Australia new playground of the Chinese noveau riche?

Amazing to revisit Melbourne after 30 years or so of trying to be a geology student at RMIT, which is now a university.

Swanston Street now has a huge proportion of Asian food restaurants, including Indonesia’s own Es Teler 77 (disclosure: a family connection here)  just diagonally opposite  the Melbourne Library.

The makeup of the student population has also changed. Three decades ago most of theforeign students seemed to be from SE Asia. These days you see and hear a lot of mainland Chinese and Indians on the streets.

Talk to residents and they will say that the mainland Chinese are the new wave of immigrants and investors. The Communists seem to have a lot of property and thanks to a change in the law that allows students to buy established property, the mainland Chinese are snapping up real estate in Melbourne, helping to drive up property prices.

Go to the Crown Casino and guess who’s there? The Mainland Chinese as well. They seem to be everywhere and have lots of money or entreprenurial spirit to spare for this city. An accountant and long time resident in Melbourne tells Unspun that many of the Chinese cometo melbourne and start by setting up tobacco shops. One mainlander he knows did so well that he’s now the opwner of several properties in melbourne.

The accountaqnt also says that many mainlanders have been buying properties in the inner city, usually in the choicest suburbs. “They have a lot of money”, he said. The Indians, however, generally snap up property on the suburbs.

The Indians are also out in force udent and form a huge portion of the student population in Merlbourne.

Just about the only thing constant about this city is the weather – it’s still unpr4edictable. We had lovely spring weather with the sun up until Monday then it was downhill for the rest of this week.

Still, its great to be back here, to be able to walk on the streets and p0arks, to smell fresh air, to generally enjoy the outdoors without sweating like a pig and worrying about the pollution.

Labuan Bajo Days

Ladt week Unspun spent five days in Labuan Bajo, Flores. Three were spent in the client’s office teaching te staff communications skills and two were spent outdoors and underwater as Unspun went diving with a friend in the fabulous Komodo National Park.

Where and what is Labuan Bajo? It is a small fishing village on the north western tip of Flores.


It has an airport that, if you’re vested with a healthy dose of imagination, you could fool yourself into think its your own private airfield. Its that small.

LBJ Airport
LBJ Airport

The airport (access to the outside world!), as well as the proximity, makes Labuan Bajo or LBJ the staging point for tourists visiting the Komodo National Park, which recently made it to the finalist list of the 7 Wonders of the World competition.The Komodo National Park, of course, is the home of the Komodo Dragon, huge, primitive lizards that kill their prey by iting them, letting the toxic saliva take effect and they prey collapse from toxic shock, before making dinner out of them.

The Komodo National Park, however, is not just barren dry islands and lizards. It is also home to many islands, volcanic mounts and fantastic dive sites that are probably one of the best int he world for the variety of undersea flora and fauna, but more of the diving later.


LBJ itself is nothing much where villages go. Unspun‘s seen it described as a picturesque fishing village but if you take off the tinted glasses and unclog your nose then its not so romantic. Take a stroll along the waterfront where the fishermen live and you are greeted with the sight of rubbish and the stink of decaying fish and whatever else.

It has virtually one main road that runs parallel to the coast and loops upwards hugging the hills that hem in the village.This is what the main drag looks like in LBJ.

LBJ main st

As I said, not much. But change has already begun to sweep to LBJ. Partly because of increasing number of tourists because of the park and partly from the proliferation of NGOs (mainly Australian ones helping out in birdlife, the handicapped and other good causes), LBJ now has decent boutique hotels and guest houses.

Unspun stayed in one of these, the Bayview Gardens that’s run by a Dutch Guy who came to Flores and didn’t leave. It is located in a beautiful spot, perched just above the village and overlooking the sea and ilands beyond. The views are stunning.

Here’s what it looks like from my hotel room that was air-conditioned, clean and reltively new.

One of the good things about the place was also that they fed you well. Unspun’s daily breakfast looked like this:


In the town dive centers and restaurants catering to foreign visitors have cropped up and provided a contrasting modernity to the basic buildings of LBJ, the kind you see in any small remote town in Indonesia. With names like The Lizard Lounge, The Corner and Gardena, most of these places have the essentials of what a traveler needs – WiFi (srprisingly quite fast) and cold beer.

When the weekend came Unspun was all excited because it was time to dive. The dives were interesting not only because the marine life in the Park’s waters was one of the most diverse and best in the world but also because th conversations with our dive operator made you think about the delicate balance between tourism and conservationand  the local politics and forces at play that make the place a delicate balance. Do it well and the Park and its surroundinggs can be a wonderful showcase a destination of the best of concervation; do it badly and a disaster is waiting to happen. More of the diving and the environment in the next posting.

Sunrise, sunset

In Labuan Bajo, West Flores. In town for a few days of training client’s staff on interpersonal communications and crisi communications so no time to go running about, except to catch the spectacular sunrise and sunsets at my note, Bay View which is perched on top of a hill above the fishermen’s village in labuan Bajo.

Plan to go diving on the weekend, where Unspun‘s been told there are Giant Mantas a plenty. Can’t wait. In the meantime, here a sunrise and a sunset photo. Woohoo!

Sunrise over Labuan Bajo
Sunset over Labuan Bajo
Sunset over Labuan Bajo

Enough already! Won’t someone just sponsor this guy to come to Indonesia?

The pPosting below at Maverick Network is about Anthony Bianco, one of the foreign bloggers invited to Pesta Blogger 2008, being interviewed by Quantas’ inflight programming about his travels in Indonesia and about Pesta Blogger. It is good timing for Pesta Blogger 2009 on October 24 that Anthony hopes to attend.

Anthony, who’s based in Australia, runs a travel blog called The Travel Tart and has a Twitter account @TheTravelTart that has 5,000 followers. He enjoyed his experience visiting Bali, Jogja and Jakarta last year so much that he’s planning to come to Indonesia and willing to spend a month traveling this country to end up in Jakarta for Pesta Blogger on 24 October.

You can’t help thinking what a tourism asset Tony is for Indonesia. Except that the Ministry of Tourism is too engrossed in their own engrossments to take advantage of Anthony blogging and twittering Indonesia. That leaves the way open for a public spirited Australian company operating in Indonesia to sponsor Tony. Just think of the goodwill the company could reap from bloggers and  the government from such an initiative, not to mention getting publicity for their places where they may have their plants.

So any enterprising corporate communications types out there care to bring this opportunity up to the bosses?

Pesta Blogger di Qantas Inflight bersama Anthony Bianco

Ada kabar baru dari Anthony Bianco–salah seorang travel blogger asal Australia yang diundang mengikuti blogging trip dari Bali, Jogja, ke Jakarta pada Pesta Blogger 2008 lalu. Baru-baru ini, Anthony diwawancara oleh Qantas (maskapai penerbangan Australia) Inflight Radio Programming soal Pesta Blogger!

The Travel Tart

Meskipun Bali adalah tujuan wisata yang sangat populer bagi kebanyakan orang Australia, wawancara Qantas dengan Anthony justru berfokus pada daerah tujuan wisata lain di Indonesia. Di sini Anthony menceritakan pengalamannya selama blogging trip tahun lalu di Jogja dan Jakarta, misalnya mengunjungi Candi Prambanan dan Borobudur, juga berkisah soal pemandangan kota di Jakarta. Selain itu, Anthony juga bercerita tentang semakin populernya aktivitas nge-blog di Indonesia, juga tentang banyaknya komunitas blogger yang sering melakukan kopdar. Tak lupa, Anthony juga bertutur soal keramahan masyarakat Indonesi


Wawancara ini akan tayang di segmen ‘Up and Away’ bersama Julie McCrossin mulai tanggal 1-31 Oktober 2009 mendatang.

“The interview is about 10 minutes long and will be available for people to listen to on all Qantas planes; domestic and international, including those going to Indonesia  throughout the entire month of October. The Qantas group flies to Bali and Jakarta. Approximately 2 to 3 million people fly Qantas per month,” kata Anthony.

Travel blog Anthony berjudul The Travel Tart – Offbeat Tales From A Travel Addict dan ia bisa diikuti di Twitter dengan username @TheTravelTart. Saat ini ia punya sekitar 5 ribu followers di Twitter, dan blog-nya mencatat 250,000 hits di bulan Juli, dengan sekitar 7 ribu unique visitors.

Anthony ternyata begitu terkesan dengan Indonesia, dan berencana untuk “berkelana” di Aceh, Pekanbaru, Palembang, Bogor, Bandung, Semarang, dan Surabaya selama bulan September – Oktober, untuk kemudian kembali bergabung di Pesta Blogger 2009. Semoga rencananya ini terlaksana, ya!

Malaysians’ shopping haven in Indonesia

If you’ve been to Bandung lately you’ll know how bad the traffic gets during holidays. It’s mostly people from Jakarta but also an increasing number of tourists from Malaysia with an eye for bargains. This from The Jakarta Post

Malaysians flock to Bandung to shop

Yuli Tri Suwarni ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Bandung   |  Thu, 07/16/2009 1:36 PM  |  Supplement

Nuryahati Sailima, 24, of Selangor, Malaysia, did not mind at all that she had to wear a surgical mask for about an hour on an Air Asia flight that flew her from Kuala Lumpur to Bandung, the capital of West Java, last Friday.

The swine flu issue has prompted the Malaysian government to take precautionary steps by obliging its citizens to wear masks on plane trips. However, this did not hinder Nurhayati’s determination to bring her two-year-old daughter and her mother to visit Bandung.

“I want to go to Pasar Baru to look for cheap textiles,” said Nurhayati who spent three days in Bandung shopping and eating out.

Nurhayati was picked up by a tour guide from a local travel agent. Most Malaysians use the services of travel agents because they feel more secure.

Ahmad Zulkifli and his three friends, on the other hand, came to Bandung from Kuala Lumpur on their own. Zulkifli, 27, said that he had visited Bandung four times prior to this trip for the delicious food and shopping bargains.

“The textiles and garments here are equal to those in Singapore, while the prices are much lower,” said Zulkifli.

Pasar Baru, lines of distros and factory outlets on Jl. Juanda (Dago), Jl. Martadinata (Riau) as well as Jl. Setiabudi are the main places where Malaysian tourists spend most of their money. Jeans outlets also attract these tourists and make them feel at home. Read more here.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Chick on Child Sex Tourism and Women’s Exploitation

Compatriot Michael Chick, an occasional commentator on this blog, was recently in Bali for the Convention on Child Sex Tourism and talked about his work, which has had him traveling around this region for at least the past one-and-a-half years shooting film– sometimes at danger to himself — about sexual exploitation to the Bali media.Unspun’ll try to upload a videocast interview with him sometime over the next two weeks.
clipped from

VIVAnews – Ada 60 kasus eksploitasi seksual komersil anak (ESKA) yang tak pernah terungkap di media difilmkan. Ini diangkat seorang produser film asal Singapura, Michael Chick saat menggelar jumpa pers di Sanur, Kamis, 19 Maret 2009.
Film berdurasi 2 jam ini mengangkat cerita di kawasan Asia Tenggara yang dianggap telah mewakili peristiwa di dunia. “Saya tidak membedakan kasus yang terjadi di Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam juga terjadi di belahan dunia lain,” kata Michael.
blog it

Malaysia the big winner in Indonesian decision to remove exit tax?

From January 1 this year all Indonesian residents (local as well as expatriates) who are registered with the Tax Department through their NPWP no longer have to pay Rp1 million fiscal or exit tax each time they leave Indonesia. Conversely, those who do not have a NPWP registration will have to pay Rp2.5 million fiscal.

The tax laws are such that most working professionals would have a NPWP number by now. This being the case it is an interesting thought experiment on how the removal of fiscal payments would affect domestic tourism in Indonesia.

Unspun suspects that there is a huge number of Indonesian professionals who are comfortable but who are not well off who in the past thronged to Bali for their holidays because they could not or did not want to incur the extra Rp1 million fiscal if they went overseas instead.

But now, with the fiscal removed the rules of the game are changed. Would Bali still beckon to them, or would they flock to somewhere else instead for a change? Nobody seems to have investigated this in depth but Unspun thinks a huge proportion of them will fly elsewhere.

Of all the destinations made more accessible by the new tax law Malaysia stands to be the biggest winner if its Tourism Ministry can take advantage of the situation.

The reason is simple. Two destinations now are as cheap to fly to as Bali for the Indonesian in Jakarta – Singapore and KL. Singapore (at an exchange rate of S$1- Rp 7,500 or so), however, has gotten very expensive for Indonesians. On the othr hand, terms of hotels, KL is probably cheaper than Bali and travel and food costs there are about par and perhaps a little lover than Bali. What’s stopping many Indonesians from going there is a negative perception that Malaysians are negatively pre-disposed toward Indonesians. If that can be corect and Malaysia can let Indonesians know that they are welcomed there, it would see a great influx of the middle to lower middle market of Indonesian tourists.

It would be interesting too to wonder what the tourism industry in Bali would do as a reaction to this potential threat? Bali has great natural resources but development there is not planned well. It is also not competitive in terms of value for money. So what will they do?

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