Category Archives: Tourism & Tourists

Rhonda Goes to Bali

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

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

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

“Rhonda is mine”

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

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

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

“Kiss me Ketut”

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

The sexual tension between Katut and Rhonda

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

KetutQuestions raised include

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

North Sumatra & Aceh Tour

The 15 day “Sumatran Highlights tour allows you to see all the major attractions of northern Sumatra, while also bringing you very close to the people, history, and culture of the region.

You will

  • meet and stay with local people
  • experience the unique Batak Toba culture
  • spot orangutans in the Gayo Highlands
  • see the world’s largest volcanic lake, Toba
  • encounter endangered wildlife in Gunung Leuser NP
  • hear first-hand accounts of the 2004 tsunami
  • go snorkelling on unspoilt Pulau Weh island
  • and much more

Fast Facts

North Sumatra Tour Map

Tour: Sumatran Highlights
Operator: Intrepid Travel

Length: 15 days
Group Size: 1-12 people
Cost: $1700+, €1000+, £1000+

Provinces: North Sumatra, Aceh
Cities: Medan, Banda Aceh
Major Sights: Lake Toba, Gunung Leuser National Park, Sipisopiso waterfall, Mt. Sibayak, Gayo Highlands, Pulau Weh

Accommodation: 9 nights hotel, 3 nights guesthouse, 1 night homestay, 1 night camping
Transport: Plane, bus, ferry, minivan
Meals: 9 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners

Book this tour at Intrepid Travel


Medan Grand MosqueDay 1: Medan. Start off your tour in the North Sumatran capital of Medan; if you’ve arrived early see some sights like Maimoon Palace or the Grand Mosque.

Lake TobaDays 2-3: Lake Toba. Off to world renowned volcanic Lake Toba. Your tour of the Lake Toba area will give you an insight into the distinctive culture of the Batak Toba people.

Dokan HouseDays 4-5: Berastagi. See Sipiso-piso Waterfall and Simalungun Palace before resting at a Dokan village homestay. Then go hiking up to the top of Sibayak Volcano to experience the amazing summit views. Nearby hot springs will afford some relaxation at the end of the day.

Sumatra tiger in Gunung LeuserDays 6-7: Ketambe. Learn about the many endangered species that call Gunung Leuser National Park home, including tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses. Take a guided walk in search of orangutans, and camp by the river.

Gayo HighlandsDays 8-9: Gayo Highlands. Take in the majestic Gayo Highlands, with undulating hills covered with coffee plantations. Next day visit the enigmatic Loyang Koro Cave.

Banda AcehDays 10-11: Banda Aceh. Visit the Tsunami Musuem and learn of the experiences of local people during the 2004 tsunami catastrophe. Take a tour with Network for Tsunami Aceh to understand more of the calamity.

Pulau WehDays 12-13: Pulau Weh. Visit the tropical island playground of Pulau Weh, and go snorkelling in pristine waters.

Graha Bunda MariaDays 14-15: Medan. Use your initiative to explore the city of Medan, perhaps taking in the Tjong A Fie Mansion, the colonial district, or Graha Bunda Maria.

Book this tour at Intrepid Travel

Read some interesting comments on this tour and Sumatran travel in general: Sumatra For The Intrepid.

Need to book a hotel or arrange a domestic flight in Indonesia? Browse through listings of Medan hotels and arrange domestic flights.

“Beautiful Bali” Tour

Enjoy a 9 day tour of “Beautiful Bali a little off the beaten track, exploring inland and north Bali.

Highlights of the tour:

  • explore the cultural heart of Bali in Ubud
  • visit tiny villages and learn age old craft-making
  • walk up volcanic slopes for sweeping views of valleys
  • cycle past majestic temples and verdantly green rice terraces
  • go snorkelling/diving in a coastal national park
  • meet the dolphins off Lovina beach
  • dine on sumptuous Balinese cuisine
  • get up close to Bali’s iconic Ulun Danu Bratan temple
  • and more

Fast Facts

Bali Tour Map

Tour: Beautiful Bali
Operator: Intrepid Travel

Length: 9 days
Group Size: 1-12 people
Cost: $1000+, €600+, £600+

Provinces: Bali
Towns: Ubud, Sidemen, Lovina, Seririt, Bedugul
Major Sights: Ubud markets/shops/temples, Mt Batur, West Bali NP, Seririt Market, Banjar Hot Springs, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Accommodation: 7 nights hotel, 1 night guesthouse
Transport: Mini-bus
Meals: 8 breakfasts, 1 lunch

Book this tour at Intrepid Travel


Ubud MarketDays 1-2: Ubud. Take in Bali’s cultural capital with trips to a night market and an evening performance. Visit the monkey forest, go rafting, or just browse around the many art shops.

Bali rice paddiesDay 3: Ubud & Sidemen. Go bicyling into the surrounds of Ubud through rice fields and by Hindu temples. Later head to the hilly village of Sidemen to meet some locals.

Songket WeavingDay 4: Mt Batur. Learn the art of golden thread ‘songket’ weaving. Later head into the mountains for some awe-inspiring views.

Mt BaturDays 5-6: Mt Batur & Lovina. An early morning start with a trek up Mt Batur to watch the sun come up. Afterwards head towards Lovina on the north coast for some snorkelling or diving. In Lovina take a boat tour to see dolphins while exploring this charming fishing village.

Banjar Hot SpringsDay 7: Bedugul. Leaving Lovina head to Seririt Market and Banjar hot springs. Further inland come to the mountain-top village of Bedugul.

Bedugul Lake & TempleDay 8: Bedugul & Ubud. Visit the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple in the middle of a lake. Back in Ubud do some further shopping and end your tour with a Balinese banquet.

Book this tour at Intrepid Travel

Need to book a hotel in Ubud? See ratings of Ubud hotels.

Bali Bromo Express

Wings Air launches direct flights from Denpasar to Malang, reducing travel time to Mt Bromo significantly.

For many years, Mt Bromo has been the most visited of Indonesia's 129 active volcanoes (more than the famous/infamous Anak Krakatau or Mt Kelimutu). This is probably due to its relatively easy access, wide choice of accommodation nearby and proximity to Indonesia's tourist hub of Bali.

Bromo Tengger Semeru
The picture that launched 1000 postcards:
Sunrise at Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park.

In the past, a trip from Bali to the picture postcard moonscape of Mt Bromo usually involved a short flight from Denpasar/Bali to Surabaya, then a bus/train ride to Malang or Probolinggo, then another bus/jeep ride up the mountain in the early morning to the lookout point. Or the more intrepid could take a bus from Bali all the way to Probolinggo (including a short ferry ride). However, both ways could take several hours or longer, due to delays, traffic, narrow/hilly roads, etc.

Left Flag: Mt Bromo, Right Flag: Bali/Denpasar Airport.
As you can see, Malang is much closer to Mt Bromo than Surabaya

However, Wings Air (partner/subsidiary of Lion Air) has launched a new route that reduces the hassle and travel time significantly: Denpasar to Malang.

Wings Air ATR72-500

Using their brand new ATR72-500 aircraft (see above), Wings Air flies this route daily at the following times:

Flight Number Route Departs Arrives
Wings Air
to Malang
13:45 14:00*
Wings Air
Malang to
14:25* 16:25

*Local time in Malang is one hour behind Denpasar/Bali

One-way fares start at $US55.

Alternately, if you are flying from Europe to Jakarta, there are also multiple daily flights from Jakarta to Malang.

If you would like a quote for this flight, please fill in an enquiry form here.

Bali Bromo Express 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.

‘Wonderful Indonesia’

Greeting the tourism slogan 'Wonderful Indonesia' at Jakarta airport; alternatives: Intriguing Indonesia, Indonesia – Simply Inexplicable, and Delectable Dewi.

The Drum notes that rather than addressing the need to clean up the several hundred “hangers on” touts and louts at Jakarta Airport or developing some sort of transport, tourist infrastructure for Indonesia, we have once again bought economy tickets on plan superficial.

The tourism brains trust after much research and endless meetings have come with "Wonderful Indonesia" which is kind of saccharine sweet but hardly reflective of Indonesia. Certainly anyone who has landed at Jakarta airport at 5pm on a Friday is hardly likely to be thinking "wonderful thoughts" on the 3 hour, 25km journey to the city center. It would also be fair to venture "Wonderful Indonesia" would be a bit of stretch if you happen to be an Ahmadiyya for instance.

Oh speaking of mindless, sponsored thuggery, if I may digress for a moment. Did we all enjoy that "Simply Wonderful" piece of Lunatic Theater brought to us by the Minister for Religion this week.  A brilliant dark comedy, gathering all the ignorant thugs in one place and then call the Ahmadiyya and say we just want to talk...uh uh!!  Honestly, people were rolling in the aisles listening to this character trying to tell rational humans that the Ahmadiyya were acting in bad faith by not turning up.

Anyhow back to tourism, perhaps some truth in advertising might be fun

We all know the Uniquely Singapore, Malaysia. Truly Asia, Incredible India, Amazing Thailand etc.  Well we have had a couple of disastrous cracks at this sort of thing in Indonesia before. Who could forget the Garuda English mangling or my personal favorite the “Wings” Airline slogan “Fly is Cheap” (apparently so was their copy writer).

Anyway, it’s one thing to criticize and another to offer a solution. So based on today’s news that retired Generals and Radical religious loons are planning a coup, nail bombs and the ongoing persecution of minorities in Indonesia, the following are the Drum’s offerings for today:


Intriguing Indonesia

Indonesia – Simply Inexplicable

Or the Drum's favourite

Delectable Dewi


Feel free to suggest some more.


Disclaimer:  I actually think the Jakarta Airport itself is pretty slick, it’s the fight through the touts and louts that must be mind boggling for first time tourists.  Nor do I think the dangerous but comical characters that attended the Religious "Harmony" meeting are representative of anything but the vile underbelly of the human beast. Certainly, they do not represent the Indonesia I know and live in.

‘Wonderful Indonesia’ 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.

Long Stay Visas for over 55′s

Oldster foreigners and tourists can stay in Indonesia for months on end, on a new long stay visa.

Indonesia has formally brought into being a one year long stay 'tourist' visa, for those of advanced age.

The visa is available initially to people over 55 from the following areas:

  • Europe
  • North America
  • Asia Pacific

Africans, Arabs, and south Americans need not apply. However there are plans to extend the facility to certain select countries not yet allowed, like South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Suriname, among others.

It seems that the process for applying for the visa is similar to that of a long stay work visa (KITAS), and must be applied for abroad, with the following requirements:

  • be over 55 years of age
  • provide ten passport photos
  • provide passport photocopy
  • record of medical check-up
  • proof of at least $1500 a month income

Applicants must also provide proof that they will have accommodation in the country, and proof that they will employ, or have employed, someone, like domestic help.

Holders of the visa are not allowed to work or engage in business activities in Indonesia.

It will be possible to eventually convert the one year visa into a more permanent KITAP visa, probably after holding it for two years.

Of the new visa, a Department of Tourism official enthused:

This is to allow us to take advantage of an important, growing market.

He said many tour and travel companies in Indonesia already had their sights on providing for long stay elderly and retired foreigners. [1]

Long Stay Visas for over 55′s 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.

Komodo: World Wonders of Nature

The Komodo dragon to be Indonesia's face to the world in tourism promotion; Komodo Island in the 7 Natural Wonders of the World competition.

The Secretary to the directorate general of the Culture and Tourism Ministry Noviendi Makalam said recently that the Komodo dragon, the giant lizard species found on its namesake island in Nusa Tenggara Timur near Flores, will be the national tourism icon or theme for 2011.

Next year, we will make Komodo as a main theme for our tourism

All tourism promotion events would make use of komodo symbolism, he said, largely because the Komodo Island National Park is in the running to be named one of the "New 7 World Wonders of Nature".

Komodo Dragon Mouth Komodo dragon on the beach Komodo Dragon Tongue Komodo Prehistoric Animal The beach and boats near Komodo Island Visiting Komodo Island in Indonesia

Komodo National Park, which includes the three larger islands Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller ones, founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon, is one of 28 finalists in the New 7 World Wonders of Nature competition.

New Seven Wonders of Nature Map
Map of the 28 finalists. Full size

The 7 winners will be determined by online voting, and announced on the auspicious date of November 11th, 2011 (11/11/11). Voting can be done here.

The full list of sites in the running:

  • The Amazon (Bolivia/Brazil/Colombia/Ecuador/French Guiana/Guyana/Peru/Suriname/Venezuela)
  • Angel Falls (Venzuela)
  • Bay of Fundy (Canada)
  • Black Forest (Germany)
  • Bu Tinah Island (United Arab Emirates)
  • Cliffs of Moher (Ireland)
  • Dead Sea (Israel/Jordan)
  • El Yunque (Puerto Rico)
  • Galapagos (Ecuador)
  • Grand Canyon (United States)
  • Great Barrier Reef (Australia/Papua New Guinea)
  • Halong Bay (Vietnam)
  • Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil)
  • Jeita Grotto (Lebanon)
  • Jeju Island (South Korea)
  • Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
  • Komodo (Indonesia)
  • Maldives (Maldives)
  • Masurian Lake District (Poland)
  • Matterhorn/Cervino (Italy/Switzerland)
  • Milford Sound (New Zealand)
  • Mud Volcanoes (Azerbaijan)
  • Puerto Princesa Underground River (Philippines)
  • Sundarbans (India)
  • Table Mountain (South Africa)
  • Ayer's Rock (Australia)
  • Vesuvius (Italy)
  • Yushan (Taiwan)

Komodo: World Wonders of Nature 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.