Category Archives: Indonesia

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.

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.

Angry Indonesian Cows

Cows and corruption, and another view on the great Cattle Carnage Controversy.

It’s not often but sometimes (shock, horror) the Drum jumps (rolls) to the wrong conclusion.  Like most humans, the Drum was appalled at the treatment of livestock by ignorant cowards (Seriously, how brave do you have to be, to torture a bound and tethered dumb animal) however a recent email caused a bit of a re-think.

We do use the term “most humans’ as some trolling dills and Indonesian Ministers have actually commented that it is all part of an Australian, Western, White conspiracy to impose artificial and unacceptable moral standards on others.  Got news for you plonkers, an arsehole is an arsehole no matter what colour or race you are.  Oh and while on Indonesian Ministers, grab a copy of this week’s tempo, where the poor dear is wilting under pressure from cronies from our favourite “clean” party for special treatment in the very lucrative and dirty frozen meat import trade.  Is there no department that is clean in Indonesia?

Now with the rant out of the way, here’s the email that caused the rethink.

Dear Sir,

I must introduce myself. My name is Scot Braithwaite and my life has basically revolved around live export since I was 10 years old. I was unloading cattle boats in Malaysia at the age of 13. I have worked for all the major cattle companies including as a Head Stockman in the Northern Territory. I have a degree in economics from the Queensland University and I personally have sold more than 1.5 million head of cattle into Indonesia since 1991. I am presently employed as the marketing manager for Wellard rural exports.

I am writing to you after the Monday program to say that although I abhor the treatment of the animals shown in the video, your one sided approach to the subject and the possible effect of that of a ban on live exports is too big a price to pay for a report based on the evidence of an organization that’s charter is to shut us down. I have the following points to make. I would like to have the same time as those who denigrated my life to show you the other side of our industry. To show you what is really going on. In Australia there used to be thing about “A fair Go”. You have gone with images provided by one person followed up by your investigative journalist who spent a week in Indonesia. Your report makes out that close to 100% of Australian cattle are treated as was shown on TV.

1 the ship that appears in the footage “for less than 30 seconds” is a vessel that cost tens of millions of dollars to build. We have had 3 separate media groups sail with this ship and it can in no uncertain terms be described as best in class. The Wellard group has another 3 vessels of the same standard with another 2 being built in China. This is a total investment of 400 million dollars to ensure that livestock exports from Australia are undertaken at the utmost levels of cow comfort and animal welfare.

2 the feedlot that was filmed was given a 10 second view. This feedlot is without a doubt world class. Your viewers should have at least had the opportunity to view large numbers of cattle eating and sleeping comfortably in a fantastic facility. This company has in addition moved to kill all his cattle through stunning system that he has control of. This owner has spent 20 years of his life in the industry, has built his business from nothing, has done all that is required of him from an animal welfare point of view yet your reporter makes no mention of these things.

3 within A 3 HOUR DRIVE OR a 15 Minute helicopter there are another 3 world class facilities. All three feedlots including the one filmed, are at, or better than, what can be found in Australia. The cattle being fed, and the ration being fed, leads to a lot less animal health issues then a similar size operation in Australia.

One of these facilities is operated and owned by a large Australian pastoral house. They had no mention in your supposed unbiased report. The operation is run by a North Queensland man who, through His absolute dedication to excellence has built a feedlot and slaughtering system that his company, the industry and himself can be very proud of. The system is closed, all the cattle are already killed through their own abattoir. They import 20 to 25000 cattle year. They have been doing this for at least 5 years. Why should they be shut down? For what reason could anyone justify closing this operation down, especially without even bothering to look at what goes on.

4 the other world class feedlots that could have been investigated with a 3 hour ride in the car are owned by a large publicly listed Indonesian company. In all, they have on feed 50,000 cattle and import about 120,000 cattle a year. They have recently built an abattoir( the one that was briefly shown on the program) They built this 2 years ago as they knew that modern methods must come to Indonesia and they were willing to make the investment to make it happen.

The total investment from these 3 feedlotters alone in infrastructure and stock is over 100 million dollars. Add to that the hundreds of millions that Wellard have recently invested in ships and do you really believe that these people would leave the final product to a murderous bastard with a blunt knife? They not only have tried to ensure the welfare of the animal but have made investments to make the changes all along the chain. These people deserve to have their side of the story heard. If the system is not perfect, and it isn’t, they have the wherewithal and the incentive to make it happen in a very short time.

These 3 importers who have shown a commitment to everything good about animal production, handle 45 % of total imports.

The other major issue that was not covered was the social responsibility that all feedlotters in Indonesia practice. Their operations are in relatively isolated poor areas; the feedlots provide employment opportunity,  advancement through effort, and a market for thousands of tons of feedstuffs grown for the cattle. My understanding is that 8000 people are directly employed by the feedlots and over 1000000 people are reliant on the regular income made from supplying corn silage and other feedstuffs. This is not made up, it is fact. It can be easily checked. I will bet my 1000000 farmers against the 1000000 signatures on the ban order. It is very easy to sit in your comfortable chair and criticize but is it really worth the human cost to ban something that can be fixed and fixed reasonable quickly?

That is Sumatra.

In JKT there is the largest privately owned abattoir that kills about 4 to 6000 heads a month. It is a well run facility that has no welfare issues. In addition it was working on getting a stun system in place well before the 4 corners report.  No photos from here, yet this is another who has been doing the right thing and who will lose his business if the trade is banned.

The largest Importer in to Jakarta, has also built a slaughter facility in the past 12 months. It has not been commissioned yet but can be made ready within a month. They also have a private bone to pick with the program. AS was not reported in the show, abattoirs in Indonesia are operated by any number of individual ‘Wholesalers”. They control the space and the manpower kills their number for the night and then hand over to the next team. In any one night 8 to 10 separate operators can be using the same facility. In the case of the footage of the head slapping the camera panned to the cattle waiting and the tags of AA, Newcastle Waters and his company were made very prominent. Yes, they were there but the team that handled was different to one being filmed. They protest, that their crews are well trained, no head slapping occurs and very large and sharp knives are used to ensure a bloody but quick end. I have no reason to doubt them because I have seen a lot of their cattle handled at point of slaughter and their crews are well trained with immediate results. Where can their case be heard?

I have watched literally thousands of cattle slaughtered in the boxes in Indonesia. Yes there are problems, as there are at every point of slaughter on every type of animal in the world, but 98% of the cattle I watched killed was quick and without fuss. Why is there not one shot of what happens 98% of the time?  The shots of outright cruelty are totally unacceptable and the slaughter of cattle is still gruesome and confronting but is not as prevalent as portrayed in your report. Yes it does some times happen but it is the exception not the rule. And we are already taking steps to improve the system and we have the ability to ensure all animals are stunned in a very short time.

Yes there are a couple of operators who in the short term will not be able to handle the new way. But they will be dropped, no commitment to stunning, no supply. No negotiation. There are also a number of operators privately owned who were, to all intents and purposes, doing the right thing. They were asked to supply through the boxes and they have. They will be asked to only supply though a stunning FACILITY and they will. They have far too much invested in the whole industry over many years to not do as we ask.

I am asking for a fair go. You have been expertly manipulated. Hear the actual other side of the story let the Australian public see both sides. I am happy to make all the arrangements. This is too important to let sit with the images you portrayed on Monday without recourse.

Scot Braithwaite

Scot makes some very valid points and I guess we do tend to knee jerk first and think later..

 

 

Angry Indonesian Cows 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.

Singapura to Jayapura

Garuda Indonesia commences flights between Makassar and Singapore, aiming to reduce travel times to the remote cities of East Indonesia.

On 1 June 2011, Garuda Indonesia began daily flights between Makassar (a.k.a. Ujung Pandang) and Singapore, using Boeing 737-500 aircraft with a capacity of 96 passengers.

Here is the schedule:

Flight Number Route Departs Arrives
GA848 Makassar to Singapore 15:00 17:50
GA849 Singapore to Makassar 18:50 22:00

It was widely reported that Garuda’a new route is:

in line with the carrier’s plans to develop Makassar as its third domestic hub after Jakarta and Bali, and as a gateway to East Indonesia.

Flights To/From Makassar Newspaper advertisements for Garuda – see right for an excerpt – have also promoted Garuda’s strategy of increasing the number of flights and routes to/from Makassar. The lines in red denote new routes. (Click on the image to see full-size).

Makassar, we have a problem

Yet the new flight’s schedule has an issue: to create a successful hub airport, an airline needs to have good connection times to other flights. In real English, passengers travelling via a hub airport shouldn’t have to wait a long time between their international flight and the connecting domestic flight, or vice versa.

And everyone – Garuda management included – seems to have forgotten this, creating a schedule that either has poor connection times or misses Garuda’s connecting domestic flights all together.

SINGAPORE TO MAKASSAR
The flight from Singapore (or “Singapura” in Bahasa Indonesia) to Makassar arrives at 10pm. By the time visitors have bought a tourist visa and changed terminals, there are virtually no domestic flights to connect to.

The only flight with a good connection is Garuda’s red-eye special overnight flight from Jakarta to Biak and Jayapura, which transits Makassar at 1am.

This means visitors wishing to travel from Singapore to e.g. Gorontalo will have a compulsory overnight stopover in Makassar – incurring the additional expense of a hotel room – before continuing their journey the next day. (It might also be possible to sleep at the airport, but it is not known whether this is permitted, let alone comfortable or safe.)

TorajaTourists also arrive too late for an overnight bus to South Sulawesi’s biggest attraction – Tana Toraja – at the nearby bus terminal, adding a day to their journey too.

MAKASSAR TO SINGAPORE
Once again, only the flight from Jayapura to Makassar connects nicely. Flights from Manado, Kendari, Gorontalo, etc. all arrive too late to connect for passengers to Garuda’s flight to Singapore, and from Ambon far too early.

What is the solution – other airlines?

GOING FROM SINGAPORE TO EAST INDONESIA
Unfortunately, there are very few domestic flights on any airline from Makassar in the middle of the night, only flights to Jayapura or Sorong at 3 or 4am.

You could fly Air Asia to Makassar from Kuala Lumpur instead, but it arrives at 5pm. This is also too late for most connecting domestic flights to East Indonesia, but is at least a more passenger-friendly hour of the day.

RETURNING TO SINGAPORE FROM EAST INDONESIA
However, tourists flying back from East Indonesia to Singapore have more choice: other airlines with better connection times.

Raja AmpatFor example, you can fly Batavia Air to Makassar from Sorong, the nearest airport to the increasingly famous Raja Ampat diving paradise in West Papua.

Airline Flight
Number
Departs
Sorong
Arrives
Makassar
Batavia Air Y6-846 10:20 11:20

togean-islands-sulawesi-indonesiaSimilarly, you could fly Lion Air to Makassar from Gorontalo, where you get the boat to the Togean Islands, Central Sulawesi’s #1 tourist attraction.

Airline Flight
Number
Departs
Gorontalo
Arrives
Makassar
Lion Air JT793 11:05 12:30

You can view the Makassar Airport Wikipedia page for a more general guide of other airlines’ flights to/from Makassar.

Is Garuda’s Hub in Makassar Doomed to Failure?

Some would also argue that Garuda’s strategy of increasing flights from Makassar to East Indonesia has a competitive disadvantage compared to Indonesia’s other government-owned airline:

Merpati Nusantara Airways
Merpati Nusantara Airlines

Merpati’s mission is to serve remote cities/destinations – especially in East Indonesia – and recently moved its headquarters to Makassar. It operates several flights from Makassar that no other airline operates; some of the more useful routes for visitors are Makassar to Kupang (West Timor), Makassar to Maumere (Flores), and Makassar to Yogyakarta direct.

Merpati Unique Flight Map
Useful Routes Only Flown By Merpati Airways

Sometimes, Merpati also receives government subsidies to maintain routes that are necessary (because there are no other air, road or sea links) but unprofitable. Garuda is majority owned by the government, but does not receive government subsidies in this way.

Merpati already operates flights on many of Garuda’s new routes from Makassar to remote cities in East Indonesia. If budget-conscious travellers prefer the cheaper no-frills service of Merpati to the more expensive full-service of Garuda, Garuda’s new flights to/from Makassar may quickly become unprofitable.


In conclusion, for its new Makassar hub to be successful in encouraging more tourists to visit Makassar and its more remote areas in the east of the country, Garuda will need to reconsider and reconfigure its flight times between Makassar and Singapore, along with its domestic connecting flights. Alternately, Garuda could give passengers a free Makassar hotel stay in both directions; however, that is unlikely to happen because it would be prohibitively expensive.

But without any further action, Garuda’s competitors will continue to have an advantage, and Makassar’s “great expectation” (sic) of becoming a successful Garuda hub airport will fail.

visit_makassar_2011


For more information or to make a booking enquiry, please visit the Mau Ke Mana flight booking service.

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Gusti Dertik in Lampung

Van der Tuuk used the time in Holland (1857-1868) to work on the rich material he had brought from the Batak lands. But he had a combatative disposition and got involved in a lot of polemics. His main target was the orientalist Taco Roorda who enjoyed great, and according to Van der Tuuk undeserved, authority in Holland. The linguist thought, among other things, that Roorda’s idea of Javanese as a foundational language from which all other Indonesian languages were derived was nonsense, a judgment with which modern authorities agree.

Van der Tuuk’s own activities received growing appreciation and when a proposed doctorate ‘honoris causa’ in Leiden was prevented by professor Roorda (who must have acutely suffered under his attacks) he got it at the University of Utrecht. His Toba Batak grammar and dictionary were then his main claim to fame and were still spoken of with respect almost a century later.

The linguist Uhlenbeck said in 1956:

“At the end of the 19th century there were an impressive number of dictionaries, grammars and linguistic treatises available … of which a few have not been surpassed until today. I will give here as examples Kleinschmid’s admirable 1851 description of the Eskimo language spoken in Greenland and Van der Tuuk’s equally great achievement: his description of Toba-Batak (1864-1867)”

In 1868 Van der Tuuk returned to the Indies with the idea of going as soon as possible to Bali but an internal war there between two Balinese princes forced him to postpone the journey. The Dutch government asked him to go for the time being to the Lampongs to gather materials about the local language there and he consented, getting, post facto, permission from the Bible society.

In the Lampongs he lived for almost one and a half year far from other Europeans, wandering, mainly on foot, from place to place or living in primitive dwellings. He had long been convinced that there is no other way to learn a language well than being on the most intimate terms with its native speakers. He wrote about this to an old study friend when he was still in Holland (1866):

“To learn a language well one has to be on familiar terms with the people, and this is with some nations only possible by adopting their religion. And exactly this would, by a Society that is based on bigotry, be charged to someone as a mortal sin. I do not believe that a European is able to produce a good translation in one of the indigenous languages. Those who have published their translations without being required to do so, like me, were all incompetent. Take the test with someone or other who prides himself on his knowledge of a language. Ask him whether in the language he has studied differences can be expressed as, for example, between “is he ill?” and “would he be ill?” He will, if he belongs to the species that happily translates, cheekily reply that one doesn’t have to be so very particular. And yet all those fine distinctions are made as well in those languages as in ours. In my studies of Batak I have never done anything else than precisely trace those shades of meaning and yet I have to confess that much has remained dark to me. I understood that there was nothing for it then but to denationalize myself and when I dared to propose that to Professor Millies, then an oracle with the Bible Society, and started by saying that I wanted to enter into a Batak marriage, I drew a storm on my head and the answer “that that girl would then have to be baptized first”. This convinced me that with the best will in the world I couldn’t achieve anything. I was after all in the service of a bunch of saints who didn’t care a hoot about studies and speculated on the pockets of pious cheese buyers.”

Well, in the event he achieved quite a lot.

Though he didn’t marry a girl from the Lampongs he was apparently on intimate terms with its people. They were in fact the only people surrounding him.

He wrote in 1868 to the Bible Society:

“ I am very busy with the Lampong language and have gathered a great store of words but still must report about the various pronunciations. There is much to be learned here and any knowledge (?) for me a gold mine. So I am rather happy …

There is not much news from here, unless it is that I find the Lampongs a good people … they remind me of the Bataks, whom I would like to visit again. I don’t lose sight of Bali because I hope to learn there even more than here.”

And in the same year:

“I am sitting here in an open building, right opposite the river Seputik, and surrounded by forest. My dwelling is a house without front – or backdoor, and in the middle part that separates the two miserable dens occupied by myself and my two servants, there is a pipe of burning banana leaves mixed with melted resin, the lamp that has to keep the Sumatran tiger, that lets you hear his hiccupping sound here, away from us.

I am writing this by the light of a small kerosene lamp and am smoking like a steam vessel to keep the insects that, in the rainy season, keep floating on to one, away from me. …

My stay here is of great interest to the Bible society because I have learned here to be alone. I am planning to exile myself from that card playing Indo European community in Bali as well because it takes so much of your time and doesn’t provide any real pleasure. My time here will probably be extended a bit and if not I will be pleased to leave this land of forests, crocodiles, swamps and royal tigers. I don’t want to stay here, because there is almost no literature here, so that I have to get everything orally from natives.”

However, when later he was in Bali flooded with local literature, and the number of variant readings drove him to distraction (particularly when he couldn’t quite make out whether he was dealing with a variant or a writing error), he sometimes wished he had stayed in the Lampongs where the work was so much simpler.

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Have A Holiday!

A list of upcoming Indonesian public holidays, PLUS their implications for travel in Indonesia.

Indonesia has a relatively large number of public holidays, with e.g. New Year holidays for four different religions/calendars. This can be useful to know for visitors planning when to go or when not to go, to know when Indonesian embassies/consulates are closed, or when Indonesian domestic flights and hotels will be cheap or expensive.

Please click on the relevant date for more information:

2 June 2011 | 29 June 2011 | 17 August 2011 | 30-31 August 2011

6 November 2011 | 27 November 2011 | 25 December 2011

1 January 2012 | 23 January 2012 | 4 February 2012 | 23 March 2012

6 April 2012 | 6 May 2012

Please note: All religious holidays except Christmas change dates each year. This page will be updated as the dates of future holidays become known.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Ascension of JesusWhat for? Ascension Day (Ascension of Jesus Christ)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Unless you want to go to Church, very little. Wednesday night and Thursday morning flights may be crowded/expensive with people wanting to take a four day weekend.

(Celebrated on Thursday 17 May in 2012.)

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Ascension of MuhammadWhat for? Isra dan Miraj (Ascension of the Prophet)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Apart from possibly an slightly interrupted night’s sleep, not much. (Muslims celebrate at the local mosque with possibly an all-night prayer vigil, often broadcast on the mosque’s loudspeakers). It is already school holidays in Indonesia then, so it is already high season and many locals will already be on the road. If you are a light sleeper, stay in a room/hotel that isn’t facing/near a mosque.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Indonesia MerdekaWhat for? Indonesia’s Independence Day (When Indonesia declared independence in 1945)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Less than usual this year, because it falls during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. There may be some street parades in Central Jakarta, leading to street closures and disruption of traffic. In other areas, there are only flag-raising ceremonies in schools, government offices, etc, and Indonesian flags everywhere – by law, locals have to display a flag at one’s residence and place of work.

Tuesday 30 – Wednesday 31 August 2011

Idul FitriWhat for? Lebaran / Idul Fitri (the end of the Muslim fasting month, like a Muslim Christmas)

How will it affect my travel plans?
It can have a large impact. If you are in a majority Muslim area, it will be difficult to travel around as many services are closed. Flights, trains and buses are full of people returning to their hometowns. Non-Muslims take advantage of the long break – schools are closed for 1-2 weeks – to have a family vacation. It is usually recommended that visitors to Indonesia either travel in a non-Muslim area (e.g. Eastern Indonesia) or stay in the one area for a few days. Mosque loudspeakers ofter go all night during Ramadan – starting at the beginning of August – so you may want to remember this when choosing a hotel or hotel room.

Sunday 6 November 2011

What for? Idul Adha (the Day of Sacrifice)

Idul AdhaHow will it affect my travel plans?
If you are a vegetarian or animal-lover, stay indoors in the morning when the knives come out and all the animals that have been dotting the roadsides are ceremonially slaughtered, and their meat given to the poor. Otherwise, minimal impact apart from mosque loudspeaker noise overnight the night before. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Islamic New YearWhat for? Muslim New Year

How will it affect my travel plans?
Minimal impact apart from mosque loudspeaker noise overnight the night before. (Muslims celebrate at the local mosque with possibly an all-night prayer vigil, often broadcast on the mosque’s loudspeakers). It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Nativity SceneWhat for? Christmas (birth of Jesus Christ)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Flights to and hotels in popular tourist locations (e.g. Bali) will be full with both local and foreign tourists, and many tourist attractions will be very crowded. It is also the wet season in most parts of Indonesia (but not Ambon), but this rarely means rain all day; it is usually just an afternoon storm. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Sunday 1 January 2012

What for? (Gregorian/Solar) New Year

How will it affect my travel plans?
The day before, it will be difficult to travel in the main streets of some larger cities, which are closed to all vehicles in the afternoon in preparation for parties. Hotel prices tend to increase at this time, too. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Saturday 23 January 2012

Gong Chi Fa ChaiWhat for? Chinese New Year

How will it affect my travel plans?
There may be traffic jams in areas where there are many Chinese Indonesians, e.g. Glodok in North Jakarta, the night before and during the day. Otherwise, any effect will be small.

Friday 4 February 2012

Maulid NabiWhat for? Maulid Nabi, a.k.a. The Prophet’s Birthday.

How will it affect my travel plans?
Minimal impact apart from mosque loudspeaker noise overnight the night before. (Muslims celebrate at the local mosque with possibly an all-night prayer vigil, often broadcast on the mosque’s loudspeakers).

Friday 23 March 2012

NyepiWhat for? Nyepi, a.k.a Hindu New Year, Saka New Year, The Day of Seclusion

How will it affect my travel plans?
It is a day of silence for Hindus, with no noise, work or travel. If you are in Bali, you have to stay indoors. Electricity is turned off in many areas, and the silence is governed by Hindu security guards called “pecalang”. 5-star resorts in e.g. Nusa Dua, Jimbaran Bay and Ubud allow guests to perform outdoor activities within the hotel grounds. Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar is closed for both international and domestic flights from sunset on the day before until sunset on the actual holiday. In other areas, flights will probably just be more expensive with people taking advantage of the long weekend.

Friday 6 April 2012

Good FridayWhat for? Good Friday (there is no holiday for Easter or Easter Monday)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Most likely less than in your home country, as in Indonesia it’s only a 3-day long weekend. Having said that, flights to/from tourists centres in e.g. Bali, Lombok will be full or more expensive than usual.

Sunday 6 May 2012

WaisakWhat for? Waisak, a.k.a. Buddha’s Birthday

How will it affect my travel plans?
Borobudur will be closed for Buddhist temple rituals, otherwise not much as it’s on a weekend. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.


If you have a question about any of the holidays above, please ask with a comment below.

Have A Holiday! 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.