Salam sejahtera! Snippets from my Surabaya experience.

Scott C, Bachelor of Property Economics
Universitas Surabaya, Indonesia
Semester 1, 2018

First of all, Surabaya has a very culturally rich history and the locals are very proud of this, its best that you at least try to familiarise yourself with some of the historical events and culture customs, as this will help you understand Surabaya’s Identity. You will find most people in Surabaya upon meeting foreign people will be very curious and will ask for pictures and may want to ask you a lot questions, don’t worry or suspect anything, generally this is to do with the fact that they usually don’t get a lot of tourists (especially in the more rural areas), so naturally they are very curious. Sometimes, you can get the reverse because they are shy, this is easy to overcome, a good ice breaker is simply introducing yourself in Indonesian, “Nama Saya *insert your name*”, roughly translates to, “name my”, they most likely will laugh at your terrible attempt and then become more talkative. Try to learn some basic Indonesian, as this will become helpful in negotiations with taxi drivers, store vendors and so on, otherwise you may be given the “tourist prices”, but if you speak a little Indonesian they will likely become a more negotiable.

Photo taken: Borobudur Yogyakarta

Getting started

Getting your phone connected in Indonesia is relatively straight forward, if your accommodation is close to UBAYA (assuming you are on exchange), there is a mall called “Marina Plaza”, this mall mainly sells phones and data sims. Data sims are very widely used in Indonesia, and they are probably the easiest to obtain and recharge. Basically most of the people use Whatsapp to call and text, which the data sim is able to be used for. Regular plans can offer actual calling and texting options, but are very expensive in comparison. $50k Rupiah, should get 5GB of data, which will likely last you over a month. It will allow access to Facebook, YouTube and so on. You are able to recharge the data sims at either alfa-marts or indo-marts, they will require your phone number and clearly state that you are topping up your data, otherwise they might give you a call and text recharge, which is not what you want, most of the time they will understand, but the odd occasion they don’t, just use Google translate, 9 times out of 10 that will solve most miscommunication issues.

On that note, there are also another two apps worth downloading: GoJek and Grab. Grab is a taxi service that is similar to Uber, usually there is a fixed price and this service can be either linked to your debit/credit card or they have a cash option. GoJek is probably one of the most important apps (it will take some time to set this app up properly), as it not only allows you to order taxis (similar process to Grab), but also you can order food. The food options are limitless and cater for most tastes, please note though that there is a delivery charge and also in comparison to local food cost, it is quite expensive.

Photo taken: Heroes Monument

Things to see and do

If you feel like doing some touristy stuff, there is the Heroes Monument and Museum, which celebrates Indonesian independence from colonial rule and the integral part Surabaya played in this war. Ciputra Waterpark and Mount Bromo which isn’t too far from Surabaya are also great attractions. These are the main ones, but there is also a lot more to do and the more locals you meet the more options you will have. There are a lot of old temples and mosques, which date back hundreds of years, that are only minutes outside of the city. It’s suggested that you try to take part in as many events that you get invited to as possible, as it will allow you to mingle with local people and students, which results in invitations to other events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos taken: Borobudar Yogyakarta and Bromo Volcano

Accommodation

In regards to accommodation, here are some points to look out for:

  • Be wary of additional taxes, as these apply to services such as electricity, water and rent, so be polite and ask them to write down or explain the taxes in English and always ask for receipt.
  • You will be required to provide 3-months rent up-front plus bond.
  • Most student accommodation will have a provider for internet, generally it is easier to just go with that option, as the packages are fairly cheap.
  • They do not complete a proper entry report, so make sure and check that everything works.
  • Do not be afraid to ask them to repair pre-existing damages.
  • Not all apartments come with heated water.
  • Not all apartments will have a stove top.
  • Do not expect apartments to have cutlery.
  • There is Wi-Fi in all lobbies.
  • Most staff will speak little English, so Google translate is initially your new best friend until you speak some basics.
  • Water dispensers are a must, not all apartments have them, shouldn’t cost more than $12-$20.
  • Be religiously sensitive, most of the staff and locals in the area are Muslim, so be careful what you say and do, so try to inform yourself about the local customs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo taken: Hand of the Yogyakarta

Sawadee pee mai Thai (Happy Thai New Year)

I was lucky enough to be in Thailand to celebrate Songkran, the celebration of traditional Thai New Year. Celebrated every year from 13 – 15 April (although dates can vary depending on where in Thailand you are) and uses water, as a symbol of washing away last year’s mis-fortune.

Many of my new Thai friends have gone home to spend time with family, and those who are Buddhist, go and make merit at temples. However, the holiday is known for what I would consider the biggest water fight I have ever seen! These water fights are not everywhere in the country however all the biggest destinations hold them.

There is a mass exodus of the locals from Bangkok as most go back to their hometown but I stayed in the capital to celebrate Songkran. A couple of key streets become full of both international and domestic tourists and a few locals all keen to be involved in the celebration.

The morning of New Year’s Day, I headed to one of the spots for a big street water fight. It was insane! Even though I was not there during the busiest time I still came out drenched head to toe from a barrage of water guns, hoses and buckets. People who lined the streets wearing masks and gripping super soakers were my nemeses’. I left around lunchtime and while it was busy, there was still room to move and run to try dodging people’s shots at you. I did see videos of the same street later in the day and the wide street was packed shoulder to shoulder.

After being soaked we went back to clean ourselves up before heading to a bar which was holding a Songkran event in a more suburban area. Once we got there we could see how locals who did not leave the city celebrated – and boy were they wild! There were people young and old lining suburban streets throwing water at motorbikes, cars and buses that passed by. There was also white powder that they put on their face that apparently softens the skin. By this time of night many of the people were quite intoxicated and would run onto the road with the white powder and get the motor bikes to slow down while the coat the riders face with the powder.

Songkran celebrations is one of the most fun festivals I have ever participated in and I think that Songkran alone is enough reason for me to come back to visit Thailand. I would recommend to anyone considering coming to Thailand, to try and time it with Songkran, to see and enjoy the festivities for themselves.