Goodbye Korea, Hello Indonesia!

by Sharon -- August 17, 2010

As I write this post, Jason and I are sitting in our much needed air conditioned room in Padang, Indonesia. Our 3rd hotel in 4 nights in Padang. It has been quite the whirlwind of travel this past week.  We started our adventure exactly one week ago (although it seems like a month ago), when we were still in Busan, South Korea.  We left Busan last Tuesday on a bus to Daegu, we were in Seoul by Wednesday, had flown to Singapore by Thursday night, ended up in Pekanbaru, Indonesia on Friday and then by Saturday (after an exhausting and dangerous 11 hour drive) we were finally at our destination: Padang, Indonesia.  Phew!

Now that I’ve left Korea, what do I miss?  I miss the food, being able to speak at least some of the language, having our own tiny home, and not waking up to 44 new mosquito bites in the morning like I did today.  True story.  I look like I have chicken pox.

Jason and I had “settled” down in Korea for a little over 5 months, including some Korea and Japan travel in the middle.  After an exhausting 4-month streak of not-so-hygienic trains and buses throughout China and Southeast Asia, I was more than ready to have a place to call home.  I loved living in Korea.  But, after 5 and a half months, we were ready to move on to something new and start backpacking again.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten how much public bathrooms in Southeast Asia (and China) scare the crap out of me, no pun intended.  My first memorable experience was this: walking into a spider-web infested, smelly and dark restroom where I shared my stall with a huge spider and a huge bullfrog, among many other creepy crawlies.  There was absolutely no receptacle in the stall, just a drain on the ground and a bucket of brown water that I can only assume was not anywhere near clean.  What would you do if you walked into this stall and hadn’t peed in 8 hours?  That’s probably what I did.

What a wake-up call this was, realizing that we were no longer in our beloved, familiar and developed country of Korea.  The great thing about places where the bathrooms frighten me, however, is that these are usually the places where the people are the friendliest.  We encounter many stares, as usual, but also huge smiles and thousands of “hello mister!!!!”  It brings me back to Cambodia and Vietnam: not the richest places in the world but definitely the biggest smiles.

Padang is a city that is 98% Muslim.  It is amazing how coming to a place like Padang can completely feel like stepping into a different world.  In terms of city layout and aesthetics, Padang reminds me of Phnomh Penh, Cambodia.  It is very obvious the minute you enter the city that “98% Muslim” is not an over-exaggeration.  While most of the men are wearing average clothing, almost all of the women wear the Muslim headdress called “Hijab”.

Just the same as other SE Asian countries, despite the ungodly heat, the locals continue to astound me with their long-sleeved hoodie jackets and pants.  I guess when you live in this heat all your life you just get used to it.  I don’t know how.

An interesting obstacle we have had to face since the moment we entered Indonesia was the fact that most people here are observing Ramadan, the Islamic month of “fasting” where eating or drinking is not allowed from sunrise to sunset.  What this means for us is that finding a restaurant open for lunch or early dinner is almost impossible unless it’s KFC (which we unfortunately had to eat today).  It is also interesting to observe, on the other hand, because we found out that they wake up at 3 or 4am every morning in order to eat and pray before sunrise.  It’s pretty cool to see such a religiously dense city.

Be awesome and help us share:

2 Responses to “Goodbye Korea, Hello Indonesia!”

  1. Great to see you on the road, backpacking again - though I do know the comforts of being settled you talk about, sometimes you just have a desire to go again! I miss what you’re experiencing though - different places, new languages, and yes - even trying toilets!

  2. We were definitely ready to start traveling again! This time it’ll only be for 6 weeks until we head back home to the States for an undetermined amount of time. That’ll be something new as well. Familiarity and clean (usually) bathrooms!

Leave a Reply