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Only in Indonesia

First thought that popped into my head when we arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia was….”culture shock”.

I know, strange for me to think so considering I was born in Jakarta and lived the first 10 years of my live in Jakarta, Bengkulu and Banjarmasin. That’s three different Indonesian islands I lived in, each with its own dialect and twist on food.

But growing up in the Westernized culture of Canada, it was easy to forget what life was like back in Indonesia. During our trip, I saw things that made me go, “huh?” Only in Indonesia!

I was fast asleep in the car from major jet lag when the car stopped at a railroad track. What hubby saw blew his mind away that he nudged me while at the same time taking the camera out from his cargo pocket, “Astrid, wake up! You’ve gotta see this. Holy shit this is crazy!”

I opened my eyes. Annoyed at having my much needed sleep interrupted, I turned to him and gave him a silent “this better be good” look. And boy was it ever good.

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There were people – lots of them – standing and sitting on top of the train. That’s right, not inside but on top. My cousin explained that these people can’t afford to take the train so they jump on the train to catch a free ride. Unbelievable. Only in Indonesia.

The traffic is absolutely insane. It’s 100x worse than Toronto traffic and no one follows the rules of the roads. It was so chaotic that I cringed every time a motorcycle or a car or a bus zoomed past us. And trust me, that happened often. Like every second we were on the road. I thought for sure we’d get into an accident. But the amazing thing is, I did not see even one single accident. Due to the insane traffic, the fastest way to get around is by motorcycle. Everyone rides them – kids, adults, men, women, professionals, maids. If you’re in a motorcycle you can zig zag in between the cars. Again, not something we’re used to seeing in Canada. We might see two or three at a time in the summer but in Indonesia, there were at least 20 of them at any given time. Only in Indonesia.

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While visiting my grandma’s brother, we drove by a house. It was an ordinary house except for the monkey that was chained outside of the gate, sitting on a small covered platform. The monkey is used as some sort of alarm. Only in Indonesia.

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Since we’re on the topic of monkeys, the cruelest thing we saw were monkeys on the side of the street. Not only were these monkeys on a leash, they had on clothing and a mask. Their owners use these monkeys as a tourist attraction to make money. Similar to what you would see in an all inclusive resort, where locals walk around with a monkey, parrot or snake for tourists to take pictures with. But imagine this – it’s 40 degrees Celsius outside and the monkeys are dressed in a costume of some sort wearing a face mask! Yes, I do have pictures but I’ve decided not to post them due to the wrongness of it. Only in Indonesia.

On a more positive note, the food in Indonesia is to die for. You don’t even have to leave your driveway to get food. Food comes to you. Here’s a picture of a guy selling congee. Only in Indonesia.

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At the end of our first week, we were off to Manila, Philippines for the weekend to visit friends who just moved there. Then from Manila we went straight to Bali for 5 days, which was too short in my opinion. Only in Bali would you see two monkeys sleeping and cuddling with each other at a restaurant out in the open! No cage, no special room. Just in the restaurant. Only in Indonesia.

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Bali is known for its monkeys though, so I guess that’s pretty normal there. When we went to Ulu Watu temple, we saw more monkeys of course. They roamed on the streets just like stray cats. Only in Indonesia.

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Ahh, I love reminiscing about our trip to Indonesia. This is why I love traveling. It makes me see how life is like in other parts of the world and how different it is from Canada. What a refreshing way to view the world.

Kopi luwak – to drink or not to drink?

I heard about kopi luwak (civet coffee) some years ago and cringed at the thought of drinking it. Why would I (or anyone in the right mind) want to drink coffee made of coffee cherries eaten by an animal (luwak), and then passed through the animal’s digestive track? Maybe if I were competing in Fear Factor and there’s a half million dollar prize at the end of it, sure.

Here’s what luwak, the animal looks like.

Luwak

Pretty cute, right?

And here’s what the coffee cherries look like after they’ve passed through luwak’s digestive system.

Luwak droppings

I was surprised to see this is what the coffee cherries look like after. I thought they would look more like rabbit droppings rather than pebbles.

It was during our trip to Bali and a stopover at Dewi’s coffee plantation that  we learned how kopi luwak is produced. Apparently, luwaks are picky. They eat only the ripe coffee beans, the best ones. The luwak’s enzymes seep into the beans while in the digestive system. Then they pass through the intestines and are defecated. I know, sounds gross right?

After they come out, they get washed thoroughly, dried and then peeled. The peeled beans are then washed and dried again before going through the roasting process.

And the finished product is an expensive cup of coffee that’s at least 8x the price of a regular cup of coffee. The taste? Strong and tangy and not at all bitter (coffee should never be bitter anyway).

Luwak coffee

Yes, I did drink kopi luwak. Twice – once in Jakarta and once at the coffee plantation in Bali. I figured this would be the only chance I had to try it, so why not?

Life is about experiences, and drinking coffee that has passed through an animal’s butt was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I just couldn’t pass up.

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