Visiting Indonesia/Malaysia during Ramadan?

At this point, many more people are more aware of Ramadan and what it entails; no eating and no drinking from sunrise to sunset.

The problem is that not everyone knows Ramadan’s massive effect on Muslim-majority countries, such as Malaysia or Indonesia. The latter is mainly on the island of Java.

This post is prompted by a couple of tourists who asked the restaurant staff, “… how much longer?” at the place where we had our iftar (breaking the fast) just now.

This post has no way of criticizing tourists or folks who might not know how Ramadan is in Indonesia and Malaysia. I wrote this post so you, my friends, know what to expect when visiting those two countries during the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. You can read what Ramadan is for more details before we jump to the next section 🙂

Q1. “How do I know that I’m visiting Indonesia/Malaysia during Ramadan?”

Manual way: Grab your calendar, and check if it has “Eid al-Fitr” on it. Note the date of the Eid. Then, check the exact date of the previous month (or roughly 29-31 days before.) Those one whole month right before Eid is Ramadan.

Instant way: Type on Google: “Ramadan 20XX” (the year). The date you get will be the predicted date of the start of Ramadan. “Predicted” because the Islamic calendar is lunar, and it relies on lunar sightings.

Q2. “I’m here in Indonesia/Malaysia, and apparently, it’s Ramadan. I want to grab dinner, and I found EVERYWHERE is packed! What happened?”

Welcome to iftar, a.k.a. The time of breaking the fast. This is what happened to the tourists I saw at Suria KLCC earlier.

During Ramadan, restaurants and cafés usually quiet and empty during the day. However, come afternoon, you will see some places picking up.

In Kuala Lumpur, we usually break our fast at 7:25 PM-ish. Restaurants and cafés start to fill in as early as 6 PM. You would see patrons beginning to sit and order their food.

But wait. They didn’t touch the food, even when it was already served. Why? We are waiting for the iftar.

Once iftar comes — you can hear the sound of azan (call for prayer) — then, and only then, everyone can eat.

So, no. No “how much longer?” Everyone in the restaurant is eating at the same time. You couldn’t expect them to start eating at different times, just like when the restaurant operates regularly.

The tips:

Have a reservation for your spot

During Ramadan, restaurants and cafés are packed during dinnertime. If you must have dinner at restaurants or cafés, plan ahead and reserve the place waaaay earlier. Find the restaurant’s number on Google and call them to book a place, or go to the restaurant/café in the noontime and reserve a table for the evening.

You might notice reservations are unnecessary for restaurants serving pork/lard. Pork/lard is considered haram (forbidden/not allowed) in Islam, so there is a small chance restaurant serving pork/lard will be packed during iftar time. However, it’s good to plan ahead, too, because folks with religions and beliefs outside Islam might think the same as you are, and they decided to visit the restaurant during dinnertime, which resulted in an equally crowded place.

Have an early dinner

This is the more leisurely approach, although it might be tricky for folks with fixed meal times. When we arrived at the restaurant, a couple of patrons had their dinner, and they finished right before the Ramadan crowd poured in.

Ensure you are aware of iftar time to have enough time to eat. You can Google this information or ask the restaurant staff.

Be flexible: Get yourself some meals from convenience store or street food vendors

While this might not be the most glamorous place, this is one of the most surefire ways to get your dinner. Indonesia and Malaysia have many convenience stores; 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, Lawson’s, Alfamart, Indomaret, and millions more options on street food vendors. If you feel adventurous and you have Norit at your disposal, you can grab yourself some local delicacies and eat them on the spot by the street. You can also grab some rice boxes or meal-on-the-go from the convenience store and ask the staff to reheat it.

And most importantly, have fun and enjoy your trip!

Ramadan is one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar. While Ramadan is all about abstaining from eating and drinking during the day, you will see the month’s excitement and festivities shown everywhere. If you are lucky, you could even visit Bazaar Ramadan, where food and beverage vendors sell delicacies and refreshments as early as 4 PM.

This was taken in… … 2017? 2018? Bazaar Ramadan at Datuk Keramat, KL

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