Ethnics, Cultures & Religions

Archive for June, 2008

They’ve Changed!

An arts shop in Jakarta


I haven’t been to Indonesia for a long time. Going there is like meeting up with your long lost relatives and friends, so much to talk about with the locals there. 

Indonesians are very intelligent, knowledgeable, and they have a keen sense of intellect that we seem to miss out on here. 

Its a country with over 17,000 islands, with a population close to 200 millions people. It has more than 300 ethnic groups speaking 200 distinct languages and dialects. Yet, the average Indonesians can explain to you with some authority on this diversity. Compare this with our people who couldn’t even agree with the date of country’s independent day. We are talking about our educated populace who ought to know better!

Flying to Jakarta for a short visit from Bandar Seri Begawan was a breeze.

The last time I traveled to Jakarta was with a friend Sabahan Chinese. He was held up at the immigration counter for hours with officers demanding money from him. But this time around, the clearance was so quick; I thought I had landed in Singapore.

I asked the immigration officer where he came from. Pelembang, he said.

God, that reminded me of home. Palembang=Permasewara. Remember the Hindu prince who founded Malacca?

Jakarta has developed into one of Asia’s most prominent metropolitan centers besides being a truly “meeting point” for the various representatives of this vast archipelago.

I recommend

For a city of 12 million people, it’s better kept than Manila. It’s relatively clean with thousands of things to do and see. For first-time visitors with limited time there are some attractions that you must not miss.

Top of my list is the 300 hectares Mini Indonesia Park that displays 250 cultures, which inhabit the 33 provinces of the archipelago. I am also fond of the Art Market at Ancol Amusement Park where you not only have the opportunity to buy local arts and crafts but also see the artisans at work.

The shopping complexes are the same anywhere; they hold little interest for me. While the major bookshops here display titles in English, Mandarin and Bahasa, in Jakarta the English language best sellers are translated into Bahasa Indonesia. For book lovers who are used to the original versions, seeing Donald Trump telling you how to make money in Bahasa needs some adjustment.

Jakarta is definitely popular with Malaysians, wherever I went to like restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops I bumped into Malaysians from the Peninsular and Sarawak. Maybe, it is the school holidays.

The Javanese people in Jakarta are a class act, they are so courteous and civilized, and it is unbelievable. Some of their cousins here a real pain you know where. Our tourist people should consider sending study groups over there to learn how to handle visitors so that they want to come back over and over again.

Be cautious

It is a common sight to see road users tipping men in uniform for the little favors shown, but, they do their job well, even the security personnel at shopping complexes do their work with efficiency and authority without being overbearing. The traffic is kept flowing by these people without as much as the blaring of the horn showing how good they are.

A word of warning though, if you are not used to hot spicy food, don’t try, stick to what you are familiar with as there are many choices. And as the Indonesians are also famous for their “black magic” skills, be careful where ever you go. I was told a Malaysian tourist lost some RM2, 000 at a tourist spot called Puncak to a local, the story was that she was “charmed” to part with her money by a mere tap on the shoulder!

All in all, if you haven’t been to Jakarta, it’s worth the 2-hour flight from Brunei, at least it is a break from familiar KL or Singapore.

And, I can guarantee you their public toilets are so much cleaner than ours!


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