Life on Java Island, Indonesia, through the eyes of a foreigner

Java Island through the eyes of Russians

We went to explore Java in late May, during the peak period of Muslim fasting Ramadan. For this reason we had breakfast alone and most museums and other public places were closed until 3 pm. As you may have realized, the predominant religion in Java is Islam (although Javanese also practice Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Protestantism). Daily life reflects this preference. This is especially true of public transportation, where there is a clear division between left and right – for men and women. If you break this unspoken rule, you will immediately feel the indignation of other passengers.

Also in Indonesia there is a special attitude to alcohol. If in Bali, where Buddhism is more widespread, alcohol is available, then in Java the authorities have banned its sale. The exceptions are major tourist cities such as Yogyakarta and Surabaya, where, albeit with difficulty, you can find something intoxicating.


(Photo: Nadezhda Vasilyeva)

Javanese mentality.

Be prepared for the fact that Indonesia is a country of contrasts: rich nature and historical legacy meets dirt and poverty. Traveling by train from Semarang to Surabaya, we saw near the rice plantations huge mountains of garbage in which residents literally drowned. On the streets, you could often see waste from eateries being dumped right on the sidewalk. The usual landscape is an alternation of dumps with beds of tomatoes, onions, and cabbage. After all, agriculture is one of the main sources of income, in addition to tourism.

It’s good that poverty didn’t stifle the friendliness of Indonesians. They always smiled at us, thanked us, and tried to help us, even without understanding what we were saying. Many asked to take a photo with us or talk to their relatives by video link.

Residents of Java

(Photo source:


Indonesians are not the most responsible nation, we saw that with our trip to the ancient temples of Prambanan and Borobudur. We had to leave early in the morning and the driver we rented the car from overslept. We literally got him out of bed with calls.

Surat Thani - the gateway to Thailand's fabulous beaches

The one-way trip took four hours, and the whole time we watched Indonesia “enforce” traffic rules. They’re more for beauty than good, though there are “Hati-hati” – “be careful” signs on every corner. And not because the traffic in Java is left-handed. The local motorists are very dashing people. They’re constantly honking their horns at each other, a system of communication. The bus drivers can speed up to 100 km/h and pass each other at the curve, and during the night crossings we saw them dozing at the wheel. Such scenes took our breath away.

In addition to the bus, you can take a Blue bird cab or a moped cab called Grab, in green. However, a trip to another city would cost more than a car with a driver for a day. And cab drivers can cheat and drive in circles, racking up the extra mileage.

In addition, Java is the only place in Indonesia, where there is a railroad. The trains are comfortable and run strictly according to schedule – a pity it’s rare.

Cab in Java

(Photo: Nadezhda Vasilyeva)

Java Cuisine

Be careful what you eat in Indonesia – as in all Asian countries, the food here is particularly spicy. The owners of roadside stalls will offer you their delicacies, but it is safer for the stomach to try the local cuisine in small cafes scattered around. Every dish is served with a large portion of rice. When ordering, make sure you know whether you want it spicier or not. But don’t expect it to burn in your mouth.

Food in Java

(Photo source:

That’s not all of the unusual things about Java! Read about its nature and sights in our article “Java Island: Why It’s the Best”.

Tag: Java

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