Indonesia
Chicago Tribune,
Sunday, March 25, 2001
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ON A BALI HIGH: TO THE BALINESE,  RELIGION,  WORK,  LANDSCAPES  AND  EVEN  EVERYDAY  LIFE  ARE  AN  ART  FORM

By Robert Cross, Tribune staff reporter.

UBUD, Bali, Indonesia

   On the road to Seminyak, I asked the driver to stop beside a magnificent spread of rice terraces, Bali's beauty mark.

   I wanted a picture.

      When I aimed the camera at the brilliant green field, I noticed a farmer far off in the distance, knee-deep in water and pulling at rice shoots. He wore the traditional, woven cone-shaped hat to ward off the sun, and he labored by himself.    His rice paddy was more than a place where grain could grow. It had become, I realized, a work of art. Terraces ringed a hillside, where man and nature had cooperated to make the land appear to be a gigantic array of verdant necklaces.

   The farmer stood up straight and waved.

   I returned the wave and hoped it conveyed my admiration for his masterpiece.

   A trip through Bali, just a dot on the Indonesian archipelago, cannot be anything other than an artistic experience. On a broken sidewalk in Ubud, beneath which irrigation water flows from a distant mountain lake, little coconut-leaf baskets filled with blossoms stand before the entrances of every shop.

   They decorate, but they are not there for decoration. Their purpose is to appease the gods and placate evil spirits. Those baskets are as much a part of life in Bali as the family motorbike or the morning market.    Bali happens to be the largest concentration of Hindus outside of India--almost all of the 3 million people on the island practice the religion.

   But they practice it in their own special way. The complexities of it are woven into each life, and to an outsider the rituals, the temples, the offerings, the ceremonies might be appreciated as aesthetic exercises--even if the specifics of belief resist easy understanding.

   Wayan Windra, my guide, took me to his house in a northern suburb of Denpasar, because he said it was typical, "and I want you to see how people live." It was a compound, four whitewashed buildings with a temple in the rear. The temple was not a structure so much as a collection of handsomely carved shrines to deified ancestors. Adding to the spirituality of that corner
were depictions of the Hindu god in his many aspects, plus fierce, gargoyle-style statues to frighten evil spirits. In Bali, it is said, temples outnumber houses.

   The family sharing Windra's quarters at the moment--two of Windra's brothers and their wives and children, plus his mother--flowed in and out of the buildings: a kitchen, a dining and sitting place, a honeymoon cottage for married children to use until they can become established. Last, but far from least, is a multi-purpose pavilion called bale dangin.

   "We use the bale dangin for all kinds of ceremonies," Windra said. "If there's a marriage, or a death, or a birth, we go here. This is where we do the tooth filing." Pubescent offspring undergo a painful and highly ceremonial tooth filing to even off the points of their canines, which are considered too bestial for humans and a potential source of unwanted animalistic behavior.

   Life's ceremonies take time and require elaborate preparation. Sometimes, several families will join together when their children reach the age of filing. Birthdays and funeral processions and holidays all require special foods and elaborate offerings fashioned into towers of fruit and rice cakes. A cremation may be the most elaborate ceremony of all, and although all the dead
must be cremated on the island, some bodies remain buried for years while families save the money for a proper, lavish event.
   "It is expensive to die on Bali," Windra observed.

   A taste of "heaven"

  The bale dangin was open, and but for the beds inside (a favorite place for naps), could have passed for the sort of stage used by Balinese dancers. Windra and I sat on the edge while a brother cut open a durian fruit and a sister-in-law covered her nose with the hem of her voluminous batik skirt. Durian stinks. Windra's round face lit up in a smile. He prefers the spin extolled by durian lovers all across Asia: "It smells of the earth. But it tastes like heaven."

   We nibbled on durian and some light pastries made from rice. Windra's little nephew, Ketut Pari Bela, joined us on the platform. He played with a toy airplane. "His hair is like a Holland person," Windra said, pointing at the reddish-blond streak atop the boy's head.

   It was the first Balinese hair I had seen that wasn't black--or gray with age. "His mother did it with some dye made from herbs," Windra explained. "It's just for fun, just for fun."

   On Bali, artistic embellishment of the ordinary may extend even to a toddler's hair, and it goes on to marvelous lengths everywhere. Before showing me his family compound, Windra led the way to a couple of major temples, called pura. Pura Tanah Lot juts into the Indian Ocean, and in certain conditions of surf and sunlight almost appears to be floating on the sea, its
pagoda tower resembling the prow of a ship. A stirring sight. No wonder the street leading up to the shoreline is flanked by souvenir stands and restaurants.

   Beautiful temples

  It was my first day with Windra, and I thought that Pura Tanah Lot must be the ultimate in Balinese temple aesthetics. I had a lot to learn. How much?

Well, for example, that morning I had asked a receptionist at my hotel if she had seen my guide Wayan. I got the shrug that I deserved. All first-born Balinese are named Wayan. The second-born is Made (mad-ee), then Nyoman, then Ketut. And then the naming starts over again, although families tend to be smaller these days and households with two Wayans are becoming quite rare.

   And so I would learn that there could be no hierarchy of temple beauty--each one catches the eye with the careful placement of gates, shrines, pavilions and decorative pools. After Tanah Lot, we went to Pura Taman Ayun--fully land-based but still perfectly placed amidst the palm trees and adjoining the Mengwi Village canal. Cokorda Munggu, the most notable king in the Mengwi dynasty, built Taman Ayun as a family temple in the 18th Century, although parts of it were constructed far earlier than that.
   It was a family temple compound in the days of royalty. Now the public may use it--a magnificent collection of architectural wonders, towers with pagoda roofs, religious objects--all surrounded by a tranquil moat and strung together with spacious, open courtyards. As in all temples, household or otherwise, walls surround the most sacred parts, because it is well known that
malevolent forces find it hard to negotiate corners.

   Taman Ayun also boasts a cock-fighting pavilion with a pit where roosters battle to the death--or abject exhaustion--while spectators sit around the sides and make discreet bets. Dutch colonizers banned the sport in the 1920s, and the government of  Indonesia --90 percent Muslim and therefore anti-gambling--continues to outlaw the practice. Cockfights are allowed at religious events, however, when at that time they are considered sacrifices to evil spirits. Besides, blood is thought to cleanse the earth.

   Cockfighting seems extremely uncharacteristic of the gentle Balinese spirit, but it's a popular ritual and a sure-fire fund-raiser for village and temple improvements, a kind of bingo with feathers.

  I would see many more temples, and each one, while sticking to tradition, had a distinct personality. A temple by a lake is a temple of fascinating reflections. A temple on the slope of a mountain might lord it over rice terraces and jungle. A temple by the sea rates a solemn fly-by of frigate birds and dares the raging surf to knock it down.

   The town of Ubud has its share of temples and a wonderfully complex palace as well, but its galleries and the workshops outside downtown celebrate individual artistic achievement. There are streets lined with painting and sculpture galleries, whole suburbs devoted to woodcarving shops, others where artisans fashion silver and gold jewelry, still others where the headliners
are stone sculpture, cloth weaving or woven basketry.

   The hotel as art

   My wife, Juju, and I stayed at the 15-room Kokokan Hotel in Ubud. It wasn't a hotel as anybody might picture one. Gray stone buildings with carved lintels and thatched roofs climb a hill overlooking a river, a garden and an expanse of rice terraces. Looking over the moss-speckled statuary, the tiled swimming pool, the verandas on the suites--nowhere does the eye fall on anything but some kind of visual enchantment. There are lily pads in an enormous urn, huge sculptures lined across one end of the garden pool, a graceful bridge spanning the water, a green canopy of palms and ferns covering it all and rooms enriched with mahogany, bamboo and marble. The two restaurants--one regional and one Italian--are equally dazzling.

   On the day of our departure, we could scarcely bear to leave the Kokokan Hotel. Next door, we had browsed in a major Ubud museum/gallery that traces the history of Balinese painting and exhibits examples of work from the European artists who "discovered" the island in the 1930s. In the afternoon, could observe painting classes for young people and watch little children
practice the complex and demanding movements of Balinese dance.

   The Kokokan is hotel as social project. Paying guests, restaurant patrons and art buyers provide some of the funding for a wide range of cultural enterprises. We were told the hotel owner was determined to perpetuate Balinese culture, thereby helping the island keep its unique character forever. "The owner does many things for the community," Windra told us, "but he likes to keep a very low profile. His name is Agung Rai."

   The "garden designer"

   On our last morning at the Kokokan, Juju and I photographed the garden and its statues, while hammers pounded on the tile roof of a new compound that we knew would soon look as old and mossy as the hotel. A young-looking man wearing a batik sarong and a black La Coste crocodile polo shirt came toward us on the bridge.

  "I am the garden designer here," he said by way of introduction. "Do you like it?" We assured him that we did. "I'm glad," he said. He offered to take a picture of us, and we posed near one of the chubby and whimsical stone carvings that decorate the bridge rails. The garden designer explained that the compound then a-building would become a community center where people
could come to learn music, art, literature and performance. He also said those ancient hotel buildings actually had been constructed within the last decade. We told him they looked and felt as if they belonged to the ancient dynasties. He nodded, then wandered off to inspect his lily pond.

   Later on, we came across a book containing reproductions of paintings displayed in the adjacent gallery, the Agung Rai Gallery of Fine Art. On the inside cover, we saw a photograph of Agung Rai himself--the owner of the hotel, the backer of the gallery, the promoter of Balinese culture, and, of course, the garden designer we had met that morning.

  Patrons like Agung Rai encourage artistic innovation, but traditional subjects for paintings and sculpture still fill the galleries: elaborate depictions of cremation ceremonies, funeral processions, marriage rituals, gods and goddesses. Typically, the artists, the studio and the showroom all will be under the same roof or at least in the same village.

   Turning wood to art

   People in search of woodcarving would visit the village of Mas. We dropped in on the Tantra Gallery there, and the chief salesman, Made Rijana, assured us we were in the presence of Mr. Mukuh, the greatest woodcarver in the Ubud area. Mr. Mukuh was that bespectacled gentleman sitting on a pavilion in the courtyard, tapping with his chisel on a block of hibiscus wood. Eventually, he would transform it into his most famous creation--a depiction of the Rice Goddess. Mr. Mukuh smiled and waved.

   Inside the gallery, shelves and pedestals held carvings of many subjects--birds, people, horses, romantic couples, tangles of vines, fishermen tossing gauzy nets, owners of fighting cocks returning them to their cage.
"Each thing was carved from one block of wood," Rijana insisted, "even those delicate nets, and the weaving on the cages." Some of the pieces also demanded thousands of U.S. dollars.

  Mr. Mukuh's Rice Goddesses are slender and graceful, some holding an egg, others a flower, some standing on the back of a deer, others emerging from what would appear to be a piece of driftwood, everything exquisitely detailed. Each goddess wore an expression of utter tranquility.

   "He uses no patterns or sketches," Rijana said. "Everything is in his head. He imagines it, and then he carves it."
   We bought a couple of tiny gecko carvings, little lizards for Christmas stocking stuffers that were about all the budget would allow. Rijana bowed and smiled as if we had purchased the most expensive goddess in the place.

   Mr. Mukuh smiled and waved again as we left the Tantra Gallery. Next, we would look at silver necklaces and bracelets in Celuk, the jewelry town. And then we would be driven up into the highlands near Mt. Batu Kau.

   Lunch with a view

   On the way, we stopped at the restaurant-hotel Pacung and ate in a dining room cantilevered above a steep slope. Windra and the driver catnapped in the van, while Juju and I ate lunch next to a plate glass window overlooking rice terraces par excellence: cascading semi-disks of bright green flowing into the valley with a few picturesque thatched huts (part of the hotel, it turned out)
providing just the right element of scale.

   We were surrounded by busloads of Australians and Japanese, all eagerly snapping pictures, arranging poses next to the glass or repairing to the open balcony for a better view. Was this artificial? Hotel units next to a rice paddy with cliff house buffet tables steaming above?

   In Bali, there is no answer to that. There could be no denying the splendor of those terraces below the dining room and their scenic value. After all, Balinese farmers probably could have surrounded their rice farms with tall shrubs and berms, keeping them out of sight in the way that so many other kinds of plantations are kept out of sight. But rice farmers in Bali seem eager to show off, just as a painter wants people to see the finished canvas.

   Art.

   Even from the teeming dining room and balconies at the Hotel Pacung, we could witness genuine agriculture on display. Farm workers wearing woven cone hats bent into tasks along the rows, knee-deep in water and rice shoots. The field hands must have known they had an audience, but rain clouds were forming and they were forced to hurry. Not one of them waved.

 B A L I

   Population of Bali: 3 million

   Sacred tree: The banyan. Cows are not sacred, despite the prominence of Hinduism, but Bali does have a caste system.

   Complicated plumbing: Rice paddies get water from lakes and rivers through a system of weirs and canals.

   Waste not: Temple offerings of fruit and rice cakes are eaten by worshipers after they determine that the gods have had their fill.

   Please come in: Entrances to large temples take the form of an elaborately decorated gate split in two--a sign of welcome.

   Most graceful dance: The legong combines intricate movements and spectacular costume with a traditional (and long) story.

   Tequila of the South Pacific: A mixture of rice wine, palm gin and palm toddy, the arak packs a notorious punch called "the arak attack."

   Monkey business: The primates played a key role in an important legend, so several sanctuaries have been set aside for them.

 A SMALL ISLAND WITH MANY FACES

   For a small island (87 miles across and 50 miles wide), Bali encompasses an amazing diversity of terrain. And a great many of its communities display distinct personalities, so seeing one definitely does not mean you have seen them all.

   South

   Some travelers never venture beyond the beaches lining Bukit Peninsula, the Bali resort capital. In Jimbaran, sedate, widely spaced resorts face west. At the beachside restaurant strip, patrons crowd in to view the bright-orange sunsets. That's about the only part of the Jimbaran shoreline where traffic noise out-shouts the roaring surf.

   Slightly inland from the beach, the town of Jimbaran--still a fishing village at heart--bustles with an early morning market. Cows roam free, having learned to avoid the motorbikes, taxis and trucks on the main road to Kuta.

   Kuta attracts the surfing crowd and the surfing, beach-blanket lifestyle. Funky hotels outnumber the luxurious kind. Away from the beach (always alive with hawkers of souvenirs and roving masseuses), Kuta will appeal to those who love a scruffy, tacky and energetic scene where the designer labels cannot be believed.

   Sanur and Nusa Dua resemble high-end Hawaiian resort areas. Hotels sit discreetly in manicured compounds lined with coconut palms. They bristle with Balinese temple-style architecture. Unlike Maui, however, waves roll in from Badung Strait without much zest, due to outlying coral reefs. It's pricey. A morning at the golf course costs more than $200, including rental clubs, caddie and tips.

   Central

   Denpasar, the capital, is also in the south, but it's on the way north and worth a stop for the culturally rich collection of artifacts at the Museum Negeri Propinsi. It's also good for dose of big-city life, Asian style, complete with shop houses, noise and motorcycles.

   The capital of the "real Bali" (or at least the one we had fondly imagined) would be the town of Ubud, a showcase for Balinese artistry of every kind. Roads flare out from the magnificent central palace, and most are lined with shops, markets and galleries. Even the humblest restaurants and hostels will show off something exquisite: a flowered courtyard, a family temple, a treasured carving of the Rice Goddess, or a statue of a spirit with a fresh hibiscus on its ear.

   The "vacant lots" of Ubud are rice paddies, brilliant green and a preview of rice paddies on a grander scale in the fields outside town.

   North

   Up toward the central mountains, (the northernmost point of Bali as far as the majority of visitors are concerned), roads climb through terraced rice fields that spread out like concentric puddles of green on the foothills of Mts. Batur and Batu Kau. Picturesque temples with pagoda towers enhance the mountain lakes.

   East

   One intriguing village after another, each with its own artistic specialty and unique character, lead to Klungkung and its Court of Justice. That complex, comprises a beautiful collection of highly decorated buildings (including a museum) set off by a lily pond and statuary. To the north, the slopes of Mt. Agung hold the most sacred of all Balinese temples, Besakih.

   West

   While the far west is mostly protected wilderness, the part that slopes gently westward north of Kuta shouldn't be ignored. A must stop between exploring still more villages and admiring the green, terraced countryside is the temple of Tanah Lot. Its pagoda tower and other buildings thrust out to meet the Indian Ocean in spectacular fashion. At sunset the temple can be seen
at its most dramatic--hence the crowds. But even on a rainy afternoon, it speaks of beauty and mystery as it stands silhouetted in the mist.

A FEW GOOD QUESTIONS ABOUT BALI

   Q. Can Bali be done as a quick trip from the U.S.?
   A. If that were anywhere near true, Florida would revert to swamp and the streets of Scottsdale would fill with tumbleweed. Bali absolutely fits the profile of an ideal warm-weather paradise. Unfortunately, it's far, far away. First, get to Los Angeles or San Francisco--that's a 4-hour jaunt by air from the Midwest. A flight from the West Coast to Asia usually takes 14 more hours,
and typically the plane gasses up and reloads in an intermediate stop like Hong Kong, Seoul or Taipei....Add 3 1/2 hours or so to get from there to Singapore or Jakarta, and then, finally, make the connection to Denpasar, Bali, which requires 2 more hours aloft.

   From Chicago, that's nearly 24 hours of flying, not to mention the time spent in airports during layovers. Besides that, you lose a day after crossing the international date line. I got to see a lot of in-flight movies, but the urge to buy a weekend cottage or a winter retreat in Bali was easy to resist.

   Q. Given that, is it worth going at all?
   A. You bet. There is no place in the world quite like it. The tropical climate and just the right amount of rain result in a lush green landscape, a landscape enhanced by all the people who have fashioned curving rice terraces on mountain slopes and beautiful Hindu temples everywhere. You'll encounter grace, artistry and friendliness at every turn.

   Q. Friendliness? Isn't Bali part of  Indonesia,  a country that generates gruesome headlines all the time?
   A. Yes, it is, but Bali remains blessedly isolated from the religious, ethnic and political warfare that render some other parts of that sprawling country unbearable. Bali is a unique island in a nation of islands, and the roughest Christian/Muslim/separatist conflicts take place hundreds (and thousands) of miles away. They cannot spread easily. For example, the rampaging Dayaks in Borneo (600 miles from Bali as the crow flies) have armed themselves with spears and knives, not sophisticated missiles.

   Harmony prevails in Bali, and the government in Jakarta--troubled as it might be--wants to keep it that way. Why? Because a peaceful Bali would remain the superstar of  Indonesia's  tourism industry, boosting the national economy. During my visit in February, I felt no tension at all.

   Q. So what are the dangers?
   A. Malaria isn't considered a problem, but do use a bug spray. And slather on the sunblock. Avoid going barefoot away from the beaches: Parasites, you know.

   Q. What's there to see?
   A. Almost every household has a temple, or at least an altar, and most temples are works of art. Public temples, originally built for royalty, dazzle with even more splendor, and they seem to rise up every few miles. Plus, the interior landscape includes mountains, beautiful lakes, artist and artisan-rich villages, monkey jungles and those famous terraced rice fields.

   Q. Could I go and just chill out? Do a little surfing? Sunbathe? Hit the nightclubs?
   A. Sure. The surf pounds Kuta and Jimbaron beaches with Maui-level ferocity, and Kuta at night is so lively that you may need a lengthy beach snooze the next day to recover. For that, the tranquil shore on the east side of Bali is ideal. Denpasar, the 100,000-population capital, teems with traffic and commerce like a little Bangkok. Go there if you need a jolt of city life. Kuta has that same kind of buzz.

   Q. Speaking of commerce, is a Bali trip going to cost a bundle?
   A. Not at all. Shop around for package deals arranged by travel agencies and such Asian carriers as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific or China Airlines. A week in a two-star hotel, including airfare, might cost as little as $900 per person. And, remember, even the low-end hotels and popular home-stay establishments feature Balinese good taste and hospitality.

   Prices in the shops can be amazing too. A fine, hand-woven batik shirt or blouse costs as little as $29. A nice block-printed sport shirt might run you about $8. Spend $8 in a good Ubud restaurant and you'll likely get more food than any sensible person could eat.

   Q. What if I want to stay at a Four Seasons or an Aman resort?
   A. Nearly all the big, luxury, international properties are represented in Bali. They charge big, luxury, international bucks. Asian recession? Never heard of it.

   Q. So I should shop around for deals before I leave and then shop around for stuff once I get there?
   A. Exactly. Look for paintings, wood carvings, stone carvings, tropical clothing, hand-wrought silver jewelry and tightly woven baskets. Inland, away from the 4-star beach resorts, you may bargain with merchants and street peddlers. Ubud is a shopper's dream, full of fine-art galleries, jewelers, clothing stores and a huge central market. Farther away, you'll find whole neighborhoods each specializing in a single craft. As of this writing, $1 U.S. buys 9,862 Indonesian rupiahs. And those rupiahs buy a lot.

   Q. What should I wear?
   A. Next to nothing most of the time, but, when visiting temples, men should wear long pants or a sarong (available for rent at most temples) before going inside. Women also should dress with decorum before visiting religious sites. Even in the October-March rainy season, downpours seldom last all day, and 70-to 80-degree temperatures prevail year-round. You may need a sweater or light jacket up in the mountains. Fight the intense sunshine with a hat.
   ----------

   Robert Cross' e-mail address is bcross@tribune.com.

“ Life-Connection” Website

Indonesia“Did you know that Indonesia ...”
Did You Know That ...
10 continuous hours by Boeing 747 to cross its vast territoriesINDONESIA IS a HUGE, vast sprawling country and it takes more than 10 hours on a Boeing 747 jet flight (Jakarta-Sorong, Papua 7 hours to the east, and JKT-Sabang, Sumatra 4 hours to the west - as hundreds of thousands of international & domestic travellers will vouch) 1 more hour than mainland China 9 hours, to cross Indonesia's 3 time zones, DOUBLE the 5.5 hours flight time to cross the continental US territory; that NATIONWIDE is the same distance from London, across west and east Europe, to the Middle East past Iran. That its London-to-Tehran area is covered by 4 GSM, 2 CDMA, 1 NMT & 3 AMPS mobile systems, some of which provide free nationwide roaming, that handphone buyers come all the way as far as the Middle East and Africa to buy handphones because secondhand ones are sold for as low as US$15, and that thousands of roadside stalls in large cities and villages, and 1-, 2-storey & 5-storey malls that take up to 3 days to cover all the shops, only sell handphones and US$10-$13 prepaid or $ 2.50 monthly subscription SIM cards; and in addition to those systems, Indonesia's GSM + satellite mobile, world's smallest satellite phone the size of a 1.5 pack of cigarettes weighing 200 gms / 7 ozs. and fixed system, covers parts of the Middle East, Pakistan, all of China & Japan, all Asian countries & beyond the Pacific rim, and all the way south to the northern parts of Australia... at 0.20-0.35 US$ cents a minute.. and seamlessly reverts to GSM mode whenever the user enters a GSM-serviced area and back to satellite mode whenever it leaves a GSM area in 78 countries which have reciprocal agreements; that 32 years ago in 1971, Indonesia, which couldn't pay an international loan of US$ 50 million at the time, was the world's 3rd owner of its own several hundred million dollar Domestic Satellite System after the U.S. and Canada – provided by the United States, (Hughes Corp. & U.S. Government records) akin to the U.S. today giving to Indonesia the latest U.S. "stealth" fighter technology because Indonesia's 1st president, Soekarno, gave assistance to Kennedy's Administration in the early '60s that enabled the U.S. to fund NASA  to catch up with the Soviet Union and then become the world's space leader because at that time the Soviets did not even have their own satellite communications technology even though they launched their Sputnik Satellite during U.S. President Kennedy's time;165 million are under the age of 30 years... 60% of 220 million are women  That its 220 MILLION+ population is the world's youngest, 75% are under the age of 30 or 165 million youngsters, that over 60% of the total population are women and that its 9 nationwide TV stations reflect its youthful culture and language (besides the local & international 55-channel cable and satellite channels), and that only 8% are above the age of 60 (National Statistics Board Aug. 2001), and are made up of 582 ethnic, culture & language groups as different as French and Arabs; that "Indonesia" (a word made up in 1945 by its founding fathers) are Chinese, Javanese/ Malays, Arabs, Indians and are made up of browns, yellows, blacks and whites and every color in between; where there are Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroasterians, other religions most never heard of, and that Moslems make up 85% of the people where Mosques and Churches stand side by side making it the world largest Islamic nation, but is a secular (unspecified religious or political) state with rights to worship any religion, and it's as diverse as the U.S.A;
    That its 220 million-plus population is the world's 4th. largest populated out of 235 countries after China, India and the U.S., and 3rd. largest democracy after India & the U.S.; that 85% of commercial shipping and the world's navies use its waters (US President Bill Clinton) passing through its 17,508 islands, one of them being the world- renowned island-of-the gods Bali with its own lifestyle, with 85,000 kilometer (52,800 miles) of Hawaiian-like tropical coastline, (Marine & Fishery Dept. & Mapping Agency satellite photos) making it the world's largest tropical paradise with an average temperature of 21 to 32 Celcius (70-90 Fahrenheit); that its capital city's 12 million night time population increases during the day (published 1997 & 98 Jakarta Govt. statistics) making JAKARTA  the same size as the whole Australian nation of 20 million, and is one of the world's 5 largest cities (United Nations population statistics)  with "intelligent" skyscrapers & that it needs 1 hour at a constant speed of 55 mph/85 kph to travel its internal circular city toll road on concrete stilts to reach the same point of departure - and that it's as modern as New York, Paris & London with as many as, and larger shopping malls; and that it is cheaper to live and shop for the same things than in Hong Kong, Singapore and other world-known shopping centers because many of their citizens come to shop here (part of nighttime Jakarta, below right photo); That the world's fashion, computer & auto magazines have their Indonesian-language versions (Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Her, Men's Health, Auto, Autocar, Computer World, etc.) and 95% of all trucks, cars, small & large motor bikes including the Harley Davidsons & big 1,100cc BMWs one sees on the roads are locally assembled, and that it makes its own weapons, airplanes, attack helicopters, and that original $5 Macdonalds cost .70cents Pizza Huts, Wendys, Kentucky Frieds, Cokes, Pepsi, licensed CDs, VCDs and DVDs cost a fraction (15-35%) of their country of origin? Spices originally came from this S.E. Asian area over 2000 years go
    That in spite of some negative economic & political international press publicity, the nation is NOT bankrupt (the Government is because past governments ran up debts of US$ 120 billion to international institutions, 70% of it lost through corruption), because 85% of middle and low level or some 35 million businesses owned directly by the people NOT associated with the government, including publicly-owned companies, are in fact growing during the country's 4 year economic crises because new real estate housing projects & malls in cities and their satellite towns throughout the country are sprouting all over; that new US$500,000 Bentleys, Rolls Royces and Ferraris and $250,000 Porsches as well as the modestly-priced US$6,200 Ceria & $9,200 mini 5-passenger vehicles made by KIA, Daewoo & Daihatsu are still being sold (Recession? ..Never heard of it?... Chicago Tribune); and that its people are NOT against foreigners because foreigners have NEVER done anything wrong to Indonesians. Some foreign government official announcements that advise "don't go to Indonesia because you are a foreigner.."  is like saying because a miniscule number of people in the U.S. are against blacks, it does not mean that 99.9% of the whole American nation is against blacks, just like 99.9% of Indonesians are not against foreigners. Yet, no foreigners were ever harmed, nor kidnapped or attacked in Indonesia  -- not one. To be balanced, these foreign announcements should also announce: "Don't go to the U.S. because you are black...you may be attacked". That is how ridiculous this analogy sounds to the typical Indonesian (and exptariates who know and lived in Indonesia). The country is TOO BIG, and its people and hundreds of its numerous cultures are TOO LARGE  to be stereotyped... just as Western AND Eastern Europe AND  parts of the Middle East - the area that is Indonesiais too large and its people and languages are TOO diverse to be stereotyped.
    That rubber, chocolate, tobacco, rice, pepper and other spices which the whole world has come to regard as its own, came from this area of 121 former royal kingdoms over 2000 years ago which included the Sriwidjaya & Majapahit Empires (700-1300 & 1100 AD), and were traded all over the world in Europe, Asia, and the South Americas, and that these traders seeded areas in South Africa, Madagascar, Hawaii, New Zealand, Suriname in central America among many other areas, because the Javanese cultural imprint still make up their present indigenous culture? |The Makings of a world Superpower, by L. Soares.. Please click here |How? Click here | Living in Indonesia (by expatriates) |The vast sprawling, 5600 km wide 17,508 Indonesian islands
The Countryside

Sunset in one of the 17,508 islands


Some of The Life-Connection Website Stories based on actual real-life experiences...
Some Great Things About Becoming Old | Why People Have Different Beliefs? | Traveling to Bali by land? | That Crazy Old Man On His 300 kmh/191 mph Kawasaki Ninja ZZR 1100cc MotorBike|| ADCs Are Real|| The Miracle of the fan | The Amazing Grasshopper Event |.Handling the bereaved – The Do's & Don'ts

Riwayat Kerja R. Adji Suryo-di-Puro selama 37 tahun

By website visitors based on their real-life experiences... 01 Aug, 21 Apr, 27th Nov. '01
Be a Mom (or Dad) - For all Moms - past, present and future ... | A Man's Visit to Heaven and Back | NDEs, A Brush with the Hereafter 23/Sep/01-JKT Post | If you love something... | Trying to understand the pain when someone we love leaves us

A part of the City - Our Jakarta Home

The Beach not far from home–or in one of the 17,508 islands

These sites were uploaded to U.K. and U.S. servers
from our Jakarta home using fibre optic broadband technology.