Indonesia: More than just Bali and Domestic Helpers

As an Indonesian student residing in Hong Kong, one of the most frustrating yet amusing experiences I encountered is trying to explain to people that Indonesia is not India. In Mandarin, Indonesia is spelt “Yìn Dù Ní Xī Yà (印度尼西亞)”, while India is spelt “Yìn Dù (印度)”, both bearing very similar pronunciation and sounding. It is totally understandable, though, how people can easily be confused.

They say that knowledge is power and so in this given opportunity, I will briefly educate the masses that Indonesia is more than just Bali.

Tegunungan Waterfall, Bali (Source: exploreindonesia on Instagram)

Psst, I will give you a secret insight of what local Indonesians think about Bali: hot Australians and an overpriced vacation. But with a view that captivating, I personally think it is worth the visit.

Lempuyang Temple, Karang Asam, Bali (Source: exploreindonesia on Instagram)

Bali might be the only island you know, but in actuality, there are more than 17,500 islands in Indonesia. If you’re lucky enough to marry a rich Indonesian, you might even get an island as your wedding gift. I’m not joking.

One can be considered a middle-class citizen if they can read and speak English and be able to enjoy a meal out at least once a week. Sadly, there is a very large income gap between the middle class and the poor. The poor has to survive with less than US$2 a day.

Indonesians, like any other East Asians, are very family oriented. The low standard of living in Indonesia has made a lot of people migrate outside in search for a better life. We live and thrive in a community. The very apparent evidence can be seen every weekend: you can see hordes of Indonesian helpers in Causeway Bay – it is their community. Being exposed to a new work environment forces them to learn and speak Cantonese. I still bow my head in shame to know that I’ve been residing here for a year, and have still yet to overcome the language barrier.

(Source: Hong Kong Free Press)

What’s local Indonesian?

What better way to know more about Indonesia than dwelling right into the weirdest local behaviour, right?

  1. Flip-flops!
    Indonesians love wearing flip-flops. We use them anytime, anywhere. It is a bit hard to differentiate Chinese-Indonesians from Hong Kong locals or mainland Chinese, but if you spot someone wearing flip-flops on the street, then almost definitely that person is Indonesian. We love flip-flops with a dying passion, period.
  2. Foreigners are life, foreigners are love
    In Hong Kong, foreigners are called “gweilo”. In Indonesia, we call them “bule”. Just like flip-flops, we love our bules. If you don’t live in Jakarta or Bali, the chances of you meeting a foreigner are very minute. Thus why, Indonesians make a big fuss when they see bules. They will point, giggle, and approach you for pictures, just because you look “foreign”. If you ever want to feel like a celebrity, Indonesia is the place to go.
  3. We don’t use toilet paper
    Our toilet comes with a hand-held bidet instead of the usual toilet paper roll. Yes, we use water to clean ourselves after a number two. Chances are, you have never encountered this if you live in Europe or the US. I definitely recommend you getting one for a more thorough cleansing!

(Source: wiseGEEK)

One Belt One Road – the phrase seen everywhere, but do you know what it is? (It’s not THAT boring, I promise!)

Indonesia is one of the countries included in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Not a lot of people know this, but Indonesia is the one country that will benefit the most from this OBOR project, with more than US$87 billion pumped into infrastructure projects.


OBOR is a strategy initiated by China in 2013 to boost trade and political relation between China and countries/regions in Asia, Europe and even Africa. The project in Indonesia focuses on development opportunities in infrastructure and logistics, trade and investment, and education. This will create more employment opportunities not only for Indonesia but also for the Belt and Road nations. An ongoing project since 2015 is the construction of an industrial park in Western Java, where Chinese investors and Indonesian companies will develop manufacturing plants that are ready to go global in the trade industry.

Indonesia’s interest towards seeking membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been halted following the election of Trump. So in the meantime, Indonesia is putting a lot of hope in the success of OBOR. Companies have also begun preparing for OBOR by looking for joint venture partners and potential acquisitions.

Want to beautify your Instagram feed? Come to Indonesia!

Now heading to a more interesting topic: travelling! Who doesn’t like to travel, right? As an avid traveller (despite the lack of time or money), I’m here to give you a few tips on travelling around Indonesia.

  1. On a budget? Hopper is the app to ease your travelling needs!


    I haven’t explored a lot in the app department but I can tell you that Hopper is very convenient to track your flight prices to the cheapest. Simply enter the date and it will notify you when prices drop!

    Goodbye to all the times you had to sneak open budget airline websites during a class to check your prices!

  2. Bali: get your money’s worth!
    If you’re planning to get married with a gorgeous backdrop, golden rays of sunset showering upon your face as you walk down the aisle, then yes, go to Bali. Bali is nice for those who want no hassle and has a couple of extra bucks to spare. Since it is a well-known tourist area, you will definitely get charged more for your temporary cool tattoo and your Barong shirt. The touristy beaches like Kuta, Jimbaran or Nusa Dua, in my opinion, are dirty and quite meh. To maximize your travelling experience, I recommend you going the extra mile to discover new private beaches, like the ones below.

    Bias Tugel Beach, Padangbai, Bali (Source: taivlys on Instagram, nusadelma on Instagram)

    Nyang Nyang Beach, Uluwatu, Bali (Source:, balibalibanget on Instagram)

  3. Where to go?
    There are a LOT of islands to explore in Indonesia. If you’re a nature person and you love the beach, take note!

  4. Labuan Bajo, Komodo (Source:

    Labuan Bajo is one of the recent places opened up to tourism. Here, you can go to the national park and see a real live Komodo dragon. Labuan Bajo is surrounded by tiny islands, so you can easily go to Pulau Kalong (literally translated as Bat Island), and watch bats fly over during the sunset.

    For you adventurous souls, you can also scuba dive and snorkel. Be prepared to be mesmerized by the gorgeous marine life.

    Gili Trawangan, Lombok (Source: jalanesia on Instagram)

    This is also an increasingly popular tourist spot, with more and more foreigners coming in curiosity of the beauty that Gili offers. You can dive, relax and bathe in nature.

Indonesian Community in CityU

If you want more local places to travel, don’t hesitate and approach any Indonesian at CityU. We don’t bite, promise! There are about 80 of us scattered around CityU and we’re a very tight-knit community. We share the mutual feeling of being away from home and so we treat each other like family since Hong Kong is now our second home. To other non-local students, you surely know how we feel. This is why we want to welcome other people from different nations to experience a tiny part of our home. You’re more than welcome to share yours too!

There is a group of Indonesian students at CityU hosting cultural events with the hope of spreading awareness among people about Indonesian cultures and hopefully break through stereotypes that people have towards our country. One of our biggest event is “Indonesian Night”, held annually. Check out our Facebook page to get the latest update of our upcoming events!

“Friends are the family you choose for yourself.”