At first glance, Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language) and Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) look very similar. Most of the words are the same — makan (eat), ikan (fish), rumah (house); the structure of sentences are also the same, e.g. Ini anak saya (This is my child).


Malaysian (left) & Indonesian flags

But after countless trips to Indonesia, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that these two languages are as disparate as oil and water.

Here are some words that Malaysians and Indonesians should take note of when communicating with each other, to avoid any misunderstanding. This is not a comprehensive list by any means but it’s a start:-

1. Jemput. DH likes to tell this anecdote of a Malaysian friend whose Indonesian friend came to KL for a visit. The Malaysian invited the Indonesian to his home, saying “Saya jemput Bapak, ya?” (I jemput you, okay?). You know what happened? The Malaysian ended up waiting for his friend, who never showed up; the Indonesian also waited in his hotel, waiting for his friend who never came to pick him up. You see, jemput means ‘to invite’ in Malaysia but ‘fetch/pick up’ in Indonesia. Moral of the story for Malaysians: instead of jemput, it’s safer to say undang. This is why wedding invitation cards in Malaysia say ‘Kad Jemputan‘ but in Indonesia, they say ‘Kad Undangan‘.

2. Pusing. If a Malaysian invites you to go pusing-pusing, he means he’d like to take you around. But in Indonesia, pusing often refers to pusing kepala, which means ‘to have a headache’! Malaysians, use putar in lieu of pusing.

3. Cadangan. If you’re in a meeting in Jakarta and you want to ask for suggestions, please don’t use the word cadangan because in Indonesia, it means ‘spare’, e.g. kaos cadangan (spare shirt). Use the word usulan instead.

4. Senang. In one episode of Upin & Ipin, Susanti tells her new Malaysian classmates “Saya senang sama teman-teman” (I like you all, friends) which made Upin and Ipin whisper to each other “Masa bila kita susahkan dia?” (When did we make things difficult for her?). You see, senang in Indonesia means ‘to like’ (i.e. Malaysian: suka), not ‘easy’, as it means in Malaysia!

5. Ibu. When I first came to Indonesia, I thought people addressed me as ‘Ibu‘ because well…I’m a mother, which is what ibu means in Malaysia. Weeelll…ibu can also mean the same thing in Indonesia. However, the more common use of Ibu is as a form of address, i.e. ‘Mrs’ or ‘Madam’ 😛 ‘Miss’ in Indonesian is mbak, which should not be confused with the Javanese mbah, which means ‘grandmother’!

6. Cakap. Malaysians use this word to mean ‘talk’ or ‘say’. In Indonesia, however, this word means ‘good-looking’ or ‘cute’. So the next time you say “I cakap…” and find your Indonesian friends looking amused, you know why.

7. Buntut/Bontot. Remember my previous post on language being a hidden danger of travel? This word means ‘tail’ in Indonesia and is a common item in many restaurant menus, i.e. sop buntut (oxtail soup). In Malaysia, however, you can get into hot water (or get laughed at) for using this word because in this part of the world, it refers to one’s behind!

8. Butuh. Malaysians, if you are in Indonesia and you find yourself in need of something, don’t bother using the word perlu (‘need’/’must’); use the word butuh instead, e.g. butuh uang (in need of money). Conversely, to all my Indonesian readers, please be careful in using this word in Malaysia because…erm…I was told it is a very, very vulgar term for the male genitals. Or something to that effect. I never really did find out because (i) it felt too awkward for me to ask people about this word and (ii) all my friends whom I did dare ask just giggled and answered “Something like that”.

9. Pantat. I was browsing an online forum about baby skin care one day and I got the shock of my life when I read one mother write nonchalantly about pantat bayi. You see, in Malaysia, this is a very, very coarse and vulgar word for the female genitals. In Indonesia, however, this word refers to what is known as buntut in Malaysia (see #7).

10. Seronok. This is the term that Malaysians use to mean ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’. Unfortunately, in Indonesia, it refers to lewdness, e.g. foto seronok refers to ‘lewd pics’, which may not necessarily be your definition of fun.

11. Bareng. I once saw a roadside eatery that announced ‘Makan Bareng‘. I thought to myself, “Eat while lying down? Huh?”. I thought  the Indonesian bareng meant the same as the Malaysian baring (‘to lie down’). But no. Bareng means ‘together’. So makan bareng is ‘to eat together’.

12. Sore. I used to get perplexed with text messages that began with ‘Sore bu‘. Sore? Sorry? “Is he apologising?”, I thought. Silly me! Turns out sore in Indonesian means ‘afternoon’! Sore bu is just a shortened form of ‘Selamat sore, ibu‘ (Good afternoon, Ma’am). Uh, Indonesian friends, when you’re in Malaysia, please say petang instead of sore. Thank you!

13. Sikat. If you go into a mini market in Indonesia and ask for a berus gigi, don’t be surprised if all you get in return is a blank stare. ‘Toothbrush’ in Indonesia is sikat gigi. And sikat rambut means ‘hair brush’, not ‘comb’ as what we mean when we say sikat in Malaysia, my confused friends.

14. Lucu. You know how parents are always so proud to flash countless pics of their children at the slightest encouragement? Now, now, my dear Malaysian readers, please don’t feel offended when your Indonesian friends look at your child and comments ‘Lucunya!’. They don’t mean ‘funny’ as what we mean when we say lucu in Malaysia; in that part of the world, lucu means ‘cute’!

15. Sandal. If you forgot to pack your slippers in your bag to your Indonesian trip, don’t ask for selipar in the nearest shop. Ask for sandal instead. Because that’s how they refer to slippers there. Shoes and sandals are called sepatu instead.

16. Cocok. Cocok in Indonesia means ‘suitable’, despite its similarity in sound to the Malaysian cucuk, which means ‘to pierce’.

17. Bual-bual. If you want to sit and chat with your Indonesian friends, please remember to invite them to ngobrol-ngobrol over coffee or drinks. Do NOT, by any means, say bual-bual because that term means ‘to tell lies’ in Indonesia!

18. Kurang Manis. In Malaysia, it’s quite common to order a drink and request “Kurang manis ya?”, meaning ‘Please make it less sweet’. If you’re watching your sugar intake, make sure to remember this phrase instead: “Gula dikurangin ya?” (Please reduce the sugar, okay?). This is because if you say “Kurang manis” to your Indonesian waiter, he will only end up adding more sugar to your drink, thinking that you’re complaining that the drink is kurang manis (‘not enough sweetness’).

19. Kosong. Kosong in Malaysia means empty but when you’re in a Padang Restaurant, you’re asking for your favourite jus alpukat (avocado drink) and the waiter tells you ‘alpukat kosong‘, he only means they’ve run out of avocado. On the other hand, dear Malaysians, if you want to ask for air kosong (‘plain water’), ask for air putih instead. Or ask for Aqua, the brand name that has become the generic term for mineral water, as Colgate is to toothpaste.

20. Budak. It’s very common in Malaysia for people to refer to a child as budak and to children as budak-budak. Use this term with caution once you’ve entered Indonesia though because over there, budak means ‘slave’!

21. Kakak. This is a polite form of address, which means ‘older sister’, is used in Malaysia to refer to a woman who is slightly older than you. [NB: Much older women would be referred to as makcik (auntie); really old women are addressed as nenek (grandmother). If you’re not sure between kakak and makcik, kakak is safer, so as not to offend the person whom you are addressing.] In Indonesia, however, kakak can be used to address both an older man or an older woman. This term is not to be confused with the Indonesian kakek, which means ‘grandfather’!

22. Kereta. If a Malaysian tells an Indonesian (who’s not familiar with the Malay language) that he owns a kereta (‘car’ in Malay), the Indonesian is bound to be amazed. This is because kereta in Indonesia is likely to be interpreted to mean kereta api/keretapi, i.e. ‘train’. The Indonesian term for ‘car’ is mobil.

23. Sotong. If you want to order squid in Indonesia, do not use the word sotong, lest people think you want to eat sotong kurita (octopus). Ask for cumi instead.

24. Cili. You’d think the simplest word ‘chili’ would be the same in Malay and Indonesia. But no! Only Malaysians say cili; Indonesians say cabe. [NB: The letter ‘c’ in Indonesian and Malay languages are pronounced as ‘ch’, as in the word ‘chop’.]

25. Lumayan. Finally, when Malaysians say someone’s gaji (salary) is lumayan, they mean that person’s ‘salary is quite a lot’. Indonesians, on the other hand, would interpret gaji lumayan as ‘salary that’s just enough’ (cukup-cukup aje).

Now do you agree with me when I say that Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia are as different as day is from night? Perhaps one of these days, I’d actually sit down and write a handbook of such Malaysian/Indonesian terms.

Feel free to add in the comments section some other Indonesian and Malaysian terms that you know that might cause some misunderstanding 🙂

I was in Jakarta last week and needed to stay in a hotel within close proximity to a client’s place. They booked me at Harris Hotel Tebet, a small hotel which is — as its tagline proclaims — simple, unique and friendly.

This is a shot of the hotel lobby…

…and this is the area in front of the lifts to the guest rooms. The restaurant is barely visible on the left-hand side.

It was a very short overnight stay for me. Technically, it wasn’t even overnight because I had to check out at 3 am so that I could catch my 5 am flight back to KL the following morning. But as I was saying, it was such a short stay that I didn’t really get the chance to explore the whole place. But what little I saw of it pleased me because the hotel was clean and quite well-maintained.

I last stayed in this hotel more than a year ago and the place still exudes that relatively-new-and-just-recently-opened-hotel look. Harris Hotel’s signature colours of vibrant orange and zesty green add a touch of whimsical freshness to the overall ambience of the hotel.

This was my room, which cost Rp150.000 nett (approximately USD63) for one night’s stay. Breakfast would have cost an extra but very reasonable Rp70.000 (USD7.50). But obviously, since I checked out at 3 am, I skipped this option.

There’s a mini fridge and coffee-making facilities nestled inside the tiny nook beside the table holding the flat screen TV…

…and opposite it is a clothes rack, with a small electronic safe underneath.

The bathroom is just big enough to hold a small bathtub with shower, a small portion of which is visible from the reflection in the mirror. What mattered more to me was the fact that it was clean and odour-free.

What I love most about Harris Hotel? The free WiFi, of course. No laptop? Don’t fret. They have several computer stations — with free internet, naturally — all over the lobby, such as this one.

The hotel also has a swimming pool, a gym and a spa, none of which I had the chance to visit.

However, I did manage to have a body scrub (mandi lulur) done in the privacy of my room for Rp275.000 nett (USD30). The 90-minute treatment included a 30-minute aromatherapy massage right before the actual scrub, which culminated with a bubble bath. The therapist somehow managed to draw the bubble bath for me in between the massage and the scrub, who then discreetly left me to soak in private after I signed the bill for the treatment. The mandi lulur was nice but not quite as lovely as the one that I had at Taman Sari Spa, Jakarta Airport.

Other Harris Hotels in Indonesia are located in Batam, Tuban Bali, Kuta Bali, Riverview Kuta and Kelapa Gading Jakarta. For more information, please check out http://www.harris-hotels.com. And in case you’re wondering, this is not a paid post.

I only had my trusty old Nokia N82 with me at that time, thus I apologise for the limited angles and the relatively grainy nature of the photographs.

If you find yourself in the city of Bandung, Indonesia, do make it a point to make a quick trip to Tangkuban Parahu, an active volcano located some 30 km north of the city. It’s interesting because the main crater can easily be accessed without involving any climbing and is wide and not that deep, thus offering a good view of its depths with the naked eye. Contrary to what you see in movies, you won’t find red hot molten lava in its centre; only gray sand and a thin wisp of smoke in one corner.

The drive from Bandung or Lembang to the Tangkuban Parahu area is a short one if during a weekday. I can’t imagine how bad the traffic can get on weekends or during peak season.

Entrance fee is a nominal Rp30,000 (less than USD3/RM10) per person and also covers the ride on one of these shuttle vehicles to and from the main crater (kawah).

There is a fence all around the crater but the spaces in between are still large enough for a toddler to slip through, hence, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your children at all times.

“It is forbidden to park your vehicle here.”

The tourists included both Indonesians and Malaysians, and the occasional Caucasian.

Peddlers are plentiful all around and will descend upon you like a swarm of bees even before you alight from your bus or car. If you don’t plan on buying anything, don’t even look at them. Otherwise, they’ll be following you around like flies. If you do plan to buy something, haggle, haggle, haggle. Ask for at least half of their initial offer price. Or pretend not to care…then take your chance at the very last minute, when you’re about to leave, and they’ll be so desperate for a sale that they’ll offer you their rock-bottom price.

Here’s a tip: the strawberries sold by the peddlers are super-duper-mega-ultra sweet (to borrow RoundBoy’s way of expressing superlatives).

Twin2 showing off his prized strawberries

The children couldn’t stop eating them! We bought 10 boxes for Rp100,000 (a little over RM30, less than USD10), which were promptly devoured by everyone.

RoundBoy savouring strawberries while enjoying the view

After having had our fill of photographs and strawberries, we took the shuttle buses (?) back to our bus, then drove to another entrance that leads to Kawah Domas (Domas Crater). From the unassuming entrance, it’s a 1.2-km walk to an area where there are small pools of bubbling hot water.

The walk itself is not difficult, as evidenced by the fact that (1) my children walked the whole way and back without much effort…

…and (2) I wore my brand-new Skechers for the walk and they emerged unscathed afterwards.

Original price: Rp499,000. After discount: Rp200,000. Approximately RM62 or USD17. A real steal!!! Can you blame me for buying 2 pairs? 😉

A word of caution: some portions of the trail are a bit steep so it’s good to have some able-bodied adults to assist the little ones.

Once you get into Kawah Domas, you can buy eggs from the shop down there. They’ll provide you with a long-handled plastic basket to hold the eggs in while they’re being cooked inside the boiling hot volcanic pool.

The terrain is uneven and rocky. Small bubbling, boiling-hot pools abound all around.

There are a few smaller pools whose waters are not as hot, but pleasantly warm to soak the feet in. You’ll see some tourists helping themselves to the volcanic mud, smearing it all over their feet and legs, letting it dry, then rinsing them off gently with the warm water.

I decided to take it one step further and smeared some of the mud on my forehead, nose and chin. But I’m not gonna post that pic in here 🙂 Everyone else initially laughed at me but after I showed them how smooth my skin was after my ‘spa’ treatment, they all ended up having mud masks themselves, including MyEldest.

MyEldest enjoying a volcanic mud facial and  foot soak

We even brought back some of the mud in an empty mineral water bottle. Bottles of the volcanic mud are also available for sale at the shop.

It’s worthwhile noting that the volcano got its name from its unique shape that closely resembles an overturned boat.

Image from Wikipedia

Legend has it that the volcano was the hull of a boat built by a man named Sankuriang, who wanted to prove his love to the beautiful Dayang Sumbi. Wikipedia recounts how the volcano got its name as thus:-

The name translates roughly to “upturning of (a) boat” or “upturned boat” in Sundanese, referring to the local legend of its creation. The story tells of “Dayang Sumbi”, a beauty who lived in West Java. She cast away her son “Sangkuriang” for disobedience, and in her sadness was granted the power of eternal youth by the gods. After many years in exile, Sangkuriang decided to return to his home, long after the two had forgotten and failed to recognize each other. Sangkuriang fell in love with Dayang Sumbi and planned to marry her, only for Dayang Sumbi to recognize his birthmark just as he was about to go hunting. In order to prevent the marriage from taking place, Dayang Sumbi asked Sangkuriang to (1) build a dam on the river Citarum and (2) build a large boat to cross the river, both before the sunrise. Sangkuriang meditated and summoned mythical ogre-like creatures -buta hejo or green giant(s)- to do his bidding. Dayang Sumbi saw that the tasks were almost completed and called on her workers to spread red silk cloths east of the city, to give the impression of impending sunrise. Sangkuriang was fooled, and upon believing that he had failed, kicked the dam and the unfinished boat, resulting in severe flooding and the creation of Tangkuban perahu from the hull of the boat.

I was in a small town somewhere in Lembang, Indonesia last week and I was desperately searching for an apotek (pharmacy) or toko optik (optical shop) that sells contact lens cleaning solution. By small town, I mean really small. As in, shops specialising in pet supplies or donuts were nary in sight.

I went from one apotek to another in vain, getting more and more frustrated with each one. The only toko optik that I found had closed for the day even though it was a good one hour before their usual closing time. That’s when I went from desperate to frantic…

You see, the bag that held my contact lens all-in-one solution, contact lens case, and my eye glasses (‘spectacles’ to my Malaysian readers) was somehow left behind in Jakarta, a good 3-hour drive from the town where I was in. I had my Bausch & Lomb lubricating eye drops with me but that was about it. I briefly considered chucking my contact lenses into the garbage bin rather than risk contracting an eye infection (assuming no contact lens solution was to be had)…but quickly changed my mind, thinking of how my astigmatism would seriously impair my photography vision.

I didn’t have the luxury of scouring the entire town either, as I was in a bus with 20 other people who were all tired and hungry.

Finally, just when I was about to give up, the kindly shopkeeper of a small apotek suggested a feasible solution for me — sterile saline solution!

‘Bu, buat darurat, yang ini, bisa dipakai jugak.” (Ma’am, for emergencies, this can also be used.)

That sure made sense. The saline solution might not be able to remove protein buildup, but it would be good enough to tide me over until I could resume my search in Bandung the next day.

The joyful chorus of ‘Hallelujah’ rang through my head as I hurried agreed to the purchase — Rp10,000 for a 500ml plastic bottle. Roughly, less than RM3 or USD1.

I clambered back into my seat in the bus, grinning from ear to ear, proudly showing off my find. The guy sitting behind me — incidentally a medical doctor — laughed out loud when he saw it — 0.9% sodium chloride intravenous infusion! It was still saline solution, it was still sterile…the only difference was that it came in packaging meant for an IV (Malaysia: ‘drip’; Philippines: ‘dextrose’)!

Buat darurat indeed! 😀

DH and I had a dinner meeting with two Korean guys last night at Sheraton Subang’s Miyako (Japanese restaurant). For the purposes of this blog post, let’s just call them Mr. Lee and Mr. Kim.

As we savoured the wonderful food in such a cozy ambiance, the conversation invariably went from a purely business discussion to a more casual one.

DH shared with us a story about a young Korean guy who was posted for the first time in Jakarta. On his first night there, the Korean chap was said to have not slept a wink… all because of a lizard — a.k.a. the common house gecko — which was on the wall. He said, if there are baby crocodiles that could climb walls in Jakarta, there could very well be a much bigger mother crocodile lurking around!

house gecko

Everyone had a good laugh but I was incredulous, thinking it was just a joke. But Mr. Kim, a seasoned world traveller, assured me that he had a similar experience related to lizards, too. He recounted how he had trouble sleeping on the first night of his first visit to Jakarta. So he turned on the bedside table lamp to do some reading. Just then, after taking one look at the ceiling, he quickly jumped off the bed and called the front desk for assistance. (He was staying at the Hilton Jakarta, mind you.) One of the hotel’s staff rushed to his room, glanced at the creature on the ceiling, then very calmly assured the frightened Mr. Kim not to be afraid for it’s only a lizard and that it is, in fact, scared of humans, and that its presence is beneficial as it would devour any small insects in the vicinity.

Apparently, there are no lizards in Korea, a country whose four-season climate is worlds apart from the hot and humid Southeast Asian tropical climate!