Archive for March, 2009

Papau 5 could return to Australia soon

INDONESIA-AUSTRALIA-IMMIGRATION-COURTFive Australians who were detained for illegally entering Indonesia could return back to Australia soon, AFP reports.

“The judges accepted our arguments that the pilot decided to land as the tower official gave verbal permission despite the pilot’s explanation that they hadn’t obtained landing permit documents,” he said.

“The conversation between the pilot and the tower official in Merauke’s airport had been recorded and we gave a copy to the court.”

The Australians involved were pilot William Scott-Bloxam and his wife, Vera, plus Hubert Hufer, Karen Burke and Keith Ronald Mortimer.

We can only speculate what they were doing flying over or into Papau, which is a “sensitive” area in Indonesia.

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Lion Air plane skids off the runway

A Lion Air plane skidded off the runway flying from Makassar, South Sulawesi Province. Fortunately no one was injured in the incident.

“The heavy rain and a sudden gust of wind may have caused the plane to skid but we are still waiting for an official report from airport officials,” Lion Air spokesman Edward Sirait said. “No one was hurt and damage to the plane was minimal.”

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An accident waiting to happen

The first time I noticed the bamboo suspension bridge in Bukit Lawang was when I asked the lady in the restaurant (warung) where the toilet was. She pointed across the bridge to a place on the other side of the river. It was my second bottle of Bintang and I wasn’t too keen on trying to cross the suspension bridge that looked like it had come straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. It wouldn’t be long and it would be dark, so I thought I could just skip behind a tree to avoid having to navigate the bridge.

suspension bridge

The next day we changed hotels that was across from the suspension bridge, so there was no way of avoiding it. It was Sunday in Bukit Lawang and people had started arriving from Medan to spend the day swimming in the river and having parties. Our hotel had a good view of the bridge and I watched as more and more people started crossing the suspension bridge ignoring the “Maximum 6 people” sign that was posted on either end of the bridge.

suspension bridge

At one point the whole bridge had people on it, when suddenly it dropped a couple of feet. People screamed as the bridge bounced up and down. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Fortunately, the bridge did not collapse and everybody was able to clear it. I thought it would then be closed off in case there had been some damage done, but no, people kept crossing it like nothing happened. They did however pay attention to the “maximum six people” warning.

Not long after a few guys started pushing a massive amplifier across the bridge. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Amazingly they made it across without incident.

suspension bridge

I know it’s not that high, but the river moves pretty quickly and I am sure not everyone can swim. There were also lots of people and kids playing in the river and crossing underneath it. The bridge is also held together with rusty nails and bits of wire, so maybe no one would have gotten killed but the whole scenario just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.

suspension bridge

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See the orangutans now before it is too late

Sumatra Orangutan Bukit LawangI just came back from a weekend in Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang is about a three hour, bumpy bus ride from Medan and is apparently one of the best places for seeing orangutans in the wild. It was my second trip to Bukit Lawang, but the first time to see orangutans.

There is a feeding area where National Park staff feed the orangutans two times a day – at around 8:30 a.m. in the morning and 2:30 p.m. You need to pay an entrance fee of around 20,000 rupiah for foreigners and 50,000 rupiahs to take photos.

When you arrive in Bukit Lawang you will be met by one of the many “guides” who won’t leave you alone until you book a trekking trip with them. It is easy though to get to the feeding station without a guide. When it is close to feeding time, just keep going up the river past the “Jungle Inn” hotel, where there is a small boat to take you across the river. You can pay your money there or at the National Park office near where the becaks (motorized rickshaws) park.

The National Park guide said morning was better to see more orangutans. I was only able to see two, but the previous day there were seven. The orangutans live in the wild and make their way to the feeding station if they need food. The park rangers feed them milk and bananas.

It was incredible to see them up so close, just a meter or so away. They looked at us while we took pictures. The larger orangutan was 5 months pregnant.

There are only around 7,000 orangutans left in Sumatra according to Wiki and they could be extinct by 2012. They are beautiful and amazing creatures and it would be a huge loss to see them become extinct. Apparently 96 per cent of their genes are the same as humans. The forests are being logged for timber and the land is used for palm oil and rubber plantations.

The park entrance fees are sent to the government, but little of that makes it way back to the National Park. The guides said they hadn’t been paid for two months.

I guarantee that anyone who makes the trip to see the orangutans, you will come back an ardent conservationist.

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

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Red Axe Gang strikes in Jakarta

jakarta-slumPeter Gelling writes that a gang in Jakarta known as the “Red Axe Gang” has been attacking motorists stalled in Jakarta’s infamous traffic jams.

Police are blaming Indonesia’s ailing economy on an increase in crime.

“The changing global economy is forcing people out of work,” said Zulkarnain Adinegara, the Jakarta City Police spokesman. “And many of those people are now involving themselves in both drugs and common street crime.”

I haven rarely been approached here in Medan for money. I have come across a couple of becak (motorized rickshaw drivers) that had just come here to work, but other than that it is hard to see signs here of an economic downturn.

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Indonesia blog carnival

indonesia-blog-carnivalThe Indonesian blog community seems fairly small in comparison with some other countries. At the moment I am going through some of the great blogs written by expats living in Indonesia. Jakartass has some good links as well as the top 100 blog ranking by Indonesia Matters.

In an effort to build more of a community of Indonesian blogs I had started an Indonesian blog carnival, simply titled “Indonesia“.

Wikipedia describes as blog carnival as “a type of blog event. It is similar to a magazine, in that it is dedicated to a particular topic, and is published on a regular schedule, often weekly or monthly. Each edition of a blog carnival is in the form of a blog article that contains permalinks to other blog articles on the particular topic.”

I am thinking of holding it monthly for now and would be happy for other people to host it on their blogs in coming months.

You can submit any blog post to the carnival, as long as it is related to Indonesia. Choose and article that you think will be most interesting. Submit it using this form.

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Yoga festival goes ahead despite Muslim ban

bali-yogaA yoga festival being held in Bali is going ahead despite a fatwa being issued by the country’s top Muslim body against the practice.

“The festival has a universal value. It doesn’t belong to any religious teachings,” International Bali-India Yoga Festival spokeswoman Susi Andrini told AFP.

A fatwa was issued in January this year banning Indonesian Muslims from all forms of yoga that involve Hindu religious rituals such as chanting mantras, but performing yoga purely for the physical benefits was however acceptable.

From wiki: a fatwa in the Islamic faith is a religious opinion on Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwa is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be, depending on the status of the scholar.

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Indonesian exorcists finding work in Malaysia

toyol-indonesiaIndonesian exorcists are being used in Sarawak, Malaysia to help drive out a “toyol” which has been causing havoc in a school, according to this article in the New Straits Times.

Mysticism and black magic retains a strong foothold in this part of the world. Of course I am surprised that people still believe in mythical spirits, but I became even more disturbed after reading exactly what a “toyol” is on Wikipedia.

It is a small child spirit invoked by a bomoh (Malay witch doctor) from a dead human foetus using black magic. It is possible to buy a toyol from such a bomoh.

I am sure they would make great souvenirs.

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Lets trade links

link-exchangeIf you have an Indonesian related blog or website, lets trade links. Use the contact form to send us your details.

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Expat slave labor

I have been browsing some online job sites for expat jobs in Indonesia. Like many countries in Asia, teaching English is one area that is pretty accessible to westerners. It’s a job that is never going to make you rich, but for people looking for a lifestyle change, it is a fantastic way to travel to another and experience a different culture for an extended period.

One thing I noticed about the English teaching jobs here in Indonesia, especially on the famous ESL job site – ESL cafe is that the salaries are pretty low. They might be better than your local taxi driver, but they seem to be less than other Asian countries such as China and Vietnam.

Look at this one for example:

Economy return airfare, 6.6 million rupiah per month (net), – I know it’s not the highest of salaries, but the cost of living here is incredibly low, and our teachers actually save money each month; free modern shared housing (2 mins walk from school); 20 days holiday a year (not to mention at least 8 extra national holidays); 1 month salary bonus on completion of contract; medical cover; economy class return airfare. All visa/work permit costs are covered by the school.

The rupiah is taking a bit of a pounding right now, so 6.6 million works out to be around US$543.34 a month. The job does include “shared housing” and is only 2 minutes walk from the school. I like to live close to my work, but not that close and you better hope your roomie doesn’t snore.

Indonesia is a cheap place to live, especially if you only eat local food and don’t drink. I love Indonesian food, but I do like a bit of variety and occasionally want to enjoy a western meal. Duties on imported alcohol are ridiculous along with other imported food. English books are also more expensive. Internet can be relatively expensive (and slow if you are in a remote area.)

Also I know new graduates, especially from the U.S. probably have to pay back some money on their student loans. Travel in Indonesia is cheap, but unless you want to spend 20 hours riding on a bus or ferry you probably want to fly.

I honestly can’t see how their teachers could “save” money.

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