Have you got a moment when you flashback through your traveling memories, you only remembered the good pictures you took, but no memorable stories to make you smile?
If you do, maybe you have to try traveling in a different way.
You travel just to visit places everyone else visits. You want to have pictures at famous places to show in your Instagram account. In the end, you forget to discover what the locals’ life is like.
“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see” — Gilbert K. Chesterton
Traveling like locals are doing what locals do, going to places to make you feel the life in a city you’re in. It doesn’t mean to skip the famous places, but to see the destination in a different way.
Traveling like local is not only mean to support sustainable tourism but is also good for you. It makes you more aware of the differences around the world and to have stories to make you smile when you look back.
So, how to travel like locals in Indonesia?
The Indonesian archipelago is so diverse it has more than 600 ethnic groups and more than 300 different languages, meaning that each city has different things to discover. Here, I won’t describe each thing you can do in every place in Indonesia, as it would be so long. Instead, I try to give you insight into what you can do to discover more and feel the local’s life in every city you visit in this country.
Dive into the jungle and stay with the aboriginal tribes
As one of the most growing economies in the world, Indonesia still have many aboriginal tribes living in the jungle. Most of them choose to stay away from modern influence to keep their tradition alive. One of the best destinations for tribe visit is Wae Rebo, the highland village in Flores Island.
Requiring 4 hours hike, the 9 traditional Mbaru Niang houses in Wae Rebo are surrounded by beautiful mountains and dense forest. Yes, tourists are welcomed to stay. You’ll be greeted with a cup of coffee once you arrive. You’ll eat with them, sleep together with them, and watch them doing their traditional ritual.
The traditional village was awarded Top Award of Excellence by UNESCO in 2012. And in fact, Wae Rebo is just one of many tribe villages in Indonesia you can visit.
Cook your own food
Why cooking your own food is the way to travel like local?
First, it’s because you have to buy groceries in the local market. While you can choose to buy groceries in a supermarket, I would advise you to buy groceries in a traditional market. That way, you’ll get a closer insight into daily life in the Indonesian traditional market. Here’s one unique fact you’ll find about the traditional market in Indonesia: most sellers are women. That’s just one thing of many you’ll find in the traditional market.
Second, you’ll get to learn about spices that don’t grow in your home country. If you don’t know what to cook, take a cooking course when in Indonesia and test your skill at the house you stay at.
Further, planning to cook your own food means that you’ll have to:
Stay in a house, not in a hotel
Let alone making friends with locals, even making friends with other tourists in a hotel is not particularly easy. You’ll just meet other tourists in a hotel. Stay in a house instead. You can find one on the sites such as Airbnb or Couchsurfing.
My advice is to try finding a house located in a non-touristy area. You’ll meet more locals that way and make some new local friends. You can walk around in late afternoon where you’ll find Indonesian chilling up in front of their houses or just talking with the neighbors. Blend in, or at least just try to greet them if they don’t really speak English, you won’t expect where the story goes.
Go to a traditional market, but at 6 AM!
A unique reason to wake up early other than sunrises in Borobudur or Mount Bromo: going to the traditional market at 6 AM.
Why? Because the traditional market in Indonesia starts so early even at 4 AM. You don’t have to go to the market at 4 AM anyway. 6 AM is the best time to go because it’s the typical time Indonesian starts to shop at a traditional market.
In the market, you won’t only see the bustling activities, but you might also discover something that can make you feel touched. From seeing an old man lifting heavy goods on his back, to seeing how people value money even so little are things you won’t ever see at home. You’ll learn how to value life even more.
Ride a scooter
Here’s a fact for you: almost every Indonesian family has at least a scooter. That’s the most common way to go around. And, you should do that too.
The scooter allows you to go to hidden gems such as waterfalls, beaches, mountains and so on. Yes, driving a scooter can be dangerous sometimes. But as long as you drive slowly and keep doing the right thing, follow the rules, you’ll be fine.
Eat at street-side food stall: Angkringan
For Indonesian, angkringan is not only a place to devour some food, but also a place to get connected with others. Anyone from different backgrounds can come to angkringan, get to know each other, and talk about random things. If you want to make local friends, that would be the best place to go to.
Typically offering food in small portions, snacks, and black coffee, Angkringan almost available in all cities in Indonesia. One must try is Nasi Kucing, literally means ‘cat rice’ because of its small portion, a small package of rice added with fish sambal or tempeh.
My last advice, get lost!
Indonesia is a big country, geographically. It’s so diverse that each city has its own characteristics, culture, and language. So, the best way to make the most of your travel in Indonesia is to get lost.
Try to walk around the city just with a map on your bag. Explore small alleys. Or explore the countryside with a scooter. Whatever lost you are, you are still in a city and there will always be someone willing to help. Trust me on that.
Sometimes, you just have to go out of your comfort zone. You can feel afraid. But once you conquer them during traveling, you’ll know you just discover a new you.