Category: Indonesia



 

"Looks like a yellow biscuit of a buttery cue ball moon rollin' maverick across an obsidian sky"

I’m writing this from the top bunk in the sleeping car of the Kiev-Kryvyi Rih (pronounced Kree-voy Rog, dont ask me how they ended up with that spelling) train, all my current possessions once again stuffed in a select few suitcases, Babulya (Lidas grandmother) and Lida sleeping below, rumbling through the Ukrainian nightscape while being lulled to sleep myself by the musty smell of a coal powered engine and an inconsistent yet comforting undulation of soviet era tracks. Many things have transpired over the last month, not all that I’m at liberty to divulge here, for reasons that were not fully explained to me but that I understand none-the-less.

Before my Indonesian experience I railed against social networking and blogs. It seems to have a way of sucking the organic element, and thus the excitement, from of our lives. While technology is the catalyst for my life, I also realize that its not the purpose. I had always drawn a line with this unfiltered access to my personal life with no reciprocation required. Reciprocation is, in my opinion, the definition of a healthy relationship.

I remember my friend blogging during the birth of one of his children. It was a real commitment by both mother and father (perhaps more the mother to tolerate husband with phone in hand while experiencing excruciating pain). It allowed everyone that desired to have a connection to that family a chance to share in a very pivotal moment. However not all of lives important moments can be so neatly translated into the cloud.

In 2008 after ending a dead end relationship, I started reconnecting with old friends that had subsequently been pushed out (Rachael, both Buffalo Jessicas, Iwan to name a few). On one such trip I visited my remaining Jessica in Buffalo along with her 8 year old daughter Sarah and husband Jeff. It was my second such trip and I enjoyed the comfort of a more tangible adult life that many of my still single or undetermined friends hadn’t the ability nor desire to create. Id always known I would some day have a family but that still didnt seem realistic to me, this gave me the opportunity to see how it might function when two people truly committed. It was also nice because there was no one in Buffalo that still remembered me, as it had been over 10 years since my last visit. While hanging out in a bar downtown off Elmwood with Jessica and some of her friends, a voice came from behind “Maaaaatt Nyyyye?!”. I turned to face a man that looked nothing like anyone I knew and yet he was convinced he knew me simply by the sound of my voice. Even after telling me specific instances of things we did together in high school I still couldn’t come up with a name. After one or two incorrect guesses, not 100% sure I had the right person, I ventured a guess “Jim Hickey??”.

Buffalo Reunion

Hidden behind hipster glasses and a well groomed Johnny-Depp-five-o’clock-shadow was my best friend from Junior and Senior year. The only person I’d ever met that was possibly as hyper as me. Somehow we had lost touch in the late 90s and never reconnected. Later I found out he is a total Facebook whore with over 800 friends. Had I been on Facebook we surely would have connected, shared some unenthusiastic stories and perhaps met for a drink some where down the road. Gone would have been a night of sheer elation at the coincidental meeting, of telling story after story of the past ten years and the resurrection of a small portion of my youth, however fleeting it was.

I say all this simply to illustrate the point that while I enjoy writing my blog entries and talking over IM with my friends the world across, its no substitute for the humility of a face-to-face interaction and the reaffirmation of kinship in a flesh and blood exchange. Ill continue these entries, even though the title of the blog is no longer relevant (perhaps I should change it to помочь я глупый [pomochʹ ya glupyĭ], doesnt quite roll off the touch does it), but please don’t confuse my ramblings here for a clear understanding of me or as a replacement for sitting in a bar in some shady eastern bloc country or on a snow-white beach in the south pacific talking about life, the future or my family.


Leavin' Trawangan for the US

   

Spent last week back on Gili Trawangan getting my PADI Open Water certification. Saw white tip reef shark, cuttlefish, octopus, lion fish, scorpion fish, an tiny eel and a bunch of green sea turtles. We aced the written exam including 5 of 6 dive table questions which is similar to chinese algebra. On the last day I felt my first earthquake.  It was just a second or two and felt like someone dropped a 100 ton boulder in the middle of the island. Apparently there was a 5.2 in the Moluccas Islands that we must have gotten the residual from.  

I left Friday at 9am (GMT +8) morning flew back to Jakarta and was there just long enough to buy some wood carvings and other gifts for friends, pick up my bags and catch my 8pm (GMT +7) flight to Singapore. 6 hour layover in Singapore which I spent at a hotel.  The cab driver on the way back was an old Chinese guy. Upon hearing I was American, he went off into what I imagine was his standard mantra for Amercans about how they saved them from the Japanese, who, in his opinion, are brutal and horrible people.  He went into morbid detail about the Japanese occupation of Singapore and said how the “Japanese would ki-ew us a’wa, wike chickens. just cut off you head”.  Each morbid description was followed closely by a Dr. Evil-esk laughter.  Quite strange for a 4am cab ride.   

Singapore Immigration Officers are the only immigration officials that are more miserable than U.S. immigration officers. Passing through this country is always a depressing experience. Next stop was Hong Kong, arriving at 10:30am (GMT +8) Saturday, then an 11 hour flight to San Fransisco arriving 8:20am (GMT -8) Saturday morning. Didnt get upgraded on either flight, despite still having my 1K status with United so I came off the airplane smelling like failure and meritocracy. A particularly saucy Chinaman (purposely trying to sound like a bigot) freaked out when i put my bag in the overhead on top of his wind breaker. Watching him was entertaining and he actually called me an ” assho’ ” which sent me into a giggling spell, conjuring up images of Russell Peters standup. This didnt help to calm him down so I asked him to get down off the seat he was standing on (no joke) and moved my bag off his wind breaker. But all stress was alleviated as I got my first taste of Mexican food and a Sierra Nevada once in San Fransisco. After a miserable 4 hour layover there I caught my flight to LA at 1:05 (GMT -8) finally arriving at my destination 42 hours later at 2:45pm.   

Trying to get my Blackberry hooked up on a pay-as-go service plan reminded me how much I absolutely HATE U.S. cell phone companies.  The only one that offers non-contract SIM cards with data services is T-Mobile. The cheapest plan is $60 for 500 minutes and one month of data. Found out later that night that the guy had sold me the wrong one and it didnt work with Blackberry Services . Of course there would be no way to refund my money, so I had to buy a brand new SIM card for an additional $70.    

Now its off to Dallas for a night and then Orlando. Talked to my mom this morning on the way to the airport in LA. She spent about 30 minutes explaining in detail the cloths she recently bought and the reason for the color selections. Its gunna be a long week at The Colonnades (retirement community) combined with the Rod Stewart cover band we are going to see at the Lakeland Civic Center.  I think I will take up working out twice a day at the community center. Maybe make a shuffle board friend.

Lida In Real Life


Slackin’ on the posts. WordPress erased a really long post a few weeks ago. To sum up:

  • went to gilis
  • went scuba diving for first time
  • almost freaked out because of claustrophobia
  • got over it,  loved it went again
  • Lida attacked by Titan Trigger Fish
  • New York City leg of my US trip cancelled
  • Dallas Leg added

That about gets you up to speed. We are going back to Gili Trawangan next week when another one of her friends is coming to visit and while are there we will be getting our Open Water certification. Then I leave there and go directly to the US.

So Lida has finally been able to find work here. Despite her best efforts not to, she is now doing a lot of modeling. While its not the best paying job, it does give her something to do as well as a social life. Her first photo shoot was a 6 page Halloween spread (Moonlight Saga) in Hers Magazine. Ill post the link when I get my computer back online.

We met an Uzbek girl at Boxmart (like Circle K) named Sabina, who is here modeling. As usual, her modeling agency is basically practicing indentured servitude. They take 40% off the top of all contracts, minus expenses which include rent, food, transportation, visa services and on and on. All of which she is charged about 200-300% of actual cost. So she moved out of her room at the agency which she was being charged 3 million Rupiah ($340 USD) for and into our upstairs room. Lida and her go to casting calls or photo shoots during the week and watch movies while I work. I love hearing them converse in Russian and I find myself repeating words and phrases I have no idea the meaning of (shtotiko, nez nieu, ).

We dressed up for Halloween, first time in 15-20 years for me, as Madonna and Micheal Jackson. I went with White-T-Shirt-and-Wrist-Bandage complete with the hat and wig and she was Whos-That-Girl era. I thought it was pretty accurate.

Work is still pretty busy for me. I’ve got a great opportunity to partner Westwind with a US based Microsoft partner in the new year which I will hopefully be solidifying and be able to talk more about after my trip to the States.

Right now though having a bit of a computer crisis as my laptop won’t charge. I’m at the Lenovo service center with my baby sitting in front of me in 20 pieces. Hopefully the guy can fix it cause he doesn’t have replacement parts and it will take 7 days to order them. Makes me realize I’ve got to have a backup system.

UPDATE: They fixed it!!! Not only did he fix the problem with the charger he also tighted up my hinges and cleaned the keyboard and screen.  All while I sat there and watched in under and hour. If you’re in Jakarta and need a good computer repair shop, forget going to Ratu Plaza (IT Mall), they all just send it here and charge you extra. They didn’t even want to charge me, he said “What ever you want to pay”, so I gave the guy 100,000 Rupiah ($11 USD), their hourly service fee.

IT Service Center
Pt. Information Technology Service Centre
Jalan Balikpapan No. 11C-11D
Jakarta Pasat 10160
(021) 3850 200


I promised in a previous post about extending a Visa on Arrival that I would detail the process of getting a social/cultural visa. Based on the random hits I got from that post I think this might be useful.

A social/cultural visa will allow a foreigner to stay in indonesia for 2 months and then extend that visa every month for 4 additional months. Also, if you’re living in Jakarta it means you can do the extension in the Jakarta Pusat (Central) office and not the Jakarta Utara (North) office, which is a nightmare.

First off, you will need a sponsor. Your sponsor will need to sign a letter with a Matarai stating they are sponsoring you. They will need to submit a photocopy of their national ID card and provide bank records showing their account balance. I’m not sure what the requirement is however.

You will need to give them a copy of your passport as well. The process will cost 450000 IDR for expedited next day service of 250000 IDR for 4 day service. Im not sure these are published rates as I didnt see a fee listing or if they are just what the guy felt his time was worth.  You will also have to pay an additional 250000 IRD at the issuing consulate.

You will have to tell them in advance what consulate you will be taking it to. Note, you cannot get this done in Indonesia.

You will then receive a notarized paper with your name, your sponsors name and the city you will be applying in.

Supposedly you must surrender your passport to the consulate noted for 2 business days, however, keep in mind Indonesian consulates observe many holidays. I believe there are about 30 – 60 national holidays including the ones celebrated by the host country, so that 2 days could easily turn into a week if you catch it on the wrong day.

Also, of the 3 cities Lida and I dealt with none of them handled this the same. In Singapore they wanted the 2 days. However when I went to Kuching, Malaysia, they took only 4 hours and I received it the same day. When Lida went to the embassy in Moscow, they refused to give it to her because she couldn’t produce documentation of a return ticket or a bank account with $2000 USD. This was something that was never requested of me any where nor stated by the Immigration Office in Jakarta.  I have a feeling that it was a Russian policy.

If you have the option I strongly suggest choosing a consulate in a small city as they seem they work the fastest.


100% Indonesian, except for the whole thing about Batavia being the name given Jakarta by its colonial era oppressors and the fact that they use the Dutch national colors as their corporate brand. But other than that they are Indonesian all the way.

I should say though that I don’t know what everyone was taking about when they told me they are a terrible airline. Yes, both flights were delayed in Indonesia but that no different than every other flight. The flight crew was far nicer than Air Asia, you can check a bag for free and not only can you choose your seat at check in, they gave me exit row both times for FREE! Imagine that! Its like Skinners Walden 2 in the sky!

So I spent the night in Pontianak  at a very nice western style hotel called The Mercure. It was reminiscent of Starwoods aLoft properties but with Indo style. The food there is great and one of the few hotel breakfasts worth paying for.

I had wanted to check out the equatorial monument 3km outside of town but wanted to get to the airport early as I overstayed my visa by a day. As it turns out the airport is so small I think the immigration officers just wanted to process the 20 people on my flight and get back to smoking cigarettes and sleeping, so they didnt catch or chose not to give me a hard time about it.

Kuching once again made me extremely jealous.  The airport was clean, with modern technology and air conditioning.  The city also is clean, little traffic and everyone speaks english.  Tomorrow Im going on a jungle trek in the Bako National Park in the Sarawak region of Borneo tomorrow morning. Will post pics later.

Indonesian Airport Fail


I’m going to Kuching, Malasyia today for a little vacation and to get my social cultural visa. First I fly to Pontianak in West Kalimantan. Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of Borneo. I’m really excited about flying out of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Mostly because every flight I’ve ever taken from here has been delayed (and as of 5 minutes ago that streak is officially continied). But also because it is a state of the art facility.

Last week the main radar system went down. The air traffic controller had to boot the system to manual, memorize several dozen flights and their flight paths before shutting the system down again to try to bring it back online.

A few months ago the entire airport lost power for 7 seconds resulting in many airlines ticketing and flight management system being unable to recover for hours.

Today I went through 5 securiity checkpoints all with xray machines. It wasn’t until the 5th time that someone saw the large pair of scissors in my backpack.

Finally, I’m flying Batavia Air. I’ve not flown them before but I’ve heard many thrilling stories about them and their flight record. The fact that I’m flying a low volume route makes me think they probably aren’t devoting their best resources, either personnel or equipment.

So with that, I’d just like everyone to know that I am happy with the way I lived my life and have no regrets, except maybe buying a ticket on Batavia Air but really it will be over so fast my brain probably won’t have time to register the feeling of regret, it will just be like “ummm are the wings supposed to fold up like tha” CRASH!


Ok, I know I havent posted in almost a month but its for good reason.  Business has been exploding, Lida left for Russia and I moved out of the apartment.

im still juggling work in the States, working on Eastern Standard Time and developing the business here. I swear the security guards at my office probably think Im a vampire as I get to work around 6 or 7pm and leave before 6am. I dont know what happened but about 3 weeks ago things exploded.  Someone contacted me via our website to help them bring their business up-to-date, I have a proposal into one company to do their website and a small CRM, I met with a guy that pitched a great idea about developing VPN access clients for South East Asia (which Im keeping quite until we close the deal) and I met the Indonesian equivalents of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They have about 5 different ventures including payment gateway (ala Paypal) for online gaming in Indonesia (soon to release for hotels and airlines), Golf course reservation system targeting the foreign market and they own their own submarine fiber optic line from Singapore which they use for their businesses as well as lease to hotels in Jakarta. Their CTO is no more than 25 and was offered a job with Yahoo Indonesia at twice the salary.  He turned them down because he was given stock at the current company. The main investor went to Loyola Marymount and speaks a minimum of 4 languages (Bahasa Indonesian, English, Mandarin and Japanese). They wanted to talk to me about the VPN concept as well as developing an ERP system for the largest palm oil plantation in the country (yes, all my activist friends would be proud of me, what? Ive got atleast one).

These guys were amazing and they helped me realize something about my own business model. Ive been trying to find Indonesian talent at a cheap price, banking on them growing and my experience to create a solid brand, but thats not going to fly.  Ive got to get my self a partner that is as technologically gifted as I am experienced and driven.  I need to pay a premium price for that individual and offer them a share in future profits. I may have that person, I will start working with him later this week on one of the projects. Hopefully it will all work out.

Lida is in the Ukraine right now at her families farm house. Apparently there is much contention in the house, not helped by me sending a text to grandmas phone that said “You should donate your body to science.  Im Science”, I thought Lida had the phone.  Apparently her uncle was nice enough to translate it for grandma.  I was talking to her the other day on the phone as she was pushing the trash cart down the road (love that mental image).  I could hear all the babushkas coming out and talking to her, apparently asking her to take their trash as well.  The stereotypical old Ukrainian woman blared through on the phone and made me miss her and being there even more.  Shes been gone 3 weeks and she wont be back for a little more than 3 weeks.  One thing is glaringly obvious now, I didnt come here for the business. It was a good disguise but the prospect of her not coming back made me think I didnt want to be here.  But luckily she will be back and their are some good leads on a job for her, including teaching art classes at an international school.

So I moved out of our apartment after Lida left. I want to get a house with some outdoor space but even though cost of living is cheap in Jakarta, in a city of 25 million, space comes at a premium.  In order to stay within an hours drive from the main business area (The Golden Triangle) and be in a house its looking like US prices ($1000 a month give or take).  To make matters worse, all landlords expect 1 year + 1 month security deposit.  You really dont realize how much you pay for rent every year until you have to pay it all at once. I found the perfect place, including my dream, a Koi fish pound.  They want $1300 a month, Im gunna try to talk them down to $1100 or $1200.  Its in an area called Kebayoran Baru.  Theres a great warung that serves Turkey shanks and a traditional butcher shop that even sells pork!  On a good day its 15 min taxi ride from The Golden Triangle, on a bad day 45 min.

So in the mean time Im staying with my friend Robert in his maid quarters. The shower is a bucket shower, which is surprisingly refreshing if not colder than a well diggers ass. Miu Miu was kind enough to pee on my mattress and blanket the first night so now the room smells like cat piss.  Yea for me.

So I think that gets everyone up to date. Just sittin at a coffee shop about to give a presentation on Business Intelligence to a group of developers at a large magazine publisher.  Its my first one since January so hopefully I can get back into the swing of things. Ill try get back into posting more often.


Ok, so I’m posting this more for my own sake than anything else as a result of the poor information I’ve found on the internet, perhaps this will help others.

Just a bit of background in case anyone hasn’t been keeping up. I came to Indonesia in February under the premise that I’d be getting a KITAS visa through the company which I had set up prior to arriving. This would allow me to stay and work in Indonesia without having to go to the dreaded Kantor Imigrasi for an entire year. Upon getting here I decided I wanted to save my money until I actual had work in Indonesia, since the process was going to cost about 30 juta rupiah ($2500 USD). Visa On Arrival costs 250,000 rupiah ($30 USD) and a one time 30 day extension costs the same. So every 2 months I’ve had to leave the country for a day and then return. Even with an average cost of $300 USD per trip(round trip flights to Singapore or KL are rarely more than $100 USD) at 5 trips per year its still cheaper than the KITAS, however after experiencing Kantor Imigrasi twice (5 hours of going from station to station to get one stamp) I understood the real value of the KITAS.

Iwan and I had set up a local PT which is the equivalent of a limited liability company in the States. When I sat down with the lawyer to talk about getting my KITAS I was informed that it is almost impossible for a local PT to sponsor a KITAS as the Department of Manpower wants to only given them out to PMAs which are foreign investment companies and, as they see it, the only companies that would need foreign workers. In order to create a PMA it will take 50 juta rupiah ($5500 USD) plus the KITAS fee and will take about 3 to 6 months. So in short, I get to do the following process at least 2 more times until our PMA is completed.

The following details the process to extend a Visa On Arrival for 30 days at the Central Jakarta Immigration Office.

First off, finding the address for this was a massive pain. Keep in mind that there is only ONE office you can do this at.  You cant do it at the main office and you cant do it at the airport. There are locations in Sumatra and Bali I believe but Ive never done it. All the government sites that I visited listed the main office in Jakarta Pusat (Central Jakarta). Even doing a google search for Kantor Imigrasi and the street that I was fairly certain it was on (Julan Merpati) didn’t return any results. I finally googled Kantor Imigrasi Jakarta Selatan (South Jakarta) and it got me what I was looking for oldly enough. Even though the office I wanted is technically Jakarta Pusat it must be on the very boarder of North and West Jakarta as its a good 30 min ojek ride:

Kantor Imigrasi Klas – Jakart Pusat
Jl. Merpati Blok B12 No. 3
In the Kemoryan district

The office opens at 8am and I strongly suggest getting there as early as possible. By 10am everything is in full swing and you can expect it to take upwards of 4 hours, especially given the lunch break that EVERYONE takes at noon (they had a French efficiency consultant structure their work days apparently).

Once you walk in the building you want to go to the 3rd floor. Just take the stairs to the right of the main entrance to the very top. You will need a few things:

  1. Passport (duh)
  2. Sponsor letter signed by your sponsor with a Materai
  3. Photocopy of your sponsors Indonesian ID
  4. Extension packet with the form signed by your sponsor. You get this from the photocopy window which is the first one when you get to the top of the stairs for 6000 rupiah ($0.75 USD)
  5. Photocopy of the information and photo page of your passport, which you can get at the same window for 500 rupiah ($.04 USD)

Once you have all this in your red folder, go to the window in the waiting room on the left between the two sets of chairs. Now is when the fun begins. Depending on the mood and what futbol team won last night the Imigrasi Officer will ask you to do a number of useless tasks. They could include but are not limited to:

  1. Photocopying your passport photos again in a different size and or shade
  2. Having the typist next to the photocopy room type the salutation ABOVE the date instead of just after it where you, apparently ignorantly, placed it
  3. Use their formatted sponsor letter and then sign your name under your sponsors name
  4. Do the hookie-pookie and turn your self around

Once you are done with the first check point you now have no fewer than 5 more check points. There is:

  1. The basement dweller with his Zuma playing assistant who relishes your attention and will do anything to extend your visit with him
  2. Both windows back up on the 3rd floor across from the first window
  3. The cashier down on the 1st floor
  4. Finally the photocopy window one last time and if they are really slow, the 3rd floor copy window closes at 3:30pm so you’ll have to go to the first floor copy room
  5. Then back to the first window

Keep in mind that the cashier closes at 3:30pm also even though the office closes at 5pm. If you start the process on your last day and don’t finish you should be ok, at worst you will have to pay 200,000 rupiah ($25 USD) per day that you stay over on your visa, but again, the intrinsic cost is far more by having to go to the Kantor Imigrasi two days in a row.

Later I will post the details of getting a Social/Cultural visa which is really the way to go. This allows you a two month stay, then every month you can get a 30 day extension but you don’t have to leave the country for 6 months.

If you speak Bahasa (obviously) it will probably get you through faster. My friend came in the same day as me 3 hours later and had an extra step to go through and yet he got his finished at the same time as me by standing next to them joking around.

Final note, if you want to skip all this you can hire an agent. It will run you 1 juta ($110 USD) but you’ll save years on your life for the lack of stress.


     

Two Indonesian girls search how-to-start-a-trash-fire at an Internet shop in Jakarta

 

When I decided to move to Indo (the Coco, the No-No), I had a number of explanations that made it seem like I was making a logical decision based on a professional diagnosis of market, among them were:   

  • Indonesia is a developing country with an untapped technology market
  • South East Asia will be the gateway into the Chinese market place which will have global dominance in the 21st century
  • Low overhead for business startups
  • Less competition
  • I like  beaches
  • I like Lida

2 of those were somewhat unfounded, but I thought it made me sound logical and less like I was just ditching out on my responsibilities. I came across a few articles that help support that and generally validate my decision, since as stated before, I have a very weak constitution and am constantly searching for validation.    

The first is about Googles intentions in Indonesia. Personally I think the “40 million internet users” is a bit misleading.  I believe they are including mobile web-user which really should be a completely different segment since delivery, product and demographics are vastly different. Data services for your web enabled cell phone here are about $15 USD/month where as a decent internet connection is gunna run you about $100 USD/month.  Since the average monthly Indonesian income is $100/month, you have to assume that the broadband user is far more affluent. The 40 million number indicates that 15% of the country are internet users.  I believe the actual PC (dont get offended Mac/-nix users, its the royal “PC”)  user base is more like 5-10 million and Id venture a guess that a good portion of those dont actually own a PC or have internet access at home, they just go to internet cafes. I think before the real internet boom can happen in Indonesia two things have to happen:    

  1. Im no network technician but there is an inherent problem with bandwidth in Indonesia.  I cant find a good resource but from what I have read and heard there is really only one exchange point in Indonesia through which all ISPs connect too.  This governs the traffic inside and outside of Indonesia (read: hops from your access point to your destination).  Because of this there, is a limit to the speed (through-put is probably the more accurate term). There has to be a more concerted effort to provide multiple exchange points beyond the current infrastructure, which Ive been told, is via a Singapore backbone. With a redundant network not only will the bandwidth increase but reliability (less packet drops) will occur, allowing us to download unlicensed music and movies quicker.
  2. Cost prohibitive taxation on luxury items not built in Indonesia (sometimes upwards 0f 300%) makes technology purchases for the middle to lower class Indonesians unrealistic and will keep the market stunted. While the cost of living in Indonesia is exponentially lower than many other countries, this model is not reflected when purchasing electronics.  Used PC and laptops sell for the same price as new models and the new models are unknown and unreliable brands with warranties that are unproven.

The second article is a bit old but I think brings up an interesting scenario.  Yahoo recently purchased Koprol.  In addition they have announced plans to open an office in Indonesia, although they have delayed the opening and havent announced a time line. I cant help but wonder if Google and Yahoo truly feel there is an immediate potential or if they are just hedging their bets and waiting to see what the market bares.    

Finally, the Chinese connection (requires WSJ login) seems to be materializing much quicker than I expected.  In this opinion article by one of the sons of the Jakartan business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie (Bakrie is feard if not respected, by everyone in government and private industry across Indonesia), there are some interesting suggestions (read: warnings) to western government that Indonesia shouldnt be discounted if there is to be an emerging relationship.     

Perhaps a third point to bring up about the internet boom in Indonesia is that there must be standardization and regulatory infrastructure to support the kind of growth seen in the Dot-Com era of the late 90’s/early 00’s or perhaps more relevent to Indonesia, as seen in the Industrial Revolution. Without this we will see a monopolistic private industry where government regulation is directly tied to private industries desires. A worrying trend seen with Mr. Aburizal Bakrie position as the chairman of Golkar party, as well as previous posts including Chief Economic Minister of Indonesia, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare and chairmanship of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Not to say that this is specific to Indonesia, we’ve seen this cross-over in the U.S. as well (read:Haliburton and the Bush Empire), however, Im not confident there are checks and balances in Indonesia as we have in the states (however this could just be my own ignornace).    

 Selections from the articles above:    

Google eyes Indonesia for expansion

Google is collaborating with a local wireless broadband Internet company Bakrie Connectivity, whose new modem will come with Google Chrome web browser as a standard feature.    

Paging for Mr. Obama in Indonesia

The longer the United States waits to demonstrate its interest in renewing ties in its backyard, the easier it will be for China to fill in the gaps. Beijing has already inked a free-trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Chinese investment capital is pouring into Indonesia to build much-needed infrastructure. For example, China’s state-owned energy and investment firms are reportedly looking at Indonesia for takeover targets and joint venture partners. Beijing has been a strong proponent of giving Jakarta, already a member of the Group of 20, a stronger voice in international economic fora.    

Around Jakarta


Just wanted to share some pictures Lida took today. These are originals unedited.

This was actually take a few days ago but its the usual sunset from the balcony.

Oldman and the bag

Mobile Shower

Moped Mafia

Indonesian Sedan

Mistakes


So this seem to be a recurring theme with me. Looks I screwed up my visa again.  Things have been moving so quickly here and Ive been coding again and I lost track of time. My visa expired yesterday. Ive been reading up online and it looks like I might be ok, just will have to pay a $40 fine, I hope thats all. Im just so bad with paperwork and staying “legal” is such a foreign concept (get it, cause Im in a foreign country but in this sentence “foreign” is used to mean, of or related to something outside ones consideration, its dual meaning, Im an amazing linguist).

Island Hopping Part 2


Ok, so I meant to do several posts on our trip to Puala Seribu but following the trip I got a bunch of work and then the Singapore fiasco and I just forgot. 

For those of you following you’ll remember we were embarking on our first island hopping trip to the closest islands to Jakarta.  They are kind of the weekend get away for a lot of Jakartans and as such arent really geared toward the average tourists.  Only one or two of the 120 or so islands have a proper hotel and even those seem to get pretty bad reviews. Also there are no ATMs on any of the islands. 

When we left our heros they were stranded at the marina because they hadn’t planned properly and missed the boat due to not having enough cash.  After finding an ATM we spoke with a really nice guy that owned a small shop at the end of the peer.  He said there were daily ferries that left from the fishing port called Muara Angke (prounounced like one word “mor-angk-ey”).  They are much slower than the $20/person speedboats but also far cheaper at about $4/person.

 When we arrived at Muara Angke, we found it to be a picture perfect SE Asian fishing port.  Fresh fish of all kinds being sold as you drive down a narrow street, the putrid smell of dead fish every where and the fishing boats….ahhhh so classic. We found our ferry to Pramuka, which is one of the more developed islands in Puala Seribu, with dive shops and some guest houses.  We really wanted to go to Tidung but were told boats no longer went there.  What we found out later was there were no longer tour packages which is what everyone was trying to sell us. In fact there was a ferry that went there but we haddnt asked the right questions. So, thinking Pramuka was our only option we had decided to go there and see if we could get a boat to Tidung once we arrived there.

The boat ride was about 2.5 hours in very rough seas. Lida was having problems with motion sickness but was able to keep her lunch down. When we arrived in Pramuka it was a bit disappointing.  Its really amazing how little respect the people on these small islands have for their environment. Trash floats in water as you approach and the marinas look like a trash dump in places.  They have no proper waste management and each house has a garbage pit in which they throw the majority of their trash and burn it.  For the houses that are next to the beach, the popular trend seemed to be to have the trash pit closest to the water with a small seawall built up around it.

We strolled around Pramuka for a bit but decided it was too populated and we wanted something a bit more isolated.  We went back to the marina and attempted to communicate this with some of the fisherman.  They wanted $50 to take us to Tidung. After a bit of discussion we decided it was the best option and took it.  We left Pramuka right at dusk which made for an exceedingly beautiful boat right south to Tidung with the sun setting in orange and purple.  The large waves were a bit more fun since we had the boat to ourselves and we played out our own version of Titanic.  I had a strong feeling of validation for my move to Indonesia for the first time and a realization that while ive told everyone part of my move was for business reasons, the real reason was for experiences such as this.

We arrived on Tidung just as it was getting dark.  I felt bad for the fisherman whose boat we charted as it was going to be a long dark trip back.  We jumped on shore and walked into town.  Tidung is a community of 4000 whose economy is 90% fishing. There are no hotels, no formal restaurants aside from Warungs and no running water.  We just started walking through the streets looking for a home-stay.  These are people who have extra rooms and rent them out to travelers.  Typically they are very inexpensive and include breakfast.  We found one place with the help of a curious woman.  The owners, Nanana and Mus, spoke no english at all. Combined with our poor skills in Bahasa it took about 15 minutes to settle on a price.  For the first night it was $13.  The room was very comfortable, aside for the lack of air conditioning.  It was bucket showers and a stoop-and-poop toilet.  After dropping our things off we set out to find a place to eat.  We found a very kind gentleman running a food cart.  He made some amazing mie goreng, perhaps the best Ive had yet and we quickly became the center of attention.  I couldnt help but visualize kids running across the island telling people there were two “bules” on the island. We attempted communication with them and after many “terima kasih’s” (thank you) we went back to out home-stay. 

In the morning I woke up early and did the rounds on the island in an attempt to find a snorkel tour. After not finding any to join I found a guy whose friend had a boat and would charter it for the whole day for $50. At 8am we met him and his deck hand.  The boat was a classic fishing boat with a motor that sounded like it would die at any minute. They wasted no time and got us to a great dive spot with in 15 minutes. The snorkeling was average.  A lot of the coral was dead.  It was a great contrast to the Lombok Gilis where the local dive shops pay the fisherman not to fish around the islands. The result is a vibrant sea life and some of the best snorkeling Ive ever done. The best part of the trip was probably the a little sandbar in the middle of the Java Sea. Pure white sand with some staghorn coral surrounding it and starfish littering the beach. We took some great pictures that I think would make great beer or chewing gum commercials.  We went to Pramuka for lunch, bought some beer, as they didnt sell it on Tidung and headed back.

We had made plans to go scuba diving with the islands only scuba instructor the next day.  It was going to cost us about $100 for two people, 3 dives and a 1 hour tanks.  However that night we learned that we hadn’t used enough or high enough sunblock as both of us were burned.  Not terrible but enough to make scuba diving uncomfortable. The next morning we decided to head back to Jakarta and come back again another time. We took the ferry back to Muara Angke and I talked with some locals about other great remote islands in East and West Java. 

All-in-all a pretty successful trip.  Ive been telling everyone that they should come here to visit because its so cheap to travel.  One of Lidas friends is coming in July but none of my friends have really expressed interest (except Joni!).  But I want to give you an example of just how cheap it is to travel.

  • One way to Pramuka $4/person
  • Chartered boat to Tidung $50
  • home-stay $13/night
  • 1 day boat charter for snorkeling $50
  • 3 meals per day $1.50
  • Bike rental $1.50/day
  • Snorkel gear $3/day
  • Return boat to Jakarta  $4/person 

So total for two days and two people we spent $158.  If we had known better, we could have saved $50 on the boat from Pramuka to Tidung by taking the direct boat from Muara Angke to Tidung, so really youre looking at about $100 for a weekend trip. We’re already planning out next one.  Talking about camping out on the beach this time.

No Country for Poor Lida


They put Lida on the 7pm flight out of Singapore and I changed my flight to that as well. It was great to finally see her. She told me about the night and what happened and we enjoyed a few beers looking forward to a real nights sleep in our bed.

When we arrived in Jakarta we were taken to the immigration office to be interviewed. After about an hour of waiting they informed us that because Lida was deported from Singapore she couldn’t enter Indonesia until she went back to Russia first.

Of coarse there were no more flights out the rest of the night, so she would have to spend the night in a holding area again. Luckily they allowed me to stay with her this time. Unfortunately, unlike Singapore, there were no beds. Just a dirty room with one chair.

We spent the night trying to sleep on a 3 by 2 foot mat and figure out what to do. The immigration officers say there will be no problem for her to come back right after she returns to Russia. It means that by the time she gets back here on Tuesday or Wednesday, provided there are no problems in Russia and the Indonesian Immigration officers were right that there will be no problems, she will have spent 6 straight days in airports across SE Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Island Hopping Part 1


So we are finally taking our first trip out of Jakarta to Kepulauan Seribu (Thousand Islands). Its an island chain that stretches from Jakarta Bay into the Java Sea. There are about 120 islands with few facilities save for a handful of islands. I guess they started counting the islands and got to 100 or so and said “ahh screw it, just call it one thousand. We’ve already got the dressing named after it anyway.”

The plan was to go to an island call Tidung. Its remote enough but has basic services. We got to the marina to find the boat to Tidung was cancelled a few years ago and you canb only charter a boat for about $600.

The next option was Pramuka. Not too sure about it but its definately one of the more populated islands. We missed the speed boat because we only had about $100 in cash and there’s no ATMs on the islands. Now we are waiting until 1pm to take public prama there. It will be 3 times as slow as the morning boat but its 10 time cheeper so I guess that’s ok.

Ill post more later, hoping to go diving or snorkling at the least.


Spent 4 hours at the immigration office today.  Heres how it went:

  • 12:30pm – Arrive, entire staff is on lunch break until 1
  • 1:10pm – Staff comes back and takes our forms (read:looks up from their paper where theyd been sitting the whole time)
  • 1:30pm – Woman reviews packet again and tells us to go make photo copies of our passports
  • 2pm – Woman reviews packet again and tells us to take packet to office across the hall
  • 2:10pm – Woman reviews packet and tells us to take packet to Mr. Daniel on the ground floor
  • 2:30pm – Mr. Daniel reviews packet and tells us to take packet to Mr. Uzu on the 3rd floor (Mr. Daniel’s counter part was playing Zuma while his office was literally stacked 2 meters high with red immigration packets and the next room looked like the scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc except with red packets)
  • 3pm – Mr. Uzu reviews packet and tells us to go to next window
  • 3:30pm – Man reviews packet and tells us to go down to cashier on the ground floor.
  • 3:35pm – Cashier says they are closed come back tomorrow, even though there are 5 people behind the desk and they obviously arent closed. Dirty German hippie that had followed the same steps behind us all day yells at them and got them to let us pay anyway.
  • 3:55pm – Cashier sends us back up to the first window on the 3rd floor.
  • 4:15pm – Original woman reviews packet, tells us to photocopy our passports again.  3rd floor copier is closed, sends us down to copier on 1st floor.
  • 4:30pm – Receive passport with one simple stamp and a signature.

 4 hours, 9 people, 7 stations…..taaaaaddaaaaaaaaa