If you’d like to experience an immersive trip to Indonesia, you’re in luck because Indonesians are among the friendliest people you can meet. They have a lively diverse culture and there are ample opportunities for you to interact with locals during your trip.
The best travel experience you can have is one in which you get to experience the culture of the country you’re visiting first hand and get to know the ways of its people. As Muslims, our faith encourages us to get to know one another.
Most of us are familiar with this ayah from Surat Al-Hujurat, (49:13)
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
It is human nature to be curious about others who have different traditions than ours. In fact, the quality of travelers’ interaction with the locals is a big factor in how they rate their travel experience.
Here are the TOP 5 Tips to make your trip to Indonesia a truly immersive and memorable one:
1. Attend a festival
Indonesia holds several annual cultural festivals that are worth visiting.
ACEH HALAL FOOD FESTIVAL
It aims to introduce Indonesia to its visitors through its culinary arts. In this festival, visitors are treated to an array of traditional dishes from 23 regions and cities in Aceh. The two-day festival includes a cooking competition, coffee workshops, and a food decorating challenge. It also includes musical performances.
SAMAN DANCE IN ACEH
It is characterized by its fast-paced rhythm and is usually performed to celebrate important occasions. The dance is recognized by the UNESCO cultural heritage status. In March 2017, 10,000 dancers participated in a traditional Saman Dance performance in a stadium in Aceh, breaking Indonesia’s previous record of 5,000 dancers.
LOMBOK’S RAMADAN FESTIVAL
The religious programming consists of Taraweeh and Tahajud prayers led by leading Imams.
Family-friendly entertainment consists of cultural performances, a modest fashion show, and performances by Muslim bands.
In addition, bazaars sell Muslim fashion, crafts, and books. Children and youth activities include a calligraphy competition and an Islamic poetry slam.
During the festival, one thousand lamps decorate the streets. On the last day of Ramadan, a parade of 1000 torches welcomes Eid El Fitr and closes the series of Ramadan activities.
Consider voluntourism when traveling. Voluntourism unfolds when tourists travel to underdeveloped, but usually stunning destinations, to enjoy the scenery and culture while contributing hands, hearts, and time to much-needed development projects.
When participating in voluntourism you will get a chance to meet locals and see their way of life.
You will get the emotional satisfaction of helping others in their time of need and making a difference.
More than a fashionable travel trend, helping communities in need is deeply ingrained in the teachings of Islam. In a narration from Prophet Muhammad, Abdullah bin Masood (RA) relates that Prophet (SAW) said:
“The entire humanity is Allah’s family, and Allah loves him most among this family, who benefits the family most.” (Mishkawt).
3. Opt for adventure travel
Take an adventure trip and hire a local to be your guide. Make it a point to get to know your local guide and all others on the local team on a personal level and not just as a recipient of their services.
WEST JAVA’S RAINFORESTS:
For example, go on a hiking trip in West Java’s rainforests.
Mount Gede Pangrango National Park is home to a wide variety of rare plants and animal species.
The park surrounds two dormant volcanoes: Mount Gede and Mount Pangrango.
A hike in that park will take you through a variety of landscapes including an emerald-colored lake, waterfalls and mountain peaks.
MOUNT HALIMUN SALAK NATIONAL PARK:
Especially suitable for experienced hikers because of its challenging terrain.
Mount Halimun Salak National Park is a conservation area that is home to many endangered animal species.
A hike through that park passes hot springs, a meadow, and forests, before reaching a volcano crater at the end of the hike.
Another option is to take the trek up Indonesia’s second highest volcano, Mount Rinjani, in Lombok.
It is a popular climb for the adventurous traveler as it offers one of the best views in the country.
However, be prepared for a serious hike that involves at least one-night camping on the mountain and must be done with a guide.
Climbing the slopes of Mount Rinjani you will go through lush forests sprinkled with waterfalls and experience stunning scenery.
Once at the crater rim, you will have a chance to see spectacular views.
4. Visit one of the indigenous tribes
Indonesia is home to many indigenous tribes that have retained their ancient cultures and are untainted by modern civilizations.
By visiting one of these tribes you will witness their unique way of life, from their primitive homes to their celebrations and rituals.
You will need a guide to help you reach the tribes and guide you on do’s and don’ts regarding your interactions.
Needless to say, it’s important to respect the local culture of these tribes and to leave their environment intact.
One tribe worth exploring is the Mentawai tribe which is one of the oldest tribes in Indonesia. The Menawai people live on the rainforest of Siberut, a remote island off the coast of Padang, West Sumatra. The tribe are for the most part hunter/gatherers. One of their fascinating rituals is a teeth sharpening ceremony, called Kerek Gifi, which is practiced by women as a way of beautifying themselves.
5. Experience local life by staying with locals
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL:
What better way to experience the local people than to stay at the home of a local Muslim family? Local hosts are abundant in Indonesia and are especially widespread in parts of the country where there are few hotels.
By staying with a local family you will experience the Indonesian lifestyle in that particular destination firsthand.
You will observe how Muslims from another country practice Islam and join them in prayers and other acts of worship.
PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE AND ECO-FRIENDLY TOURISM:
Staying with locals promotes sustainable tourism as it benefits the local people, as you pay directly to the family you are staying with.
It is eco-friendly as most are modest abodes that have a small carbon footprint.
You could also take part in a rural community-based tourism initiative in Mataram. The eco-friendly trip includes staying with a local family, a boat trip, a traditional dinner, planting a tree at a mangrove plantation and time on the beach.
EXPERIENCE THE LOCAL CUISINE:
You will get to experience local cuisine as most local hosts serve at least breakfast as part of the rate.
Your Indonesian host can also recommend local dishes to try as well as places to visit that might not be on most tourist websites.
THIS IS NOT FOR YOU IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A LUXURY TRAVEL:
Please note that if you’re looking for upscale accommodation facilities, then staying with locals is not for you.
Most homes where you stay with locals in Indonesia are very modest, especially those in villages, as they are representative of the way Indonesian families in those destinations live.
However, the lack of luxuries is more than made up for by Indonesian people’s friendliness and warmth, as Indonesians are genuinely friendly and generous.
In having an immersive travel experience, not only are you getting much more satisfaction from your trip, but you’re also helping the local people and contributing to their economies.