Life's a piece of shit, When you look at it,
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show, Keep 'em laughing as you go...
> Monty Python
20. Try a local brew. Indonesians are bigger boozers than most westerners give them (dis)credit for. But be careful if you want to join the party – some of the local brews here are so strong they make Tenants Extra look like lucozade. Indonesian hooch includes arrack, tuak & brem, but by far the strongest local brew I’ve come across is Cap Tikus (Rat Brand). Being a lot like motor fuel, Cap Tikus could be used to run your car and probably explains why there are so many blind people in Manado (where this terrible poison is produced).
19. Ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle in Java. There’s something about the guttural roar of a Harley Davidson engine that just makes my hairs stand on end. Sure you don’t get the high performance of the lightweight Japanese bikes – but you DO get great stability and admiring glances from just about everyone - including the traffic cops and others!
18. Have a night out in Mangga Besar. In the northern part of Jakarta is Chinatown and there are heaps of nightclubs, karaoke bars and other venues of disrepute to please even the most wanton reveler. As I remember, the scene used to be dominated by young Chinese off their heads on E, but never be tempted yourself - unless of course you want to know firsthand what Billy Hayes went through in Midnight Express.
17. Eat a strange animal. Again head to the Mangga Besar district of Jakarta and dine on such wondrous delicacies as lizard, frog, bat, snake, or even dog. But probably the most bizarre thing I ever saw was the head of a monkey placed on a table before the diner scooped out its brains. Makes you intelligent apparently – something, of course, this particular diner was not! Istana Raja Cobra King Cobra House Jl. Mangga Besar No. 93C ph. 6296087. West Jakarta.
16. Drink Kuku Bima jamu (herbal medicine) with 3 raw free range eggs. A “pick me up” of extraordinary proportions (I’m talking for myself here), the Javanese swear by this potent cocktail! And by God, does it work!
15. Fast for a day. Sin accumulates over time like the rubbish in the Ciliwung River and one way to make you realize what an ungrateful plonker you’ve been is to forego the earthly pleasures of eating, drinking (I mean any sort of drink, not just booze) and, er, that of course, during the daylight hours. Believe me it’s not easy, and in a tropical climate like Indonesia, I find it amazing that laborers can keep going until the fast is broken.
14. Write a letter/article for the Jakarta Post. It’s one thing to write something for a blog or website but something else to see your writing in print – even in a relatively low circulation newspaper like the Jakarta Post.
13. See Superman Is Dead. Live. I don’t care much for most Indonesian pop-rock music, but the Bali punk rockers Superman is Dead are pretty damn good at generating a hell of a lot of noise. Well worth seeing if you get the chance – they sing most of their songs in English and have toured extensively, including to Aus.
12. Visit a traditional village in south Nias. Ever wanted to take a journey back into the past? Well you can if you visit the megalithic island of Nias where, although time hasn’t exactly stood still, the good old traditions of human sacrifices, slavery and head hunting were still being reported as recently as 1935. Although you can’t unfortunately witness that sort of stuff any more, you can still hike from the traveler hangout in Lagundi Bay to the incredible inland villages which are stone paved and have some of the most amazing traditional houses you will ever see. To get to Nias they have some pretty dodgy vessels going across from the unremarkable Sumatran mainland town of Sibolga. My journey there and back again was pretty uneventful but one of my mates who went across a bit more recently had the trip of a lifetime when a storm developed and things got so bad that they had to chuck things overboard - including, would you believe, a motorcycle - just to stay afloat!
11. Go down a fast flowing Indonesian river in a tire tube. Still in Sumatra, although this time on the mainland, and you can find an orangutan sanctuary in a wonderful little place called Bukitlawang. Other than saying hello to our simian pals, you can rent old truck inner tubes and take an exhilarating ride down the fast flowing and bolder strewn Bohorok River. Superb.
10-1 to follow next!