Does Indonesia Suck as a tourist destination?

@anakcerdas just alerted me to this blog posting in Travel Blog with the terse and succinct message: “Memalukan yah” (Shameful, isn’t it?).

Yes, it is indeed shameful if even half of what the blogger, Mike Foster, says is true. As someone who’s adopted Jakarta and Indonesia as my home I feel duty bound to defend Jakarta and Indonesia. As have a few Indonesians who have seen the Twitter message.

I tend to agree with @crivenica and @heradiani in their Tweets that the Mike Foster does come across as an uptight tourist. Indonesia, after all, is a Third World country, only that the phrase has become unfashionable, being substituted by the more politically correct “Emerging Country” label. Foster comes across as uptight because in a city of more than 14 million people all he could see was the frightening and negative aspects of the city. He was unable for some reason, to peer beyond the negatives to see something, anything positive. perhaps his friend Andy is a really crummy tourist guide but one suspects that Foster is one who would rather whine than accept the fact that he is in a Third World country, accept the filth, contradictions, traffic congestion and contrasts as facts of life and get over it to enjoy his stay here.

Foster also makes the terrible mistake of equating Jakarta with Indonesia, which is unfortunate. Indonesia is so much, much more and different than Jakarta and if he were to go to Flores or a dozen other choice sites in Indonesia he would know what heartwrenching beauty Indonesia has in store for those who venture beyond the Big Durian.

Having said that, however, a lot of Foster’s complaints about Jakarta is legit. Us old Jakarta hands realize that Foster’s complaints are only some of the myriad aspects of the city that makes Jakarta Jakarta. Bu to a fresh pair of eyes, especially if they aren’t the adventurous types (and how many tourists are really adventurous?) Jakarta can come across as dirty, chaotic, unsafe and congested.

If Jakarta wants to attract the tourists, both to the city and to Indonesia, the authorities will have to acknowledge that the traffic, cleanliness and safety (or at least the perception of safety from a tourist’s viewpoint) are problems that need to be addressed. Like many other Twitterers, Unspun was inclined to use the argument of “but other countries are worse than Jakarta” but its a temptation best not given to as it i a false argument. So what if other countries are dirtier and worse off than us, we do not have control over what they do or do not do. We have control over, how our countries (adopted or native) functions and that’s what we should take responsibility for and try to change.

TravelBlog

I just visited Indonesia some time ago, to visit my friend from the university. He’s an Indonesian, so during my vacation I decided to go to Indonesia for a vacation and visit him.

I must say that Indonesia is not a country worth visiting … sorry about this, Andy if you read my posting. For starter, Jakarta is very dirty, you’ll see trash and litter everywhere you go. I just can’t imagine a capital city with this poor level of cleanliness. I was fortunate to have Andy my friend to show me around Jakarta, in which rarely tourists are shown to. Areas that you may see quite clean and sophisticated are only in the downtown area. I only remembered the streets named Sudirman, Thamrin and Kuningan that are quite representative for a capital city. Any other areas you go, you’ll feel like that you’re in some third-world country with poor people and trash everywhere (I think Indonesia is still considered a third-world?)

I was lucky I have a friend in Jakarta, otherwise I wouldn’t dare goind around in public transportation. I was told to be careful when selecting cabs. I remembered there is only one company considered safe, called Blue Bird or something, with their cars painted in blue. I was told not to take just any cab since it wouldn’t be safe. I was told there are so many crimes occured involving taxi drivers. I certainly didn’t want to take the public busses. Wait until you see them yourselves, and I bet you wouldn’t want to ride in one either. The busses are so dirty, so packed with people and the vehicles themselves look as if they’re very poorly taken care of. I couldn’t even find a decent information of which bus should I take if I would want to go somewhere, and what is the fare. Those busses have someone (or sometimes two) called “conductor” hanging around in the door, collecting money from passengers. I was terrified to see them hanging like that in the door while the bus were driving quite fast. Well, yes they have now a network of public busses called TransJakarta if I’m not mistaken, but the network was not vast enough to cover the whole city.

Not to mention the streets from hell. The traffic in Jakarta beats the hell out of any traffic I’ve ever seen in the world.

Traffic jams everywhere. People driving with only one or two inches away from each other. The worse of all is the motorcycles. I even said to my friend that they are like motorcycles from hell. They squeezed their way to very small gaps between cars, sometimes even hit our rearview mirrors. They constantly cut your way, so my friend always to be extra careful with them and sometime he even had to hit the brake brutely to avoid collisions. What an experience … I must say. I sometimes jumped from my seat when suddenly a motorcycle speeding through our side of the cars with just few inches away, in a traffic jam, with their loud noises …. a hell indeed. Andy even told me that be very careful not to hit a motorcycle, since even that you’re not the one causing the collision, the car driver would be the one blamed and they could go rough on you asking for money. I said “what the hell …. what kind of people are they … we’re not living in the dark ages are we?” … and Andy could just shrugged with bitter smile.

Another important thing … be careful of the food. I got stomachache for 3 days because Andy took me to this food stall that he said very delicious. Well the food was alright … but I got diarrhea the next day. Well, if you go to this food stall, you wouldn’t be surprised why I got the diarrhea. It was a very small food stall, on a pedestrian. Just next to the pedestrian was this open sewer, and guess what … people threw away trash into that sewer. Not to mention flies everywhere and I could have sworn a saw a cockroach running around. My advice is to stick to the food from restaurants, clean restaurants. It’s a bit expensive, but at least your stomach would be safe.

I’ll continue with my experience in Indonesia …. more surprises coming from this unbelievable country … which I don’t intend to visit again, at least not in several years until they could improve to be a more civilized country.

Why Western men like slutty looking Asian women: the sequel

The age-old enigma of the attraction of pembantu looking women to Bule men once again gets an airing in the Indonesian blogosphere. This was an question that Unspun tried to deal with quite some time ago (see this link) but till this day puzzles observers as to why relatively well-off and sometimes even good-looking bule men usually have such peculiar tastes in their choice of Asian women partners.

https://i1.wp.com/farm1.static.flickr.com/177/370274711_8f5cfb4bb1.jpg

For a good laugh and especially if you are a single Western or westernized  woman living in Asia you might also want to entertain yourself with the concept of Charisma Man.

Yin & Yang: Bules & Pembantus

Feb 18th, 2010, in Opinion, by Dikkiman Sujengkol

Expat men in Indonesia and their love affairs with lower class women, opposites attract.

The Friend,

Late one night as my Kampung friends and I were guarding our neighbourhood, the age-old question came up: why does the Bule Man (Bulman), like the Pembantu (maid) face ? We contemplate many such questions as I tap on my Bongo drums and my friends sip their Kratingdaeng, staring out from our little pos jaga (guard post) at the corner of the street under the Jambu tree.

Yin YangIndeed, it is like Yin and Yang: white (or pink), tall, educated, from the city, versus dark, short, from the village. For me, the Bulman’s taste is his own business; that is how our Indonesian system of Bhinekka Tunggal Ika, or Unity in Diversity works. But many big-haired society Matrons, funky university hipsters, and ordinary Indonesian people alike wonder about the strange attraction of the White Man for his maid.

At our guard post, we try to help the country, so for you, my Indonesia Matters friends, I return to this burning question.

via Yin & Yang: Bules & Pembantus.

Establishing Ketuanan Melayu with an Indonesian heritage?

When Unspun was growing up in Malaysia he was told that the kris was an intrinsic part of the Malay identity.The kris was such a big deal that some years ago when the son of a former Malaysian prime minister and UMNO big shot wanted to establish Malay supremacy over the other Malaysian races he waved it around more vigorously than a koteka would be rattled in a tribal dance.

http://towardsmardhatillah.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/hisham_keris1.jpg

Stop waving an Indonesian heritage around Hishamuddin. It’s embarrassing.

Unspun was awed. But now Unspun feels cheated.

According to UNESCO the kris isn’t even Malaysian, let alone Malay. And not only that. Even the batik and the wayang is Indonesian. So what’ Malaysia got left to wave with? Malaysia, Truly Indonesia.

Batik, kris and wayang get UNESCO world heritage status

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 02/06/2010 1:02 PM | Headlines

UNESCO on Friday awarded Indonesia four certificates, three stating that it recognized three intangible cultural heritages and one stating its recognition of the country’s efforts to preserve its culture.

The three intangible cultural heritages were batik, a method of decorating fabric with a special dyeing techniques producing specific patterns, wayang, a traditional shadow puppet play, and kris, a traditional ceremonial dagger.

The certificates were symbolically handed by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, to Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik and Coordinating Public Welfare Minister Agung Laksono.

After the awards were given, Agung said, the country should preserve the heritage to prevent the recognition from being withdrawn.

“Batik can be preserved by always wearing it. What will be hard is preserving wayang and kris,” he said.

Agung added he had issued a letter requesting that offices and hotels display the three objects.

Tresna Dermawan Kunaefi, Indonesia’s Ambassador to UNESCO, said the recognition as intangible cultural heritage was not based on the objects’ physical aspects, but the stories and ideas behind them.

via Batik, kris and wayang get UNESCO world heritage status | The Jakarta Post.

Karim on why race is not so stifling an issue in Indonesia

This is an interesting perspective of the question of Malayness from Malaysian writer Karim Raslan.

His last paragraph is especially sobering for ketuanan Melayu types:

“History’s record is cruel and unforgiving. Winners shape history and erase the achievements, even the existence of the losers. For many Malaysian Malays it is eye-opening to come to Indonesia only to discover that their community — their people — have long been on the receiving end of history’s lessons, suffering and losing out to more dynamic, driven people.”

It must be tough being a Malaysian Malay in such transparent times that give the lie to the totally ersatz view of Malayhood, as Umno would have them believe.

Karim Raslan: Tale of Two Malays

From the viewpoint of race, Indonesia is a liberating, even intoxicating place, especially for Malaysians like me who’ve been conditioned to view people in cultural and religious “silos” — Malay, Chinese and Indian. The Indonesian approach to race is infinitely more fluid. Distinctions are relatively unimportant.

These contrasting ways of perceiving the world lie at the heart of many of the squabbles that arise between Indonesia and Malaysia. These emanate from a sense that we really ought to understand each other better when in fact history and politics have long intervened to create two very different polities.

On the one hand, there is Malaysia, where political power is in the hands of the Malay-Muslim community. Indeed, Malay identity has been very broadly defined. People of Arab, Javanese and even Turkish descent are considered Malay, thereby consolidating power in the face of a large and dynamic non-Malay population.

In Indonesia, however, the challenge has always been how to unify this archipelagic nation and prevent its fracturing. As a result, there’s the uniting and all-embracing rhetoric enshrined in the phrase, “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika,” unity in diversity. People seem to be able to shift between boundaries easily. Javanese, Muslim, Christian, Batak, Hindu and Balinese merge into one another.

via Karim Raslan: Tale of Two Malays – The Jakarta Globe.

Serumpun, but different lingo

Unspun readers who liked the previous posting on the pecularities of the Malaysian language (at least in hospitals) may find this fascinating – an Indonesian-Malaysian dictionary produced by the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to help promote understanding between both countries.

Can’t wait to see what the definition of words like “batik” is like. The Embassy is printing 10,000 copies. If anyone has a spare copy please forward it to Unspun.

This from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s website:

KBRI Kuala Lumpur Edarkan 10.000 Eksemplar Kamus Indonesia-Malaysia

Rabu, 04 Nopember 2009

Pada cetakan pertama yang berisi 4.700 entri ini KBRI Kuala Lumpur telah mencetak sebanyak 10.000 eksemplar untuk dibagikan gratis kepada masyarakat Indonesia di Malaysia. Adapun pembiayaan untuk pencetakan kamus ini ditanggung seluruhnya oleh sponsor dari perusahaan lokal sehingga KBRI Kuala Lumpur sama sekali tidak mengeluarkan biaya.
Kamus saku Bahasa Malaysia – Indonesia – Inggris ini, bertujuan untuk dapat menjembatani perbedaan arti bahasa ini, sehingga miskomunikasi dapat terhindar. Sejauh ini belum ada penerbit resmi yang menerbitkan kamus Bahasa Malaysia – Indonesia – Inggris, untuk itu diharapkan kamus ini dapat menjadi langkah awal menambah khazanah kamus-kamus yang telah ada.
Kamus Bahasa Malaysia-Indonesia
Sebanyak 10.000 eksemplar Kamus Saku Indonesia-Malaysia dengan tebal 25 halaman diterbitkan oleh KBRI Kuala Lumpur pada 2 November 2009. Indonesia dan Malaysia adalah dua negara yang memiliki hubungan yang telah terjalin sejak lama. Kedua negara dikenal sebagai negara serumpun karena memiliki berbagai kesamaan akar budaya, sejarah kerajaan, agama bahkan keturunan yang sama. Kesamaan tersebut menyebabkan warga Indonesia merasa tidak asing lagi berada di Malaysia. Namun demikian, ditengah kesamaan tersebut terdapat berbagai perbedaan pula. Salah satunya adalah bahasa.
Walaupun memiliki akar bahasa yang sama yaitu Melayu, bahasa Indonesia dan bahasa Malaysia memiliki perbedaan. Sebuah kata dalam bahasa Indonesia bisa memiliki arti yang sangat berbeda dalam bahasa Malaysia, dan apabila tidak dimengerti, dapat menimbulkan perbedaan pemahaman ataupun miskomunikasi. Sebagai contoh kata ‘jemput’ dalam bahasa Indonesia, tidak memiliki arti yang sama dalam bahasa Malaysia. ‘Jemput’ dalam bahasa Malaysia berarti ‘undang’. Contoh-contoh lainnya adalah kata ‘kereta’ dalam bahasa Malaysia berarti ‘mobil’ dan ‘belanja’ dalam bahasa Malaysia berarti ‘mentraktir’.

The Indonesia-Malaysia broughaha: Political, cultural and personal?

So reports the LA Times. Unspun even got his 5 seconds of fame from the article (you have to go down the paragraphs in the story) but seriously, the two countries have much more to gain than spitting and spatting with each other.
clipped from www.latimes.com

Indonesia vs. Malaysia: a cultural war

The neighboring nations are engaged in a tense struggle for superiority, and the rift is widening: It’s cultural, it’s political and, recently, it’s gotten personal.

October 21, 2009

Reporting from Jakarta, Indonesia –
For decades, Uni Histayanti has performed the enigmatic movements of her country’s traditional pendetpendet dance. She learned the rhythms as an infant and years ago opened a dinner theater here in the Indonesian capital where, dressed in native costume, she performs nightly.

As she flutters her arms bird-like, darts her eyes and tilts her head at exotic angles, she invokes the welcoming spirit of the Hindu-majority Bali island where it originated centuries ago.

That’s why it floored her to hear that neighboring Malaysia had reportedly tried to seize the pendet as its own. It’s pure cultural piracy, Histayanti insists. And it makes her mad.
blog it

Coming soon on Oct 8: An Indonesian invasion of Malaysia

Probably not since the Taiping rebellion has so much idealism, foolishness, naivety and stupidity has been combined with so much misguided idealism, nationalism and foolishness.

The Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat intends to invade Malaysia with bows and arrows, black magic and other paraphernalia on October 8. One doubts if they would be able to even mount anything on Malaysian soil on that day but if they do so one can only hope that they make a bee line for KJ so he can show how brave he is in the face of hotheads like himself.

What’s remarkable about this whole thing is that there is this bunch of hotheads arming themselves, giving themselves paramilitary training and making public statements about how they intend to invade a neighboring country – and the police in Indonesia do not do anything about it.

And what’s the invovement of the PDIP in all of this? The HQ of the Benteng guys is in a former operations center of the PDIP. What’s the connection?

This from The Jakarta Globe today:

A young recruit from anti-Malaysia group Bendera taking part in combat training. (Antara Photo)

A young recruit from anti-Malaysia group Bendera taking part in combat training. (Antara Photo)

Indonesian Vigilantes Prepare For Battle in Malaysia

At this moment in Jakarta, a group of Indonesians are putting the final touches to their plan to invade Malaysia and wage war. Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat has announced Oct. 8 as the date of this D-day, when it says it will avenge all the wrongs committed against Indonesia by its neighbor .

Established during this year’s presidential election, the group, also known as the People’s Democratic Defense, has attracted public attention with its protests calling on Indonesians to “kill Malaysians.” Earlier this month, the group set up roadblocks in Menteng, Central Jakarta, in an attempt to detain Malaysian citizens.

However, the roadblocks failed to net any Malaysians, according to Mustar Bona Ventura, the group’s coordinator. “If we had caught them, we would have sent them home,” the 32-year-old economics student said.

He said the group’s anti-Malaysian stance was not motivated solely by claims that the neighboring country has been busy stealing Indonesia’s culture.

“It’s the whole thing, including the claims on our islands and the abusive treatment of Indonesian migrant workers,” he said. “The breaking point was when they insulted us through our national anthem, ‘Indonesia Raya.’ ”

For more of the story read here.