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Tuesday 30 Dec
Jakarta, Indonesia

Leaving Indonesia

I have enjoyed Indonesia even if I still don't understand it much. I mainly have a feeling that I need to visit the other islands and see the diversity which is the real point of the country. But visiting Java was a necessary introduction and will put any further discoveries in perspective. Java was pretty quiet, but punctuated by a few interesting encounters with other travellers when there were any - and friendly if repetitive conversations with Indonesian people whenever I was out of tourist-land.

The last thing I did before leaving turned out to be really memorable. I visited the Masjid Istiqlal (largest mosque in south east asia, etc) with a jewish guy from New York. Not only are Indonesians not stressed about Israelis visiting their country, they (apparently) haven't even heard of judaism (it's not one of the five recognised religions in Indonesia). Surprisingly, we were allowed to watch the prayer service. This tends to be impossible in other parts of the world. Of course the impression of Islam in Indonesia is much less intense than it is in the middle east or in arab countries where the whole culture seems really exotic and impenetrable for a westerner. But being welcome inside holy places demystifies exotic religions and makes them seem more accessible and normal.

Three weeks is a good amount of time to spend in a country - long enough to get sick of it and then get over it. Now I will miss Indonesia, particularly its simplicity and unpretentiousness. Even Jakarta, which is a huge and incoherent city, is rooted in the ground. Though the malls are insane (and that is another story), around every corner is everything which is familiar - the same people selling the same food, the same gently chaotic traffic, the same smells of pollution and dirty water.

Now I am looking forward to Malaysian food. And I have about one day to come up with a plan for new year's eve!

 

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Perambulation 2009

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