Saturday, 5 January 2008

Visit Indonesia, the Pearls of the Equator

Indonesia is welcoming the year 2008.

Bali is perhaps more famous than the name Indonesia. Michael Covarrubias called it the lost paradise. Lots of people dream to visit the beautiful Kuta beach without even realizing that the island of Bali is in Indonesia. Last month “polar bears” and “penguins” were also visiting Kuta Beach to ask people’s attention on the effect of the global warming and the climate change. Perhaps the UNFCCC meetings have also promote the name Indonesia to the global world.

Now, Indonesia is welcoming the year 2008 as its Visit Indonesia Year. It is time that more people know that Indonesia is not just Bali. There are lots of interesting places from Sabang (in the island of Sumatra) to Merauke (in the island of Papua). Indonesia, the pearls of the equator, has abundant of interesting cultural heritage as well as amazing natural biodiversities. It offers the modern urban lifestyle in the big cities, and the rich traditional lifestyles in remote areas.

Unfortunately the official launch of Visit Indonesia Year was at the same time with the visit of natural disasters. Floods and landslides visited forty-two cities in six provinces of Indonesia. Previous to the floods and landslides, citizens from Lampung, Sumatera were panicked due to a prediction of a big earthquake made by Jucelino Nobrega da Luz, a Brazilian soothsayer. An 8.5 Richter of earthquake is powerful enough to perform another tsunami. Three years are not long enough to get over the fearful feeling.

For those who believe in Chinese horoscope, the Indonesian independence in 1945 is associated with the rooster symbol. And the year of the pig in Chinese horoscope is not a suitable partner for the rooster. For some, that is their reasons for all the problems throughout the year. Personally, I prefer to see all the natural disasters as a warning for us to take more concern over our environment. And off course it would be nicer to face better days in the coming year.

The year 2008 is also the centennial celebration of Indonesian National Awakening Day. 1908 was the birth of Budi Oetomo, the first step toward the awareness of being a nation. It would also be the year of preparation to the next democracy party, the presidential election in 2009. Perhaps that is the reason behind the tourism slogan for Visit Indonesia Year 2008 “Celebrating 100 years of the National Awakening”. I do hope that in this celebration we are also enhancing the national slogan “Unity in Diversity”.

Indonesia consists of more than 17,500 islands, with more than 500 local dialects and languages. The diversities are the challenges in managing it as a big country. But in these diversities lie the extraordinary attraction of Indonesia as the pearls of the equator. Some pearls are beautifully polished; some others are still hidden behind its shells. Uniting all these pearls into a beautiful jewel is in the great task of all Indonesians. In the celebration of the awakening of nationalism in the heart of Indonesians, we hope that we can reveal the beauty of these pearls. Within the spirit of the national awakening we are hoping to be able to provide enjoyable visits to Indonesia.

Big cities have the traffic problem, but they are also offering a lot of urban attractions. The diversities of urban environment are offering a lot of choices. In Jakarta for example, we can have variety of choices. For accommodation, the choices are the backpackers’ hostels in jalan Jaksa to the five stars hotels with international brand names. The same goes for shopping, from the people’s market in Tanah Abang to the first class shopping malls. For leisure activities there are lots of international standard designed golf courts, modern to traditional spas, historical sites, museums and cultural events.

Sumatera offers a beautiful mixture of the mountainous scenery with the serene scenery of the sea. The rainforests in Sumatera and Kalimantan are the hidden pearls that need special attention not only to preserve the rich biodiversity in the forest, but also to empower the local people with ecotourism. It would need political support to boost the economic development without sacrificing the local people and their environments.

Indonesians call their motherland as “tanah air”, the land and the water where they belong. Two third of the archipelago is the sea water, so Indonesia has an abundant treasures under the sea. The eastern parts of Indonesia are also famous for its wonderful under the sea living biodiversity. Maritime tourism is also a fascinating offer for those who loves diving and snorkeling.

Handicrafts are always the beautiful token from a vacation. The Indonesian rich culture of traditional textiles also gives choices from batik to ikat weaving clothes. Each region has their specific traditional design implemented in their special varieties of designs. A traditional top from bamboo will also serve as an interesting token for children. Puppets and masks are also among the interesting token to enrich an interior of a home.

The internet is now bridging the world closer. With the internet visitors can plan their voyages easier. There is variety of choices awaiting, from the quiet vacation in the village to the adrenaline challenges like rafting or gliding. In the varied diversities of Indonesia, you can find something uniquely for you!

I prepared this one for OMNI, but I did not even share it with the editor. Perhaps I do not want to invite people to come to the place where the environment is now showing their anger. I tried to be very objective though!

I've posted the previous blog about the guardian of time, and I think it would be nice to show the conflict between welcoming people to travel (using the air travel) and the need to have more visitors to empower the country's financial situation.


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Retty N. Hakim said...

The edited version of this article appeared in Open Writing.

I have to thank Peter Hinchliffe for his article in OMNI titled "Global Warming - Boring, Boring" that made me upload this article in my blog. Thanks also to his wife who helped me editing this piece of writing.