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Does Indonesia Suck as a Tourist Destination?


THE answer is yes and no. It depends on how you look at it and from which angle you are referring to. It’s also depending how you manage your travel plan.

But, before I continue to write further please read these comments below. You will find these comments are common and typical tourist had experienced while visiting Indonesia for various reasons.

These comments mostly negative and I think were quite genuine. I just feel sorry that they had such bad experience during their visit to Indonesia. I quoted part of the comments below:

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 going 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 occurred 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. (source: http://theunspunblog.com/2010/04/05/does-indonesia-suck-as-a-tourist-destination/). See also: http://www.2fortravel.com/top-5-reasons-that-indonesia-sucks/

I don’t think that the traveler had learned enough about Indonesia prior their departure to Indonesia. They might have high expectation about Indonesia. The traveler probably learned about Indonesia briefly through pamphlet they got from their travel agent. Or from travel book that mostly write Indonesia as tourist promotion. Off course as promotion media, they will not tell the reality or anything else in specific except tourist destination. It’s not surprising that their expectation differed than what they experienced.

In real life, as in anywhere in the world, it will not always be the same as written in the book. Country habit, daily life, custom, human or social interaction and so on will not be explained in depth. This is the interesting part of traveling. Social or human interactions can be unpredictable, different, vast, tricky to understand. You need to know bits and piece about this. If you are experienced traveler, you might not surprise with these issues. If you are amateur traveler, or never travel to third world country, you might shock and find every thing is so different and not as expected.

Most tourists wrongly expected that the destination country will be at least same as the country where they come from. Transportation and accommodations are easy and clean, the people are friendly, the prices are fixed as in tag no need to bargain, and facilities are standard and so on.

If you come to other country, the first thing you have to do is switched off your standards or at least lower your expectations in lots of things once you step your feet on the ground of destination country. Many simple things will annoy you if you won’t. Collecting bags, finding trolley, immigration check and else. You will find the way were handled quite differently than your country. Anything that look normal in your country, become a struggle in Indonesia. Especially if you come from developed country and come to developing country. Be ready to accept the unexpected facts and gradually changed your attitude. Study the fact how the people are dealing with situation and learn from them. This will guarantee you to blend with locals easily and will provide new perspective in seeing things. Be ready for the real adventure.

Maintaining your high standard and expectation will only drag you down and eventually will reduce your enjoyment. If your expectations are simple, you will find that actually the situation is not that bad at all. Than you will realize they are lots of things can be enjoyed. Keep your mind simple and follow the flow. Disgruntle only make everything get worsen off. Indonesian people are very proud of their country. Your high standard of expectation might offend locals without your knowledge. Comparing their country with other country is not wise thing to do. The locals enjoy their life. They are relatively happy with what they have and see. So, there must be some way how to enjoy life in here even the fact is beyond standard of your expectation.

The moment you set your mind simpler, you will learn new way of life quicker and adjust yourself to new environment much easier. Just keep in mind that most of things will be different than in your original country where you come from. Even simply say hello to unknown people are common. Indonesian likes to know western. Mostly they want to practice English or just being helpful to foreigner. Don’t get offended. You might think that they are too nosy and try to interfere with your privacy. Whenever you go, it seems they never left you be alone.

Any information relating with your traveling can’t be found easily. Map will be hard to find but there always be tourist information around the corner. The hint is you have to ask lots. That the way to live in Indonesia. Be social and ready to talk to stranger. Just do not get too friendly. Maintain as casual and formal as you can. Friendly doesn’t mean you have to be close personally. Ask question more than one person to avoid being falsely given wrong information to trap you into troubles. Ask to group of people. In that way, you will get correct information.

One more thing, don’t eat food if see or suspect that was not processed hygienically. Try to eat fresh and hot food just been cooked. Don’t eat anything raw or cold food if you are not sure how the food was handled or processed. Pay bit more expensive food in proper restaurant otherwise you will get sick. If possible, drink only from sealed bottle or something is hot boiled water.

Anywhere you go always be patient. Time is slow in Indonesia. Give yourself plenty of time outside your time frame. Time is perceived as intangible and circular in Indonesia. Not like in western country where the time is linear and almost tangible.

Have safe journey and welcome to Indonesia.*** (HBS)

 gua tabuh

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It’s not kind of head protection gear or helm  that the motorbike rider put on.  It’s a mask for traditional Indonesian dance called “Reog” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reog).

The mask around 30 – 40 kg in weight. The boy could be around 40kg. The total weight will be around 70kg and supported only by the strength of his teeth! Don’t forget about the wind blow and air traction caused by moving forward with such wide surface.

Foto source: https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/601766_352612614846757_261327163_n.jpg

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Deadly Things You Should Not Do While In Bali

By: Herry B. Sancoko
Some people when they’re having fun tend to forget to behave properly and even ignore their responsibilities.  While in foreign country which might have more lenient and tolerance towards people’s misbehaviour should not make yourself, family or friend forget your own safety.  Compare to Australia, traffic regulation in Bali and Indonesia not as strict as in Australia.  This is the case where Australian who are having holiday in Bali perceived as a small freedom and they become reckless in driving. Combine with cheap alcohol, they party hard like there is no other day tomorrow. Having fun at full gear.

These are few things that you need to consider before going abroad on holiday to Bali and decide to do silly things that might cost your life.

Carry Drug

Drug will only add you to a death row line. Don’t bring any drug.  There are already enough example of people trying their luck to smuggle the drug to Bali and end up in jail and waiting to be persecuted in front of firing squad.  Don’t risk your life for stupid risks.

Alcohol and drugs as well as violence in nightclubs and bars are among the biggest causes for Australians getting into trouble in Bali.

According to figures released by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, 39 Australians died in Bali in the past 12 months. Another 93 needed consular help after being hospitalized, 36 were arrested by the local police and 18 ended up in jail. (The Bali Times, “An Australian Dies Every Nine Days in Bali”, August 25, 2012)

Ride Motorbike

For most Australian, riding motorbike in other country with less strict traffic regulation must be fun.  They think riding motorbike is easy.  As long you can ride bike means you can ride motorbike. This is not always the case.

Road accidents are the single largest cause of death in Bali for Australians. Many Australian involved in motorbike crashes did not have adequate travel insurance.  Factors that cause traffic accidents are inexperience, unfamiliar road and traffic conditions and alcohol/drug consumption.

If you can’t ride motorbike steadily in straight line, don’t even think to rent a motorbike in Den Pasar, Bali.

Like other part of 3rd world country, street in Den Pasar, Bali are crowded with motorbike, bike, other vehicles, pedestrians and cars.  The most dangerous one is motorbike. They are invisible, fast moving,  unpredictable and they are lots of them.  Competing space to drive in mostly narrow street is very challenging and required highly skilful in riding motorbike.


Narrow street means that you have to ride in limited space to enable you to follow the traffic flow. Some people can drive easily in such narrow space without putting much concentration.  They do it daily and they recognise the unwritten law about street manner.  This unwritten law can be understood only after driving certain years of experience.  This is the most mistake that had been misunderstood by foreigner which contribute in high number of accident that cost lives.

Other thing that you have to consider is, the drivers in Den Pasar, Bali are less tolerance than in Australia. If you move to slow, they will cut your way. If you wait for them to giveaway, you will not get it.  If you wait the traffic slower down for you, you will wait the whole day.

The secret is combination between careful judgement and bit courage of risk taking adventure. If you try to merge inside the lane, you might not get it straight away.  The traffic seem will not allow you to merge.  They don’t want to give you a chance to merge.  No one slow down.

You have to merge slowly and keep an eye on oncoming traffic. As long as you move slowly, let other see your intention, your action will force them to slow down.  And finally you will get your way. This is the most common practice in driving in Bali.

When you ride in crowded traffic, sudden movement will cause accident. Try to ride steadily and in straight line. Don’t get distracted by any other traffic that overtake you.  Sometime they overtake you by leaving only small distance from your stirring wheel. Don’t get upset and panic. They are experience rider.  That’s the way most people do when they overtake.

Always wear helmet wherever you go. Doesn’t matter if you think it’s only a short distance.  You might not know and miss out or overlook what is at around corner or suddenly appear from behind you.

When approaching traffic light, don’t assume that red light means everyone will stop or green light is safe to move. It’s not like in Australia. Most people will obey traffic light. Or most traffic light equipped with red light camera.


Happy tourists with their rented motorbike. (Source: http://lookingforthechillzone.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/img_1009.jpg)

In third world country, traffic light is not regarded as fixed rule that everyone will follow and obey. Before you continue to drive after the light changes into green, always make sure that all vehicles are stop.  Proceed slowly if you sure that other traffics stop at the red light.

Traffic light is considered as something annoying by some people.  If the traffic light failed, it will not caused horrific accident.  Because people used not to trust traffic light anyway. People sometime still drive even the light is red.  Even the light is green, they still drive like the light is red. So whenever approaching traffic light they always drive with cautions.

It’s different case in Australia. Traffic light failure can result in multiple accidents.  Because people rely too much on traffic light and people’s obedience.  Green is green and continue to drive without any hesitation.  And if the light is red, people definitely will stop at the red light signal.   Green is green.  Red is red.  Nothing in between. It’s common that most accidents in Australia occur at intersection where the traffic light because the driver fall asleep or did not pay attention to traffic light.

Don’t Drink Locally Made Spirits

There are several cases of Australians death relating with alcohol that was made locally contain deadly substance. The famous homemade alcohol called “tuak” which is made from rice wine popular throughout south-east Asia – mixed with fruit juice.  This drink sometime contaminated with methanol – a toxic chemical compound often used as an anti-freeze or in paint.

For some people that substance might not appeared to be deadly. But it might not apply to you.  So be safe. Don’t try anything that you don’t know for sure. If you really want to drink, purchase from well recognize brand only.

Bali is beautiful place to have holiday. The price is cheap and local people are remarkably friendly.  You will amaze their hospitality towards tourists. Bali or also called as Island of God is tranquil and place to have quiet and religious experience where religious ceremonial performed almost daily.  As long you keep yourself away from trouble, you will not regret to come here even once in your life time. You will remember the beauty of the island, craft, art, dance with relax and friendly atmosphere.  Happy holiday, mate!*** (HBS)

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Nyepi Pissed off Tourists in Bali?

On Tuesday, 12th March 2013, Nyepi the Balinese New Year’s day will take place. The difference between Bali with other places is that new year will not be celebrated with loud music, party or other worldly fun activities. Bali will be in complete silence and standstill.  For Balinese, New Year day is the time for meditation, contemplation, pray, self introspection and distance oneself from worldly needs and connect tightly to God.

On this day you will find the whole island of Bali like been deserted by their people. You can barely find any human wandering on the street. No sound of traffics. At night, no light is coming out from houses or building. The island is inhabitable and haunted.

I was once staying at the hotel during Bali New Year which in local language called “Nyepi”, literally means silence. I feel so lucky to have this once in my life time experience.  I was completely overwhelmed with the degree of Balinese dedication, connection with their religion and culture.  Everyone follows to what the culture dictated for so many years with punctuality and with complete submission.

I was in the hotel and not allowed to get out from the hotel.  I even was asked not to switch on the TV and room light. If we want to switch it on we have to fully close the curtain and put TV volume as lowest as possible. No sound emanating from any rooms.  No ray of light shines and visible from outside. It was scary and exiting as well. I never had this kind of experience before – intentionally have a life in complete darkness and silence for so many hours.

I came to Bali and planned to have an enjoyable and nice holiday for just couple days.  Not to have this kind of experience. I was protesting to my self at that time.  It was very annoying and far from comfortable to stay in the hotel with such restrictions.  It is suck and ridiculous restrictions! I believe lots of tourists in Bali pissed off.

But even they allowed me to get out from my room; I will not find anything outside. All shops are closed.  All traffics disappeared. All restaurants were deserted by the owner like they had decided to get over with his life, enough with the problems and go to hell with dollars. Obviously the restrictions were followed by the whole over 3 million people in the island.

Tourists are not exempt from the restrictions.  Forget the beach.  Ignore the pub.  They are not allowed to get out from their rooms and wandering on the street.  There will be local security or watchmen called as “pecalang” to ascertain that the rules are obeyed.  Anyone caught out in the street or making loud noise – I was told, will be fined 50 kilos of rice.  This is serious stuff.  If you don’t know the way how to get so much rice you’d better not to leave the hotel.

If you are not happy, bad luck.  The airport is closed for the entire day.  Boats or ferries were not allowed to depart or arrive at the harbors. No one allowed to work. So the tourists basically are trapped in their own rooms. No one can escape. No, it’s not imprisonment against your will!  It’s their culture. Take it or leave it.

Read these government  regulations concerned over the Nyepi day procedure in Bali:

    • People will not allow going out during the day unless it matter of urgency and emergency.
    • No flight out of Bali for the day, unless flight into and transit flight to Bali, and transit passengers will not be allowed to wander off the airport and they must stay at airport until the following day.
    • Harbors and terminals are closed for the day. Every ships and ferries out from Bali and into Bali have to be delayed for the day after.
    • Hospitals, police stations, fire stations and ambulances are still on duty.

Obviously, I can’t do anything and except had to accept the facts.

But strangely, after couple hours in almost darkness, I become used to it. I am afraid that I had to realize the fact that in fact I gradually enjoy the atmosphere.  I peeked outside the hotel. I saw no one on the street.  I saw no light.  Amazing!  I was like living in another planet but called Bali.



Knowing that I have been disconnected from outside world and can’t do anything except staying in the room, I found good excuse to do absolutely nothing.  Somehow I felt relieve like being set free from thousand burdens. Suddenly I realize that I have lots of time to do anything I like for myself.

It’s time for me to catch up with my deprive sleep during this time.  But I decided to grab my new magazine instead.  Magazine which I didn’t had a chance to read since I bought few days ago.  My small world felt so quiet.  I heard nothing from outside except the sound of crickets on the ground below. I was wondering, what other tourists are doing in their rooms?

I assumed that those foreign people who are trapped in this unwanted situation or unaware of Nyepi in Bali will find something useful to do to kill their times.  Well, at least I do.  Perhaps some of them found the idea to extend this phenomenon to their country.


Nyepi and Earth Hour

In 2007, WWF-Australia who had inspired Sydney-siders to show their support for action on climate change in the first ever “Earth Hour” event could have their ideas originated from Nyepi?  (Further information about Earth Hour: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Hour)

Earth Hour starts from Sydney, Australia in 2007 (Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fd/Earth_Hour_60%2B_Logo.jpg)
Earth Hour starts from Sydney, Australia in 2007 (Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fd/Earth_Hour_60%2B_Logo.jpg)

A WWF initiative, Earth Hour is a simple idea that’s quickly turned into a global phenomenon that encourage hundreds of millions of people switching off their lights for one hour, on the same night, to give awareness regarding conserving world energy.

More than two million individuals and 2,000 businesses in Sydney took part in the Earth Hour event in 2007 for the first time. Many tourist icons were switched off for one hour including the Harbor Bridge, Sydney Opera House and the Luna Park face. The Coca-Cola sign at Kings Cross was switched off intentionally for the first time since the 1970s.

Starting from a one-city initiative in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour in 2012 takes place in more than 6,950 cities and towns in 152 countries and territories around the world.

Some experts said that Earth Hour will not have an effect on overall carbon emissions  because after turning of the electricity it might have to use more carbon intensive power sources to restore supply afterwards.

“The best thing for climate change would be for people to insulate their homes and get into the habit of turning appliances off at night, said Ross Hayman, of the National Grid, UK (The Telegraph, Sunday 10 March 2013).

“People ought to focus on general efficiency measures to reduce their energy use overall rather than switch everything off for an hour because that might not have an efficiency effect on the network overall,” he said.

But Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns at WWF, said it was not about saving energy for just an hour but raising awareness.

Compare to Earth Hour which in 2013 will be held on March 23, 2013 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., at participants’ local time, Nyepi is likely more significant in reducing world energy and cutting CO2 emissions.

Nyepi comes after the eve of noisy festivities with parades of “ogoh-ogoh”. (Foto source: http://binginbanjah.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/ogoh3.jpg)
Nyepi comes after the eve of noisy festivities with parades of “ogoh-ogoh”. (Foto source: http://binginbanjah.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/ogoh3.jpg)

It was estimated that Bali’s CO2 emissions was reduced by about 17 thousand to 20 thousand ton just one day during Nyepi on 2010 (VIVAnews.com, March 4, 2011)

And in year 2012, during Nyepi, Bali cut its carbon emissions by 30,000 tons, as about 2.3 million vehicles stopped operating for the day, said Suriadi Darmoko, from Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

PLN Bali spokesman Agung Mustika said that during Nyepi 2012, energy consumption dropped 50 precent from 545 megawatts, saving more than Rp 4 billion ($436,000) worth of electricity! (The Jakarta Globe, April 02, 2012).


Fresh Air

During the night I woke up couple times and curious to see the outside of the hotel. I went out from my room and walked quietly to balcony. It was almost pitch black. The sounds were emanating mostly from animals.

I stayed quite a while outside enjoying the calmness, quietness, tranquility and mystical air. I sharpen my ear try to catch any sound other than from nature. It was around 2 o’clock in the morning.  I heard a motorbike engine from far distance an hour ago.  It must be motorbike used by “pecalang”. Now, I barely hear anything.

I went sleep and wake up at 6AM in the morning.  I have slept only few hours and felt fresh.  I went out back to balcony to see outside.  It was still quiet.  But I found something different. The air was so fresh.  I was instinctively try to suck and inhale all the fresh air to fill up my lung as much as it can bear. I never taste the air feel so fresh like this before.

Nyepi is really a unique experience for me.  I can not find it any where else in entire world.  There is simply no other day like this except here, in Bali.*** (HBS)