Category: Travel

The holiday that was

Welcome back to normal life those of you who have been off partying for Christmas and  and New Year’s.

Unspun spent the holiday in Manila and constantly wondered how a basket case, politically, like the Philippines can have a better and cleaner roads than Jakarta.

Other observations about Manila:

  • They have great, cheap medical service – Unspun’s boy was down with high fever and we suspected dengue. So we admitted him into Makati Medical Center for two nights. The staff there were professional, informative and very helpful. So were the doctors and nurses at the pediatrics section of the emergency ward. The hospital was a bit old and was being refurbished but still it was clean and well kept.And it was inexpensive. Compared to Jakarts. Cost of two nights stay and tratment in a private ward, including medication, doctors fees and blood testa -less than Rp3 million. Try getting something even close like this in one of the better hospitals in Jakarta.
  •  Food was good. Try Abe’s for some yummy Filipino food at Serendra, a outdoor strip of shops and open spaces at the space where the Bonifacio military base used to be. It’s just about 10 minutes from Makati. Unspun particularly liked the Crispy Pata, the baby squid in shrimp paste and the chicken with glutinous rice. Incidentally, when the Americans decamped the Salim Group and a local dealmaker bought up the place and had grand plans for its development. Then they were it by the Asian Monetary Crisis. (see here) The area is now springing to life.
  • Filipino salespersons seem more articulate and polite than their Indonesian counterparts but they are similarly vacuous when it comes to product knowledge
  • Philippine Airline’s checking in facilities and staff at the Manila airport suck. They are s-l-o-w. If you’re checking in Unspun suggests you go real arly. It took us 45 minutes of lining up before we reached the check in counter. Then it was another 15 minutes of mucking around. The immigration guys are no better.
  • There’s a lot of shopping malls in Manila. You wonder if Manilans do anything other than shopping as a past time in the city. Come to think of it that’s what Jakartans do.
  • The historical sites are not much better maintained than Jakarta’s. Both suck. Unspun visited Intramuros, the old quarter of Manila and the thought that kept creeping into his mind, as he passed the maintained fort where the Philippines national hero Jose Rizal was incarcerated and executed, was: what would Rizal say if he came back and saw how badly maintained the place was. I wasn’t dirty or anything, just unexciting and reeked of neglect.

Dive into this blog

iman.jpgIman Brotoseno is a gifted photographer and film maker and he brings his professional skills together with him when he goes diving. Unspun was fortunate enough to dive with Iman and his friends many times and each time we were not only treated to his sense of humor but also his great photos and videos.

He’s got a very neat Flash video of some of the dives he’s made in Indonesia. It certainly shows the great diving that’s to be had in Indonesia. Anyone interested in diving or would just like to see great footage of underwater marine life should just check it out.











A tale of two rumpuns

Interesting to see the different reactions to the Rasa Sayang(e) controversy both in Malaysia (see comments here) and in Indonesia (see comments here). On both sides of the Straits we have nationalism come to the fore, good sense go out the window, fear and loathing of the other.

But what should the real issue be in the Rasa Sayang(e) issue where different countries have many things in common like food, culture and sometimes even history?

Is the issue one of rights or of marketing savvy?

If it is one of rights then Indonesia wins hands down. Rasa Sayang(e), Unspun is willing to bet, almost certainly originated from Maluku, Negara Ku is probably a spinoff from Terang Bulan, Batik was probably developed and refined in Pekalongan long before Malaysia got its hands on it, Orang Utans are more plentiful in Indonesia, Sate Padang was probably being fanned on the fire longer than the satay in Kajang.

If, however, the issue is one of marketing savvy, then Indonesia losses big time to Malaysia. It falls flat in packaging its cultural icons so that they come to be associated with the country. This is nothing new.


Mystery of Malaysian Tourism Board’s PR agency solved?

Fans of Tengku Adnan and the Malaysian Tourism Board would doubtless have spent the past few months wondering which PR agency it appointed in Indonesia. Die hand fans may even remember that the Malaysian Tourism Board in Jakarta back in March this year took out an advertisement asking PR agencies to bid for the privilege of taking care of the board’s, er, challenging image.

The advertisement came and went and Unspun understands that a few well-known PR firms like Ogilvy were pitching for the business. Then there was absolute silence. Nobody in town seemed to know if they had appointed any PR agency. None of the big names won the contract. Neither did any of the smaller names that one hears of in the industry. So who could it b. It was a mystery all right.
Until recently that is. Mediacare is a mailing list of media practitioners in Indonesia and one of the postings on this list goes like this:

From: Andi Tirtasasmita
Sent: Thursday, September 13, 2007 9:12 AM
Subject: Undangan untuk Bpk. Budiman Bachtiar

Yth Bapak/Ibu dari Mediacare,

Saya Andi dari Titik Communication, salah satu klien kami adalah Malaysia Tourism Board dan membaca berita tersebut kami langsung segera konfirmasikan kepada pihak MTB dan Kedubes. Berkaitan dengan hal tersebut kami ingin bertemu dengan Bpk. Budiman Bachtiar, apabila tidak keberatan bisa kami minta alamat beliau?. Karena sesuai dengan pembicaraan dengan pihak MTB dan Dubes Malaysia untuk Indonesia beliau berkeinginan untuk mengundang dan bertemu dengan Bpk. Budiman Bachtiar secara pribadi.

Mudah-mudahan kami bisa mendapatkan informasi tersebut dari Bapak/Ibu, untuk memudahkan selain e-mail saya bisa dihubungi di HP: 0818 934799 atau telepon kantor di 391 0055.

Terima kasih atas bantuan dan kerjasamanya.

Titik Communication

So now mystery seems to e solved of whom the MTB appointed. But who is Titik Communication? Nobody seems to know. And Titik does not seem to have a website, or at least one that Unspun could not find.

But some Googling of “Titik Communication”, “Titik Strategi Marketing Communication” and “Andi Tirtasasmita” (his e-mail to Mediacare has a Yahoo address, no company domain name) leads one to interesting sites such as here, here and here.

Unspun is at a loss of what to make of such information. But nice to know that they have professionals taking care of the MTB and the country’s image.

Diving in Cenderawasih Bay, Papua

Unspun was seduced by the words “exploratory dive trip” and signed up early for a 12-day liveaboard dive trip to explore Cenderawasih Bay in Papua. What, thought Unspun, could be more alluring that exploring the bottom of the sea in exotic and unexplored Papua?

So on August 22 Unspun with six others – an Indonesian couple, two Americans and a Kiwi-Singaporean couple went on board the Putri Papua in Biak for what could be a dive of a lifetime. The first couple of days was spent diving around Biak, including the Catalina wreck. As before Biak’s seas had great visibility but there was not much by way of marine life to see. A few nudibranches here and there was all. The waters were calm and warm.

Then we set sail southward, into the bay. On the third day we dived at Ruras island, off Biak. On the third day we dived at Gayepi Reef, actually an atoll in the middle of the bay. Again, we had clear, warm water, good visibility but little to see.

It was only on the fourth day, when we dived at Rouw Island that we got lucky. We saw a hammerhead and a loepard shark and lots of nudibranches. In the interval we moored at a bay on the island which had a waterfall that we went to bathe in. It was beautiful. The second dive at the island we saw a crocodile fish, a dancing octopus, pygmy sahorse and lots of other critters.

After that we dived at Roon Island, Numbrat Island, Yop Island, Tanjung Dunesore, Tanjung Wanabore, Windesi Harbor, Tanjung Reweasa, Purup Island and Rumberpon. But there was little to see other than corals and nudibranches of the same species. We were begining to get a bit depressed and Unspun could not help wondering if Teluk Cenderawasih was sterile or it was really difficult to find good dive sites, even in pristine Papua waters.

Some of the places we sailed through were so remote that we were out of handphone range and we did not see anyone for days. When we got nearer toward civilization we would see papuan fishermen and their families, materializing out of the islands with their boats. Each time we moored it was the same: they would come on board and make some small chat before asking for some petroleum.

Our guide explained that the government had given many of the Papuans outboard motors but getting fuel to power them was a real problem out there in the remoter regions of Papua. There were not petrol stations and when petrol is transported out to where they are they are so expensive that the Papuans could not afford it. Therefore their only recourse was to beg or coerce passing boats to donate some fuel to them.

On the 10th day we struck gold where diving was concerned. At Haiwai Point we saw a woebegong shar, pygmy seahorses and nudibranches. Thing were looking up down below. We then proceeded to Sungei Omiand it go even better still. Sg Omi is a black sand beach with lots of rocks. The diving there was just as good as Lembeh in Manado. It was muck diving and there was lots to see – a pygmy seahorse, sea snakes, a small fish, white with an antennae on its forehead and lots more.

We capped off our dive by diving the Pillbox and Shinwa Maru wrecks off Manokwari. The Shinwa Maru wreck was quite spectacular. It is a large Japanese ship that was sunk just off Marsinam islan, off Manokwari. There were still hoses and beer bottles in the ship but the diving helmets that some other divers had said were there had been removed. Still it was interesting swimming through the shop’s bowels before surfacing to the bright sunlight.

Malaysia’s top blogger: Bali on the rebound

See what about Bali has impressed Malaysia’s top blogger Jeff Ooi. His posting should bring some more tourist dollars from Seberang to Indonesia. Now if the Malaysian Tourism Board only knows how to woo bloggers to help them sell the country…

clipped from
From what I can gather, and despite new travel warnings that Islamic militants might strike again, or that all Indonesian airlines including national carrier Garuda are banned from the European Union, tourists still flock to Bali these days.The terrorist bombing of a Bali nightclub in Kuta in October 2002, which killed 202 people, now seems a distant history. Tourism is bouncing back, though it’s still not anywhere near its prime before the blast.
It’s a huge contrast to the moment I landed in KLIA to pick up the luggage. The trolleys in Malaysia are but snapped up by tourists in full black, some only seen with anatomy slit in the eyes.Ramayana_0085x550.jpg
RAMAYANA… A dinner version in micro-glimpses of the Hindu epic
Clearly, it’s the Balinese people that made the difference for the tourism trade there. Tourists the world over are simply wowed by the benevolence of the Balinese, who largely practise Hinduism, for their compassion, laid-back attitude and love of peace and harmony.

  blog it

Adnan aims for 2m Indonesian tourists

Wonder if engaging Indonesian bloggers may be part of the strategy to get all these Indonesian tourists to visit Malaysia?Speaking of which, does anyone have any news of which PR Firm the Malaysian Tourism Board in Jakarta appointed to do their PR (background here) ? Or did the intent peter away like it did three or more years ago?

clipped from
Malaysia targets two million Indonesian tourists in 2007
MAKASSAR(Antara): Malaysia has set a target tolure around two million Indonesian visitors in 2007.

The remark was made Malaysian Tourism Minister YB Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor on Saturday evening, saying that the arrival of Indonesian tourists in Malaysia continued to rise every year.

This year, he expected a 36 percent increase in thearrival of Indonesian tourists to his country. Last year, Indonesian tourists visited Malaysia stood 1.2 million.

Tengku Mansor said between January and March, the arrival of Indonesian tourists to that country reached 375,570 people. If compared to last year’s corresponding period, there was an increase of about 26.4 percent.

  blog it

Camping with all mod cons

There was a time when Unspun would, in a fit of machismo and youthful exuberence, forswear all modern conveniences when going camping. But now that Unspun is saddled with old bones and is braving the outdoors with a partner and child ,who are city slickers, camping in the outdoors with all mod cons seems to make sense.

img_0070.jpgOver the weekend Unspun camped with friends and kids at Toyah Bungkah, near Kintamani in Bali and enjoyed it very much. Our tent were pitched beside Lake Batur and we had a magnificent view of the lake and the massive wall of the crater on the other side.

A great spot to do it is at Toya Bungka in Lake Batur, just under the volcano, Mount Batur, behind us. The air was cool, about 18-20 degrees Celsius and there were two pools of hot spring water nearby to relax in, just the thing in the cool climate. The campsite, which is part of Hotel Toya Devasiya, was well maintained. There was a communal toilet and showers to use for campers, and it was surprisingly very clean too.toyah-bungka-campsite.jpg

The is about 2.5 hours drive from Denpasar. You go on the road to Kintamani, right up to the top of the crater then take the road down to Toyah Bungka. On the top are lots of dodgy buffet restaurants. Avoid them unless you want to sample cold, tasteless Indonesian food. Just after the turnoff to Toyah Bungka is a restaurant called Windu Sara. They have decent food and a great view of the valley below. Worthwhile stopping there.

From there it is about half an hour to Toya Bungka. You go through vegetable farms and a section polulated by large dark shapes – the result of a lava-flow from Mount Batur’s eruption in – I think – 1926 or so.

Once down there the lake and the cool temperature makes you feel as if you’re somewhere in Europe, except for the unkempt roadsides and the rubbish, of course, that reminds you that you’re in Indonesia. Other than that, with a little selective blindness, it is a great place to bring your kids for a camping “adventure” by urban standards.

At the hotel, all the tents are pitched up for you. They even prepare a BBQ dinner for you and build you a campfire. There is even an electric lamp by each tent. So there you go, camping with all mod cons.

Muddled thinking about branding in Bali

Why, oh why, do people responsible for boosting tourism sink so low in the intellectual ladder when it comes to branding? The latest case of Branding Cluelessness comes from the Island of the Gods, aka Bali is My Life aka The World’s Place of Harmonious Peace or it could be Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Confused already? The three/four are taglines referring to Bali. It was and is also known popularly as the Island of the Gods. Then some idiot convinced the government to part with lots of money and came up with Bali is My Life. Now comes the totoally moronic The World’s Place of Harmonious Peace or maybe it is Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

This latest fit of idiocy is a result of suckers in the Bali government paying lots of dosh for so-called experts on branding to conduct “six months of intensive research” on how Bali is to rebranded to bring back the tourists and move forward with the development of theisland.

The results, reported in The Jakarta Post today (I’ve included the entire story in this post because the Post still hasn’t figured out how to properly store its html pages in its archives so they remain linkable from outside), has led the government to “unveil its new tourism brand for Bali”.

There is something totally wrong here. Unveil a new tourism brand? Like it is going to act as a talisman to bring back the tourists and pump up the economy by itself. Many people look at Malaysia’s Truly Asia tagline and think that it alone helps bring the tourists to Malaysia. It does not. What it does is to provide a handle for people to hold on to to understand the tourism promotion package that Malaysia offers, which is based on its diversity of races/culture.

This new Bali branding shindig is totally laughable. Rather than waste good money and six months of intensive research to give them nonsense such as this the government would have spent their money much wiser if they improved the infrastructure in Bali, clean up the streets, taught the shopkeepers how to be more creative and original in producing and marketing their goods instead. If they have done all this then the can go ahead to launch a campaign in which the brand logo, tagline and attrubutes would go toward supporting this new direction.

The brand, in other words, is the means to an end but not an end itself.  Go figure.

Below is the full story from today’s Jakarta Post:

New tourism brand invokes Bali of peace

Following six months of intensive research, which included direct interviews with hundreds of Balinese residents and foreign visitors, the local government has finally unveiled its new tourism brand for the resort island.

The new brand is expected to unite the tourism industry under a single flag and battle cry in an effort to elevate the vital economic sector, which had been paralyzed by two terrorist attacks, environmental degradation and the locals’ increasing resentment toward tourism development.

“We hope this brand will give us new energy in our struggle to recover the industry, which for decades has been the backbone of the island’s economy,” Bali Tourism Agency head Nurdjaya said.

The new brand — comprising a logo, a tagline and a series of strategic recommendations — centers around the vision of making Bali known as “The World’s Place of Harmonious Peace”. (more…)