7 Endearing Quirks of Indonesia

  1. The wet bathroom
    A bathroom at Jill's parents' house -- Jack and Jill Collection

    It can be tricky trying to find that one perfect square foot spot that will stay dry in the room to put your clothes (hint: definitely not on top of the toilet). But I’ve also gotten to like being able to wear my flip-flops in the shower.

  2. The ‘kobokan’

    The little bowl of liquid with a slice of lime they put before your meal? Not soup. In restaurants where eating with your hand is the norm, they provide you with this to cleanse your fingers. The lime is supposed to help cut through the grease but it’s also fun to try squeeze all the seeds out of it underwater.

  3. Toilet paper as napkins
    Toilet paper dispenser at a snack stop -- Jack and Jill Collection

    And the many varieties of toilet paper dispensers they have that make this possible. At first, it was a little weird. Then I thought, ‘why not?’ Toilet paper is cheaper than paper towels, it’s made of the same material, it’s easier to get the exact amount that you need.

  4. Everything comes in travel size
    Sachets of stuff for sale -- by IAmal

    why by the whole bottle of cough syrup when you can get a day's worth of meds in your pocket?

    From shampoo, soap, and cough medicine they come in plastic wrapped sachets. Ready to be stuffed in between clothes and into your pockets for your convenient. They can be very polluting. Lots of trash on the ground is made up of these wrappers, but for someone like me it’s nice to be able to get the exact amount that I need.

  5. The 1001 different ways to call rice
    Nasi tumpeng -- by yuni rere

    We, Indonesians, love our rice (nasi). As to prove the point, there are so many rice dishes and each has its own name depending on how it’s prepared, what it’s prepared with, and how it’s supposed to be consumed. Some examples include: nasi gudeg (simply rice eaten with ‘gudeg’), nasi tumpeng (yellow rice shaped into a cone — eaten during events such birthdays and weddings), nasi jamblang (bite size rice wrapped in teak leaf), nasi lengko, nasi campur, nasi liwet, the list goes on.

  6. The indoor ‘wildlife’
    Cute house gecko

    Not so cute, slightly creepy Tokay -- by joeks

    I love our resident geckos. Since they eat mosquitoes and I have a mild allergy to mosquito bites I see them as my little, beady-eyed, guardian angels. I’m not so sure about its much bigger cousin, the Tokay Gecko, though. One time in a restaurant in Bali, I saw a Tokay gecko on the wall and I almost fell out of my chair. That thing is about a foot long! It was very pretty… and creepy all at the same time.

  7. They make people wear ‘no tipping’ shirts

    We found it hilarious (and sad too) that they made people wear shirts with ‘no tipping’ written on the back of it. This poor guy has a pretty nasty job of managing parked cars in an extremely crowded parking lot. The funny part was it actually made us want to tip him even more.

    What are some oddities or quirks you’ve come across during your travels? Share them in the comment section below.

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30 Replies to “7 Endearing Quirks of Indonesia”

  1. Hahahhaha… Sorry Jill, but it's Tokek not Tokay. In some areas Tokay means poop. I'm having myself a giggle now hahahaha…

  2. Hahaha.. this is funny… i never realize the toilet paper as napkins until you wrote this article.. because it is usual in Indonesia so we never think about it… but yess, now i will think again to use it as a napkin

  3. Hi Jack and Jill, I'm a newbie to your blog, stumbled it upon the various travelogues. I love this post! I chuckled at every one of them, and you captured it so well. All the very best with you travels!

  4. Very fun post! And some of it true in Vietnam as well.

    A few years ago, I was in Vietnam with my husband, and we were staying with his grandmother in the countryside. They also had resident geckos which I absolutely didn't mind as long as they were on the wall and away from me (I hate snakes with passion, geckos are okay, but I generally don't like reptiles). We were hanging out just playing cards one night when a small gecko fell off the ceiling and landed on my shoulder getting tangled in my hair. I screamed LOUD, and his cousin rushed into our room wondering what was wrong. When they realized what it was, they laughed at me. Not one of my prouder moments…

  5. So true! Some of these definitely took me back, particularly the napkins, wet bathrooms and sharing room with wildlife. Sometimes it's the little things you don't think you're going to miss when you are settling in back home after months on the road. Thanks for reminding me!

  6. Nice! Considering going to Indonesia ourselves later this year. Will need to hit you guys up for tips on what to see/do….

  7. Haha – When I first saw the "No Tipping" heading, I thought it had something to do with cow-tipping. I didn't know you could do that to people!

    Definitely want to go to Indonesia and experience all of these for myself!

  8. Now, where's the bak mandi? When I was small, I used to climb in the big bak mandi at home. Some times even put a plastic chair inside it so I could read a book while my sweet maid washed my hair. Of course my parents didn't know this!

    The toilet paper on table: I converted Ryan successfully in this. He even bought a LionStar brand toilet paper container for his office when we still had a home.

    Nasi: how dare you missed out nasi timbel!!!!!

    No Tipping: haha, this one I never saw.

    1. 'Bak mandi', lol… we don't have those anymore in our house. The 'no-tipping' shirt was a recent phenomena, I think. That was the first time we saw it and we didn't know whether to laugh or feel bad.

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  10. I'll try again, did not like my first attempt :S

    Really cool and amusing post, most strikes a chord with me but especially remember the poor guys in the no tipping shirts. Though when I was running a pub thought about buying a couple for my laziest team members!

    Thanks for sharing

  11. I love geckos! Although when I was in Sumatra I woke up in the middle of the night to weird crunching noises, then a bang as something fell on the ground. I freaked out – I was travelling alone. Turning on the light, I realised that a gecko had been eating my moisturiser bottle! Cheeky little thing.

  12. Such funny quirks here! I would love that everything is travel sized in Indonesia. I usually stand at the travel sized products in stores in awe. The whole Tokay gecko thing though I would not be so keen on.

  13. We have geckos here in Austin that often make themselves at home in your house but I think I would have a heart attack if I saw a Tokay Gecko on my wall.

    1. Seriously — and later on I learned that they're called the 'bulldog' of the lizard world because once they bite they don't let go. And we were like — Aaargh, they BITE?!

  14. The bowl of water tip is excellent! I think I would've been confused at first and would've been looking around to see what the locals did with them. Love the idea, and eating with your hands is so much more fun.

  15. I absolutely love the wet bathroom. I wish we had one here. So easy to clean. Just spray it down and walk away.

    In Bali my wife and I were woken up in the middle of the night from a giant 1 foot long Tokay gecko hanging out on the wall just inches above our head making a very disturbing sound. Even more freaky when you are half asleep.

    These bring back lots of good memories (the gecko aside). I also love how no matter where you go to park your car a parkir comes out of nowhere to help guide you.

    1. Lol, you're absolutely right about somebody running out to 'help' you get out of or into a parking spot. Sometimes all you hear at first is their whistle and you're like — "Wait, where did he come from?"

  16. So true about the travel size you can get anything in a little packet all over SE Asia. The little packets do make quite the mess though. In India they were scattered and littered everywhere. So did you end up tipping the guy

    1. Not the guy in the picture — but we did end up tipping a different guy, also wearing a 'no-tipping' shirt. After all the work he did pushing cars around to get ours out of the lot, how could we not?

  17. So true about the travel size you can get anything in a little packet all over SE Asia. The little packets do make quite the mess though. In India they were scattered and littered everywhere. So did you end up tipping the guy?:)

  18. These made me laugh. I've had a few novice travelers freak out about toiletries thinking they needed to bring a year's supply of shampoo but I always reassure them that Johnson and Johnson can be found in every country and they usually have great travel sized options!

  19. These made me laugh. I've had a few novice travelers freak out about toiletries thinking they needed to bring a year's supply of shampoo but I always reassure them that Johnson and Johnson can be found in every country and they usually have great travel sized options!

    1. Yup. And ibuprofen, and instant coffee, and gosh, even the instant noodle comes in a packages small enough to slip into your pockets (they're mostly to snack on).

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