Visiting Asia for the first time

Standing at the top of  Pananjakan peak at sunrise overlooking the active Mt Bromo and surrounding volcanoes.

In October 2012 I checked my fifth continent off the list as I finally visited Asia for the first time ever on a trip to Indonesia. Even though I had been so close on numerous visits to Australia, especially when visiting the Northern Territory it just never worked out that I was able to take a tour around a country or two in Asia as well.

To tell you the truth part of what kept me away from Asia until now was a bit of fear of the unknown. You might be surprised to hear that from a girl who travels the world mostly solo with reckless abandon, but its true. I was afraid of the language barriers,  the food, squat toilets, and how different life would be there compared to what I was use to in North America and Europe.

Boy was I wrong.

I quickly learned that my fears were all for nothing. People had told me before I visited that what I thought was crazy and they were sure that I would love it. I did love it.

I can hear the “I told you so’s ” coming now.

While my trip to Indonesia was a bit different from the way other people might see it (I was there on a press trip with the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism, where I had little decisions to make and everything was planned and arranged for me from accommodations to transportation, meals and more.) I think it was a great way to take my first step into Asia, especially with all the fears I “thought” I had about this continent.

The crew I traveled through Indonesia with, made my first experience with Asia a lot easier.

It was pretty much the equivalent as if I had taken a tour through the country with G Adventures or another tour company. I’ve always said that booking tours can sometimes be the best way to get your first taste for a place but also are a great way to see places you are fearful of or don’t feel comfortable traveling through by yourself.

Language barriers – While traveling around Indonesia, rarely did I find language barriers. Most people I dealt with spoke at least a little bit of english and in all of the airports signs were written in english and the local language. Easy for me but I worry about other travelers who don’t speak english. If you were from Spain and only knew Spanish, traveling through a country like this would with out a doubt be a lot more difficult. I guess I’m lucky that my mother tongue is one of the most spoken languages in the world, but at the same time meeting all these people on my travels that speak so many languages I’m sometimes embarrassed that I only know one.

English signs everywhere in the airports (photo taken with my iPhone)

The Food – I’m not sure why I was worried about the food, everything I ate there was so delicious. From the Pisang Goreng (fried bananas) to the spicy Sambal sauce, to Nasi Campur (plates of fried rice with a sample of everything added to it from chicken satay to tempeh, egg, prawns and more). It was all delicious ( except for the odd pig intestine or beef skin, but I did try it all) and never once did I experience Bali belly or any other grumbling stomach problems from anything I ate there.

Babi Guling in Ubud, Indonesia. Suckling pig with blood sausage, intestine and veggies. (Not so much a fan of the intestine)

Squat Toilets – On more than one occasion I opened a bathroom stall to find a squat toilet staring back at me. Thankfully I was able to either hold it until the next pitt stop or often found if I opened the stall door next to that one I would happily find a western toilet. 14 days in Indonesia, no squat toilets used equals a success in my books. Although people say its one of the cleanest and healthiest ways to use the toilet, it just wasn’t something I was interested in learning how to use and neither was it something my healing broken ankle wanted to deal with.

Lifestyles – Sure people do some things a bit differently, but the more I travel the world I realize that we really are all the same. I’m not sure what I had imagined in my head that would make this place any different from anywhere else that I had previously visited, but I was happy to see that my fears were for no reason.

A rainbow as seen from our boat in the Komodo Islands.

As much as I loved this trip it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. While in Borneo, I got some crazy bug bites that reacted in a horrible way. Thankfully that wasn’t the first time that had happened to me on my travels and I was prepared with medicine that I always travel with to prevent / control things when that happens. I was scared for my life for a moment or two while visiting the Komodo Dragons and I had to climb more than one high peak that I wasn’t too fond of but was greatly rewarded once I did reach the top.

Indonesia was a great introduction to the rest of Asia and is definitely a country that I want to visit and explore more. Stay tuned for more stories about about my travels there and my upcoming adventures to South Africa.

All photos in this post were taken with my Nikon D5100.

19 Comments

  • Reply
    Darnell
    June 16, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    What is a good tour group to contact for a visit to Indonesia?

    • Reply
      Cailin
      June 25, 2017 at 11:02 pm

      Check out G Adventures or Intrepid Travel :)

  • Reply
    candra setiawan
    April 19, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    hey, I laughed when I saw the food photo. apparently you like it. I like it..
    enjoy you holiday in borobudur temple :)

  • Reply
    Noor
    November 24, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Just got back from my 2 weeks backpacking trip across Java and Mt Bromo as in your picture above is certainly the highlight of my trip among others. It is truly breathtaking the view from either Penajakan or Bromo….

    • Reply
      Cailin
      January 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      It really sucked walking all the way up to the top but the view over looking Bromo was waaaay more than worth it :)

  • Reply
    Ally
    November 19, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Squat toilets scare me aswell!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      January 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Fingers crossed I never have to deal with one EVER! haha

  • Reply
    dyudo
    October 30, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Hi cailin,
    glad to hear that you actually enjoy your trip in Indonesia. Well, 14 days isn’t much to see the beauty of it…you must go back. Umm….and squat toilet isn’t that bad, really! :D

    • Reply
      Cailin
      November 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      I agree 14 days isn’t enough time but it was a great introduction! And squat toilets are horrible! haha especially if you are healing a broken ankle :)

  • Reply
    Jo
    October 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    I felt exactly the same! I come from Poland and people there think that Asia is a really poor and dangerous area. Little do they know. It is the most wonderful continent on the planet :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      October 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Glad I wasn’t the only one! It was pretty awesome, can’t wait to explore more of it! :)

  • Reply
    Ayngelina
    October 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    While you did a press trip I think what you learned was very similar. I haven’t been to Indonesia but there is a lot of English in South East Asia and the food is always delicious even if it is a bit unfamiliar.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      October 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Good to know. :)
      I’m excited to visit again and eat a whole lot more! haha :)

  • Reply
    Adam @ SitDownDisco
    October 22, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Sounds like a great trip. Indonesia is my favourite Asian country and the language barrier can sometimes feel like an issue when you first get there, but hand signals always work. As for squat toilets, they are pretty common in budget hotels throughout Indonesia. You need to start spending about $10 per night to get Western toilets, so it looks like you did well. :)

    Would love to hear more about your adventures.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      October 24, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      $10 a night to avoid a squat toilet is fine by me! haha Stay tuned for more posts :)

  • Reply
    Micamyx|Senyorita
    October 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Do you have plans of visiting the Philippines? :D

    • Reply
      Cailin
      October 24, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      I’m already back in Canada so I won’t make it to the Philippines this time but I do hope to visit eventually! :)

  • Reply
    Sebastian
    October 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I lived in South East Asia for a year but never made it to Indonesia, I hope to go there at some point! Squat toilets aren’t that bad but you gotta get used to it. I’m so jealous that you visited the Komodo Island and saw Komodo Dragons and all the orangutans of course :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      October 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      The reason I was worried about squat toilets the most was because I broke my ankle in August and squating on it still hurts! haha Also this comes from a guy who only has to squat half as many times as girls do! haha
      You definitely need to go back and visit Indonesia :)

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