November 14, 2010

Obama's visit to Indonesia

I've always found the hype surrounding Obama a bit silly. Ok, he lived in Indonesia when he was little, so.....?

But last Tuesday, while sitting in traffic and feeling disappointed that El Shinta (a radio station known for its traffic reports) has hold off its reports in order to broadcast live the joint press conference of Obama & SBY, I suddenly got a mellow feeling when hearing Obama speak his first words: Terima kasih. Selamat Sore....

The next day, when he delivered his speech at University of Indonesia, hearing him say things like "Pulang kampung nih", brought a big smile to my face.

So does this mean I have joined the Obama craze? Hmm...not exactly. Watching him mention about his memories of Indonesia was actually like when I meet a foreigner and hear him talk favorably about his time when vacationing in Indonesia. It's just this feeling that we have something in common, a feeling that "
Hey, my country has brought joy to someone's day"...

But all this aside, I was impressed with the speech Obama delivered. When was the last time any of our officials mentioned about Bhinneka Tunggal Ika and used it in such a motivational way?

Anyways, I wanted to share a few photos of Obama's visit to the University of Indonesia. My sister, who is a reporter, got an invitation to attend
the event. She sat in the second row so got quite decent pictures (she actually bought a new camera because of this :) ).

While Obama is smiling & shaking hands with his "fans", his bodyguard looks kind of stressed out :)

Former president B.J. Habibie was among those who attended the event. So nice to see him smile, he lost his wife a couple of months ago

Look at the crowd, trying to take photos. Around 7000 people were present
Thanks Sis for the pics!

November 6, 2010

Indonesia Pavilion won bronze at World Expo 2010

I found this good news amidst all the updates on Mount Merapi: Indonesia's pavilion at the World Expo Shanghai China 2010 won a bronze award for the Creative Display Category (group A).

This news made me wonder how the pavilion actually looked like and after searching
extensively, I found these pics:

- Unlike other pavilions, the Indonesian pavilion had an open-concept. It was designed by the architect Budi Lim and used many natural elements such as bamboo and wood for the walls and flooring. The theme was "Bio Diverse City", which reflects the 3 main areas of the pavilion: "Bio" zone features the country’s abundant natural resources, "Diverse" zone displays the diversity of Indonesian culture and the "City" zone. The pavilion was 4 storeys high. As you walk along, the path would go higher and higher and eventually descending.

How it looks from the Ground
(Pic from:

How it looks from Above

(Pic from:

- A big map of Indonesia was put near the entrance. I think this was a great idea. Let's
face it, many people don't know where Indonesia is!

(Pic from:

- The bio zone featured a SeaWorld-like tunnel

(Pic from:

- Borobudur was (as usual) one of the attractions promoted. It seems there was a huge wall carved with its reliefs so that visitors get an idea of how the Borobudur looks like, and they also made a replica of the stupa. Please see Iya's blog for more interesting pics on this and others.

(Pic from:

(Pic on the left:
(Pic on the right:

- You can sign your name to support the Komodo island as one of the world's natural wonders
Those are just a few pics. Please check out the links above and the ones below to see others. It seems the Indonesian pavilion had a lot of interesting things, no wonder it won an award!

Looking at the website and other blogs from people attending the expo, made me regret not going there. Hopefully the next expo will be on the same (or even bigger) scale and I get a chance to attend!

October 31, 2010

Ring of Fire

Indonesia lies on the "Pacific Ring of Fire", an area that has around 75% of the world's volcanoes. As luck has it, the volcanoes in Indonesia are among the most active ones. Just a couple of months ago, the media in Indonesia was filled with news of Mount Sinabung's eruption. Now, the attention turns to Mount Merapi. This mountain is close to Yogyakarta. On a clear day and from certain spots, you can see this mountain soaring high. I think this is why there is such a strong tie between Merapi and Yogyakarta.

Merapi seen from Yogya
Pic by ~gibrantoz on deviant art (

Yogyakarta was once a kingdom on its own (with a king (Sultan) and his own court). However, with Indonesia's independence, it agreed to become part of Indonesia as a province with "special" status. Til now, the people are known to still hold and practice the ancient Javanese mystical beliefs and traditions. According to these beliefs, mount Merapi plays a very important role to the extent that it has its own gatekeeper who leads a yearly ceremony called Labuhan. In this ceremony, the Sultan's personal belongings are offered to the mountain.

Regardless of this, Mount Merapi has been revered by many because of its beauty and the fertile soil surrounding it. Millions of photos have been taken of it and many people have climbed its slopes. But with the eruption, the grounds are now covered in ashes
and rescue workers occupy the area to attend the evacuees. A big shout of respect to all.

Pic by ~sisasapigila on deviant art (
Just heard now that Mount Anak Krakatau has also increased its activities in the past days. Pray for Indonesia!

October 2, 2010

October 2nd, Batik Day

"The techniques, symbolism and culture surrounding hand-dyed cotton and silk garments known as Indonesian Batik permeate the lives of Indonesians from beginning to end: infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck, and the dead are shrouded in funerary batik."
Indonesian Batik described by UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

It has been a year since UNESCO listed Batik as one of the items on its "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" list and the batik trend which my friend once said would not last long, seems to still be going on strong in Indonesia.

Just logged on to facebook and saw many of my friends updating their status with invitations of wearing batik today. In the newspaper, store ads announce special discounts for those wearing batik on this day.

And just saw a new product by Attack called Attack Batik Cleaner, a detergent
specially made for washing Batik. Batik needs to be washed carefully to maintain the dye used in batik so that the color doesn't fade quickly. Usually people use lerak (soapberry) to wash their batik (especially the expensive ones), which is quite a hassle. Now that this product is in the market, it will definitely make washing batik much easier. (But why did it have to be a Japanese company who came up with the idea?)

Btw, not only Indonesians are crazy about Batik...check out a few of these celebrities: world-artists-with-their-batik

Happy Batik Day!

September 11, 2010

Famous Temples of Yogya

Pic by: Marcello and Anita Tranchini

Last July, I went to Yogya with a few friends of mine and finally got the chance to see the
Borobudur temple. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, going to this 9th century Buddhist temple has always been on my Must-Do list.

My friends had already gone to Borobudur when they were little, so when we saw a bike rental not far after entering the main gate, we thought it would be a different experience than just walking to the temple. Not too mention the day was quite hot so we didn't feel like walking.

There was also the option of taking the park train (those small trains on wheels which you often find in amusement parks). However,
the train didn't have a fix schedule. When we asked one of the men near the train when it would depart, he answered "Just in a minute, when there are more people". Being Indonesians, we know better that "Just in a minute" might mean half an hour :)

Even though the bike ride was an enjoyable experience, I don't think I would recommend it to foreign tourists, since the guys renting the bike couldn't speak any english and even we were confused with the rules for renting them, such as where to leave the bike once we got to the temple etc. But eventually, we made it and it was lots of fun.

Btw, my Borobudur experience was made more memorable because I got a heavy sunburn afterwards.

Another famous temple in Yogya which I got to see on this trip, is the Hindu temple: Prambanan which lies in the Prambanan temple compound. We passed by this temple on our way to Solo.

A shame that our schedule was so tight, because at night, the Prambanan temple becomes the back-drop of the Ramayana performance where the epic story of Ramayana is told through Javanese dances.

July 28, 2010

Saman "Thousand hands" dance

When I was little, being a diplomat's daughter, it was common for me to learn various traditional Indonesian dances at the embassy. One popular dance is the Saman dance which originates from the Aceh province.

Not only at the embassies, Indonesian student bodies/organizations also often perform this dance when promoting Indonesia because
the basic movements in Saman are simple so those who have no dancing background at all can easily join as long as they are not "rhythmically impaired". The dance movements contain movements of clapping and slapping your hands to your body with the pace starting out slowly and then progressively becoming faster before coming to a stop. The dance emphasizes on the dancers ability to move as one. So the more dancers, the more visually appealing the dance becomes. Maybe that is why the english name for the dance is known as "thousand hands" dance.

If you google "Saman dance" on youtube, you will see many variations of the dance movements. I guess because so many organizations have performed the dance, over the years, many new movements were thought up to make it more interesting. I've also noticed that they've now added drums in the background and it does give the dance a more dramatic feel.

I tried to find one videoclip that most resembles the movements I myself have learnt from my embassy days. But in this clip, they varied the movements so that you see them splitting up and forming a line again. Usually after the dancers form a line, they stay that way.

A more original form of the dance can be seen in this video:

June 28, 2010

Pantai Merah (Pink Beach)

Hopefully at the end of July, I'll be able to (finally) scratch off Borobudur from my Must-Do list. But this won't make the list shorter because I've just found out about "Pantai Merah" which means 'Red beach' but somehow in English it's called Pink Beach instead.

Photo courtesy of Terong
Pantai Merah, Komodo

I'm actually not too keen on beaches, but the picture of this beach has really caught my eye. This beach is part of Komodo National Park, home to the Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard and deemed as a vulnerable species (likely to become endangered).

Stunning as the beach is though, it is on the bottom of my list since going there is a bit of a hassle. You need to go from Bali to Labuan Bajo or Bima (both are not the typical tourist cities). And from there, take a boat to the park. Being the city girl that I am, I can imagine myself getting sea sick :)

But who knows, maybe someday there will be direct flights from Jakarta??

May 26, 2010

Kawah Putih

Last Sunday, I went to Bandung with my friends. Bandung is a great city, not too small but not too big with lots of things to do. Nowadays, it is mostly famous for its factory outlets (FO). But really, there's much more to Bandung than just FOs.

I've already wrote about
Tangkuban Parahu, a mountain in North Bandung famous for its craters (Kawah Ratu & Kawah Domas). This time, I went to South Bandung to check out the crater of Mount Patuha. The crater is called "Kawah Putih", which means "White Crater" because of the white grounds surrounding the crater.

As with Kawah Ratu and Kawah Domas at Tangkuban Parahu, the crater is still a few miles away from the main gate. Special mini vans (angkot) can take you up to the crater or you can also bring your own car (it's cheaper though if you leave your car at the parking area & take the angkot). But, unlike Kawah Ratu, you can actually walk into the crater.

Before going, I'd already heard from friends that Kawah Putih is very beautiful. And they were totally right! The scenery of Kawah Putih was very serene... The crater is filled with bluish green water which glistened beautifully against the white grounds. I absolutely loved it, although if you like a more rugged scenery, Kawah Domas still holds the top spot in my book.

Stepping carefully on a few of the larger stones can get you a bit further to the middle of the "lake" to get awesome pictures. As for the sulfur smell, it was very tolerable. Definitely a must see when in Bandung!

April 19, 2010

Bone Marrow soup

I tried this quirky food during my stay in Medan. My cousins asked whether I like bone marrow soup and I replied "Yes!" even though I had never tried one but I said that because I do like to suck the bone marrow after eating fried chicken. I thought it would be something similar.

They brought me to "Sop Sumsum Langsa" which is quite famous for its bone marrow soup. Even Bondan Winarno, an Indonesian culinary expert, recommended this place in one of his articles.

When the soup actually came, I was quite surprise to see this huge bone on my plate. The bone is from a cow's leg because the bone marrow is plenty and easier to process.

The way you eat it is by "slurping" the bone marrow using the straw.

Because it was not what I expected, it did take some time for me to get over the psychological barrier of slurping white gooey stuff out of a cow's leg. With every slurp, I couldn't stop thinking how this must be high in cholesterol! So I didn't enjoy it that much, but it was quite an experience. If you get the chance, please try it!

April 10, 2010

Becak Motor in Medan

There are so many forms of public transportation in Indonesia. One of them is the Becak, i.e. pedicab.

Unfortunately, pedicabs are banned in Jakarta now, although you can still find some in the suburbs. I have fond memories from elementary school where I would go home with a pedicab and feel the cool wind blowing into my face (those days, Jakarta was less polluted of course). I remember the soft creaking sound as the driver pedals the bike. I just love riding them! That is why, every time I go to the smaller cities in Indonesia, I would try to take a trip on a becak.

In Medan, the becak is motorized and is called Becak Motor (shortened as BeTor). The driver is on the side, instead of at the back. Last time I went to Medan, I used a Becak Motor to go to the major tourist sights (note though I went on a Sunday morning so less traffic / pollution). At the end, the driver was kind enough to let me take a picture of him. I must say, he wasn't camera shy!

The covering (that plastic window in front of the passenger side) is usually foldable so when it is a nice day, it would be folded up and then folded down when it rains. The day I went on this becak was actually a very nice day, but I found the cover was quite handy to keep dust out of my eyes :)

March 16, 2010

Garuda Indonesia

Last week, on a business trip to Medan, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself boarding one of Garuda Indonesia's newest aircraft (Garuda Indonesia is Indonesia's national airline).

I already felt something was going on as I entered the plane (the ambience was different than normal...well of course, since the airplane is spankin' new) but it was not until I sat down in economy class and saw the tv screen in front of me, that I noticed what was going on.

So I chose a movie and made myself comfortable. Unfortunately, we experienced some bad turbulence...I guess no matter how new a plane is, bad turbulence can really spoil a flight!

In 2007, the EU banned all Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe. Since then, improvements have been made and the ban on Garuda Indonesia has been lifted. I also noticed that Garuda Indonesia has a new livery, but I prefer the old one which actually shows the "garuda" bird.

Old livery (in front) vs New livery (at the back)

Photo source:

Sadly, on my way back to Jakarta, I got the old plane :( but luckily there were no turbulence this time!

February 20, 2010


Indonesia's Wayang is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage. Wayang is a form of theatre where puppets are used to tell epic stories such as Ramayana and Mahabharata or other stories containing moral messages. There are different forms of wayang depending on the puppets used.

Wayang kulit is the most popular one where the puppets are made of animal skin. The puppets are held behind a white cloth which is shined by a light so that the puppets' shadows are cast on it. It is these shadows that the audience actually sees.

Left: A wayang kulit puppet, Right: Wayang kulit performance

Photosource (left-right):

Another form of wayang is wayang golek where the puppets are made of wood.
And then there are shows where actual people dress up and wear masks to portray the characters which are then called wayang orang.

If you go to Indonesia, I would recommend watching a wayang kulit show. During the performance, gamelan is used as accompanying music. However, beware that real wayang shows last quite long (hours!).

If you don't get a chance to watch a wayang show, you can always buy the puppets. They are sold in many Indonesian souvenir shops, especially in Java. Recently my sister went to a wayang golek factory and bought this puppet. They make quite beautiful decorations in a room.

January 14, 2010

School Uniform

Last week, my office celebrated its birthday by having a "Back to High school" theme where we were required to wear our high school uniforms.

Schools in Indonesia require students to wear uniforms. Although private schools have their own dresscode, public schools use the same uniform all over the country, which differ by colour:

Students in elementary school wear a white short-sleeve shirt + red pleated skirt for the girls and red short trousers for the boys.

Junior high : white shirt + blue double-pleated skirt/ blue short trousers

High school : white shirt + grey single-pleated skirt/ grey long trousers

There are also matching coloured hats & tie that are usually worn at ceremonies.
I personally have nothing against school uniforms. I remember how proud I was wearing my grey skirt after years wearing a blue one. It felt as if some kind of "rite of passage". In fact, now that high school is (long) was very nostalgic seeing all of us wearing the white-grey uniform. Below you can see the result, we pass as high school kids? :)

Pic source:
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