Indonesia 2005 Day 2

Filed in Indonesia (2005), TravelTags: , , , , ,

(day 2 of my short trip to Indonesia in September, 2005)

(continued from "Indonesia 2005 Day 1")

The bathroom was simple and very different to anything I'd seen before. A square room, tiled on all sides and on the floor. The front half of the small room; barely larger than a closet; was bare with buckets on the floor to one side and a drain hole on the other side. The left side of the back half of the room was the toilet, one of those squatting toilets commonly used throughout China. On the right side was a square water well, a brick and tile container of water, roughly three feet high.

There was no running water in the bathroom. Ipah purchased her water; used both for cooking and bathing; from a nearby public bathroom. Before I arrived, she had to carry the water from the bathroom to her home by bucket; two trips every day. During my stay with her, she purchased a hose and laid the hose down between her home and the public bathroom. Future refills would simply require connecting the hose to the public bathroom's water tap, filling up her well, and then paying the bathroom owner. It's entirely possible that this hose arrangement was only temporary, to be used while I and her other family guests were in town for the wedding. We'd obviously use a lot more water than just Ipah, her mother and her son.

That's not to say that I used a lot of water. On the contrary, I tried to use as little as possible within reason. The bathing ritual went something like this. Use the small bucket in the water well to gather water and douse it over yourself while squatting on the floor until every part of your body was wet (squatting so that the water doesn't splash all over the walls and the clothes hanging from them). Then use soap to wash yourself. Finally, use the bucket again to douse more water and wash the soap off. If we were to use this method here in Hong Kong in today's cold weather (it's barely 10 °C today), I'm sure I'd freeze. Fortunately, it's rarely cold in Indonesia so this wasn't a problem for them.

Food on wheels

(This photo shows significant motion blur but I wanted to show it to you anyway.)

I saw a lot of people riding bicycles with big boxes on the back of the bicycle filled with fresh vegetables. I asked our helper about them.

These energetic people get up extremely early in the morning; some as early as 2am (that's morning time? to most of us in Hong Kong, that's late evening); to go to the larger markets to purchase vegetables and other Indonesian favourite foods. They then pedal their way to specific areas and sell the food to anyone who wants to buy it. Similar to the people here in Hong Kong who walk through outer villages with a trolley announcing loudly "buy tv's, buy air conditioners", these people also announce their presence so that the locals know they're there. They typically finish work by midday.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Ipah didn't need hot water to bathe although her mother and many of her neighbours did. There was no running water and no water heater in her home so hot water was provided by heating water on the kerosine stove. This was also true for the neighbours.

I thought this style of bathroom was only used in the country towns but soon realised my error when we visited some of Ipah's friends in Bali. Even in this comparatively modern part of the country, the bathrooms were the same although they had running water and didn't need to carry the water in from somewhere else.

Completely off subject, electric lighting in every area of Indonesia that I went to was very subdued. In most homes, light bulbs were only twenty to forty watts and very few lights were ever turned on at any one time. Electricity is not cheap so keeping the lights as dim as possible to save electricity was absolutely imperative.

Behind the canal, on the edge of town

Down near the canals, the housing was very different, but the people appeared to be just as happy and content as any other people in the town.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Breakfast at Ipah's home introduced me to Indonesia's version of coffee. There are no coffee machines so forget about cappuccinos and the like. Indonesian ground coffee; not freeze dried like the coffee purchased in supermarkets in Hong Kong; was placed in a glass with a huge serving of sugar; at least three teaspoons. Boiling water was then poured over the coffee and the coffee was left to stand for a few minutes while the larger coffee grains sedimented to the bottom of the glass. It was definitely different to the coffee I'm accustomed to at home, but it wasn't bad although I did ask Ipah to reduce the amount of sugar used. It was far too sweet for me.

Perhaps because I was there, or perhaps because of the preparations needed for the imminent wedding, I didn't get to eat a lot of typical home cooked food. On the occasions that I did get to eat their food, it was spicy hot; which I like; and usually made with beef. We ate with our hands although forks and spoons were available if I wanted to use them. Eating was a matter of using your fingers to roll up the rice into small balls and then popping the balls into your mouth.

On the second day of my stay at Ipah's home, I was up at around 6am. Everybody else had already been up and about for at least an hour. Ipah's son was getting ready to go to school and her mother was sitting outside the front door watching the daily traffic of people walk by.

I decided to take a walk. Not long after beginning my walk, I discovered that I had an escort. Ipah's fiancé was following me, always five to seven steps behind me. It felt strange to have him walking behind me so I slowed until he caught up and we walked pretty much together for the rest of the way.

I later determined that Ipah's family was concerned for my safety in this small town. They were quite sure that a foreigner with no understanding of the local language would quickly find himself in a situation where the locals would be sandbagging or blackmailing him. I found this hard to believe but they absolutely insisted that I always had an escort whenever I went out.

Walking around before 7am, the town was already up and going. Students were going to school; many of them on bicycles, some of them in motorised taxi buses. Roughly half of the female students had head coverings. Some of the stores were already open and many people were either working or on their way to work. I repeat. This was before 7am!

Later that day, I went for another walk, this time with Ipah. We went in a different direction, walking first through an upper class part of town; just two blocks away from her home; and then through a lower class part of town down by the canals. It was a very nice walk, and it was interesting to see how the people lived. In this small town, most of the people knew each other so we constantly ran into people that knew Ipah. Interestingly, Ipah was often asked if I was her husband. I thought that was amusing but apparently, it's not unusual for the local girls to marry foreign men although judging from the number of foreigners I saw in the town; i.e., none; most of them move to another part of the country once they're married.

School's out

Children skipping home from school.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

It's a shame. In every country of the world, people; especially young people; are gravitating towards the cities where they believe that everything will be better. Life will be easier. They'll have nicer things, nicer homes, better jobs and nicer friends. It's part of today's materialistic world and a result of the commercial society's marketing campaign. You're not 'in' unless you have the latest and greatest. (Apparently, according to a recent article in the South China Morning Post, the average Hong Kong person upgrades their mobile phone every year.) With the advent of television, pushing this ideal into the countryside is unfortunately easy and most people fall prey to the lure of its false realities.

Personally, I'd prefer the simpler life.

Photo Album: Photographs from my second day in Indonesia


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6 Responses to “Indonesia 2005 Day 2”
  1. myhk says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. The description of the bathroom reminds me a lot like the bathroom in my parent's hometown Tai Shan (no running water) and Guangzhou (having running water). I was visiting China in June with my parents, which left the country for more than 25 years. It was a great and different experience for this Canadian gal. During my visit, I did enjoy the country towns more than the city. I enjoyed the content lifestyle. I was overwhelmed in Guangzhou. I felt I was force to compete, but not knowing what was the competition. As my mom said it, "people even walk faster! where are they going?!" It was interesting because I had expected that coming from Toronto, Canada, I thought I would enjoy the luxury of the city more than the country towns, but I find the city to busy and chaotic for me. Many "outter province people", as local city people put it, are rushing into the city to try to strive for the fanstasy materialistic life and dropping their jobs as agriculture providers. Landowners are also selling their farmlands to expand the city. It was very unfortunate to hear. But I was glad to see a mini protest at a goverment building, one day, where farmers were complaining about the government allowing corporations to force them out. Although they are promised to be given a home (an condo unit), so they have a place to live, but what are they going to live on if they don't farm anymore? If they continued farming, yes it is a hard life, but they will at least have food to eat. If they can't find a job in the city to provide the income to have food on the table, no matter what house they are living in, they will be starving. Many opt for factory work, but even with the salary they can barely get by, since the inflation of food is so high, due to the lack of local agriculture providers.
    Anyway, it was refreshing to take a break from the city to live in the country for a week. I did some farming, which reminded me of my garden at my Toronto home but a thousand times bigger. I love free range chicken, but the best would be the experience of just spending a day to prepare food with family and friends (mainly women). We just chatted away making many different dumplings and preparing a feast for the evening. Thank God, my mom thought me how to make most of these traditional foods when I was litte, so I can be productive rather than destructive. We had dinner with 80+ people. Obviously this doesn't happen everyday. It was a celebration welcoming my parents back home.

    oops... i forgot.. this is not my blog. I'll stop.
    Again, thanks for sharing your experience. I hope to visit South East Asia sometime in the future, so it was great reading and viewing the the pictures.
    BTW, I still have my mobile phone from 5 years ago. It's a bit big, but I can find it easily in my bag and i don't have to poke the numbers with a pin. Although, they might be voice activated these days eh? I'm soo out.

  2. sapphire says:

    生活是否越簡單越好?那就要視付我們有沒有曾經試過或曾經擁有過那些東西。如果是一些從來都沒有擁有或嘗試過的東西,就算沒有它們生活也一樣可以過,只是過得沒有那麼舒適方便而己。就以大家日常用的手機,家中的電腦和汽車的GPS設備為例。當你嘗試過這些東西之後,如果有朝一日手機壞了,你在街外有急事時就要四處找公共電話,才有電話用,電腦壞了就無途徑可以上網,好像跟全世界隔絕一樣,GPS 壞了開長途車時就要慢慢查地圖書,怎似得一邊開車一邊有把 "靚聲" 教你向左轉,向右轉那麼簡單及安全。在這情況下還有誰會說生活是越簡單越好?不過,還沒有發明這些東西之前,在無得比較下,就算沒有這些東西用都無甚麼大不了!但嘗試過後就很難再走回頭,反樸歸真談何容易。

  3. MY says:

    Hmmm...Sapphire has got a good point there. Once you are accustomed to the comfort of technology, you certainly don't want to lose it.

    As for how city people envy the country life and how the country people envy the city life, this old proverb explains it all: "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."

  4. MY says:

    Thanks for sharing those lovely pictures, Greg. Did anyone take offense at you photographing them? That taxi driver even put up his thumb!

  5. 河國榮 says:


    nobody minded. in fact, most people were excited to be getting their picture taken. it's another indication that life isn't so devious and ruthless in the country towns. in Hong Kong, most people immediately want to know why you're taking their picture possibly because of the way tabloids and magazines report people, and possibly because big companies appear to be constantly looking for excuses to demote and fire people.

  6. stephen says:

    I came across your page while I was searching for an English Episode Guide for Healing Hands III. Being a little surprised that Celebs (if Greg, you feel offended by this referral, my apologies) would have blogs where interactions with fans, I didn't keep in mind that Greg had a cameo appearance till I saw him singing. Nicely done, Greg. Then the song was constantly being repeated in my mind and I hummed my 2.5 month old daughter to sleep with that song. I came back today to see all the good comments and saw your recent pix of your trip in Indonesia. Nice! I felt I went on a trip to the village. Thanx.