Friends in unlikely places – Surabaya

If there was ever a place that can reaffirm that the Muslim faith is a peaceful, warming community, Java Island in Indonesia is it. In a world where we are constantly fed reports of religious groups being hateful and destroying communities, it is so refreshing to write about the friendliest group of people we’ve ever met, some of which are now dear friends of ours. I guess the message here is, don’t be ignorant and try and never judge a book by it’s cover, as this certain book has over a billion people in it!

There are plenty of tales from Java. Some of which will be saved for later as I tease you with my words, yet I think the tale of how we met Hadi and Sonia is the one that brings back fond memories.


We were under no illusions that Indonesians were great. Our passings with various locals had always been greeted with smiles and warmness in our 4 days in Yogyakarta. We arrived fairly late on in the evening and were hounded by taxi drivers who regrettably don’t understand the word no :/ Unfortunately our pickup didn’t arrive, so the blokes that we “kindly” declined earlier had their services required again! The hostel was what you’d expect from budget accommodation, although clean sheets would’ve been a nice touch…

The next day when we left, after demolishing the free fried rice, I noticed the most important component of our travelling had been lost. No, no, it wasn’t our passports, this was slightly insignificant in the grand scheme of things! It was our travel diary! You can see the fundamentality to this scrapbook, as I write about it two and a half years later. Tension rose in Camp Pig and when the hotel didn’t understand us or couldn’t find it, we (I) feared the worst, predominantly for our relationship…! We rattled our brains and concluded it must be at the airport or in the taxi.

Whilst waiting for a bus to get there, an unmasked hero, locally known as Hadi, came flying to our rescue. He took time to understand the situation and topped up his phone with credit to start calling anyone and everyone we thought may have it. To you and I, a top up of credit isn’t that big of a deal but where the minimum wage is the lowest in the country (approximately £708 p/m) and to say we didn’t know the bloke, we were overwhelmed. He took us to the local mosque, where one of the women gave us lunch and awkwardly laughed at everything we did due to language barrier problems. What I would do to munch on one of those chicken flavoured crackers again! To no avail, we had no luck and so we jumped on the back of the scooter and made haste. A few phone calls later at the airport and frantically speaking with any suspects that may have known the location of the book, we found it.. Back at the bloody hostel!

From there on in we did everything with Hadi, Sonia & the Captain. He took us to his restaurant and let us sample everything off the menu. Then over the next few days he treated us to:

Clearly the stress of losing the diary was too much for me!
  • Bubur Ayam / Chicken porridge – Our go to breakfast from there on in
  • Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Well we did ours with all the kids on his street! 
  • A trip to Madura island. Driving around the island was lovely, we sampled the bebek (duck), a local delicacy. One of Hadi’s friends was quite high up within the ferry crossings and we ended up in the VIP room on the boat!
  • Sampled black ink squid at a very local food market! Unbelievably good!
  • Went to the mud village which was surrounded by astounding scenery
  • Took a trip to the local hot springs and got a lot of confused looks by the regulars!img_3412_1024
  • Went to a local independence celebration festival where we became stars of the show, especially piggy! Indonesians believe the touch of a white woman to their pregnancy will bring beauty and wealth

He did nearly make us miss our flight home but only because we really enjoyed and embraced his friendship and his girlfriend Sonia’s from start to end. They got married in September 2016 to which we were invited but unfortunately couldn’t attend! Unbelievable experience made better with unbelievable people!


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