Hasty Reflections

January 11, 2010 at 11:14 am (general life)

This is the post where I talk about China and how it looks to my mind now I’m in Indonesia. It’s hasty because we’re going to go out to a fancypants restaurant soon (Indonesia is a bit like Aslan – “I call all times soon”). The fun events of today are at http://twittertales.wordpress.com

Right now I’m sitting in the study of an Aussie family I’m calling Mr and Mrs Baik. Behind me there is a frenzied mass of trees and vines and bushes and bamboo and flowers and mountains. The sun is setting, shining golden through the chinks in the clouds (it’s wet season).

China VS Indonesia:

Weather:Beijing is horrid. Indonesia is humid and hot and often very very rainy, but at least it’s consistent. And I like wearing T-shirts, and not constantly having to put on and take off Winter clothes (going in and out of subways, homes, and restaurants).

Internet:China is sooo much better. I know there’s the Great Firewall issue, but with a proxy server you’re fine. Indonesia’s internet is astonishingly slow – it can take several minutes for a page (each page) to load. And then sometimes it doesn’t work. Right now hotmail doesn’t seem to work – I can open my account and see my 22 messages, but can’t do anything else. So Mum (and Mum-in-law), please keep an eye on the blogs if you’re worried about our safety. We’re flying Lion air to Denpasar on Wednesday afternoon, and you have the rest of the itinery.

Food:China wins. By lots. But then, I hate chilli, and love fried food. (Fried food is very typical of Beijing – there’s PLENTY of other types of Chinese food.) There’s lots of fried food in Indonesia too, and sweet food – but Chinese food is better.

Pollution:Indonesia is MUCH nicer – even in Jakarta.

Streets/Walking around/transport: Beijing is a (predominantly) wealthy urban landscape, beautifully and efficiently done. Indonesia is very, very messy. Every journey takes hours (no matter what form of transport you take, and no matter what time of day it is). Poverty is obvious wherever you go. In general, people are smaller and thinner (and much darker).

Reactions to Westerners:In Beijing, foreigners are reasonably common – as they are here in Java. In Beijing, people rarely look at you much, and even more rarely dare to talk to you. When I spoke in Chinese, people exclaimed to their friends (never to me). In Indonesia, everyone wants to talk to me, and as soon as I open my mouth I have a best friend. Our taxi driver (from the local airport) invited us to come hang out with his family. That kind of friendliness is absolutely typical of Indonesia. Two Indonesian ladies along the way -and this is in airports (not friendly places) were clearly keeping an eye on us, and making sure we were okay. Beggars and roadside salespeople are more strident in Indonesia, but not by much. China was slightly less caring than Australia – Indonesia is infinitely more caring of strangers.

Language:Indonesian is one of the easiest languages in the world. Possibly the easiest. Mandarin Chinese (selected as a national language because it was the easiest of several possibilities) is one of the hardest. Both have very easy grammar, and when Chinese is written in pinyin it’s just as easy as Indonesian to spell (although some sounds are difficult for English speakers to distinguish).

Health:I’m already sick (and recovered – it was no big deal). Not sure how, because I’ve been careful. Beijing people don’t drink the water, but Indonesians usually do. Health-wise, Indonesia is more hazardous.

Wherever you are, a roadside stall is more hazardous than a restaurant (and you’re more likely to see a squat toilet than a western-style toilet – and you must never flush the paper).

Sheer wackiness: China has a government that controls the weather, and the number of children you have. It also has colossal monuments (which beat a castle-style mansion, I’m afraid). Indonesia, however, is insane from the ground up – literally. In China (for us at least), the landscape was elegant; starkly beautiful and mostly white. In Indonesia, it’s a hysterical series of greens. You don’t get greens like that out of the tropics. Disorganisation and corruption are rife and blatant. The roads are desperately disorganised (much more so than Beijing, which is merely quirky), and you never, EVER know what is going to happen next.

So Indonesia wins on friendliness and weather, and on sheer insanity. Beijing is much better for national monuments, for getting around, and for food.

Taste of the day: We ate soto (Javanese chicken soup) but it wasn’t great (I’ve eaten really excellent soto, and this wasn’t it). However we also ate dodol, a lolly served in individually-wrapped rectangles that is made from sticky rice (plus much sugar, cocoa, etc). I think they’re kind of like giant, subtley-flavoured jelly beans. They’re squishy inside but slightly tough on the outside (like jelly beans). I love them (although only the chocolate flavour. Picnic brand is the best).

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1 Comment

  1. Paige said,

    you have posted some great photos and lots of travel information. Stay safe

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