About Me

So, basically this blog was started by envy. Kulam Ikan Tetangga (the neighbor's fish pond) is a variation to the saying that goes "the neighbor's Grass is always greener". The Neighbor's Fish Pond will always have fatter and more fish (than your own fishpond). And so it is.

Holiday for Poor People

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This will be a very long post, people.

Some people think Indonesia is still retarded. Backwards. Left behind. Call it what you may, but the ideas of skyscrapers, commuter trains, pavements and asphalt roads, electric and digital technology are, for these kind of people, cannot be paired with the concept of Indonesia they have in mind.

 Yes, this is Jakarta, but in 1960 

Their image of Indonesia is outdated by four friggin decades. This is 40 years, ladies and gentlemen.

Jakarta nowadays, pay attention to the lights, and tall building. Yes. We apparently have technology and a sort of civilization

Because Indonesia is supposedly that poor, romantic images are formed in the minds of these foreigners, about low thatched-roofed houses made from wood, forests of coconut trees, monkeys swinging from tree to tree, acres of paddy field, buffalos and horse carts on the streets. Yeah. Traditional traditions. Well, yes we still have these kind of things, but certainly not in Denpasar, or Surabaya, or Yogyakarta, and absolutely not in the middle of Jakarta.

I ran across a quite interesting point of view today, and I will quote it verbatim here:

its funny u know, there is one thing i am confused about in this life and its asian people from poor countries whose standard of living is generally quite low.

the thing is i have many friends who all plead pverty yet they go on lavish holidays not even i can afford to islands all over asia. flying staying in fancy hotels dirnking eating and partying....and here we are again and if i may use u as an example Xxxxxx that here ur saying that 250,000 rupiah isnt much or is quite cheap but for someone who is staying in poppies lane then it is as thats usually where the cheaper backpackers go to, but wat confuses me even more is that u actually say its cheap when u urself are from indonesia which is generally regarded as a very poor country now im not saying ur not poor or rich im talking generally here and maybe sterotyping slightly in that most people that come frmo certain countris in asia are from poor familes however i do know thats not the case but i do know many that are yet they still afford holidays even fancier than mine...how is this !!!!!! any ideas

-- (note: italic and names edited out are by me)

This was posted in a forum for travelers and backpackers by a 40-ish guy who lived most of his life in New Zealand (according to his profile this is). I for one, instantly raised an eyebrow and quickly typed my answer to this guy's desperate inquiry. :D As you can read below


Good observation and a nice question Xxxx

You got my mind jogged up a bit there.
I will try to give an approach or estimation to the "why" in the Indonesia part, since this is the Bali group. Bali is inside Indonesia.

First of all
I think it is now generally understood that Indonesia is a developing country. Not poor. The term "third world" is outdated by three decades and is not attached to Indonesia anymore. Have you ever visit Jakarta, by any chance? 12 million people in the capital city during the day. Running business and such. Expensive sedans on the street. Jaguars. Cars that eats gasoline like me drinking water in a hot day.

Nope, I don't think Indonesia is poor at all, economically nor natural and human resources-wise.

I do would love to highlight the fact that what you see in Jakarta can not be seen in, for example the Mentawai Islands. which is gorgeous, yet unfortunately, have very inadequate infrastructure in terms of education and health. This case happen in places that are remote from the centers of governance.

So, dear Xxxx, Indonesia is not poor, it just happened to have a serious development gap. The country is HUGE, mind you, with more than 13 thousands islands in it, and more than 100 ethnic cultures that speaks different languages and deal with things differently. In Java island alone, there's more than 5 different cultures of ethnics: in example, Sundanese in west Java, Betawi, Central Javanese, East Javanese, Madurese. And this is in Java island alone. There are still thousands of islands in Indonesia.

So you see, this development gap bounds to happen one way or another. For further understanding, if you're interested, you might want to browse in the internet or the nearest bookshop/library on literature works regarding Indonesia history, politics, and social anthropology.

Poor, is when we think using the Western mind frame. In this mind frame, we will compare everything in terms of currencies and social-political, in a bigger system kind of sense.

For example. What can one American dollar buy you? In Indonesia, depending on the area, let's say in Yogyakarta where I currently live, one american dollar will buy me a full meal of Gado-gado or Nasi goreng from a street hawker vendor.
In Yogyakarta, the minimum wage for a University fresh graduate is Rp 800.000 a month. That is 85 dollar and 56 cents pay for working 24 days a month, 7-8 hours a day.
What can you buy in the US or any western countries with 85 dollars 56 cents?
So, are we poor?
of course not all people are paid this low. I have met people who earned up to 30 Million rupiah a month. But still, these high earners are creme de la creme. They are at the top and not many of them. Perhaps even only 3% out of the whole Indonesian population.
Perhaps these people are the ones you seen having fancy holidays?

For example. When a US citizen deciding "ah I want to go to Bali for a holiday." The ticket going to Bali might be freaking expensive depending on his/her personal financial condition, but the person can just enter Indonesia and obtain a Visa on arrival at the airport, and do whatever he or she pleases in Bali.
When an Indonesian citizen thinking "I want to try go see America". The ticket is freaking expensive. (bear in mind the first example comparison I had written above). Indonesians MUST apply for a visa that the embassy MAY not grant due to various reasons that may include : There isn't enough saving in your bank account, you have no sponsor or anyone who is willing to be your guarantor in the United States, you have a very suspicious name and the places you were born or been to is suspiciously linked to possible act of terrorism (true story this last one), etc.
In this perspective, are Indonesians poor?
Yes. Also very unfortunate being born as Indonesians :D

Fancy holidays:
Luckily, There has been agreements between countries of South East Asia that its citizens may travel more freely between these countries with visa on arrival mechanisms. There also had been an increasing number of budget airlines that connects these South East Asia countries, so Indonesians now (at least those who's salaries are no of the minimum wage standard) can visit Thailand, and Vietnam and Singapore and Malaysia et cetera. the currency comparison between these South East Asia countries are also reasonable, that many Indonesians can actually afford holidaying in Phuket Thailand, or Ho Chi Minh City, or Malacca.

Fancy holidays:
Foreigners pays more than local people. This is a fact. Go to angkor vatt, local people doesn't have to pay, foreigners pay. Go to the Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Indonesia. Locals pay 15 thousand (1 dollar 6 cents), foreigners pays 15 dollars. I don't say I agree with this kind of system, it baffles me endlessly, but this is a fact.

Fancy holidays:
Holidaying in Bali, most Indonesians would stay out of restaurants that offers a full meal breakfast package (includes beverages) that cost 8-10 USD. Because we're poor. :P one dollar worth of Nasi goreng for breakfast is enough so the rest of the money can be allocated to clubbing or paying for a hotel room.
So fancy holiday in your perspective, might be just a matter of "difference in prioritizing".

These are all just simple illustration, Xxxx. But I hope this will give a little idea regarding fancy holiday for poor people.

FYI, I went to Bali last October, from Yogyakarta by train and then crossing with a ferry from the east point of Java to Bali. I stayed in Bali for 10 days and returned to Jogja with airplane. This whole trip, including for accommodation, food, and leisure stuffs costed the approx total of 300 USD which is hell expensive for me and ripped out most of my saving. Is 300 USD expensive for you too?

warm regards,

--- (verbatim. but with names edited out and text italicized by me)

Several people also reacted to this guy's inquiry with more emotional tones than mine. Which I found bordering between "cute" and "cut it out guys". The NZ guy was honestly having no idea what it is like being a "poor Asian".  I mean, I used to imagine East Germany as being so cold, barren, oppressed, like what the media was telling and showing. But several weeks ago I met this woman from Berlin, and she lived the era of East-West German, and she told me that her life in East Berlin was warm, full, free, exactly the opposite of what I had in mind. Misperception happens. Shit happens.

Wellington, the Capital City of the country New Zealand. Urban population by June 2009 estimation is 386,000. That's about the same number of the population of the town Mojokerto, East Java.

But yeah, I think poor people would love a holiday too. Time off from being poor. You know. And be something else. Because each human needs variations in life. It could get pretty boring sometimes.

Yeah, no shit. Being in poverty is not a luxury indeed

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