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Indonesian uncertainty – Three travel essays

March 29, 2011

Impending doom mixed with hope for the future

School girls in Jakarta with defiant fist of poitical uncertainty.

Visiting Jakarta, Indonesia, in the late 1990s, the sense of impending doom mixed with hope that the future might improve life for the people of the fifth largest nation in the world. I spent time at the old capital of Batavia. Here are my observations. Also attached are travel essays on Yodgykarta in Central Java.

Waiting in Old Batavia

Rohindra parked the tourist bus near the town hall of Old Batavia, the Dutch colonial capital of Jakarta. I was the lone tourist on the bus, a sign of the bad economic times that have led Indonesia into growing political turmoil. “This is where they came to pay their taxes, go to jail for not paying their taxes and sometimes to be executed for not paying their taxes,” my guide Aris said as we stood in front of the hall on Execution Square.

Old Batavia

Voyage to Hindu Prambanan

Bpk Joko was concerned.  He needed all the tourists he could get these days as student demonstrations and violent deaths in Jakarta had slowed his tour business to a pathetic trickle in the Javanese cultural capital of Yogyakarta. Still, he was starting to wear thin from our constant requests. First it was the added time we took to give money to beggars outside the Kraton, the palace of the 10th Sultan of Yogyakarta, the once mighty capital of this 13,000-island Indonesian archipelago.

Voyage to Prambanan 

Buddha heaven at Borobudur

Bpk Joko was upset. The itinerary had been revised yet again, postponing the visit to the famed Buddhist temple at Borobudur in favour of a short stop at a silversmiths at Kota Gede, a suburb of Yogyakarta about five km from the centre of this arts and handicrafts capital of Central Java. Kota Gede is famous for its silversmiths and Tom’s Silver Manufacture is one of the better ones in Yogya. Here, all the silver items – the jewelry, table wear, intricate filigree sculptures – are made by hand. Not so many hands these days because of the economic crunch, but six or seven men and women torch, pound and twist the 925 silver into gorgeous shapes for bracelets, rings, picture frames, tea pots, and filigree images of trishaws, horse-drawn carriages and feathery birds of paradise.

Buddha heaven at Borobudur

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