I Love Indonesia, but…


The below article is highlighted in Bugils Newsletter, and in attempt to make it more worth to read – since I wrote it in 10 minutes during Manchester United vs. Chelsea game (in between red wine & chips) – and to look smarter (ha, who am I kidding!), I fixed it a little bit.

… I don’t really know my country that well, apparently. Mr. Mck’s friends are coming for two weeks and even though I’ve been to Bali a thousand times I haven’t explored the island further than Seminyak area. Then the will be spending some time in Jakarta. But except visiting our bars (Eastern Promise and Cazbar), I have absolutely no idea where to take them – I have to ask my friends who, despite trying really hard, couldn’t give me satisfactory answers. Where to go in Jakarta except Sunda Kelapa? I might take them to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah but it’s damn too far (in terms of time journey, not distance), we might as well spend the night in Bogor. I only know Bandung for it’s factory outlets. I know, embarrassing. I am embarrassing.

… My country doesn’t make it easy. Really. I check the news sporadically, and sometimes it’s either upsetting or depressing, and I couldn’t help but wonder, how we could manage to stand as a country for 60 years without learning anything from the past and without an extra effort to think about the effects for the future. We tear down all historical buildings and leave next to nothing to the next generation (what can you learn from too many shopping malls?), we choose to build villas on the green areas and then blame God, nature, and other spirits when the flood takes over. Things that should be easy and essential are being robbed: we deserve to breath in clean air, to see the blue sky, to hear the bird chirping in the morning from our bedroom window. We deserve to walk in the city without being harassed by vehicles and thugs. We deserve to use decent public transportations which is reliable and work around the clock. How could we respect our government while they always come up with stupid decisions, like to chain the parked cars on the street (I’m sure they now have a big budget to buy locks and chains), or to argue about whether Prof. Dr. Satrio/ Casablanca street will resemble Singapore’s famous Orchard Road or not, but it has been 10 years since Suharto regime fall and life is harder to most people, and justice has not been put in place. Jakartass writes an excellent review and summary about what happens after 1998 tragedy, and I can’t believe that we’re not progressing much.

… to some, time is a strange concept. And boy how I forget about it – time is not something to be honored in Indonesia. Prepare to face the worst, those who don’t appreciate yours, and those who are familiar with rubber time (jam karet). We don’t know each other except through another person – she lives in Indonesia but is married to a Scotsman, and I live here. But I gave her my mobile number anyway, with a PS: if you happen to be in Aberdeen, do not hesitate to contact me. She remembers and texted me the other day, announcing her arrival and her hope that she’d meet me. After a few cancellation, we settled on this particular day. I suggested lunch. She said she’d make it at 11. I said I could make it at 12. At 12.15 she phoned me, saying that they (yeah, she and her beau, apparently), just left home and will be there in 45 minutes, circa. I arrived 12.45, waited and waited. Bought some juice to calm my screaming tummy. 1.30 I got a text from a different number, she apparently left her mobile at home and now was using her beau’s. They had arrived. I chucked my juice away and went back to the cafe (2.00 PM, 2 hours late!), only to find out that she had had lunch. And I though we promised to have lunch? Looked at the watch and it’s already 2.05PM – another appointment – so apologized and buggered off. Wondering whether I have been away from Indonesia too long or this particular girl doesn’t have manner…. I couldn’t even be mad because I was too hungry! She sent text today asking if I’m free on Friday. When I said yes she texted back, and contrary to what I expected that she’d arrange something, she said she’ll let me know later. 2 Hours later I confirmed a a lunch with a group of friends. That’s how it works, baby. Don’t expect people to wait for you with open schedules.

…I took a look at the pictures gracing my friends’ Facebook and after 6 months of jealousy feeling left out because I wasn’t present I wonder if there is any life outside parties and boozes, and if all gone, what’s left? Hangover? How much longer we want to do that over and over again?

… I have the feeling that I don’t belong there (or here?). I start losing my memory about Jakarta and Surabaya and can’t remember the routes and places. I don’t text my friends that often anymore and they don’t seem to care anyway (sent email a few weeks a go as part as an attempt to keep in touch by sending weekly email to everyone, but harsh reply came from them: too busy to write, sorry. Jaysus!! And that’s it, would never write anymore, ever), so those so-called friends are not friends anymore (funny that when you threw a party you’ve got lots of friends but once you need a hand, no one offers one?) and I only maintain contacts with a very few of them.

… I don’t want to go back. The world is my oyster. I don’t want to go back to stuck-in-traffic-jam-for-3-hours mode, the sense of insecurity and lack of smiles except when there’s a presence of Rp 1,000 notes under the table. I don’t want to go back to the world when manners mean nothing and work means 17 hours-stuck-in-office. Here we walk to office or drive and arrive there in 10 minutes – 45 minutes is a stress. We arrive in the morning and leave after 4. No one wishes to stay after 6.00 PM.

… maybe I’m just fed up in general.

Maybe I’m letting it go.



  1. Mba .. im one of your blogs biggest fan. I check your daily update almost everyday and feeling excited to read your latest post. For me, your truly an inspiration especially your writings about Indonesia.

    Unfortunately, no matter how some of us share the same feelings with you, but not all of us has the opportunity to live abroad. I love my Indonesia, but sometimes its just so hard to keep on loving Indonesia. I guess only God knows why hehehehe …

    Keep on updating ya mba .. i love your writings :)

  2. wah, you are like the senior me, hihi, that’s an overcomplement to my self actually.

    but i feel the same. i will finish my study this summer. thinking if i really wana go back home. the only reason why i wana go back to Jakarta are; my family (and friends) and my home land (i am Betawianese). maybe i shud go back to Aceh, my second home. Or stay in Norway (my present home) or travel somewhere else (my future home)?

    i am luckier that my friends are still there. though we send only one word email but we send email to keep each other’s update. but in indonesia making appointment to meet friends are always like a big thing, because it will take one travel more than 30 minutes to another friend’s place. here, it’s just to wak few block or simply take the stairs to the forth apartement 😀 .

    but i miss my family and friends so much. so i think i can cope with jakarta when i go home later this summer. but until when, i really don’t know :( .

    about the places to visit; same case here. but maybe you could open the website of jakarta government. and i have a friend working in dinas pariwisata who was ex none jakarte. i can ask her if u want. i plan to take my foster mother to museum textil, it’s the whole indonesian textil including batik history there.

    then see if there is anything traditional playng in GKJ or TIM. Take them up to monas, and don’t forget the delman thing. picnic in ancol, and some other museum. and oh..not to forget muara angke or muara karang. take them to the best fish market ever. it’s far but i think it’s worth it. buy the fish and have them grilled there.

    good luck and cheers!
    (u sounds sad here)

  3. @ Dini: there are some Indonesian blogger, like mba Anita and Rima, whom i tag as Indonesian version of post married Kerry Bradshaw.


  4. Finally Woken says:

    @Dini, yeah, our country doesn’t make it easy, does it? Sometimes I’m jealous to see these Scottish people, they’re so proud of their country, they’re so loyal to their culture and custom (I’ve got a friend who’s born in Scotland but lives in Australia since he was 3y.o, and he still says he’s Scottish – with thick Australian accent!). I wish I could be more like that. But with terrible news every single day, stupid decision made by each new government which seems to make people’s life harder, I keep questioning…

    @M: would love to have your friend’s suggestion. I’m really stuck now, don’t know where to take my guests for their 10 days holiday in Jakarta. Can you email me your friend’s email address? Thanks dear. About your return trip back home, prepare to have a culture shock as part of repatriate process. It won’t be easy, and it will take time. Or maybe you want to work in Scotland? Hehehe…

  5. rimafauzi says:

    you could take them to cafe batavia, a really nice building. museums, perhaps? go strolling in kota, pass by ancol’s pasar seni, and perhaps eat in a restaurant by the beach.you could take them see something in gedung kesenian jakarta, take them to pecinan/chinatown, many interesting stuff to see. There are plenty of stuff to do and see in jakarta, we have to be brave enough to go and visit them.. :)

  6. Finally Woken says:

    @Rima: Cafe Batavia is in the agenda. But everything you and M suggested can be done in a few days, not 10 days. Plus some of them don’t eat seafood. Pusing :)

  7. Dilligaf says:

    Pelabahan Ratu for the weekend, chill out, gorge yourselves on seafood and let their eyes grab the scenery on the journey.

    And, you are right about the Scots, it is easier to get cured from AIDS than it is to lose a Scottish accent!

  8. Dilligaf says:

    Sorry, should have noticed the comment about the seafood..take steaks and BBQ them yourselves..

  9. In Indonesia, it’s normal to be 3 hours late and get stuck in traffic. It’s normal to work 17 hours a day and gradually lose communication with your closest ones because you have no time for them. It’s also normal for friends and family to take advantage of you (happens to me a lot).

    All of those are normal … right?

    Well. No. It is not fecking normal, of course it isn’t. It’s because everyone else is doing it that’s why people think there’s nothing wrong with it.

    When I used to be employed, I always left at exactly 4 pm and got grilling stares from my senior and murderous one from my manager.

    She didn’t even hesitate to go, “Kok jam segini udah pulang (Are you leaving already)?”

    And I had the are-you-nuts look on my face because it is the time to go home, do I really need an excuse for it? Why would the company make working hours rules if no one wants to stick to it?

    It was then that I realised I was working with a bunch of abnormal, socially-deprived people who had non-existent essentials of life outside of the office building whatsoever.


  10. Suriani says:


    Reading your blogs might give others wrong perception abt our country “Indonesia” I’m a chinese Indonesian, usually many people judge me as “not an Indonesian” moreover “I’m not a china citizen too”. Anyhow, I’m always proud of my country and my pleasure to inform abt the nice places here to many my bule friends or other overseas friends. Whatever has happened in Indonesia, i thought we still lucky to be part of it, many sucks thing happened here (don’t u think, there’s no perfect country in the world??),but so far still humanly, unlike many unlucky country which has to suffer because of never ending conflict in their country. I’m sure if u love your family, u’ll love Indonesia ^.~


  11. Finally Woken says:

    @Diligaf: Prepare to spot a bunch of Scotsmen in EP very soon. Thanks for the suggestion. It’s in the agenda too.

    @Therry: I’m about to write about it. Everybody thinks it’s normal, which is pretty sad.

    @Suriani: I get your concern. But I can’t help but feeling in torn between love and pissed off with Indonesia. Our basic rights as the citizens are often denied, and it’s upsetting to see the government thinks it’s better to mess about with stupid issues like to ban Dewi Persik, to protest about the movie ML, and so on. People don’t ask much as long as they could live comfortably without having to worry about price hike every few months, as long as they could feed their families and have a decent life. We don’t get that in Indonesia, where 40 million people live with less than $2.00 a day. I can continue but I’ll stop now…

  12. Anonymous says:

    I love Indonesia as my birthplace, but nationalism must be re-defined. We can live anywhere but still loving our birthplace. It would take a lot of energy and resources to change Indonesia, and at some level, the environment matters.

    Much love,

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hi Anita,
    You could bring your guests to thousand island, dufan, ancol, sea world, night safari is very interesting, ragunan, monas, china town, spa, salon, shopping at M2, food, etc.
    Ten days is too long for spending time in jakarta only, should go to Bandung.
    Or if you dont wanto get ‘pusing’, just ask a travel agent to arrange tour for them..;P

    Well, about our country Indonesia, we still have many issues that happened for long time, there are plus and minus here, but no country is perfect and no body is perfect. Still I think we should be proud of our own identity, nation, and blood if we want to get respect from others.
    Take the positive side and throw the negative one, always be positive. The best is if we could act, try to make it better, it is always easy to say than to do ;x


  14. Silverlines says:

    If your friends are into nature, you might also want to take them seeing Krakatau. I guess its hystorical value will be much appreciated.
    This blog seems to be giving you pretty much information (and reference if you look at the breathtaking mountains pictures!!!):

    or this:

    I guess 2.5 million of boat rental is reasonable to see such a rare view.

    Surely Pelabuhan Ratu, Pulau Seribu is one of the options also within vicinity of Jakarta which you might want to think of, the sky is blue, the air is fresh.
    On the other note, take them to Petak Sembilan to experience the local Chinatown inside J-TOWN.

    Just a thought, I’d give Krakatau a try if I were them.

    Enjoy the homecoming!

  15. Silverlines says:

    Oops, seems like the link does not work as expected. But you’ll get there somehow, girl.


  16. mellyana says:

    i can provide you with list(S) of great places to show many faces of Indonesia. really. i think you can always find a place meet any kind of interest here in Indonesia. tell me about the preferences and the cities, I’ll tell you where to go.

    it’s sad, that we know more on places we stayed for some short time. but, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    love indonesia without the “but”

  17. Finally Woken says:

    @Jenny: thank you. Thousand island and Kota area are on the list. I won’t take them Dufan, Ancol, Sea World, Ragunan and Safari Park – there are many better zoos in Europe. All of them are guys so spa/salon/shopping is not on the agenda, instead they’d spend half time on golfing and barhopping.

    @Silverlines: I think they could do the trip to Thousand Island and Krakatau altogether. Thanks.

    @Mellyana: Thank you, but my guests are going to be in Jakarta and probably around West Java for 10 days. They’ll fly to Bali first then Jakarta. I need advices on Bandung and probably some interesting areas in West Java, anything within 3-4 hours drive. I found there’s a deer farm in West Java but here in Scotland wild deer sometimes crosses the road, so it’s nothing spectacular. Strawberry field is also a common thing. I can only think Tangkuban Perahu. See how I get headache here? :)

  18. Let me help Mbak (salam kenal):
    3-4 hours from Jakarta will be Anyer/Carita, Bogor/Puncak/Cibodas area, Pelabuhan ratu, Pangumbahan beach (need overnight, seeing turtles), TN Gng Halimun at Gn Salak area. Or why dont you try trekking to Gn Gede (it is dry season).

    3-4 hours from Bandung: Tangkubanprahu/Lembang, Pangalengan/KawahPutih/Ciwidey, Garut/Mt Papandayan/Kampung Naga. Pangandaran needs more that 4 hours, so if you plan it make sure to look for/book a room at least one night. Cirebon area (incl. Linggarjati and Kuningan) is also an alternative, but 2nd class.

    Hope can help.

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