Years after I left Bali, I often regretted not seeing more of Indonesia—my nearest neighbour at the time. It wasn’t until well over a decade later, I landed in Jakarta with my nine-year-old daughter. Her two older sisters had gone to Canada, so I grabbed this opportunity like an Indian passenger half out of a rail carriage door but clinging on. I intended to explore Java from one end to the other.
The first morning, the azan greeted us. While beautiful, the call to prayer at four o’clock in the morning was not welcomed after a long tedious flight. Still, the thought of being in the second largest Muslim country in the world was an exciting experience.
Jakarta soon dispelled myths about Muslim women. There were no covered faces, though many, but not all, wore headscarves. Their western clothing whizzed past on scooters, meandering through the endless traffic.
On our way to Taman Mini, a museum of Indonesian traditional architecture, we walked beside a murky canal when my daughter pointed at a mother rat with her babies tottering behind. She gripped my hand tighter. This was her first trip to Asia and her reaction reminded me of the day I stared down at Bali from the aeroplane window the first time.
We reached Taman Mini that was an outdoor museum of different styles of houses from some of Indonesia’s thousands of islands. Amidst this beautiful setting, we felt we’d left Jakarta far behind, and I realized there would be so much more to see in this vast country of islands than just Java.