I have traveled miles across seas to different continents in the world in the name of adventure and crossing items off the bucket list. Yet, other than some vague childhood memories, I have never truly explored Indonesia, my home country. Stories about the exotic culture of Bali, majestic wonders of Borobudur or off the beaten track to the peak of Mount Rinjani left me intrigued but I was not enticed to rush and to book a plane ticket to one of those magnificent places in Indonesia for my next holiday. Why not? Let me tell you…
Lack of information and resources
Having a day job as an analyst, details become the most important aspect of my trip planning. How much is the transport, food and accommodation cost? How do I get from point A to point B? How long is the journey before I could enjoy the vast scenery by the beach and to maximise my vacation without wasting too much time on the road? More importantly, where can I go and what to do? At this era, I should get answers a click away but Indonesian tourism website is not the friendliest website to source out these information. I have to navigate multiple links before I get to the page that I want.
I was about to suggest to have Indonesian tourism offices in other countries that can aid independent travelers plan their journey. Researching for this article made me realize, they do have tourism representatives offices all over the world! Of course, there is one in Singapore, in Golden Mile Shopping Center! I have never been there, thus I do not know what services they provide. However, the location of this office is not the most centralized in Singapore. Japan Tourism Offices are located along Orchard Road and Korea Tourism Offices is smacked right in the middle of the Central Business District area. Occasionally, they have regular classes and events to introduce their local cultures and to attract new visitors. Other than the yearly travel exhibition and tiny advertisement on the bus, I think Indonesia can step up in the tourism marketing effort.
Transport down the bumpy road
There is no easy way to get to an exotic destination in Indonesia. Foreigners flying in from overseas have to connect to their final destination via major cities like Jakarta and Bali. We all know that the best of Indonesia is not in Jakarta (but definitely in Bali!) but these places are simply not convenient to go to! We do not have intra-city underground train network… yet. Inter-city trains are crowded, filthy and unsafe. Hiring a personal driver might be a viable and affordable choice but take care of your bum during the long bumpy ride on dirt track. Confusion over bus routes, irregular frequency, haggling taxi drivers, ridiculous traffic jam and narrow roads make me think twice about visiting Indonesia. The list of inconveniences goes on. Of course, the pickpocket too!
Up the security, please!
Recent video of a spat between a pedestrian and a motorcyclist on the roadside of Jakarta made its way to the Internet and made us think how truly safe are we in Indonesia? Call me a coward but I am scared that I might be slashed in the middle of the jungle during my vacation. Not that my face spells ‘I am a rich guy, rob me’, but the paranoia heightens when you are in unfamiliar place.
Recently, I read a news about a teenage backpacker in Bali who turns blind after drinking arrack that is tainted with methanol (read: Backpacker blinded by lethal Bali cocktail). These lethal substances made its way into the drinks due to lack of regulations over imported goods with unknown origins. This might be an isolated incident that was blown out by the media but it definitely tells the way how flawed our security and regulation systems are.
I know that these examples are just the bad apples in the bunch. I have met friendly locals and hardworking taxi drivers. However, with the riot outbreak and rumors on terrorism attacks, I have yet to possess the confidence and courage to explore Indonesia.
Exorbitant price tags
I love adventures! Watching the bloodbath during Perang Pandan in Tenganan, diving in Raja Ampat and soaking in the jellyfish lake in Kakaban are some activities that I would love to do. The only problem is that these places are not common traveler destinations in Indonesia – they are not easy to reach. Being the only transport to Raja Ampat, local ship came with a huge price tag at a frequency much lower than the blue moon. Latest I heard, it costs approximately 30 million rupiah (~S$4000) for a 7-day trip to Raja Ampat. With the same amount of money, I could enjoy the sakura in Japan or maybe to skydive in New Zealand for weeks. While the food and accommodation might be cheap, but overall, a trip to some destinations in Indonesia might cost a hole in my wallet.
Is Indonesia tourism truly hopeless?
It may seem that I am just lamenting but I truly believe in Indonesian tourism. With the right investment in infrastructure and security, I am sure that tourism in Indonesia will soar to be the next world-class destination that is not just about Bali. For now, surviving Indonesia is definitely not for the faint-hearted and the journey is definitely a unique adventure. Like Trinity, author of Naked Traveler series, said, “if you survive (hectic) traveling in Indonesia, you can survive traveling in any part of the world!” I will take that challenge and I might be wondering around Indonesia sooner than you thought.
Now, it’s your turn! What improvements would you like to see to promote tourism in Indonesia? What are the resources that you use to get information about destination in Indonesia? Any good recommendations of ‘exotic’ destinations in Indonesia?