Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 7 September 2010 • Opinion
Indonesia is the biggest Moslem country in the world. Thus, within a year, Ramadan is one of the most festive moments celebrated by its people. As we have learned from foreign friends and online forums, travelers and tourist often wonder what Ramadan is, what happens during the month and what happens by the end of the month. So I’ll try to pack it up a little bit, understating all that is happening of course, and also explain how all of this partying can apply to your travels.
Without going too much in to details, Ramadan is actually a month in the Moslem calendar following the lunar cycle. It is the month where the Moslems fast from dusk till dawn, holding in all kinds of lust and glutton such as food, drinks, sex, and even feelings of anger, sadness, and bad intention. It is a month to cleanse one’s self from all bad vibes and to learn the suffering of those that have less. Yes, this applies to all Moslems of the world, and thus some have it bad when the month falls in Summer, when the sun shines more than 12 hours. And during these days, you will find some restaurants closed or use curtains to cover their windows to help those fasting reduce their craving for food. I know you think how can someone not eat and drink all day? Well it’s something that we’ve been trained to do so and, from personal experience, it helps the body detoxify itself and you learn to reduce all greedy unnecessary wanting.
In Indonesia, it’s a whole different ball game. It has been incorporated with our own tradition. The Moslems behaviour won’t be the same as that in Arabic countries. Since we fast all day, we spoil ourselves with better food during the time we can eat. We splurge with special sweets at break-fast. We choose better menus for dinner sometimes because we crave for it during the day. This can also apply to the dusk meals. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s actually a time where the economy is pumped up a little bit because of consumerism. This is when you can enjoy a lot of Indonesian treats sold spontaneously on the streets, sales in malls, and markets are filled with women buying raw materials to make their traditional dishes on D-day. Prices usually rise in this period. And all that goodies are then prepared starting about 5 days before Lebaran. Or people start making cakes before D-day and sell them. Kitchens are always on fire! It is also a time where it’s so hard to get a place in your favorite restaurants at dinner given that a lot of people choose to eat out at break-fast.
Now the party really gets started coming in the Idul Fitri or Lebaran, the day the month ends and we can no longer fast (even if we wanted to). It has been tradition to gather with the main family and sometimes with the extended family. People would go to great lengths to gather with their families no matter where they are. They will ride cars, public transport, motorcycles, anything they can get their hands on, just to head back home. It’s a time of huge migration from big cities to smaller towns throughout Indonesia. As for travelers, it could be both heaven and hell. Public transport will no doubt be full packed. And when I said ‘great lengths’ before, I meant they would sleep on floors, stand, and push themselves in the tiniest places they can find in any public transport. They will also bring excess baggage, goods from the city or from where ever they maybe, as gifts for the family. And in this situation it would be almost impossible to travel especially if you do not have anything pre-booked. Not to mention, the traffic jam especially on roads in Java and ports with ferries crossing straits will no doubt be in a jam. Hell for those backpackers that have a tight itinerary but heaven for those that have come to Indonesia to see culture and experience chaos.
So as of today, this migration season has started and it will subside during D day (predicted to be on the 10th of September), and restarting afterwards for about a week. For those traveling, should you choose to travel Indonesia in these days, we advise you to fast with us and be more patient as your mental will be tested.