Maria Haase is a travel writer based in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of the MariaAbroad travel blog. She recently completed a FAM trip to Indonesia and below she answers questions about her time in the country.
Q: What was your favorite thing to see?
A: That would be the 500 Lohan Temple with about 500 Buddhas statues and they were all standing in a row, so you could see several faces in a row. Every single one of them had a different facial expression and posture and some of them were making funny faces. Some of them were looking super grim at you. It was just a very unique experience.
When it comes to the sights, that was just the absolutely highlight. When it comes to the human side, I really enjoyed, we visited a mosque in Palembang. The mosque apparently had the highest Quran. We walked in there and there was a group of women and they had choir practice. We asked if we could take photos and not only did they agree, but they wanted to take selfies with us. They were super excited to meet us and we took tons of photos and they performed their song for us.
Q: What did you learn about the country that you didn’t know before?
A: I was reading a book about Indonesia before about a Western journalist who lived in the country for like 10 years. And so I had learned quite a bit about Indonesia before, but seeing it firsthand, learning those cultural anecdotes firsthand and seeing it in person was really kind of neat.
She was spot-on on her descriptions, the hierarchal structure in the society. Everybody is a little bit of a paper-pusher. What really surprised me was how religious some parts of the country were. My impression had in my mind was more what Bali looked like. I packed some conservative looking clothes, but my idea of what conservative looking was not enough.
Q: Did your view of the country change at all?
A: We had six days in the country. I really enjoyed my time in Indonesia. We saw parts that were not very open to tourism. We didn’t see any other white tourists. It’s still very off the beaten path. It twisted my view of Bali and Australian spring break crowd that I had in my mind. It’s refreshing to see there are beautiful places that are not overrun by tourists. I really enjoyed it.