I fell in love with Indonesia when I first visited the country last year. So many interesting places, culture and food. You can drive or climb up volcanoes and be overwhelmed. You can dive into its waters and be charmed. And like us, Indonesians are very hospitable and friendly.
Indonesia and the Philippines have many things in common. We are both an archipelagic nation. We have hundreds of different tribes, languages and cultures. Both countries have been colonized, the Philippines by the Spaniards and Indonesia by the Dutch. We have interesting hybrid colonial architecture that adapted foreign ways of building into our own. We come from the same Malayan race from the same language tree. But for most Filipinos, Indonesia is Bali like the Philippines is Boracay.
Although we are in the same region, Indonesia has always seemed distant. It’s easier and cheaper to travel to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore from either Manila or Cebu than flying to Jakarta. But once you get there and get to explore Indonesia beyond Bali, overwhelming is an understatement.
The capital Jakarta is a melting pot of the country’s many islands and peoples. But for a good introduction, especially to its colonial history, visiting the old town known as Kota Tua is a must. Like Intramuros, it was part of the walled city, capital and center of trade for the Dutch East Indies. Today, well maintained colonial buildings, some are museums, circle a wide square. It’s an architecture lover’s haven.
Located southeast of Jakarta is Bandung, the capital of West Java. Established at a high elevation, the weather is cool and is Jakarta’s weekend garden and shopping mecca. There are extensive tea estates and interesting volcanoes like Tangkuban Perahu or Kawah Putih that you can drive or hike up to, conveniently. The city is considered as a center of art deco in Asia.
Just across the strait from Bali is Lombok, the domain of the Sasak people. It’s more laid back than its bigger sister but nevertheless exciting. The food is fiery, one of the hottest cuisines in the archipelago. The Gilis, a series of smaller islands are known for the outstanding beaches and diving areas while Gunung Rinjani, a volcano is popular with mountaineers.
Makassar is a port city in the island of Sulawesi known for its Fort Rotterdam, a Dutch colonial structure now a museum that encapsulates the city’s history and position in the spice trade. It’s a good base for hiking in Bantimurung Bulusaraung National Park or a dive in Pulau Kodingareng Keke. For foodies, jalangkote, an empanada like delicacy and es pisang ijo, an iced banana dessert are a must.
Closer to Kuala Lumpur than Jakarta, Medan is the capital of North Sumatra. It is known for the beautiful colonial structures that are found around the city with architecture that blends Indonesian and European styles. The Great Mosque is a gem built in 1906. The Istana Maimun is another unique architecture worth a visit. The city is also considered as the province’s kitchen because it’s a haven for foodies who come here for the great food and cuisine.
These are just a few of the countless cities and places around Indonesia. Once you visit onge, you’ll want to come back again and again and explore farther and farther. And that’s how I fell in love with Indonesia.