Category Archives: Jakarta

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.

Book & Mail Bombs: Bombs Galore

Lots of bombs going off, and bomb scares; a renewed effort by terrorist gangs or part of the vast conspiracy to divert our attention from real issues.

There have been five or six small bombs, mostly hollowed out “book bombs”, going off since 15th March in Jakarta and surrounds.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla
Ulil Abshar Abdalla

The first target was Ulil Abshar Abdalla of Komunitas Utan Kayu, from the Jaringan Islam Liberal (JIL, Liberal Islam Network), also a figure in the president’s Partai Demokrat.

Ahmad Dhani, flamboyant singer, man’s man, and (once) darling of proseltysing American liberals for his anti-hate stance, was another target.

Other targets have been counter-terrorist policeman Goris Mere, and Yapto Suryosumarno, who is the leader of the secular nationalist oriented thug youth organisation Pemuda Pancasila.

A fifth, small bomb, was found in a residential complex in Cibubur, Bogor, and was set off by police after having been moved to a field.

Since the first five bombs there have been a number of false alarms and fake bombs in places as unlikely as a pizza parlour in Surabaya, with police urging people – Don’t Panic. Today there was a bomb scare in Cilandak, Jakarta, but it seems a hoax.

Borrowing from Treespotter, the mainstream theory is that the targets are all liberal Muslims, or enemies of true Islam, and opponents of militant and violent actions otherwise called by some ‘terrorism‘.

The inevitable non mainstream theory is that it is all a conspiracy to deflect attention from the SBY Shock Horror Wikileaks Scandal, and other national and political problems.

On the first theory, the head of National Antiterror Agency (BNPT) Ansyaad Mbai says its probably “old players” connected to Bali bomber Imam Samudra, who went to the firing squad in 2008, who have managed to recruit fresh blood.

A.C. Manullang
A.C. Manullang

Speaking for the second theory and in direct opposition to Mbai is former state intelligence (Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN)) chief A.C. Manullang, who says that the bombs are part of a sinister “grand strategy” to paint Islam as violent. The terrorists are working hand in hand with intelligence agencies, to carry out a program of “deception intelligence”, he says, and the only matter of interest is who is behind it all and who is the sponsor.

This incidentally is what Manullang always says regarding terrorism issues; at other times he has said the United States uses the terrorism/Al Qaeda issue as an excuse to invade countries and further its grand design – “globalisation”.

Book & Mail Bombs: Bombs Galore 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.

World’s Most Liveable Cities

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s World’s Most Livable City list is out, the report costs $500 so I haven’t seen the full list but it seems that Jakarta placed 125th out of 140 – no surprises there, although at least in this list it is not in the top ten worst.

The criteria that the Economist relies on appear to be:

  • Stability
  • Healthcare
  • Culture and environment
  • Education
  • Infrastructure

Probably we should start at the bottom to reassure ourselves, here is the bottom ten:

  • Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Dhaka , Bangladesh
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Lagos, Nigeria
  • Algiers , Algeria
  • Karachi, Pakistan
  • Douala, Cameroon
  • Tehran, Iran
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka

It appears only Jakarta was surveyed, not Surabaya, Medan (the worst city ever according to a ridiculous Australian journalist ), etc.

For further comparison, the top Asian city was Osaka at number 12, then the Japanese capital Tokyo, at 18. Hong Kong at 31, then Singapore (55), Taipei (64), Beijing (72), Kuala Lumpur (78), Bangkok (101), Hanoi (123).

And top ten, dominated by Anglophone Canada and Australia plus New Zealand; however the mother country’s capital London came in at a dismal 53rd.

  1. Vancouver, Canada
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. Vienna, Austria
  4. Toronto, Canada
  5. Calgary, Canada
  6. Helsinki, Finland
  7. Sydney, Australia
  8. Perth, Australia
  9. Adelaide, Australia
  10. Auckland, New Zealand

The best ranked US city was Pittsburgh at 29th.

A map of the top ten and bottom ten:

Map of world's most liveable cities

World’s Most Liveable Cities 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 more.

Jakarta’s Cartesian Train

Back in 2007 when Sutiyoso was Governor of Jakarta, a new train commenced operations: the Blue Line. It was a plank of the then Governor’s desire to improve public transport in Jakarta and turn Dukuh Atas into a 5-way transportation hub with busway, monorail, boat, MRT and city/airport train. Unfortunately, today only the busway currently exists, and that had already commenced operations in 2003.

Ciliwung River
Ciliwung River

Three years later, the train still operates but is sadly bereft of passengers, both residents and visitors. KAI have tried reducing the price from Rp5000 to Rp3500, to no avail.

Curiously, KAI also renamed the train to KA Ciliwung, a very brown river that runs through Jakarta (or over it when it floods) and that you can smell before you see.

What would be a more suitable name? Here are some ideas:

Norwegian Fjord
A Norwegian fjord

1. Jakarta In A Nutshell

This name is inspired by the famous Norway In A Nutshell day-trip from Bergen or Oslo, designed for those who want to see a few fjords, and don’t have the time/money to head further north and see more remote ones.

Similarly, KA Ciliwung does a one-hour tour of the best and worst of Jakarta. On the good side, you can get a bird’s eye view of tourist attractions in Jakarta (e.g. the theme parks at Ancol) and new/modern infrastructure; the eagle-eyed might also be able to spot some historical landmarks, like the only remaining Dutch drawbridge in Kota, North Jakarta. You can also get a perspective on the daily struggles of many of Jakarta’s poor, with a ringside seat to the many surprisingly close rail-side slums and shanty towns. On a lighter note, you can also see some local Indonesian train customs: conductors receiving a small tip from ticketless passengers rather than giving a fine (for a bit of additional income), or other trains having people sitting on the roof despite the overhead power lines.

And you can do all this in air-conditioned comfort for the amazingly low price of Rp3500 (about 40 cents), a fraction of the many Kroner it costs to do the Norway In A Nutshell tour.

"Misteri" Magazine
"Misteri" magazine

2. Jakarta Mystery Train
Like a good ghost story, a few people have heard about it, but nobody really knows where/when to find it. Similarly, Indonesians love a good mystery, and many of Indonesia’s most popular magazines and horror movies plumb the depths of the supernatural and curiously unexplained.

Indeed, few people have heard of the KA Ciliwung train, including staff at the new Jakarta Tourist Information booth in FX Mall on Jl Sudirman and Pt KAI (the Indonesian Railways Management). It rates a small mention on the website here, but clearly hasn’t been updated for a while.

With this name, it might even get some interest from Beatles fans remembering the album “Magical Mystery Tour”.

You could alternately call it the “Jakarta Cartesian Train” as a in-joke, after the famous quote of French philosopher/mathematician Rene Des Cartes “I think therefore I am/exist”. That is, no one knows about it, therefore no one uses it because to all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist/operate. Unfortunately, similar to the Visit Indonesia 2008 slogan the idea would probably be lost on most international visitors, let alone many less than well-read locals.

Melbourne's City Circle Tram
One of Melbourne’s
famous City Circle Trams

3. Jakarta City Circle Train

Like the Melbourne City Circle Tram, it does a clockwise loop around Central Jakarta, starting at Manggarai, then continuing to Sudirman (Dukuh Atas), Karet, Tanah Abang, Duri, Angke, Kampung Bandan, Kemayoran, Senen, Jatinegara and terminating (temporarily) at Manggarai. One loop of the city takes about an hour.

Like in Melbourne, you can board and get off the train at any station; for most visitors, the Sudirman (Dukuh Atas) station would be the closest and easiest to access.

Sudirman Station is walking distance from the Dukuh Atas and Tosari Busway stops, as well as being near the following hotels: Four Seasons, Intercontinental, Hotel Indonesia Kempinski, Grand Hyatt, Nikko, Grand Sahid Jaya, Shangri-La.

Unfortunately, the KA Ciliwung Train leaves Sudirman Station a little less frequently than Melbourne City Circle Trams; there is only one train, and it goes in only one direction: clockwise.

Here is a current timetable:

KA Ciliwung Timetable
KA Ciliwung Timetable for Sudirman Station

The locomotives and carriages aren’t quite as old as Melbourne City Circle Trams, and small signs on the carriages suggests they are imported second-hand from Japan. However, the felt chairs were comfortable, the ride smooth and (unlike inter-city trains) the air conditioning was not set too cold.

Comfortable ride
KA Ciliwung is comfortable for people of all ages and backgrounds

Another difference is Melbourne City Circle Trams have a commentary about:

– The attractions being passed
For example, a voiceover or conductor saying, “On the left, you can see… ” and then giving some historical background to that place. This being Indonesia, however, it is likely that only the positive sites of interest would be highlighted, even though some of the less positive ones might be just as interesting to visitors.

– The name of the stop/station
This would be particularly useful in Jakarta, where many of the train stations have little or no signage.

– Advice on how to visit nearby places of interest
For example, a voiceover or conductor saying at Tanah Abang station, “Get off here for the famous traditional Tanah Abang textile market and the National Textile Museum”.

This would create more interest for foreign and domestic visitors to Jakarta, as well as helping many (especially the less famous) Jakartan tourist attractions.

If you were the President of Pt KAI (Indonesian Railways Management), what would you call this train?

  1. Jakarta In A Nutshell
  2. Jakarta Mystery Train
  3. Jakarta City Circle Train
  4. Other (suggestions welcome)

Please add your vote below.

It would also be interesting to hear the views of others who have also taken this train.

Or if you haven’t yet, why not go try it out?

Jakarta’s Cartesian Train 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 more.

Indonesia Tourism Awards

Tourists polled, their favourite hotels, restaurants, malls, and holiday destinations in Indonesia.

The Indonesia Tourism Awards (ITA) 2010 were announced in early December, the awards organised by the Department of Tourism and SWA business magazine, and not to be confused with intense rivals Indonesia Travel Tourism Awards.


Between 16th August-14th October 2010 1,619 tourists were polled, 1,470 Indonesians and 149 foreigners in 25 towns and regencies, with the results gathered through focus group discussions and questionnaires.

Menbudpar Tourism Awards

The winners:

Areas & Destinations

Area/Regency with best tourist facilities

  1. Bukittinggi, Sumatra
  2. Denpasar, Bali
  3. Toraja, South Sulawesi

Favourite Area/Regency

  1. Denpasar, Bali
  2. Cianjur, West Java
  3. West Lombok

Favourite Destination

  1. Bedugul (Tabanan), Bali
  2. Sanur beach (Badung), Bali
  3. Londa (Toraja), South Sulawesi


Favourite Hotel – 5 star

  1. Shangrila Hotel, Jakarta
  2. Sheraton Hotel, Jakarta
  3. J.W Marriott Hotel, Jakarta

Favourite Hotel – 4 star

  1. Hard Rock Hotel, Bali
  2. Swiss Belhotel Hotel, Jakarta
  3. AryaDuta Hotel, Jakarta

Favourite Hotel – 3 star

  1. Ibis Hotel, Jakarta

Favourite Hotel – Cheap

  1. Legian Village, Bali

No other hotels reached quota for these last two categories.


Favourite Restaurant – Seafood

  1. Bandar Jakarta

Favourite Restaurant – Javanese

  1. Ayam Goreng Mbok Berek

Favourite Restaurant – Sundanese

  1. Kampung Daun

Favourite Restaurant – Padang

  1. Simpang Raya


Favourite Mall – Jakarta

  1. Plaza Senayan

Favourite Mall – Java

  1. Ambarukmo Plasa, Yogyakarta

Favourite Mall – off Java

  1. Panakukang Mall, Makassar


Favourite Airline – Full service

  1. Garuda Indonesia

Favourite Airline – Budget

  1. Lion Air
  2. Air Asia
  3. Batavia Air

Travel Services

Favourite Travel Agency

  1. Panorama

Favourite Taxi Company

  1. Blue Bird

Related Industries

Favourite Spa

  1. Martha Tilaar Salon Day Spa

Favourite Golf Course

  1. Damai Indah Golf

Indonesia Tourism Awards 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 more.

Air Asia’s Expansion

Air Asia’s plan to grow its business in Indonesia and beyond.

The Indonesian branch of Air Asia (a.k.a. Air Asia Indonesia or Indonesian Air Asia) has been in the news a lot recently. Unlike some of its competitors, it has been all good news:

Please click on the story above that interests you, or just scroll down to read them all.

Air Asia to Offer Extra Flights in December and January

Extra FlightsAir Asia is offering extra flights from 17 December 2010 to 23 January 2011 between the following cities:

  • Jakarta and Singapore
  • Jakarta and Denpasar (Bali)
  • Denpasar (Bali) and Perth

See below for flight details:

Flight No From To Depart Arrive Frequency  
QZ 7510 Jakarta Bali 6:20 9:05 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9219 Jakarta Bali 8:25 11:10 Daily Extra Flight
QZ 7512 Jakarta Bali 10:35 13:20 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7514 Jakarta Bali 15:05 17:50 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9210 Jakarta Bali 16:00 18:45 2,4,6 Extra Flight
QZ 7518 Jakarta Bali 16:30 19:15 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9217 Jakarta Bali 17:20 20:05 Daily Extra Flight
QZ 7516 Jakarta Bali 19:20 22:05 Daily Extra Flight
QZ 9218 Bali Jakarta 7:15 8:00 Daily Extra Flight
QZ 7511 Bali Jakarta 9:30 10:10 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9216 Bali Jakarta 11:35 12:20 Daily Extra Flight
QZ 7513 Bali Jakarta 13:45 14:25 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7519 Bali Jakarta 15:25 16:05 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7515 Bali Jakarta 18:15 18:55 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9211 Bali Jakarta 19:20 20:05 2,4,6 Extra Flight
QZ 7517 Bali Jakarta 22:30 23:10 Daily Extra Flight
Note : Departure and arrival times are according to local time zones. 1 = Monday 2 = Tuesday 3 = Wednesday 4 = Thursday 5 = Friday 6 = Saturday 7 = Sunday. Extra flights commences from 17th Dec 2010 – 8th January 2011.
Flight No From To Depart Arrive Frequency  
QZ 8620 Bali Perth 0:30 4:10 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9028 Bali Perth 7:10 10:50 Daily Extra Flight
9 Jan 2011 – 23 Jan 2011
QZ 8622 Bali Perth 9:00 12:40 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 8626 Bali Perth 15:50 19:30 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9022 Bali Perth 20:40 0:20 Daily Extra Flight
17 Dec 2010 – 8 Jan 2011
QZ 9023 Perth Bali 1:00 4:40 Daily Extra Flight
17 Dec 2010 – 8 Jan 2011
QZ 8621 Perth Bali 4:50 8:30 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9029 Perth Bali 11:30 15:10 Daily Extra Flight
9 Jan 2011 – 23 Jan 2011
QZ 8623 Perth Bali 13:20 15:10 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 8627 Perth Bali 20:05 23:45 Daily Regular Flight
Note : Departure and arrival times are according to local time zones.
Flight No From To Depart Arrive Frequency  
QZ 7782 Jakarta Singapore 7:20 10:00 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7788 Jakarta Singapore 9:00 11:40 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7780 Jakarta Singapore 11:20 14:00 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9492 Jakarta Singapore 12:45 15:30 Daily Extra Flight
17 Dec 2010 – 8 Jan 2011
QZ 7784 Jakarta Singapore 14:20 17:00 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7786 Jakarta Singapore 18:55 21:35 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9498 Jakarta Singapore 20:35 23:15 2,4,6 Extra Flight
18 Dec 2010 – 8 Jan 2011
QZ 7783 Singapore Jakarta 10:30 11:10 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7789 Singapore Jakarta 12:05 12:45 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7781 Singapore Jakarta 14:25 15:05 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9493 Singapore Jakarta 16:10 16:55 Daily Extra Flight
17 Dec 2010 – 8 Jan 2011
QZ 7785 Singapore Jakarta 17:45 18:25 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 7787 Singapore Jakarta 22:10 22:50 Daily Regular Flight
QZ 9499 Singapore Jakarta 23:45 0:25 2,4,6 Extra Flight
18 Dec 2010 – 8 Jan 2011
Note : Departure and arrival times are according to local time zones. 1 = Monday 2 = Tuesday 3 = Wednesday 4 = Thursday 5 = Friday 6 = Saturday 7 = Sunday.

Air Asia Simplifies Transit Procedures in Kuala Lumpur

Air Asia X Flight TransferOne way that Air Asia has kept costs down in the past is to not let passengers transiting Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal to transit. This means that passengers must collect their bags, then clear immigration and customs before checking in again for their next destination. It also meant that passengers would have to pay in Malaysian Ringgit for their second flight, which was annoying.

However, this has now changed for some routes. If you are flying to/from an Air Asia long-haul destination (a.k.a. Air Asia X) you will no longer need to do this; you can transit Kuala Lumpur like you would on a normal full-service airline, within reason. For example, the second flight needs to be less than six hours after the arrival of the first flight.

Air Asia X flies to the following cities:

Australia: Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth
China: Chengdu, Hangzhou, Tianjin
England: London
France: Paris (starting 14 February 2011)
India: Delhi, Mumbai
Iran: Tehran
Japan: Tokyo
New Zealand: Christchurch (starting 1 April 2011)
Taiwan: Taipei

For a full explanation of the benefits of Air Asia’s new transit procedures, see here.

New routes: Medan to Hong Kong and Bangkok, Balikpapan to Kuala Lumpur

Air Asia has also been advertising some new routes:

Air Asia X Flight Transfer
Extra Flights on Air Asia to and from Indonesia
Balikpapan Flights to Kuala Lumpur
Medan to Bangkok Flights
Medan to Hong Kong Flights

Indonesian Air Asia to Outgrow its Malaysian Parent?

The CEO of Air Asia, Tony Fernandes, is certainly bullish about the future of its Indonesian subsidiary. Here are sections of a recent interview in the Jakarta Post:

AirAsia Bhd. chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said the carrier’s Indonesian operations may surpass its Malaysian unit, which is now more than three times as big.

The Indonesia business may pass Malaysia in the “not-too-distant future,” Fernandes said Friday in a Bloomberg TV interview in Kuala Lumpur, without elaboration.

However, it still has a long way to go:

Indonesia AirAsia’s passenger number rose 8 percent to 1.1 million in the quarter, according to a statement. The Malaysian operations boosted passenger numbers 12 percent to 4 million, it said.

Air Asia’s Expansion 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 more.

Dewi Persik Topless

The ample bosom of singer Dewi Persik causes another national controversy; Dewi threatened with prison time and an FPI home visit.

Dangdut singer and tabloid celebrity Dewi Persik has been reported to the police by the Islam Defenders’ Front/Front Pembela Islam (FPI) over the circulation on the internet of some “topless” photos.

Dewi Perssik Photo
Dewi Perssik Foto

FPI head man Habib Salim Alatas carried a copy of the photos while visiting Jakarta police headquarters to file the complaint, along with several other risque photos from Dewi’s chequered, drama filled life. Habib said [1]

Apart from reporting it to the police we’re also going to visit her house to ask Dewi to explain herself.

Habib Salim Alatas
The evidence

Meanwhile of the photos which have been in circulation for a month Dewi said they were were taken while she was in the make-up room of Ahmad Dhani‘s studio, and she was just playing up for the camera for fun.

Dewi Persik Topless 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 more.

Indonesia Travel Tourism Awards

The winners of the Indonesia Travel Tourism Awards 2010/2011, as announced at the Ritz-Carlton Pacific Place, Jakarta in late October:


Resorts, Suites, and Villas

Tourist Attractions

  • Best independent spa – Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa
  • Best amusement park – Bali Safari and Marine Park
  • Best theme park – Waterbom Jakarta
  • Travel Agents & Tourism Boards


  • Airline of the year- Garuda Indonesia
  • Best budget airline – Mandala Air
  • Best international airline – Emirates
  • Best online travel portal –
  • Best travel writing – Trinity Traveler
  • Best tourism financing bank – Bank Danamon

  • The judging panel comprised the following people:

    • Sapta Nirwandar (Director General of Marketing, Ministry of Culture and Tourism)
    • Meity Robot (Indonesian Tourism Community)
    • Wuryastuti Sunario (Care Tourism Indonesia)
    • Johnnie Sugianto (Miss Tourism Indonesia Foundation)
    • Roy Sembel (Financial Analyst)
    • Indira Abidin (Public Relations Expert)
    • Enda Nasution (blogger, internet entrepreneur)
    • Demson Goeltom (Director of Pelita Harapan School of Tourism)

    Indonesia Travel Tourism Awards 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 more.

    Lawful Tax Evasion

    Duty/tax-free shopping for tourists is coming to Indonesia, sort of.

    It is now possible to avoid paying tax in Indonesia, not by bribing someone at the Indonesian Tax Office, but legally.

    Gayus Tambahan
    Gayus Tambahan
    He allegedly helped many people avoid paying tax.
    However, this is one scheme he can’t assist on.

    As reported recently in The Jakarta Post, Indonesia is expanding a trial system of duty/tax-refunds for tourists.

    All visitors need to do is:

    1. Go to one of these shops participating in the scheme:

    Stores with “VAT Refund for Tourist”

    Jakarta: Pasaraya Blok M, Sarinah Thamrin, Metro Pondok Indah Mall, Metro Plaza Senayan, Keris Gallery at Terminal 2D’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport, Batik Keris Citraland, Batik Keris Menteng, Batik Keris Pondok Indah Mall 2, Batik Keris Pacific Place, Keris Department Store Menteng, Keris Department Store Puri Indah Mall, Jean Paul Gaultier Plaza Indonesia, Christian Louboutin Plaza Indonesia, Club Monaco Plaza Indonesia, Sogo Plaza Senayan, Sogo Kelapa Gading, Sogo Pondok Indah Mall, Sogo Emporium Pluit, Seibu Grand Indonesia, and Alun-alun Indonesia Grand Indonesia.

    Tangerang: Batik Keris in Supermal Karawaci

    Bali: Batik Keris at Discovery Shopping Mall, UC Silver in Batu Bulan, Gianyar, Mayang Bali in Kuta, Sogo Bali Collection, Sogo Discovery Shopping Mall, Alun-alun Indonesia Nusa Dua, Batik Keris at Ngurah Rai airport, Atlas South Sea Pearl in Sanur, Dewis in Sukawati, Gianyar and Windu Sari in Batu Bulan, Gianyar.

    Two of the many choices

    2. Spend a cool Rp5 million.

    3. Depart Indonesia within 30 days of purchase and reclaim the 10% tax from the registered tax refund counter at Jakarta’s or Bali’s airport, after passing immigration.

    This system has a few limitations and disadvantages compared with e.g. the tax refund for tourists scheme that operates in Singapore:

    – You have to spend a lot more money to qualify for a tax refund.

    Rp5 million is a lot of souvenirs and batik shirts. In Singapore, you have to spend a relatively small $S100, at the current exchange rate about Rp700 000.

    IDR/SGD exchange rate
    The current BI exchange rate for $S1.
    Multiply the figure on the left by 100 to get the current value for $S100 in Rp.

    To work out Rp5 million in other currencies (e.g. $US, €, £, etc) use the Bank Indonesia Exchange Rate calculator.

    – You can only get the refund when leaving Indonesia, and only in Rupiah cash or bank transfer.

    Option A: Indonesian Rupiah Cash         Option B: Bank Transfer

    Receiving Rupiah cash just before you leave the country isn’t much use. You will have two options. Firstly, visiting a moneychanger at the airport (whose exchange rates aren’t great). That assumes the moneychanger has stock of the foreign currency you seek; they may not. Alternately, you could keep it for next time – if there is one.

    In Singapore, there are other options: you can receive a refund directly upon purchase (either as a discount or as a cash refund), or do it via snail mail.

    In addition, Singapore dollars are more widely accepted by moneychangers in the region than Indonesian Rupiah, probably because the currency is more stable.

    As for the bank transfer option, it seems unlikely most foreign visitors are going to brink their bank details. Even if they did, they’re not likely to know e.g. their bank’s SWIFT code.

    – Certain items which could be cheaper in Indonesia than the goods’ destination country (or unique items not available in other countries) are excluded.

    Some of the products on the blacklist include: food, beverages and tobacco products. Also on the “no-fly list” are guns, explosive goods and any materials that are not allowed to be taken into an aircraft. (Side issue: I didn’t know you could bring guns and explosive goods on an aircraft in Indonesia).

    Sorry, you cannot claim a tax refund on this item

    So, the question is this: Do you think that with these limitations the tax refund for tourists scheme is a waste of time/money? (In the first six months, there were only 46 claims, totalling Rp41 million).

    Please add your vote “YES” or “NO”, preferably with a reason. Other comments are also welcome.

    Lawful Tax Evasion 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 more.

    Let There Be Rock.. and cigarettes

    Java Rockin Land

    Jakarta rock fans, rejoice!

    You have been starved of major international rock acts in recent acts due to overzealous travel warnings and low album sales (a consequence of rampant piracy).

    But now there’s a 3-day festival to enjoy, the Gudang Garam InterMusic Java Rockin’ Land 2010, Carnaval Beach in Ancol, North Jakarta, 8-10 October.

    Headline acts include:




    Smashing Pumpkins
    Smashing Pumpkins

    Dashboard ConfessionalDashboard Confessional

    The Vines
    The Vines

    You can see the full line-up here, which includes local acts Slank, Renny Djayusman and Merah Putih Band, Oppie Andaresta & BOP, Mobilderek, and the Brandals.

    Mellon Collie

    This author is particularly interested to see The Smashing Pumpkins. Back in their 1990s heyday, the Pumpkins had the biggest-selling rock double-album of all time, eclipsing even Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.

    Unfortunately, their subsequent dabblings in drugs, line-up changes, electronic music, battles with music labels and band management, more line-up changes, side projects, and still more line-up changes have resulted in them falling off the radar in recent years.

    Wolfmother are also playing, after cancelling over the event’s sponsorship by cigarette company Gudang Garam, then changing their minds.

    Andrew Stockdale

    Earlier this week, Wolfmother frontman Andrew Stockdale (right) said he didn’t want:

    the tobacco industry’s money to line (his) pockets

    Only to feel differently the next day:

    This one is for the fans in Indonesia who have parted with their very own cold hard cash to see Wolfmother. We realise their (sic) are sponsors and we neither support or condemn the sponsors affiliated with the festival.

    Wolfmother would have joined a select group of conscientious foreign artists who objected to tobacco sponsorship of their Indonesian concerts. The only two in recent times have been Alicia Keys and former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson.

    Alicia KeysKelly Clarkson
    They like touring Indonesia, they don’t like tobacco sponsorship

    Ironically, the event will (like all major concerts) be officially smoke-free for safety reasons; no lighters, cigarettes, matches or any other incendiary devices are permitted. However, it is unlikely that people will be searched too closely, and pretty ladies will probably be handing out free samples as patrons leave.

    Indonesian rock concerts are really cheap in comparison to equivalent festivals in Australia, Europe or the USA. Single day passes are Rp299 000 ($US33), while 3-day passes are Rp690 000 ($US75). Tickets are available through the official website, Detikshop and good record stores like Aquarius Mahakam and Duta Suara. (To prevent scalping and piracy, tickets aren’t distributed until two days before the show; you receive a voucher which you exchange later).

    If you want to go but live outside Jakarta, that’s no problem; you can fly there and stay at a nearby North Jakarta hotel.

    Will you be attending Java Rockin’ Land? Why/why not? Does the festival’s tobacco sponsorship affect your decision? Please share your opinion.

    Let There Be Rock.. and cigarettes is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book domestic flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesia hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.