Category Archives: Featured

Rhonda Goes to Bali

Rhonda flies into Bali and becomes romantically entangled with cabana boy Ketut.

Rhonda & KetutIn an ‘AAMI’ car insurance series of ads on Australian television the main character Rhonda saves so much money using AAMI insurance that she is able to afford holidays in the tropical island paradise of Bali, and meet the colourful locals.

In the first of the three videos Rhonda is serviced by a foot masseuse on Kuta beach or thereabouts, who in real life is shockingly not a foot masseuse on Kuta beach, but rumour has it an employee at the Indonesian consulate in the city of Melbourne.


“Rhonda is mine”

In the second video we and Rhonda meet the strappingly handsome example of Balinese manhood Ketut, played by Kadek Marhardika, another happy denizen of the very good and charming in its way city of Melbourne.


“You look so hot today Rhonda. Like a sunrise.”

Finally, Rhonda returns home, with longing memories of Ketut:


“Kiss me Ketut”

The very popular as these things go ad series has generated a 110k Likes Facebook page entitled

The sexual tension between Katut and Rhonda

Rhonda AAMIa thriving t-shirt industry in Bali, a “Rhonda and Ketut: The Musical” parody, and some agonising over the “subtext” of the videos, and issues of the “sexuality and representations of Asian men”.

KetutQuestions raised include

  • Do the ads promote (female) Asian sex tourism?
  • Do the ads suggest only frumpy western women find Asian men attractive?
  • Are the ads forms of neo-colonialist oppression of Indonesians?
  • Are the massage lady and Ketut necessarily portrayed as subservient?
  • And is it all related to the recent research findings suggesting Indonesian men are the most well endowed in all of Asia?

Sleepless in Soekarno-Hatta Airport

Hints and tips for spending the night at Jakarta Airport.

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport, a.k.a. Soetta, has many evening international arrivals and early morning domestic departures. For example:

International Arrivals | Domestic Departures

Turkish Airlines Logo TK67 Istanbul 18:20 | Batavia Air logo Y6-851 Ambon 01:05
Qatar Airlines logo QR670 Doha 22:05 | New Mandala Air icon RI92 Medan 04:30
Emirates Logo EK358 Dubai 22:30 | Lion Air logo JT34 Denpasar 04:30
Cathay Pacific logo CX797 Hong Kong 22:50 | Lion Air logo JT776 Manado 05:00
pAL LOGO PR535 Manila 23:55 | Express Air logo XN800 Sorong 05:00

Some visitors are therefore choosing to spend the night at Jakarta Airport.

This is not just to save money; with jet-lag and the time difference, tourists may not feel tired yet, especially if they slept on their flight.

Here are some choices for how to spend the night at Jakarta Airport.

Rest | Eat | Other Ideas


Rest

Even with jet-lag, some people find it easy to sleep any time, anywhere.

The authoritative guide on the subject, the website Sleeping in Airports, gives a positive review of Jakarta Airport. Having said that, Jakarta Airport is 1 of 12 nominees for Sleeping in Airports’ 2012 Award for the Worst Airport (i.e. most uncomfortable airport for sleeping) in Asia.

If you want to lie down, here are some suggestions:

  • – Do it inside the secure area (i.e. after the security check), which is passengers and staff only. It is safer than the open/public-access areas.
  • – Have your valuables in a place that cannot be accessed or at least not easily.
  • – The inter-terminal bus may not operate very often overnight. Get to the right terminal first before relaxing. You can see which flights depart from which terminal here.
  • – Take the eyemask and/or earplugs from your international flight with you; failing that, have your sunglasses ready.
  • – Reconfirm your flight’s departure time first; there may have been a last-minute schedule change.
  • – Set an alarm on your watch or phone, so you don’t miss your flight. Don’t forget to set the local time first.

Alternately, Plan B is to book a room at a nearby hotel. Many of them include free airport transfers upon request.

Eat

If you have a severe case of the munchies or your domestic flight does not include food, the following restaurants are available:

McDonalds LogoAs well as the usual assortment of burgers and fries, the Indonesian version of the Golden Arches also has fried chicken, rice and ice tea… but curiously no thick shakes. Open 24 hours in Terminal 2. Local rival A&W is also available during daylight hours in Terminal 1.

hoka hoka bento logoJapanese fast food chain mixes it up with a wide range of package meals for only a few dollars; it is the cheapest place to get a healthy cooked meal. We recommend the Beef Yakiniku, but it is also good for green tea and fruit juice. Open in Terminal 2.

dunkin donuts logoGood not only for donuts and drinks, DD also does salad rolls called “Boston Sandwich”. Branches are in Terminals 1 and 2 but are not open overnight, so best suited for breakfast.

Please note: Indonesian domestic flights do not have restrictions on liquids, so you can bring a drink with you. While AirAsia forbids its passengers bringing their own food/drinks on board (so they have to buy items from the AirAsia menu), personal experience is they do not enforce it.

Other Ideas

Perdana– Buy a local SIM card (“perdana”) for your phone
This avoids potentially expensive roaming charges. Indonesian SIM cards require the user to register before using it, (in theory) to prevent the phone being used for crime; the shop assistant will help you with this, if you ask them nicely or give them a tip. The most popular pre-paid SIM card is Simpati.

– Visit the viewing/observation deck
Ironically, it is one of the few places where you definitely will not be stared at by others. Perfect if you want a bit of quiet/reflection time. The stairs to the deck are to the left of the entrance of Terminal 1A.

ATMs Jakarta Airport Terminal 2– Get some local currency
Some more remote destinations rarely accept credit cards and have few ATMs. As foreign banks charge per transaction, it is usually recommended to take the maximum amount: Rp1 250 000 ($US135) for ATMs that dispense Rp50 000 notes; Rp2 500 000 ($US270) for ATMs that dispense Rp100 000 notes. While ATMs can be found throughout the airport, the greatest concentration can be found in the Departures area (upstairs) in Terminal 2. Don’t forget to set aside some money for airport tax later.

– Use the toilet facilities
Jakarta Airport was recently judged to have the second best airport toilets in the country. So, chances are they are nicer in Jakarta than at your destination. No showers, though.

Jakarta Airport Shuttlebus– Get a free “tour” of the airport on the yellow inter-terminal bus
If you have little else to do, this passes the time in relative comfort.

Have you stayed overnight at Jakarta Airport? What did you do to pass the time? What activities would you recommend to others?

Norway shootings: Anders Behring Breivik

Indonesian non reactions to the killing spree by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway.

There has been little Indonesian reaction to the Norwegian massacre - the most searched for items on Detik's search engine remain mostly old favourites:

  1. SYAHRINI BUGIL
  2. sex
  3. artis bugil
  4. ari wibowo gerayangi pembantu
  5. adegan panas artis
  6. hot telanjang
  7. 081977391381
  8. HYUNDAI I10
  9. kark
  10. mayangsari

Apart from standard official statements; Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said

We are very shocked and dismayed by the incidents in Norway. We condemn the shooting and bombing that have killed civilians. We express deep condolences to the victims, their families, and the Norwegian government

The apparent fact that the killer was on an "anti Muslim crusade" has seemed to excite little interest within the country.

Norway shootings: Anders Behring Breivik is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

The Year of Living Dangerously

Mel Gibson and film "The Year of Living Dangerously", scenes of post-colonial decay and regret at Puncak.

This post is the third of four in a series.
The first is: “Puncak in Ruins, Part 1: Arrival Scene”
The second is: "Puncak in Ruins, Part 2: Lost Detour"

The Year of Living Dangerously (movie poster)

Movie Poster

In the middle of Peter Weir’s 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously, a war romance set in 1965 Indonesia, there is a five minute scene set in Puncak, the mountain resort area just a few hours outside of Jakarta. A young pre-asshole Mel Gibson portrays a naive but ambitious Australian journalist named Guy Hamilton. After he has ruffled feathers in the diplomatic community, pissed off his girlfriend and his photographer, and put himself into danger all for the sake of an espionage scoop, Guy’s only reliable ally left in Indonesia is his driver-assistant Kumar (Filipino actor Bembol Roco). While driving through Puncak Pass, Kumar insists they stop for a late afternoon rest at an old Dutch villa. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the scene in its entirety on youtube)

Tiger Lily stands in the door of the old Dutch villa (screenshot from The Year of Living Dangerously)

Screen Shot: Tiger Lily is a Friend

Screen Shot:  Old Java Now

Screen Shot: Old Java Now

Screen Shot:  Verboden

Screen Shot: Verboden

Screen Shot: Tiger Lily Dives In

Screen Shot: Tiger Lily Dives In

Set against magnificent mountain scenery, the villa itself is dusty and dilapidated, surrounded by dry overgrown weeds. The paint has peeled from the shutters and doors, and the walls are faded and blotchy with cracked plaster patches. Kumar keeps his eyes on Guy who, suddenly suspicious, takes a cautious sip of the cold drink that has just been served. Kumar then leaves him on the terrace: “I’ll see you after siesta… You’re in Old Java now, boss.” Guy looks over to the derelict swimming pool, and Tiger Lily, Kumar’s gorgeous colleague (played by Filipina pop diva Kuh Ledesma), is wearing a bathing suit and standing at the pool’s edge, using an old Dutch sign with the word “Verboden” (forbidden, prohibition, taboo) written on it to gently skim dead leaves off the water. The camera pans out, revealing the entire pool and a backdrop of mountains… Tiger Lily has cleared just enough space from the pool’s littered surface to dive in to what otherwise appears to be filthy water. The contrast between natural and feminine beauty on the one hand, faded and filthy disrepair on the other, is unsettling. When Tiger Lily dives into the pool, we have entered Mary Douglas territory, mixing symbols of purity and danger, pollution and taboo. Guy’s ordinarily helpful assistants in Jakarta, Kumar and Tiger Lily, are suddenly suspect and mysterious, maybe not so trustworthy, in the lonely isolation (for Guy) of “Old Java Now.”

Guy takes his siesta in a guest room so dark and stuffy we can almost smell the rank musty air trapped in the room with him while his body perspires completely. In a potentially erotic dream that turns into a terrifying nightmare, Tiger Lily drowns Guy in the dirty water of the old swimming pool. He wakes up seized with horror, and understands that Kumar and Tiger Lily are actually undercover members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), perhaps collecting intelligence on Guy for the party, which may (or may not) be plotting a coup against the Indonesian army in order to take over Soekarno's government. When Guy confronts him, Kumar does not deny it, but it turns out that he brought Guy up to Puncak in order to safely warn him to stop investigating rumors about an incoming arms shipment, because Guy’s name is already on the PKI’s hit list.

What a terrific idea it was for the screenwriters to stage this revelation amidst colonial ruins, where traces of “Old Java now” create an uncanny atmosphere of creepy horror for the likes of Guy Hamilton. Removed from his familiar clique of expatriate journalists and diplomats in Jakarta, where they socialize in the safe spaces of five-star hotel bars, embassy formals, and social clubs, Guy is suddenly vulnerable up in Puncak, in an old Dutch villa that ironically now serves as a safe space for PKI operatives. The broken remains of Dutch empire, at least 25 years old in 1965 Indonesia, ought to remind Guy and his expatriate friends in Jakarta of what’s at stake if war breaks out. If PKI were to stage a successful coup, their lavish modern lifestyles in Jakarta would surely meet the same fate as this formerly grand old villa at the top of a mountain. [To clarify, the depiction of 1965 Indonesia historical events in The Year of Living Dangerously is generously revised at best, but I’m writing here within parameters set by the story.]

The original novel and the subsequent film were written, directed and produced by Australians. Their story focuses on expatriate journalists and diplomats (mostly Australian and British) in Jakarta; Kumar and Tiger Lily are minor characters. As such, our view of Indonesia in this story is from the privileged expatriate perspective, and that includes our view of the spooky old Dutch villa up in the enchanted Puncak highlands. We’re spooked because the villa in disrepair reminds postcolonial expatriates about what they have lost. From their perspective, postcolonial Indonesians have mismanaged their inheritance, letting a magnificent house fall into such ugly (and, by way of Guy's nightmare, potentially deadly) disrepair.

Apart from some stylized wayang metaphors, an artifice used only to elevate the expatriate heroes and their epic dilemmas, we don’t get much Indonesian perspective in The Year of Living Dangerously. The best we get is from Kumar, still at the villa, when he explains his involvement in the PKI to Guy:  “My country suffers under a great weight of poverty and corruption. Is it wrong to want to change that?” We also learn from Tiger Lily that Kumar’s family business suffers under extortion pressure from the military. And yet there are thousands of "Indonesians" (it was filmed in the Philippines) portrayed throughout the film:  in markets, riots, slums, airports, bars, red light districts, and even at the old Dutch villa where there appears to be a complete household staff. But just as historical events are merely a backdrop, so too are these Indonesian extras in the film. They’re just part of the chaotic postcolonial scenery.

Screen Shot:  Part of the Scenery

Screen Shot: Part of the Scenery

The sublime and ominous qualities of the old Dutch villa depend on keeping the Indonesian people that live and work there silent and in the background. If we learn any details about how Tiger Lily, Kumar and Tiger Lily’s “friend” (the owner) use the villa and support the household staff who maintain it, much less about the staff themselves and the neighbors who pass their days there, then the enchanting spell that surrounds the villa ends because it is no longer a ruin of the past. Instead it becomes a living testament to the present, almost certainly with another kind of history that Guy and his gang would prefer not to acknowledge. Guy’s eerie discomfort rests upon this lack of acknowledgement, the suppression of history, sedimented as remnant traces in the crumbling architecture.

The Puncak scene from The Year of Living Dangerously in its entirety begins at 1:13:

.

To be continued:

“Puncak in Ruins, Part 4: Return to Villa Kota Gardenia” (coming soon)

The Year of Living Dangerously is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Among the Balinese

The Balinese in the late 19th century, their gentle priests; the fear they inspired; their bewildering language; eccentric foreigners among them.

“One of the rajas of Badung who once discussed Van der Tuuk with me said very peculiarly of him; “There is in the whole of Bali only one man who knows and understands Balinese and that man is Gusti Dertik”

from Dr. Julius Jacobs , “Eenigen tijd onder de Baliers”, 1883

So Van der Tuuk had to make preparations to go to Bali. These did not always go smoothly. He wrote on the 3rd of January 1870:

“I have great difficulties with the servants here because the Javanese and Malays of Batavia fear Bali. I have now a servant, a boy of 13 years old, who is honest but rather clumsy. I fear that he will desert me when I depart for Bali. There is a general fear of Bali here.”

But amidst these preparations he did not neglect the study of Balinese in which his knowledge of other Indonesian languages came him in good stead. On 5th May 1870 he wrote:

“I am very busy with Balinese and believe that I will soon master it since Javanese has had a great influence on it.

.........

The Malay of Batavia facilitates for me the study of Balinese. It is remarkable how many Balinese words have remained in that particular dialect of Malay. The original population of Batavia, you know, consisted for the larger part of Balinese who served the VOC as slaves or soldiers. Even the housekeepers of the gentlemen of that pious company were female Balinese slaves. That is why even now the housekeeper of a European is called “njai”. In Bali this “njai” is the usual term with which one addresses, in a friendly way, a young woman of the lowest class; it means “younger sister”.”

Once again he was determined to put his house in an isolated spot where other Europeans would not bother him too much. This spot turned out to be the kampong Baratan, about 3 kms from Boeleleng, where he got himself a bamboo house.

The Balinese made a very favourable impression on him – even more so than the Bataks who had also generally received positive comments from him. He wrote on the 23rd of September 1870:

“Thus far the Balinese please me better than the Bataks. The Brahmins here are very civilized and very gentle. It is a pity that the government does not make more use of them and is here represented by an official who allows the Prince to get away with the most outrageous cruelties.”

On a later occasion he wrote:

“The caste of priests receives great honour here and that is nothing to be amazed about because those priests I know deserve great esteem. They do not know the intrigues of Malay spiritual leaders. I ascribe this phenomenon to their aversion from attempts to convert others to their religion.”

He soon noticed that the study of Balinese required some preliminary study. He wrote on 19th dec. 1870:

“The language here is so mixed with Old Javanese (the so-called Kawi) that one is necessitated to study Kawi literature and clear that up, all the more so because the Balinese does, when he speaks in a refined fashion, not hesitate to use words he only knows from manuscripts. This now requires serious study because we don’t have a Kawi dictionary yet.”

But that the Balinese used Old Javanese when they wanted to cut a fine figure did not mean that they had a real command of the language. Van der Tuuk soon found out that there was a considerable element of humbug here. He wrote:

“Though the Balinese understand more of Kawi than the Javanese do, reading it is with them a matter of faith. They imagine understanding a Kawi text but when you put a difficult bit in front of them they are as cheeky with it as a Jew with some Hebrew text. Their explanations are sometimes preposterous. One can get to know more of it than the most learned Brahmin by reading many manuscripts and reflecting repeatedly on a text and comparing words.”

Though the life there was very monotonous for him he found consolation in his studies and in his dogs, monkeys, chickens, ducks, and other “trifles which turn out to be the core of life”. “The conversation here” he wrote “is not very stimulating. I am generally waffling with the Balinese.”

Among the things that tied him to Bali and that would, as he said, cause him to leave the place with sadness he failed to mention his Balinese housekeeper.

In 1873 there was a big change in his life. The government had proposed that he would enter into its service and thus leave that of the Bible society. Van der Tuuk’s main reason for accepting this proposal seems to have been the requirement of that society that he would, here too, work on a translation of the bible. The linguist felt that with the then state of knowledge about Kawi and Balinese that would be entirely premature – and that from that point of view the Society was wasting its money on him. His reluctance to start on a translation of the Bible in Balinese was not entirely of a linguistic nature. Over time he had become more and more anti-Christian. So he left the Bible Society, acknowledging that, though he was not exactly known for his orthodoxy in religious matters, it had always treated him decently.

His workload did however not become any lighter.

At a late stage, in 1884, he wrote to his linguistic colleague, Brandes:

“It is true, I have gathered a lot here, but had to leave even more unexplained in my dictionary since the Balinese translations contradict each other, when difficult bits of text are involved, in a horrendous fashion. If I had known what a muddle we have here I would have preferred to stay in the Lampongs.”

About ten years earlier, in 1873, he had written:

“One has of the study of these languages the wrong idea in Europe … Not only that these languages are very rich they also have peculiarities that a European never gets to know. I merely draw your attention here to Malay in which no European can decently express himself, and yet we have practiced this language for centuries… the ignorant fiction that it can be easily learned still holds sway until today …”

I would like to comment here as an aside that, though Van der Tuuk is mainly known for his study of Batak, Kawi and Balinese, he has also contributed to the study of the Lampong language, Sundanese and Malay. About this latter contribution a fellow scholar of Malay (C. Grijns) wrote in 1996:

“I can only express my admiration for his remarkable contribution to the development of the study of Malay, besides his major work on Batak and Balinese, and much else besides. In particular the way he dealt with manuscript materials, his lexicographic acuteness, and his unrelenting struggle to come to terms with all varieties of written Malay that did not meet the standard he had set for the purity of Malay are worthy of our praise.”


What was his domestic life like amidst all this scholarly endeavour? Dr. Jacobs, a medical officer in the Dutch navy, who has been quoted above, visited him in 1881. He wrote:

“His furniture consists only of the strictly necessary. One looks in vain there for an easy chair, an impressive desk or couches. On the contrary, his whole house is, from the front to the back, occupied by his extensive library. On the floor, on chairs, tables, boxes and shelves are lying voluminous folios, old manuscripts and lontar leaves with script, in an ungainly chaos through each other and it is amazing that from this chaotic collection he can retrieve so quickly the desired item. …

You would believe that one is dealing here with a disagreeable person, not fitting in society, a real bookworm, but you would be wrong dear reader. He is busy from early morning until sometimes to the depth of night with his studies, only interrupted for a moment by people from all layers of Balinese society who want to consult him on a juridical matter or a sickness, and all of whom he helps very willingly. But when you visit him the scholar disappears as if by magic and he changes into a jolly student, whose acquaintance nobody who had the advantage of meeting him will regret.”

Europeans in Bali saw a visit to the ‘eccentric” Van der Tuuk as a bit of a lark, good to relieve the boredom of colonial society. They had to put up with chairs with layers of dust and glasses for drinks that they wiped surreptitiously but Van der Tuuk was a generous and entertaining host. Privately he had a dim view of these occasions but apparently he was good at hiding this.

Occasionally he got guests who stayed for longer periods. The linguist Brandes, who after his death would prepare his Kawi-Balinese-Dutch dictionary for publication was one of them.

Rouffaer wrote many years later, in 1909:

“Brandes stayed with Van der Tuuk for four weeks. He came back as only half a person … he needed a full three years … to bring Van der Tuuk’s dietary laws into harmony with both his phonetic laws.”

The master himself did not escape the consequences of his lack of hygiene and his peculiar diet. Throughout his stay in the Indies he suffered, off and on, of dysentery to which he finally succumbed in the military hospital in Surabaya in 1894.

After his death the government requested Brandes to prepare his dictionary for publication. The first volume appeared in 1897, the second in 1899, and the third in 1900, the fourth and last part was published, after Brandes death in 1905, by Dr.Rinkes in 1912.

The whole seems to be a source book rather than a regular dictionary and now has also literary-historical value because many bits of quoted text originate either in manuscripts that have disappeared or that have remained unpublished.

Finally a peculiar detail about his estate. Van der Tuuk had never made much money. When he worked with the Bible Society his salary was very modest. The government paid him more generously but gave him, after all, only a civil service salary. Yet such was his frugal lifestyle that his estate amounted to about 135.000 guilders which I guess to be the equivalent of three quarters of a million Euros today. The value of his bamboo house was estimated to be … ten guilders.

And signs of Van der Tuuk the eccentric could also be found in his estate. It counted two donkeys, the beginning of a planned large herd of these beasts that he deemed far more suitable to Balinese circumstances than horses. He desired to receive a subsidy for creating such a herd and annoyed the Director of the Department of Education and Religious Affairs no end by inserting his requests for this in his quarterly and annual reports. When it was pointed out to him that these donkey matters did not belong in a linguistic report he annoyed that Director some more by addressing him in writing as the Director of Popular Deception and Affairs of the Hereafter.


Sources:

I drew for this series on:

  • C.Grijns (1996), “Van der Tuuk and the study of Malay” in Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. Vol. 152 Iss.3;
  • R. Nieuwenhuys (1959), “ Van der Tuuk, taalgeleerde en zonderling” in Tussen Twee Vaderlanden, Amsterdam;
  • R.Nieuwenhuys (1962), De pen in gal gedoopt: een keuze uit brieven en documenten van Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk, Amsterdam.

The translation of the letter fragments is mine.

Among the Balinese is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Take to the Sky

A new airline called Sky Aviation (motto "Welcome to our Sky") recently commenced flights to several cities in Sumatra (including the Riau Islands and Bangka Belitung), Java and Bali.

It seems Sky Aviation has a small budget for marketing; the author has only seen one advertisement in a small regional newspaper (below), so probably few people have heard of them.

Sky Aviation advertisement
A rare advertisement for Sky Aviation

On a lighter note, it doesn't help that some Wikipedia airport pages have links for Sky Aviation pointing to a similarly-named airline in Sierra Leone, a small West African country.

This is a pity because Sky Aviation have some very useful flights to/from remote areas. Sky's other flights reduce travel times for people who need to get around in a hurry, and increase comfort for people who do not wish to e.g. bump along in a bus on poor quality roads.


Where | When | How


WHERE

Sky Aviation has hub airports in Surabaya (East Java), Palembang (South Sumatra) and Batam (Riau Islands, near Sumatra and next to Singapore).

Sky Aviation Route Map

Some of these cities are quite small, with few or no other commercial flights. Therefore, each destination city's province is included in brackets.

HUB AIRPORT DESTINATIONS
Surabaya (East Java) Bandarlampung (Lampung), Bandung (West Java), Banyuwangi (East Java), Denpasar (Bali), Solo (Central Java)
Batam
(Riau Islands)
Dabo Singkep (Riau Islands), Dumai (North Sumatra), Matak/Natuna Islands (Riau Islands), Pangkal Pinang (Bangka Belitung), Rengat (Riau), Tanjung Pinang/Bintan (Riau Islands)
Palembang (South Sumatra) Bandarlampung (Lampung), Bengkulu (Bengkulu), Jambi (Jambi), Kerinci (Jambi), Lebuk Langgur (South Sumatra), Pangkal Pinang (Bangka Belitung), Pekanbaru (Riau), Tanjung Pandan (Bangka Belitung)

But rather than just give a list of cities, here are some reasons why to visit some of these destinations:

Ijen PlateauBanyuwangi (from Denpasar or Surabaya)
Nearest airport to the spectacular views and not-so-spectacular smell of Ijen Plateau, a moonscape-like volcano with an aqua-coloured lake and a sulphur vent. It is a regular stop on the Jakarta to Bali tourist trail, and many like to make the 90 minute hike up the mountain in time for sunrise.

Mount KerinciKerinci (from Palembang or Jambi)
One for the serious trekkers, Indonesia's Mt Kerinci (3800m) is Indonesia's tallest active volcano. If you want to save your energy for the trail and not use it up on many hours of slow and crowded buses, this is an option worth considering.

Panjang BeachBengkulu (from Palembang)
Indonesia's remote Sumatran capital is hoping to foster an increase in tourism with improved accommodation facilities at the nearby Panjang Beach. You can read an interesting review here.


WHEN

Sky Aviation's flight schedule in Java can be viewed on the full-size version of the advertisement above.

Sky Aviation Schedule
Sky Aviation's flight schedule in Pangkal Pinang

For other destinations, you can view Sky Aviation's online flight schedule here. It is in English and Indonesian; curiously, it only lists departure times, not arrival times.


HOW

Sky Aviation currently uses mostly Fokker 50 aircraft, but have also recently ordered 12 Sukhoi Superjets.

Their free checked baggage allowance is 15 kg. They offer e-ticketing but not online booking. One way fares from e.g. Surabaya to Banyuwangi start at $US40.


If you would like to book a flight on Sky Aviation, please fill in a enquiry form here.

Take to the Sky is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Beer & Baconless: Mr Bule Flees Ramadan

As the holy month looms an Australian journalist plans his escape from the restrictions and impositions of Ramadhan and its aftermath.

In "WHY I'LL QUIT INDONESIA DURING RAMADAN" long time writer for the Jakarta Post newspaper Duncan Graham tells of his plans to make a temporary exit from his second home during the Muslim fasting month.

Duncan Graham in Indonesia
Duncan and friend

While stressing that foreigners need to adjust themselves to the customs they find in Indonesia, just as, he says, Muslim immigrants to secular countries should do the same and not:

slaughter goats in the backyard, take on extra wives or circumcise their daughters.

Duncan says he finds aspects of life during the holy month too much to bear, like:

Empty Shop Shelves

Duncan's favourite liquor - Anker stout - vanishes from the shop shelves not just during Ramadan, but

the [Malang, East Java] town council ordered all shops to remove grog during the month before the holy month lest the sight of a shelf of grog inflame devout shoppers.

thus cruelly thwarting his plans to stock up.

Products of the swine as well seem to disappear from the shops, and bulk buying of bacon beforehand is ill advised as:

my sister-in-law used to be employed re-dating expired goods, like dairy products.

Noise

Provided you live far enough away from the nearest place of contemplation the cacophony from mosque loudspeakers has likely become part of the background noise of life, however Duncan says during Ramadan a fresh and mobile auditory assault is made when:

loud-speaker vans cruise the suburbs telling people to pray and breakfast at 3.30 am.

Fireworks during the fasting month are another annoyance he says

as unannounced bangs like gunshots at all hours is too much for anyone conscious that frustrated fundamentalists are still cruising the nation’s streets.

General Unpleasantness

People become grumpy during Ramadan, he says, due to the heat, hunger and thirst (entirely understandably he points out); office and shop staff become lazy.

Road Chaos

Due to the general grumpiness as above road users become more prone to road rage, and, at the end of Ramadan when folks mudik to their villages the roads become horribly congested, while many drivers/motorcyclists are weary and overloaded, so it's too dangerous to venture out.


When considering where to flee from these annoyances and dangers some thought was given to a Christian area like North Sulawesi - where Duncan's lovely wife and author of a guide for Indonesian women on snaring a western man (How to Catch Mr Bule) hails from - but that is no good either, as the churches there have begun imitating the mosques he says, loudly blaring reminders of the obligations that Sundays bring for Christians.

So

farewell to the Republic for a while.

Duncan is overseas bound, to Australia or New Zealand presumably, and Islam will have to do without him for a month at least, he ends, saying

we’re heading south to where the laws on noise pollution are policed and minorities’ views given some consideration, however scant.

Beer & Baconless: Mr Bule Flees Ramadan is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Puncak in Ruins

A photographic tour of the modern ruins of Villa Kota Gardenia at Puncak with evocations of Dieng and the ancient world.

“there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” —  Walter Benjamin

Villa Kota Gardenia entrance sign

Villa Kota Gardenia entrance sign

Driving through Puncak Pass in the mountain resort area of Cianjur in West Java, Dezant and I pulled over into a large abandoned lot with broken oddly-shaped buildings to wait for the other cars in the family caravan to catch up. The family of Dezant’s brother-in-law owns a Puncak villa, and they let Dezant’s entire family use it for the weekend to celebrate his sister’s birthday.  We called his brother-in-law to confirm the location—a development called “Villa Kota Gardenia”—only to discover that the apparently abandoned lot where we parked was Villa Kota Gardenia’s main entrance.

Villa Kota Gardenia Main Entrance

Villa Kota Gardenia Main Entrance

.

The entire complex—overgrown, desolate, wrecked—looks like it was built in the late 1970s and without any maintenance since the early 1980s. I don’t actually think Kota Gardenia was built in the 1970s, but the security post—a swirling abstract two-story catastrophe—and the administrative and recreational buildings behind and off to the side have a tasteless grandeur reminiscent of the era. A wide and weedy circular boulevard leads up to a dense patchwork grid of villas, but from the entrance the villas remains entirely hidden behind a line of trees, leaving nothing to suggest signs of habitation.

Villa Kota Gardenia:  Administrative or Recreational Building Villa Kota Gardenia: Administrative or Recreational Building Entrance

Villa Kota Gardenia:  ???

I’m writing about the architectural ruins we found at Villa Kota Gardenia because I found myself gripped by their terrible eeriness. I explored the whole complex; Dezant took pictures. I will describe in a future post (“Puncak in Ruins, Part 4”) what we found among the actual residential villas behind the trees—an absolute show-stopper—because that deserves a separate discussion of its own. For the final images in this arrival scene near Villa Kota Gardenia’s main entrance, here is the stagnant scummy swimming pool we discovered next to the recreation building:

Villa Kota Gardenia:  Swimming Pool with Sunken Bar

Villa Kota Gardenia: Swimming Pool with Sunken Bar

Villa Kota Gardenia: Overgrown Archway Entrance to Pool

Villa Kota Gardenia: Overgrown Archway Entrance to Pool

Although the ruins we “discovered” at Kota Gardenia felt disturbing and even a little menacing, I was compelled to explore them with the same interest that I would explore the ancient Hindu shrines at Dieng Plateau or the Greek and Roman temples at Paestum. Ruins are good to think with, material fragments that signify loss and evoke absence. Aestheticized objects for contemplation, ruins stimulate the imagination to fabricate histories and memories, monumental achievements and colossal failures, inspirations for living and whispers of death, to fill in the blanks.** Ruins generate nostalgia, an uncanny sense, for something one has never known. There is something incredibly uncanny about the Kota Gardenia ruins that itches me. So far, I only have recourse to two associative resemblances from popular film with which to scratch it.

To be continued:

"Puncak in Ruins, Part 2:  Lost Detour" (coming soon)

"Puncak in Ruins, Part 3:  The Year of Living Dangerously" (coming soon)

"Puncak in Ruins, Part 4:  Return to Villa Kota Gardenia" (coming soon)

** Dirks, N.B. 1998, In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century, in In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 1-18.

Puncak in Ruins is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Puncak in Ruins

A photographic tour of the modern ruins of Villa Kota Gardenia at Puncak with evocations of Dieng and the ancient world.

“there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” —  Walter Benjamin

Villa Kota Gardenia entrance sign

Villa Kota Gardenia entrance sign

Driving through Puncak Pass in the mountain resort area of Cianjur in West Java, Dezant and I pulled over into a large abandoned lot with broken oddly-shaped buildings to wait for the other cars in the family caravan to catch up. The family of Dezant’s brother-in-law owns a Puncak villa, and they let Dezant’s entire family use it for the weekend to celebrate his sister’s birthday.  We called his brother-in-law to confirm the location—a development called “Villa Kota Gardenia”—only to discover that the apparently abandoned lot where we parked was Villa Kota Gardenia’s main entrance.

Villa Kota Gardenia Main Entrance

Villa Kota Gardenia Main Entrance

.

The entire complex—overgrown, desolate, wrecked—looks like it was built in the late 1970s and without any maintenance since the early 1980s. I don’t actually think Kota Gardenia was built in the 1970s, but the security post—a swirling abstract two-story catastrophe—and the administrative and recreational buildings behind and off to the side have a tasteless grandeur reminiscent of the era. A wide and weedy circular boulevard leads up to a dense patchwork grid of villas, but from the entrance the villas remains entirely hidden behind a line of trees, leaving nothing to suggest signs of habitation.

Villa Kota Gardenia:  Administrative or Recreational Building Villa Kota Gardenia: Administrative or Recreational Building Entrance

Villa Kota Gardenia:  ???

I’m writing about the architectural ruins we found at Villa Kota Gardenia because I found myself gripped by their terrible eeriness. I explored the whole complex; Dezant took pictures. I will describe in a future post (“Puncak in Ruins, Part 4”) what we found among the actual residential villas behind the trees—an absolute show-stopper—because that deserves a separate discussion of its own. For the final images in this arrival scene near Villa Kota Gardenia’s main entrance, here is the stagnant scummy swimming pool we discovered next to the recreation building:

Villa Kota Gardenia:  Swimming Pool with Sunken Bar

Villa Kota Gardenia: Swimming Pool with Sunken Bar

Villa Kota Gardenia: Overgrown Archway Entrance to Pool

Villa Kota Gardenia: Overgrown Archway Entrance to Pool

Although the ruins we “discovered” at Kota Gardenia felt disturbing and even a little menacing, I was compelled to explore them with the same interest that I would explore the ancient Hindu shrines at Dieng Plateau or the Greek and Roman temples at Paestum. Ruins are good to think with, material fragments that signify loss and evoke absence. Aestheticized objects for contemplation, ruins stimulate the imagination to fabricate histories and memories, monumental achievements and colossal failures, inspirations for living and whispers of death, to fill in the blanks.** Ruins generate nostalgia, an uncanny sense, for something one has never known. There is something incredibly uncanny about the Kota Gardenia ruins that itches me. So far, I only have recourse to two associative resemblances from popular film with which to scratch it.

To be continued:

"Puncak in Ruins, Part 2:  Lost Detour" (coming soon)

"Puncak in Ruins, Part 3:  The Year of Living Dangerously" (coming soon)

"Puncak in Ruins, Part 4:  Return to Villa Kota Gardenia" (coming soon)

** Dirks, N.B. 1998, In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century, in In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 1-18.

Puncak in Ruins is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Rupiah For Visitors

Chris explains how to get some local Indonesian money quickly and safely.

Visitors to Indonesia can have difficulty getting some local currency before or soon after they arrive, especially if transiting Jakarta Airport and needing some money fast for airport tax, or taking a Jakarta or Bali airport taxi.

This is intended to be a guide for first-timers. You can read it all or just the relevant section:

  1. Indonesian Currency 101
  2. The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs
  3. How To Know A Good (and a Bad/Dodgy) Moneychanger


Indonesian Currency 101

The currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah, usually marked as Rp or IDR. Indonesia is still very much a cash-based society, and credit cards are still not accepted in many places.

Coins start at Rp100 up to Rp500 (click on image for full-size):

Rupiah Coins

A bronze Rp500 is slowly disappearing. There is also now a new Rp1000 coin:

Rp1000 coin

It may eventually replace the Rp1000 banknote, though at the moment it is relatively rare.

Banknotes come in denominations of Rp1000 up to Rp100 000:

IDR Banknotes



The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs

JUST THE FACTS
Almost all Indonesian ATMs are connected to the Maestro/Cirrus network, and provide the choice of English or Indonesian instructions.

Rp50 000 banknote Rp100 000 banknote

Most ATMs dispense Rp50 000 notes (about $US6), although some give Rp100 000 (about $US12) notes. It is usually marked whether it is Rp50 000 or Rp100 000. If possible, avoid the latter unless you are e.g. about to buy something expensive.

If you want to minimise transaction fees, get the maximum amount: Rp1 250 000 ($US140) for the Rp50 000 ATMs, Rp2 500 000 ($US280) for the Rp100 000 ATMs.

BRI Logo

In regional and remote areas, the most common bank is BRI (pronounced "BAY UR EEE"), but not all branches have ATMs.

Rp20 000 banknote

In smaller cities, you might also find an ATM that dispenses Rp20 000 notes, up to a maximum of Rp500 000 ($US60) per transaction.

Please note:

1. Some new ATMs now eject the ATM card before the cash. Make sure you take the ATM card as soon as it comes out; after 15 seconds, the ATM (assumes you have forgotten to take it and) sucks the card back in to stop somebody else stealing it, and then you need to get the machine opened. At a bank, no problem; at a e.g. shopping mall or airport, that could be difficult.

2. ATMs in tourist areas do run out of money, especially during and around Indonesian public holidays. It's best to prepare an emergency supply of cash.

WHICH AIRPORT ATM?
Newly arrived visitors might need to get some cash in a hurry, especially for a taxi fare (if staying in Jakarta) or airport tax (if transiting Jakarta). Having said that, they also value their safety and privacy. Which airport ATM is the most suitable?

ATMs in the secure area of the International Terminal arrivals hall are the most useful because they are in a secure area and usually there are very few people using them.

CBA ATMCommonwealth Bank Indonesia has an ATM in the international terminal arrivals hall of both Jakarta and Denpasar/Bali Airports. This is especially useful for Australians who have an account with Commonwealth Bank Australia, because CBI ATMs in Indonesia have a lower transaction fee for CBA account holders.

Here is some additional airport-specific guidance for Indonesia's three most popular international airports:

JAKARTA (CGK)
ATMs Jakarta Airport Terminal 2In the past, Indonesians and foreign residents had to pay a departure tax called "fiskal" of Rp2 500 000 per person. So inside the Departures area (upstairs from Arrivals) of the international Terminal 2 near the secure entrance, there are a large collection of ATMs - see right. You could stop in there on the way to the inter-terminal bus stop if you are changing terminals.

DENPASAR/BALI (DPS)
ATMs aren't in one central area but are dotted throughout the airport in both the domestic and international terminals. If arriving at night, choose one that has a security camera, is well-lit and isn't surrounded by locals offering transport/taxi rides.

SURABAYA (SUB)
Like in a shopping mall, there is an "ATM Mall" between the domestic and international terminals, below the viewing deck and near Dunkin Donuts. You can make a short pitstop in there when you are changing terminals.



How To Spot A Good (and a Bad/Dodgy) Moneychanger

1. Know Your Stuff and Your Currency
The value of the currency does fluctuate, so it's always a good idea to check the exchange rates.

BI Exchange Rates Bank Danamon

Places you do this independently include the Bank Indonesia webpage (above left) and a local bank with rates clearly posted on its webpage, e.g. Bank Danamon (above right).

If you're a more visual person, Bank Indonesia also does graphs. Here is the one for € / Euros:

IDR / EUR

They also do many other currencies. Choose the one you want:

$US / USD | $A / AUD | ¥ / YEN | £ / GBP | Fr / CHF | $S / SGD | RM / MYR
Other currencies

Or if you're offline, Indonesia's English newspaper The Jakarta Post is there to help you. Turn to page 14 (inside front page of the Business section) and they have rates for banknotes and telegraphic transfers.

In general, the rate of a good moneychanger should be a little below the banknotes buy rate. Like with managed investment schemes, if the rate seems to too good to be true, it is - the moneychanger is likely to be dodgy.

2. Work Out What You Should Get
The easy part is using your mobile/cellular phone's calculator to work out how much you should get.

The trickier part is working out what that will look like in Indonesian Rupiah:

IDR Banknotes
Indonesian Rupiah Banknotes

Confusingly, the Rp10 000 and Rp100 000 are a similar colour, and don't have a space, dot or comma before the last three zeroes; it's easy to mix them up.

Rp10 000 banknote Rp100 000 banknote
Not good for the vision impaired

The quickest way to know which is which is to count how many people on the banknote: Rp100 000 has two, Rp10 000 has one.

Rp10 000 banknotes
Old and New

A new design of the Rp10 000 banknote was launched recently with a colour that is more different/contrasting with the Rp100 000 banknote, but to many people it will remain unclear.

3. Survey
Don't be afraid to ask locals or other tourists where they went or where they recommend.

Have a look around. If the rate seems right, take a closer look. Is it often busy with other tourists? If yes, that's a good sign. And if it's an authorized money changer, it should have this sticker on display:

Authorized Money Changer

Please note:

1. Some places e.g. Kuta in Bali have a reputation for bad/dodgy moneychangers. If you are unsure or you cannot find one you trust, use an ATM instead.

2. For reasons never fully explained, foreign currency banknotes must be in pristine condition; no marks, tears or folds. $US banknotes must usually be a new series - 2006 or later.

3. If you had a stopover in a nearby Asian country - e.g. Singapore or Malaysia - and have some local currency leftover, you could use a moneychanger at that airport instead. The larger ones, e.g. American Express at Changi Airport, usually have some Rp50 000 notes.


What have your experiences been getting Indonesian money? Please add your own comments, hints and tips below.

Or if you have a question, please ask.

Rupiah For Visitors is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.