Home (abroad) for the holidays

During the Christmas holidays, I had the pleasure of visiting Indonesia, specifically the capital of Jakarta and the provincial island of Bali. And though I was anxious to reconnect with family members who live in the world’s most populous Muslim country, I was wistful at the thought of missing a traditional New York Christmas back home.

Well, I needn’t have been. From Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to the humblest merchant, everyone got into the spirit of the Christmas season with decorations, music, parties, banners, sales and heartfelt good wishes.

Like the girls in the Cyndi Lauper song, you sense that Indonesia — and Jakarta and Bali in particular — just want to have fun.

Still, this is a developing country. When traveling there, do make sure your immunizations and insurance are up-to-date. I got a tetanus booster and inoculations against hepatitis A and typhoid (none of which are covered by insurance, since travel is considered a luxury).

And don’t even think about driving in Indonesia. (The dearth of stop lights and signs – equaled only by the plethora of mopeds and motorcycles – would daunt Dale Earnhardt Jr. ) Rely on the knowledgeable cabbies instead.

Though many tourists love to visit Bali over the Christmas break, it’s the height of the rainy season and extremely hot and humid. The best time to see Bali, says Per Kredner of the Grand Hyatt Bali, is June through August, during the dry season.

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