Posts about Indonesia (travel)
I'm Thai and I spent a week in Bali, Indonesia with my girlfriend. While the views and tourist spots are breathtaking, I think I might not visit it again.
First, the food sucks. My standard may be a bit high, considering I'm Thai and Thai food is often among the top of the list of any cuisine rankings out there. Indonesian food is bland and it looks like there isn't much choice to choose from. Everywhere you go, you see only Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Mie Goreng (fried noodles). I stayed in many hotels as I visited not just Denpasar, but Ubud, Nusa Penida and Komodo island as well. Two of the hotels I stayed offered only Nasi Goreng as their breakfasts.
I asked the local driver and tried to find other local food on Google Maps and have eaten at 2 places which was delicious. First one was in Ubud where they serve fried duck and it was actually really good. The duck was tender and juicy. Second one was near Kuta where they serve, again, fried chicken/duck/catfish with rice, sambal, boiled vegetables and sides.
I think Indonesian food has no depth in it (I'm not a food expert but I know what I'm eating). The taste is in one direction, you dip your chicken in sambal, eat it with rice and that's it. Sambal itself is great, I really liked it. It seems every food goes well with sambal. If there's no sambal, the food would be a lot worse.
I ordered a bowl of soup at the restaurant near Kuta that I mentioned above, it was very similar to a popular Thai Kaeng Som soup but 50% less flavorful. It looks like they tried to be creative by throwing a hunk of corn into the soup. Man, the scent of corn ruined it all.
We booked 2 tours on Komodo island that took us to see Komodo dragons, snorkeling, hiking etc. The tours included lunch and the organizer brought lunch box for us. It was simply one of the worst meals we've ever had. It was, again, rice with chicken, sambal, and vegetables. The chicken was almost as hard as a rock and vegetables were soaked in oil. If there was no sambal, I would throw away the whole thing.
I visited Vietnam in July 2022 (Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hoi An, and Vung Tau). The food was excellent and cheap. I didn't get bored of Vietnamese food for a single minute. You have so many kinds of food to choose from, various kinds of soups and noodles, rolls and the list goes on.Pink Beach
Second, the tour quality and hospitality aren't there yet. For the tours I mentioned above, the organizer would rent snorkeling equipment from another local store, buy food from low quality stalls near the port, make deals with local boat owner and local guide. This way they can't control the quality of the tour. My snorkel purge valve was loose and the seawater leaked into my mouth, and since it was rented from another store, there was no replacement on the boat.
If it was in Thailand, there are many great quality tour operators out there. I've been to islands around Phuket and Phang-nga, the tour operator would own and manage everything from speedboats to the guide. They might outsource the food but it was far better. Plus, there are unlimited cold drinking water and Coca-Cola on the boat. Heck, some of them even run their own ports with shower stalls so you can take shower after a long day in the ocean. You will be fresh and clean before heading to dinner after the tour ends. The snorkeling equipment is owned by the tour, so there will always be a replacement on the boat if something is wrong. Regarding the hygiene, they will give you a brand-new mouthpiece to put on the snorkel. After docking into the port at the end of the day, they will carry a huge basket of equipment to clean each snorkel. I don't know if snorkeling equipment at Komodo island has been cleaned, or just let dry and rent out to the next customer. I don't even see a rack for hang-drying those gears anywhere.
As we arrive at each snorkeling spot, they would just stop the boat and let tourists jump into the ocean. I asked where exactly should we swim to to see beautiful corals, and they just pointed randomly. If it was a Thai tour, the guide would jump into the ocean with you and take you to the nice spots (of course you could explore around on your own too). They would even literally drag you to each spot if you couldn't swim. It's true. The hospitality just couldn't match. And I kid you not, the one-day tour prices between Thailand and Indonesia aren't different that much.Diamond Beach, Nusa Penida
Third, I got ripped off even I used a ride-hailing app. Sure, many Southeast Asian countries are well known for ripping tourists off, including Thailand. But using Grab, a popular ride-hailing app in this region, should protect tourists from this.
I requested a ride from my hotel at Kuta to a cafe 20 minutes away using Grab app. The car registration didn't match to what was shown in the app, driver said he used another car. We arrived at the cafe and minutes later I realized that my card was charged double of what was firstly quoted in the app. I found that he charged me for "Tolls" and "Other" aside from the fare. I asked the cafe staff if coming from Kuta involved any toll roads and she said there is no toll roads around here. I tried calling the driver but the call didn't go through and the staff said, reluctantly, that I might got ripped off. Luckily, Grab support was able to refund me the excessive amount a couple hours later.
I once got off the ferry from Nusa Penida and want a ride to my hotel. The local taxi approached us and tried to charge like 150 or 200k IDR where Grab was quoting like 80k IDR.
My experience getting around Bali was not great. There were a couple times that the driver accepted the ride but drove away from my location or didn't move at all. I texted or called them and they all said they are too far away and didn't want to come. Once they didn't respond to me at all. They asked me to cancel the trip, because if they cancel, it will be recorded and might affect their score.
I used Grab a lot during my trip to Vietnam and never had a single problem (driver came every time, no overcharging).Kelingking Beach
It's getting too long so I think I might stop here. There are some small things here and there that kinda annoy me like super narrow alleys that cars had to squeeze in all the time (bad city planning) or hotel rooms that weren't that clean (found many dead fruit flies around the room or the bed sheet and towel weren't so clean)
To summarize: the sceneries were jaw dropping, but 'staying' in Bali wasn't impressive. Here are the destinations that we visited and liked:
Mount Batur sunrise trekking
Nusa Penida Island (Diamond Beach, Angel Billabong, Kelingking Beach)
Komodo islands (Padar Island, Pink Beach, Pulau Kelor, etc.)
Seeing Komodo dragons was boring for us because monitor lizards are common in Thailand and they look similar except Komodo dragons are bigger. It's just not that exotic to us Thais.
I admit that views and sceneries from places that I mentioned above are so great and Thailand doesn't have anything like that, but if you also want outstanding food, great hospitality, good enough transports, far better roads (wider, more convenient), wonderful islands and beaches etc., Thailand seems like a better destination. I'm not saying this because I'm Thai, but I have experienced it myself in both countries.
Vietnam is great if you like sightseeing around the cities or go up in the mountains for hiking (I don't think Vietnam is famous for its islands and beaches other than Ha Long Bay) and the food is fantastic. They also have countless cheap, great craft beers, which Thailand and Indonesia lack of.
Oh, and did I mention that 4G and public/hotel Wi-Fi suck? It was so bad everywhere that I don't know how people can rely on such service. The internet will stop working from time to time. And those who imagine to spend time near nice beaches while working remotely, forget about it. The internet connection there won't allow it. In every hotel I stayed in, I had to switch back and forth between Wi-Fi and 4G.
Thanks for reading.Padar Island