Blog post Tom - Adventure of a Lifetime
Exchange has so much to offer, especially when you’re on the other side of the world. Travelling is something you should not take for granted, and so I took full advantage of the 12 day break I had at the beginning of October. It was time to travel and leave the city I fell so in love with. With my small suitcase packed, my Spotify music library updated, and with a book in my hand, it was time to explore, this time, in Indonesia! Luckily, depending on how you’d like to see it, I had a very long layover in Taipei, which meant even more discovering!
A layover in Taipei
After a good 2 hours in the plane, I touched down in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, also known as the coffee hub of Asia. What an incredible city. Such an unimaginable vibe, with contrasts so unbelievably different to Seoul. In Europe I would never stumble upon such huge differences within two hours of travelling. In Asia, however, this is clearly a different story. Taipei seems to be a poorer city than Seoul, more chaotic, and busier (even though its not). Nevertheless, the food is simply delicious and the vibes on the streets are incredible. So lively and so energetic that I almost got goosebumps. Asia is entirely new to me, so perhaps every change is exciting to me, but I was seriously blown away by the atmosphere in this city. A ginger kid like me simply does not survive in temperatures above 30 degrees and the burning sun, but both almost seemed non-existent because I was so focused on being inspired by this city. An afternoon stroll and an evening at various night markets left me speechless before I took the last bus back to the airport. My flight to my final destination was leaving early next morning.
Off to Jakarta
With stories to write about Taipei, I took off to Jakarta, Indonesia, to then take a domestic flight to Yogyakarta. The flights were something on its own, with a lot less security and safety regulations at the airport, and almost every Indonesian being amazed by the presence of a white western boy. I don’t think I’ve ever had to take so many pictures and selfies with strangers in the few hours I spent at the airport in Jakarta. That was probably one of the first cultural differences which hit me. Upon arrival I was shocked immensely. Yogyakarta is a big city with very little. There are no sidewalks, people don’t really stick to traffic and safety rules, people live in surreal poverty situations, trash is set on fire at the end of every day, and the amount of air pollution is disastrous. Yet, the hospitality of Indonesians is truly inspiring, everyone will always greet you with a smile and act as if you’re their best friend. Not to forget, the food. For less than 2 euros you will have an incredibly delicious meal. No matter where you go, the food is brilliant!
The real side of Indonesia
Indonesia is known for its tropical weather, tourism, clear blue ocean waters, beautiful wildlife and delicious food, but is often overlooked on its corruption, traffic chaos, poor health and hygiene conditions as well as its natural contribution to global warming. It is forgotten by many that this is the fifth biggest country on the planet, yet one of the most underdeveloped nations ever seen. 12 days in Yogyakarta gave me a good understanding of the ‘real’ side of Indonesia.
The most prevalent difference with Seoul is the general status of the cities. One is underdeveloped yet enhance a very collectivist culture, whereas the other is economically booming and insanely innovative. The two are almost incomparable.
Surprises and culture shocks
When travelling alone in Asia, which I can definitely recommend, be prepared for countless amount of surprises and culture shocks. Expect the unexpected, to a certain extent, but most of all, just observe, try to get in contact with the locals, and enjoy. Studying communication, with a focus on intercultural communication, no text book will teach you as much as travelling alone will do. So, when on exchange in Asia, don’t think twice and pay for a crazy return flight, pack your stuff, and just go out there! It’s truly an adventure of a lifetime!