (a more sophisticated one, for example) people dress up and wear more fancy clothing and don’t get judged. Different parts of the city vary so much. It would be so hard to get used to living here. I almost feel sad – but I’ll admit I am having a much, much better time as a 21-year-old compared to when I was eleven and sixteen.

Perception is everything.

Comments on this post

Mangga Dua sounds fun. I would love to visit it! (And get lost.) The only relatively huge malls I’ve been to is the Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur and Platinum Mall in Bangkok.

My mum likes squat toilets! She feels that it’s a lot cleaner than normal toilet bowls because you just need to squat and you don’t have to have any physical contact with anything other than with the floor where your feet rest. She has a point, I guess but I still prefer normal toilet bowls because it’s more comfortable.

I didn’t know that it was still normal to use water to wash yourself rather than to use toilet paper in South East Asia! In Singapore most people use the toilet paper (and if you come to Singapore you don’t have to worry about not being able to find toilet paper hehe). My tutee’s washroom has NO toilet paper and when I asked her why she told me her family just uses water and I was actually shocked because i thought no one does that anymore. So yeah I carry a packet of tissue whenever I go to her house now.

I don’t think I’ll ever experience the madness of nonexistent traffic rules but I’ve seen videos of such situations. It was actually quite hilarious because all the vehicles seem to go wherever the drivers want to and it’s amazing how everything still work out despite wasting a lot of time and the fact that it’s extremely dangerous.

Jeez, what a horny kid. D:
I bet he’s teh wanx

Markets sound fun! But sometimes I buy, say a ton of stuff and you have to lug it through a crowd and it’s awful. But I could spend hours in those sprawling electronics bazaars and the like. Awesome times. /bounce and things are so cheap in Asia, it really struck me the few times I left from here or came back home.

Whose arm is that in the car, eh
is it Ricky


Oh my that wallet is killer cute!! IDK what Heremes is, but who cares if it’s a brand name and that is just a cheap knockoff- for the price and how pretty it is, you really can’t argue. :O

I enjoyed reading this post. Everything you wrote is all so familiar to me and I can’t help but smiled at the things you wrote. You’ve got me excited about my trip back to Malaysia already!

I love your purchases. I’m a sucker for buying fake products whenever I’m back in Asia. They’re so cheap and pretty! The money exchange rate is too good to not buy everything. Just make sure you have enough bag weigh allowance for all those things you have bought or planning to buy. /eee

Oh, the looks and whistles are something every foreigners need to learn to ignore. It is demeaning but that it as a compliment. They’re just flattering you because you’re pretty! /mwah

Wow, I can’t even imagine the toilet/shower situation… I’ve never traveled outside of the U.S but I’ve heard all about the different customs of other countries; My sister just recently visited China and how she described the toilets is very similar! IT’S CRAZY!

I’m glad you’re having a good time, though! And that you’re able to deal with those gross men better. Ugh.

Ok, so, I really want both that wallet AND those shoes!! Holy crap, they’re soooo cute! ♥ It’s also crazy how much cheaper everything is.. makes you wonder just how our countries can make things so expensive. Well, I mean, there are probably obvious reasons… but still. :P

So you’re in Jakarta. Why was I imagining Bali? Interestingly, I bought a bento box for $8. I think you’d like the exchange rate with here too, except fair warning (I have scared an Australian with this before) a 25-minute train ride to NYC’s main station is $10. XD XD

I think it’s living in Australia that makes you think that type of traffic is insane. @_@ It’s nothing new to me because it goes on in Beijing all the time, and it’s not like NYC’s traffic is much better in terms of number of cars. But otherwise, it seems things in Jakarta are quite similar to what went on in Beijing when I was younger (cheap stuff, squat toilets, lack of air conditioning). These days $3 will most definitely not buy a pair of shoes that cute.

I have no idea what those unattractive males are thinking but you do not look white at all (to me, sorry if you wanted to!). But you do not look Indonesian (to me) either, so it’s reasonable for those people to find you interesting. From my POV, I thought you were Chinese. But there’s no specific “look” to Chinese people because northerners look very different from southerners.

I think now you’re just more mature about handling a new environment. That’s a good thing!

Your adventure is kinda great! :D And, I know. You will bring a lot of things to Australia since the currency is quite cheap (Y) . Kekekeke~

Hope you’re enjoying Indonesia! I can totally relate to what you’re feeling about going to a SEA country. The squat toilet (horrendous), the lack of toilet paper (ewwww, I also always carry some with me in Thailand, just in case) and the endless staring.

People don’t stare at me because I’m pale or “white”-looking but because I’m a freaking giant compared to most here. I’m a good head taller than any other female I’ve met and the guys barely reach my height.

The awesome exchange rate and cheap living are awesome. My aunt takes me out to eat for every meal because it’s just around $2 for most dishes here. 

The Hermes wallet looks really cute! Who cares about whether it’s an imitation or not? The price and the fact that you like it is what matters. And the shoes are lovely!

OMG I want shoes like the ones you just got! Here, they are either extremely uncomfortable or too expensive for a student. Might as well just stock up on things when they won’t hurt your wallet too much, right?

My mom grew up in Taiwan and always said that the squat toilets were cleaner because you didn’t have to put your butt on something that someone else’s butt just touched. Except that I always remember all the toilets in Taiwan, squat toilets included, being really dirty and gross. But Taiwan has modernized a lot in the past 15-20 years, so perhaps Indonesia will do the same and replace their toilets someday.

Enjoy the rest of your trip!

I miss Manggar Dua!!I went there few years ago as well as visiting Bandung and I enjoy Indonesia so much. It’s totally like Malaysia (inluding the heavy traffic XD) and the weather too. However, no matter how hot the weather during the day, it will cool down when the night comes. You should come to Kuala Lumpur for more Manggar-Dua-likes malls. the latest is Kenanga Wholesale City with 800 shoplots full with fashion stuffs!

Wow, Mangga Dua sounds hugeeeee. I think it’d be fun to be at a place with so many stores and have so much to look at. I felt the same way about the exchange rate when I went to China. Everything was so cheap in comparison! And, I love how colorful that wallet is :)

Ugh, I hate those squat toilets. China has a bunch of them too, except I see people carrying toilet paper or small tissue packets. I usually see vendors near public toilets to sell tissue packets to people who forget them.

Eep, that must be so uncomfortable to be stared at so much. It would make me kind of paranoid after a while 😰 I’m glad that you’re having a better time now than before though!

Yeah, I know what you mean. We’ve been getting some crazy weather here too. Between the rain, sun, and the temperatures. 🤬 Looks like mother nature doesn’t know which way to go. /hmph Once Hurricane Daniel dissapates we may get some heavy rain. So that’s what the news say. /ho

Wow. Mangga Dua must be huge. You can stay there as long as you like. You always have something to do and never get bored. They must have really cool shops to go to. You sure got some good bargins there.

I don’t blame you. I’d carry my own toilet paper too. I don’t think I can stand those squat toilets. You never know who sat on it before you. I don’t think it’s sanitary. That’s just me. I’m a clean freak.

Traffic is bad here too. They’re trying to build rail here. Like my mom said, “The island is going to sink with all this concrete. It’s too small for that kind of thing here.” I agree.

Don’t feel bad. I get a lot of stares and rude comments. Mostly from caucasians. Why? I don’t know.

I’ve always found staring at others a weird thing to do, especially in relation to the reasons you describe. People are people … clothes are clothes, and skin is skin; it’s dumb to see the latter things as a relevant or significant way to see someone. It reveals some of us are still pretty primitive about at least one important thought process. Unfortunately.

The math of the exchange rate sounds insane. I just Googled the rate for a US Dollar to a rupiah (1 for 9436). So the Australian buck is doing slightly better. Why am I not surprised? XD

Man, places like Indonesia seem like such a culture shock. I couldn’t handle the traffic, I remember studying all of that in highschool and it’s so insane!

At least you got some fantastic shopping done though, I am so in love with that wallet! Even if it may be a copy hehe

I couldn’t use those toilets. That is why I do not want to go to Japan. Probably the only reason why to be honest.
I am glad you’re having a better time then the other times. At least you know you will be back in Australia soon with James. Hold that thought in your heart when you feel sad ok? ♥ ♥ ♥

I love the wallet! It’s so kawaii! I also love the red shoes as well =)

The weather has been horrible here lately. The temperatures have been on the rise with humidity which is really killing me at this point haha

I’m glad you could get some shopping done; I would love to shop there if I could! There’s not a lot around where I live for shopping xD

Yeah, I’d just bring my own toilet tissue at that point lol I don’t think I’d be able to use those toilets xD

yay to getting more bang for your buck! I love going to Asia because everything is super cheap in comparison to the U.S. Glad to hear that it’s also the same for you! (the stronger australian $) hehe nifty shoes. $3?? cool~

lol i can understand with the’s the same in Taiwan too. but i guess the positive is that it is much more sanitary! i know what you mean~ perception is definitely key. traveling really opens up everyone’s eyes. i also realized a lot more about myself last summer by traveling

thanks for sharing :)

Joyce @

Ahhh, that’s so cool that you’re visiting Indonesia! I’m quite jealous! but I’d be so nervous to do anything on my own in such a different country … I’d be worried that I’d get lost and not be able to find anyone who speaks English to help me find my way! /argh Although I suppose since you’ve been there quite a few times, you likely know the language by know, or at least all the important bits!

Oh! And I just recalled that you’ve been Tweeting in what I thought was Tagalog at first, for some reason, but now I’m guessing it was Indonesian! Forgive me for my ignorance, ehehe … I’m not very good at anything other than English. /ehh Embarrassing …

sounds like an interesting place to visit. Yay for the exchange rate, lol.
I don’t think I could deal with the toilets there. I’ve read squatting is the more efficient way to get it done, but ya know, once you’ve been going one way you’re whole life… I have trouble peeing on an airplane, so

I’d love to be in Indonesia just to shop there. I’m a sucker for low prices. I still can’t believe that you got those shoes for only three dollars.

I’ve been called on before, and I wasn’t even wearing anything mildly inappropriate.

I remember reading a book about the history of poop and toilets (the title and cover look immature but it actually incorporates a lot of world history). Apparently squat toilets are more sanitary than our usual toilets because less germs are exchanged.

Aw Georgie it’s been a while since I last read your blog. I always wanted to travel the world, be it in Asia or not. I was able to experience that “toilet” thing here in our country – but not ALL the toilets here requires you to pee on the floor. But I don’t really understand why can’t they install a nice toilet bowl or something – it would be really hygienic you know.

And the tub thing, we call that here “TIMBA” and the “TABO” for the one we hold and scoop. There’s nothing like that from your place? Showers are optional here. I guess Indonesia and Philippines have so much resemblance. Haha!

Enjoy your stay there! <3