Living in Indonesia 2003

I actually never took residency in Indonesia, but travelled there so often on a 1 year work-visa so that I spent several months there all together. I certainly got to know the country better than the average tourist or business traveller. Indonesia is a large country (only China, India and USA have more citizens), and has an old history and culture. It is extremely fascinating, and will never bore you. Indonesians are also very friendly people, even if many of them are extremely poor. I hope I get a chance to go back there again, and so far I never made it to the Indonesian island, Bali.

Hotel Aryaduta, Jakarta

I spend about one third of my time in Indonesia's capital Jakarta, and always used the Aryaduta Hotel. Not much to look at, but good location, large rooms and very friendly staff. The top floor bar had free drinks and snacks for selected guests every afternoon. Sometimes a relaxing retreat when you were not ready to venture out in the exotic, but very noisy and polluted city of Jakarta after a day at the office.

National Monument

The national monument was walking distance from the Aryaduta Hotel if you had the nerve to challenge Jakarta traffic on foot. It was built while Indonesia was a dictatorship.


Yes, you find a lot of better taxis in Jakarta than this, but the price is hard to beat - depend on your negotiation skills and how desperate the driver is for business. Jakarta has one of the biggest collection of run down vehicles of all sorts I have seen.

Shantytown in harbour area

Indonesia has many poor and about 40 million unemployed (2003). In the cities they live in slums like this near the harbour. Pollution and smell is terrible, but here food today is more important than clean environment tomorrow.

Scooners in Sunda Kelapa harbour

I was surprised to find sailships used in regular commercial shipping in 2003. Indonesia is a contry of thousands of islands, and this is probably the last place on earth where you can see this. More than 20 scooners where here in Sunda Kelapa Harbour when I took this shot.

Unloading scooners

The scooners usually carry wood from the Islands around, and they are unloaded manually without any machinery. Only the overloaded trucks tells you this is the 20th or 21st century.

Jalan Surabaya antique market

A lot of interesting souvernirs here in the Jaman Surabaya antique market. I visited it several times and made many purchases, so they started remembering me. Initial asking price where often more than 5 times the final price. This is the place to go, not in the department stores that sells similar stuff at 10 times the price. I belive most are not antiques, but I just buy what I think is nice for decoration, I don't collect stuff because it's old.

School children

Unlike many other people, Indonesians usually didn't mind to be in your picture. Pull out your camera, show your intentions, and they eagerly pose for you, like this class of happy children visiting a museum in central Jakarta.

Volcano near Bandung, Java

Indonesia has more then 100 active volcanos, including this near the city Bandung on the island of Java. A guide is a good investment here, or you may find your shoes melting away under you. Not the place to be bare-footed.

Traditional Orchestra in Yogjakarta, Java

I got the chance to listen to this traditional large Indonesian orchestra in Yogjakarta. Very different music from what I am used to, and very fascinating. It reveals some of the rich and advanced culture and history of Indonesia.

Water Palace in Yogjakarta, Java

The water palace in Yogjakarta is a complex of old buildings and canals in the old part of town. Photo was allowed if you purchased a photo permit costing about 10 cents US. I liked this with Indonesia, photography was usually allowed, sometimes for a moderate fee. This fee probably compensates for what they may loose on reduced postcardsales or similar.

Borobudur temple, central Java

Borobudur temple in central Java is about 1000 years old, and the largest building from Antiquity on the southern hemisphere. It's setting in the middle of the jungle makes it mysterious and as taken out of an Indiana Jones movie. If you are up to old monuments, this should be in line with Machu Pichu in Peru or the temples in Egypt on your priority list. Be there early in the morning, as this has the best atmosphere, and less people. It is very popular for Indonesians, but I didn't see many foreigners there.

Prampanan temple in Yogjakarta

Prambanan is almost as fascinating as Borobudur and is easily accessible at the outskirts of the town Yogjakarta. It is many temples spread over a large area, so it doesn't usually feel crowded. It is a buddist temple, and you still see some worshippers, but the place is now more a tourist attraction than a place used for prayer.

Permata Krakatau hotel in Cilegon

When I did not work in Jakarta, I worked at a yard in the small village of Bojonegara. Bojonegara didn't have any hotels, so I stayed here in Permata Krakatau in the nearby town of Cilegon. The hotel was not aimed at westernes but had some ok rooms. Service here was often surprising (could go both ways). This hotel was 30 minutes drive from the yard, something nicer would double that driving time.

Harvesting rice in Bojonegara, Java

Harvesting rice some place between Cilegon and Bojonegara. People here vere poor, but had plenty to eat. I never understood why poor people migrate to cities, and certainly not after seeing the lifestyle in clean, nice surroundings here compared to the slums of Jakarta.

Evening at the yard in Bojonegara

End of the working day at the Gunanusa Yard in Boyonegara. See my Belanak selection in the Work section for more on my work here.

Beach resort in Anjer

I tried staying at this beach resort in Anjer on hour drive from the Yard for one week. It is a beautiful area, but as a scuba diver I was horrified to see all coral reeves gone after fishing with dynamite and possibly also cyanide had demolished most of it. The service at this place was not better than at Permata, and the rooms more run-down, so I decided not to continue to stay here. A nice feature was that you could have breakfast on the terrace looking over to the famous Krakatau volcanic island. The most powerful explosion in recorded history took place here around 1885 during a violent eruption. It was heard all the way to Australia.

Canoes on the beach in Anjer, Java

Anjer allowed long, nice beach walks where you could still spot tradistional lifestyles and tools, like these fishing canoes.

(c) Thomas Høven 2004