Readers' Submissions

Ever Thought About Indonesia?

  • Written by Arnoud
  • January 2nd, 2019
  • 6 min read

I have been a Stickman reader for more than a decade and travelled to Thailand a couple of times both for lay-overs and some holidays as well. Now it’s time to contribute to this website by sharing my thoughts.

Most of us have experience with Thailand. Yes, from sunny beach holidays, amazing food, temples, massage parlours, malls and the girls of course. The bottom line of many submissions is: Thailand has become (too) expensive. So keep an eye on other Asian countries. Let me tell you something about Indonesia.

I am Dutch, but have lived and worked in Indonesia for five years now. During the years I have visited most of the main islands like Java, Bali, Lombok, Flores, Borneo, Sumatra, Ambon and West Timor. I am married, but before marriage I had some experiences with different kind of girls which triggers the following question. What are the main differences between Indonesia and Thailand?

Indonesia is much bigger than Thailand and much more diverse. This former Dutch colony consists of about 18,300 islands! Researchers are still counting. There are more than 200 languages in this country, so many tribes and five main religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Indonesia is a republic, while Thailand is a monarchy.

Let me face some prejudices about Indonesia:

First one: “Indonesians are Muslims and you cannot get in touch with girls like in Thailand.” Well, in Indonesia it depends where you stay.

About 11% of the population is Christian and in the eastern part of the country they are predominant. In general one can say: the more west, the more and hard-core Islam prevails and the more east the less amounts of Muslims you see. On the following islands – Timor, Papua and Flores for example, almost everyone is Christian. Bali is predominantly Hindu. On East Java, where I live, most people are very moderate Muslim, while West Java and Sumatra are stricter with Aceh on the extreme.

Second one: “Religion is a big barrier for meeting girls”

My answer is yes and no. In Indonesia there is no bar scene like Soi Cowboy or Nana. A few years ago the government closed down a big prostitution area in Surabaya. If you want to get laid it needs a little bit more effort. On the other hand it is not too difficult to find female accompany. All religions have different kinds of people from very strict to in name only. I have dated some Muslim girls before; no problem.

Indonesia got a few things in common with Thailand. With the exception of Bali, most people don’t speak English or just a few basic words. Nowadays the upper and middle class youngsters learn some English. From my experience I know that most Indonesians do not know a lot about the world outside of Indonesia.

On Bali, punters can find working girls late at night on the streets in Kuta. Keep in mind that most of these girls / prostitutes are Muslims from Java. It is like Bangkok with the poor Isaan girls. Most massage parlours on Bali do not provide extras. For people who want to engage in horizontal physical action there are special hidden houses. Taxi drivers know all about this.

So reading about this. Is Indonesia an option for holiday or suitable as an expat or sexpat destination as an alternative for Thailand?

Holiday: sure!! Indonesia has so much to offer.

Expat or sexpat destination?

If you want to live in a country just for physical purposes, perhaps Thailand or Philippines are better options than Indonesia.

However, for expats Indonesia has a lot to offer. I can’t and won’t say which country is better. Let me give my opinion on a couple of things.

Prices: Indonesia is cheaper than Thailand. I rent a small house just outside of Surabaya for about Rp 20 million a year which is € 1200 of USD 1300. However, on Bali prices are higher than on Java. Especially property.

About property: Indonesia has changed the rules about possession for foreigners. Expats can buy a condo and since last year houses as well! However, there is a minimum price for houses under which foreigners cannot buy. Always ask a good lawyer for advice.

Hotels and food are definitively cheaper than in Thailand. It depends what kind of hotel. One can sleep in a simple clean room for just Rp 200,000 (€ 12/ USD 14) but an average hotel on Bali is about Rp 500,000 (€ 30/ USD 33) Outside of Bali prices are cheaper.

Short time with women depends on your negotiation skills but costs about Rp 700.000 (€ 42 or USD 47) per hour. Can be a little bit more or less.

Food: In general Thai food is better than Indonesian especially the way herbs and flavours are added. On Java most people eat just basic food like white rice with chicken or meatballs soup (called bakso). In the big cities and on Bali one can find many international cuisines.

People: Personally I think Indonesian people are more friendly than Thai. I have to be careful because one cannot generalise. Not all people are the same. Bali is more commercialised and I consider the people over there as less friendly than in other parts of Indonesia.

Police: On Bali, like in Thailand, there are a lot of stories of corrupt police cops who ask money from foreigners. Outside of Bali this does not happen! I have never been stopped by the police while I use my motorcycle everyday. One reason can be that outside of Bali most police cops don’t speak English, while not knowing that I speak Indonesian! Police cops tend to be very polite here and for example, help people to cross busy roads.

Infrastructure: The roads in Indonesia are not good. On Java there are so many holes in the roads. On Bali it is a little bit better. There is hardly any kind of public transport at all beside primitive mini busses (named ankutan kota or bemo). However it is improving. The current president Jokowi has built a lot of new highways and Jakarta will open the first MRT in Indonesia this year.

The airports of Indonesia are much better than in Thailand. More modern and much faster and friendlier immigration.

Language: the national language is Indonesian (bahasa Indonesia) This language is much easier to learn than Thai because normal letters are used. Like English, the way you pronounce words does not matter for meaning. By the way, there are many similarities between the Indonesian and Dutch language. Some examples are handuk (handdoek in Dutch, towel in English) or kulkas (koelkast in Dutch, fridge in English). Grammar is quite straightforward. Indonesians do not use verbs in past tense e,g, “Yesterday I write a letter.”

Beaches: Indonesia has some stunning beaches. Flores island is really amazing. On Bali you can find some nice beaches too.

It is always good to gather some information on internet before travelling. However, if you want to judge whether a place is something for you or not, the best way is to see, feel, smell and hear by yourself at the location.

So, jump in the plane and visit this amazing country! If you need some tips keep in touch.


Stick‘s thoughts:

My experience of Indonesia is limited and I have only visited Jakarta and Bali – and that was almost 10 years ago. But I do have to say that I liked it. Bali was magical and Jakarta while nice to visit did not have the same lure on me that Bangkok does. As many expats in Thailand are reconsidering their situation, this is timely  and I am sure many people will what you have written interesting. Indonesia does not seem to be considered an alternative to Thailand in the same way that Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia are, but it should be.

The author can be contacted at : [email protected]